10 Questions: Cycling In Nepal

More flags.jpgSince October 2008, Rob Halkett has been making his way around the world on his Koga touring bike – a 3 year, 50,000km journey that’s so far taken him across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

In late 2009, Rob went to Nepal and here he anwers 10 Questions about where he biked in Nepal, the toughest days and how they led to some of the most special moments of his trip.

1. Can you describe your route through Nepal and the main highlights for us?

Candy floss seller Katmandu.jpgI crossed the border from India into Nepal at Sonauli a grotty frontier town with very little to offer other than a couple of places to change money and the odd hotel, not that you would want to spend the night in any of the accommodation. Things begin to look up as you ride further into Nepal. I made my way to Butawal a small town about 25 kilometers north of the border and found it to be a much cleaner town with a better selection of hotels. My route then took me to Katmandu via Bharatpur. It’s the National highway so it’s a very busy road and it’s tough on the legs as it climbs to over 1000 meters, however the views are spectacular and as an introduction to the mountain scenery that Nepal has to offer there is no better road. Lush green mountains all around you with the Himalayas in the distance. There are some pretty hair raising bends plus the heavy traffic that will keep you on your toes. No listening to your iPod on this route.

2. Tell us what a typical day in Nepal was like for you?

I’m an early riser, I like to get up and get myself on the road as soon as it’s light. In a town it means I can be on the outskirts before the traffic madness starts. In the countryside I enjoy the morning light, the mountain views and the quietness around me. I have breakfast after I have been on the road for about an hour, I rarely feel like eating anything in the morning but I force a litre of water into my stomach before I get on the bike. Parts of Nepal were remote so I carried snacks in the panniers. I find bananas are the best kind of energy food. I’ve tried everything from chocolate to nuts to biscuits but bananas are perfect for that boost of energy. I munch on something every hour. If there are shops then I buy fruit and water and usually end up sitting with the owner for a while, not always talking if there is a language barrier but there’s always that shared experience that needs no words.

3. How does cycling in Nepal compare to its neighbour India?

View from a guest house window.JPGNepal was not as intense as India. I found Nepal to be much quieter than India but that’s also because the towns and cities are much smaller here. There wasn’t that constant noise to deal with whether from traffic or just the amount of people in every Indian city or town. I had my first good nights sleep in Nepal after months of lying awake in hotels in India. However most of my time was spent in the quiet of the mountains or the Katmandu valley so it was a very different experience. Katmandu is a very busy built up tourist center. Clubs, hotels, restaurants and shops selling North Fake compete with each other for your money. On the other hand Katmandu is also a real cultural center with some interesting temples and sites to visit in the heart of the city. The Nepalese are very proud of their country, knowing that they live in one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. The Katmandu valley is very fertile with fields of rice, wheat and vegetables. The people in the villages are very shy but also curious and you will be knocked out by their friendliness.

4. What was your favorite part of the ride?

The school.JPGMy favorite part of the ride was leaving Katmandu and heading south to the border. I actually took the wrong road and ended pushing the bike uphill for three days on a track with only the odd motor bike passing every couple of hours. The views of the mountains around me, the beauty of the countryside and the fact that I spent a day in a school with Nepalese children made that three day push to the top of the valley the highlight of Nepal. I now realise that we are never on the wrong road. If I had been on what I thought was the right road I would have missed experiencing a day with those children

5. What was the most challenging moment?

I think the most challenging moment was the three days on that track. It was badly potholed and full of loose stones. Impossible to ride the bike downhill, as when I picked up a bit of speed the bike became tough to control. Difficult to ride uphill as the road was too steep and nothing but potholes and large stones. It was a real test of my stamina and patience moving the bike uphill and I seemed to be getting nowhere. There was nothing for it but to just keep going, I realised that even if I turned round to go home I would still have to deal with the track.

6. What are the roads like generally in Nepal?
The top of the valley.JPGNot all the roads in Nepal are in such bad condition. The problem is that the good roads are incredibly busy and dangerous. Large trucks, buses and cars use the main routes and there is this constant stream of traffic. Very few main roads have a shoulder and when there is one its used by speeding motorcycles. There is very little in the way of shops once you are outside the Katmandu valley so you need to bring everything you need for the day with you, water, food etc.

7. How far did you go on an average day?

The quality of the road coupled with the steep climb out of the Katmandu valley meant that I averaged about 30 to 40 kilometers each day.

8. Is it easy to get around only speaking English?

I found no problem with only speaking English. Katmandu is such a tourist hub that everyone spoke English. In the valley and on the route south to the border I still managed to find English speakers. After a year and a half on the road I’ve invented a sort of international speak, incorporating sign language and the odd word from about 10 different languages and can always make myself understood.

9. What is a good budget for Nepal?

Small village in the valley.JPGI spent about $15.00 a day in Katmandu and that went down to about $10.00 and less in the valley. This included food and accommodation. Remember once you get out of Katmandu and into the valley there is very little to spend your money on even if it’s burning a hole in your pocket

10. What advice do you have for other cyclists?

Nepal was a dream for me after India. I loved the people, food, mountain scenery, the peace and quiet (outside Katmandu). Everything about the country appealed to me. It certainly isn’t the easiest country in which to ride a bicycle but if you do then the experience will stay with you forever. My advice to other cyclists would be ride until the chain breaks.

