We’d completed the challenging part of the Annapurna circuit. Now it was time for the descent. The road turned to tarmac and we had great fun whizzing down with amazing views all around.
Silas was still with us but he could no longer pedal; that wasn’t much of a problem for now. He and Ross went onto a MTB shortcut while the rest of us stayed on the tarmac. In the end the tarmac ended pretty soon anyway and we were onto a rocky, corrugated road. Passing traffic were going at a speed totally inappropriate to the conditions. A bus raced past, sending a rock flying in to Robin’s front wheel and causing him to crash. He was alright though.
We stopped in the town of Jomsom for lunch. I went by the hospital to confirm they had the rabies vaccine, which I needed to get the next morning. Sabina and Robin went to a police station to file a report on their stolen (expensive) shorts. They had no hope that the police would be useful, but the report was a formality necessary for their insurance.
Silas rode Ross’ bike to search for a bike shop while the rest of us had lunch. He returned carrying Ross’ bike – he’d broken that too! It turned out the chain was jammed between the wheel and cassette. It was really stuck but I eventually got it out, then adjusted the derailleur so it wouldn’t happen again.
Silas hadn’t managed to find a bike shop so he would be staying in Jomsom tonight, and taking a bus back to Pokhara tomorrow. I needed to stay to get the vaccine. In the end the others decided to stay too so that we’d all have another night with Silas before he headed off. It was quite a nice hotel and we were up late playing Tichu as usual.
Silas was first to leave the next morning, with his bike strapped to the top of a bus.
The others left a couple hours later, while I hung around until the hospital opened. Once I got my vaccines sorted, I set off and caught up with the others before too long. We even ended up catching up with Silas! There was some roadwork going on and his bus had been stopped for hours. Being on bikes, we were able to squeeze past the machinery.
I was having problems all day with my saddle bag. I kept adjusting it but it kept on slipping around. I finally realised that it was actually the saddle that was the problem: one of the railings had snapped. That meant I’d soon need to replace the saddle but, for now, I just took the saddle bag off and put it in a backpack.
We stopped for the day in a small no-name town. The hotel we stayed at was rather strange. We all slept in one room. It was about the size of a normalroom, but just about fit three double beds with no space between them, and a single bed on the end wall. I took the single bed, the middle double was used for luggage, and each couple took one of the other doubles.
The next day we reached Beni, the end of the descent. Shortly past the town there was a suspension bridge, by what seemed to be an entire village, accompanied by a marching band. Presumably it was a wedding or some other celebration.
Shortly we returned to a mostly-tarmac main road. It was flat for a while but before long we were climbing again, often with great views of the Annapurna range.
The climb continued the day after, bringing us back up to about 1800m. I reached the top and stopped at a bus shelter to wait for the others. I was immediately approached by a Tibetan woman. She said her family had fled Tibet in the 50s, during the Chinese occupation. Though they now lived in Nepal, they didn’t have citizenship and so weren’t allowed to work. They survived by selling keychains, and did I want to buy one?
Ross arrived shortly afterwards and a woman approached him and told him almost word for word the same story. Like me he declined to buy a keychain, and we decided to ride on a bit further before waiting for the others. From here there was a nice long descent to Pokhara.
When we returned to Pokhara, we stayed in the AirBNB the others had used previously. It was a nice place, and we took a couple of rest days there. Ross, Pax and I met up with Silas and made fondue, which turned out remarkably well. Silas had pretty much finished his trip now, and was planning a return to Europe through Pakistan and Iran, mostly by train.
I got a few things done while in Pokhara, most notably replacing the saddle. There were no good options here and I ended up with a basic gel saddle for 1200 rupees (£8). I can’t say I’m too optimistic about its comfort!
Sabina and Robin wanted to spend some more time in Pokhara, followed by a trek, so it was just Ross, Pax and I who cycled out of the city on the way to Kathmandu. Pokhara and Kathmandu are Nepal’s two big cities, and the road between them is in better shape than others, but also has much more traffic. The weather was quite poor, which didn’t help!
In the middle of the two cities, the traffic was at its minimum and the riding was reasonably pleasant.
A gradual descent took us out of Pokhara, and was followed by a long flat period. The way in to Kathmandu, though, was to involve a 1000-metre climb. We met a Spanish cycle tourer who advised us to cycle in to Kathmandu as early as possible to avoid traffic, so that is what we did. We slept in a hotel part way up the climb, then started early the next morning.
Past the top of the climb, there was a descent for the actual ride into Kathmandu, which wasn’t too bad. I stayed at a hotel on the outskirts.
I hadn’t intended to stay in Kathmandu, but I was feeling a bit under the weather so I ended up staying two days. One day I spent seeing some of the sights and hanging out in cafes with Ross and Pax, while the other was spent resting in my hotel. After that, though, I really had to get a move on as there were just two days left in my visa!