Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Taking it to the Himalayas

Technically, Himal = mountain and laya = permanent snow. So, we didn't exactly take it to the Himalayas, because we weren't on a mountain with snow, but it felt pretty damn high.

It's funny, Nepal is a pretty small country, but the actual amount of land on it is pretty huge. The rivers flowing from the Himalayas provide water for one third of humanity. Can you believe that? That's the two billion people of neighbouring India and China.

My new friend Katherine (an American working at Save the Children - US) and I decided we'd try to find out just how much land there is, by taking on the first "mountain biking" trail indicated in out Lonely Planet guide on the Saturday just gone. We wanted to get it done before all the tourists arrive and decide that its a good idea too (that would be when the weather is a little drier and cooler). The rather obvious diadvantage to this clever move is the fact that at the moment it is actually HOT and WET.

The 'Scar Road' is a 70km trail that runs through the Shivapuri National Park, a park that happens to be on top of a mountain that overlooks the Kathmandu Valley. A 30km baically straight uphill ride directly north of Kathmandu took us through tiny villages, past corn fields, rice fields and huts filled with what I am assuming were mostly unhappy (not to mention uncomfortable) chickens, stray dogs and the occaisional goat herd. There was also that delightful small child that chased after the dog that chased after US yelling "sick 'em, sick 'em'. I must remember to thank the tourist for teaching him THAT. I contented myself with yelling "you horrible nasty little boy" back at him. Incidentally, on the way back the dog came after us again, so I can't be too sure of how much input the boy actually had.

All the way we were a fascination, "look at these silly white people riding bicycles uphill for fun!" Children would occaisionally yell "hello, what's your name?" as we rode past. One took the effort of running alongside, only to then jet off into the distance, as if to say "is that as fast as you can go?"

After leaving at about 6.30am, we made it to the town of Kakani after about 24 of the 30 km battle and decided on lunch, at 10.30ish. Strange as it was, sitting on the table in front of me what another Australian. A bottle of "Queen Adelaide" a vino of South Australian origin. We noticed, rather cynically, that although fresh water and power were so often out of reach, there would always be Coca-Cola.

Making it to the actual National Park we faced a problem, having followed the Lonely Planet's "instructions" and carry/pushed our bikes up and over the last part of the hill, the Scar Road did not spread out "obviously in front of" us... After spending time 'probing' a few half paths, we came to the conclusion that we couldn't be the tourists that appeared in the paper because we were lost for 40 days and 40 nights in the Himalayan wilderness...

Contenting ourselves with a beautiful downhill coast for 30km, we had breathtaking views of the Kathmandu Valley when the weather consented to clear the clouds for us. All up 60km, and we didn't actually touch the Scar Road. Next time...


  1. I don't care if it's third world or not.....Those photos are UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! Beautiful, amazing, breathtaking, etc, etc. Stuff the scar road, strap on a parachute and jump buddy boy!!!!

  2. You can see the power lines criss crossing the landscape? Those towers are the huge kind and they show how far away those rice fields are. Underneath the kids have often set up swings to play on.

  3. Agreed that the photos are gorgeous Rob. I think " third world " is often code for " unspoilt ".....

  4. Parts of it are certainly unspoilt. But I didn't take photos of the garbage lining the streets, the stray dogs ruffling through it, or the children washing themselves in the gutter water.