Thanks to Rob Halkett for answering 10 Questions and supplying the photos of his bicycle tour through Nepal.

If you’d like to answer 10 Questions about a favourite cycling destination, read the guidelines and then get in touch.

Comments

  1. Grace Johnson
    29th January 2010 at 10:51 am #

    Great to see an interview about Nepal since it’s such a wonderful country to cycle through.
    An excellent resource site is Marijcke and Dennis’s website: http://www.toko-op-fietsvakantie.nl/2000-fietsen-in-nepal.php it’s in Dutch – but via Google language tools…
    Secondly, we’re often questioned about cycling there since our website http://impressions.bicyclingaroundtheworld.nl/english/nepal/home/index.htm has a section on Nepal. People tell us that the main reason for wanting to go there is that they have always dreamed of bicycling through the Himalayas. Well, cycling in Nepal is wonderful – just as Rob Halkett describes in the above interview- but you won’t be cycling through the mountains. There is only one road that leads through the Himalayas – and that’s the road from Kathmandu to Lhasa. For cycling through the Himalayas, you should go to Northern India or Tibet.

  2. David Piper
    3rd February 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    I’ve just returned from a ride across India and Nepal and couldnt agree more with Rob’s words. What a contrast!

    • Robin
      13th August 2019 at 8:24 am #

      Hi dear David
      I would appreciate very much if you may share your itinerary with me or recommend me where to cycle for 10 days in Nepal or North India. Regards from Slovenia. Robin

  3. Reza
    23rd March 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    Thank you for the info. What is the possibility of camping in Nepal during the tour?

  4. Trip2himalaya
    5th March 2011 at 7:14 am #

    Now a Days in Nepal the Most Famous Mountain Biking Route is Annapurna Trail Mountain Biking Annapurna -Kaligandaki Valley Through World Deepest Gorge Between Mt. Annapurna and Mt. Dhaulagiri . the Hole Valley is really Interesting and Challenging for Off road Biking downhill form Himalayan range with in 5 days easily . To compare cycling in Nepal Easy and Better then India, After Monsoon and Dry season will be the best for mountain biking in Nepal. Most of the cycling trail is off road and up-down trails and Himalayan Views with typical village

  5. Olly Gibb
    14th January 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Hi,
    My friend and I are planning a cycle tour in north Nepal and we leave on the 25th of February and are out there for 2 months. I have had the rabies jab but I was wondering whether I needed the jab for Japanese Enkephalitus, what do you think? Did you get the JE jab? We are visiting outside transmission season and out of the main danger areas but a travel clinic has still advised me to get the jab because we are out there for more than 1 month and will be in rural areas.
    Also any general advice for mountain biking in Nepal would be much appreciated!
    Many thanks
    Olly

    • Dr. Chris
      8th May 2013 at 1:00 pm #

      Dear Olly,

      No-one but you can make the decision about whether or not to vaccinate for JE – it’s a “waying things up” kind of decision really. Travelling through tropical SE Asia by bicycle, I decided to opt for it myself, but it reallys is up to you – everyone’s situation is different.

      Against getting JE vaccination:
      1. Low chance of you contracting JE! If you are out of season in Nepal, the chance of you contracting JE is probably pretty low (53 travellers were reported to have contracted JE between 1973-2008)

      For getting JE vaccination:
      1. Severity of JE – big consequences! Roughly 1/3 die, and 1/3 are permanently injured. The other 1/3 make a full recovery.
      2. Vaccine efficacy: It’s likely that this is a very effective vaccine.
      3. Vaccine safety: The newer vaccine (NOT the old mouse-brain derived one) is by all accounts very safe, though the initial safety data is derived from a study involving 5000 people.
      4. Long-lived immunity – I’m sorry but I’ve not checked for a reference for this, but my lecturer in Bangkok (Dip. Trop Med and Hygiene) reckoned that two doses was likely to confer lifelong immunity.

      Hope that helps.

      Dr. Chris Holden BMBS BSc DTM&H

      Ref:
      http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-3-infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/japanese-encephalitis.htm

  6. David Piper
    14th January 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    I hired a guide for a couple of days for mountain biking, as its easy to get lost or go around in circles! It was about £50 per day so better value if you are in a group.

  7. Grace Johnson
    27th July 2018 at 12:26 pm #

    Almost every touring cyclist in Nepal will at one point or another want to travel between Pokhara and Kathmandu. The main highway that connects the two towns is dangerous and full of traffic. We also pedaled it, and it wasn’t fun!

    But Harriet and Neil Pike of Pikes on Bikes took a northerly route away from all of the traffic and wrote about it here: http://pikesonbikes.com/routes/himalaya-biking/pokhara-kathmandu/. Note; the Pikes are known for tough/challenging routes so can’t guarantee that this route will be easy…

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