The Himalayan Challenge

21 September - 11 October 2018


OCTOBER 6, 2018

Pokhara to Kathmandu

Bienvenue a Kathmandu

As dawn broke and the sun rose over the horizon this morning, and the full grandeur of our surroundings became plain, today’s dawn chorus comprised a series of expletives followed by the question ”....is that Everest”?

In fact, it was not Everest, but nevertheless what we awoke to was an amazing sight. Four of the world's tallest mountains, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna,  Manaslu  and Machapuchare, the fishtail mountain, loom large over Pokhara, and provided quite the send off for our trip to Kathmandu.

With this inspiring view, most of us began channeling our inner Sherpa, but Andy Mudra, a native Austrian, went above and beyond the call of duty and turned up for breakfast in his lederhosen. You can take the boy out of the Tyrol but obviously you can’t take the Tyrol out of the boy.

Today was a transit day, we had to use the main highway plain and simple and, if the road out of Manali had shades of a Bridge Too Far, then today we were thrown straight into the set of Where Eagles Dare. A time control was set at the bottom of a valley which then led to a passage control some 2.8km away, on a hilltop high above the Trisuli River.

There was a twist to this seemingly easy task however. This was a John Spiller special - a ‘sans vehicule’ PC - which required the crews to check in with Guy Woodcock down in Kurintar at an altitude of 258m and then take the cable car to Gill Cotton in Manakamana sitting pretty at a heady 1,302m.

Once they’d got their time card stamped at the top, there was also the Temple complex to visit before the descent back to the valley where another buffet lunch was waiting.

It is believed that the Hindu Goddess Manakamana to whom the Temple is dedicated, grants the wishes of all those who make the pilgrimage to her shrine to worship her and we couldn’t help overhearing some fervent requests for help from a couple of our crews. Improved suspension was top of the list followed by a more BHP.

With lunch out the way, the final obstacle for the day was the 112km into the hotel, which included an ascent of the so called staircase. A road which leads up the valley to Kathmandu. This particular section is 12km of steep, lorry choked hairpins, over which Marina Goodwin claimed to have passed 162 lorries before reaching the top.

From the top of the hill it was just a case of surfing the waves of Nepalese traffic into the green oasis of calm that is the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Waiting for us in the lobby, it was good to see some old rally friends who’d turned up to cheer on the crews. Joost van Cauwenberge, winner of the 2016 Rally of the Incas along with his wife Christine had flown in from Belgium whilst Hok Kiang Sia, had hopped across from Malaysia to meet some of his old sparring partners.

We’ll be here for two full days, during which time, all manner of activities have been arranged, from breakfast at Everest base camp to a fixed wing flight over the very same mountain. There’ll also be the obligatory laundry service and doubtless a bit of car repair as well.

Syd Stelvio



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