The rumour is that you become fitter when you spend time at altitude. Your lungs become stronger because your body is working harder to find oxygen with each breath. So, after spending two weeks over 3,000 metres in Nepal, I was not afraid of a little Kathmandu by Bike Urban Adventure once I was back down in Kathmandu Valley, at 1,400 metres. But in hindsight, perhaps I should have been slightly more prepared.
The first challenge was to make our way out of the tourist trap that is known as Thamel. If you’ve been to Kathmandu, you know the streets are probably some of the worst in the world, full of potholes and terrifying tiny taxis zipping and beeping in front of you. But soon we were making our way along long, windy roads up the Kathmandu Valley, and while we were out of the city chaos, we still had to carefully listen for the horn of a full bus bursting with locals (including some sitting on the roof) coming around towards us at top speed.
At the top of the valley, the view was incredible. It was green and quiet, and we rode past locals with a casual “Namaste,” a total contrast to the Kathmandu we were used to. Our guide stopped for a drink and mentioned it was going to get tougher as we were going uphill. He told us there were two options: the easy way or the hard way. When you are the only female in the group, of course you are going to say you can handle the hard option… and then we went vertical!
You know when you are peddling and peddling, and you literally can’t peddle anymore? That was my reality at the top of the Kathmandu Valley — but the problem with giving up is you still have to carry your bike uphill and that is almost worse. Yet, I somehow made it to the top of the mountain, with mud on my face and the adrenaline of knowing I hadn’t given up. Once you have a little mud on you, you wear it like a badge of honour and I confess I started to go out of my way to find as many badges as I could.
But one of the highlights for me wasn’t so much the hardcore adventure, but rather stopping in the local villages along the way (mainly so we could grab a Snickers bar to have enough fuel to continue). In one of the villages, a local boy took interest in my bike. He didn’t own a bicycle, so my guide helped me to offer him a ride. Off he went on a bike that was far too big, and since he didn’t know how to stop, he simply fell over to come to a halt! But the huge smile that fell across his face showed it was worth every minute.
The best part of making it to the top of the valley is that it’s all downhill from there. Coming back down the mountain was one of the most exhilarating moments of my whole time in Nepal — I felt like I was flying. And then I remembered all the calories I’d burned going up, which meant all the momos I could eat once I arrived back in Thamel! I knew I’d made it. I’d conquered the valley and I was stronger for it.
Sometimes, you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone to grow stronger. This ride was one of the best things I did in Nepal and I can’t wait to find more ways to challenge myself on my next trip — and I challenge anyone else to do the same!