Nepal: We Feel Again
POSTED BY Thamar IN Adventures, India, Nepal @ November 14, 2014 - 8:14 am

We woke up really early the next day, partially from excitement of being free from Tibet and our guides, but mostly from the time zone change – about two hours. Today we knew we had a long day – rumour had it that it took vehicles five hours to drive the 115km road to Kathmandu as it was in seriously bad condition. We’d consulted our Chinese friend who had cycled from Kathmandu to this border town of Kodari in one day and he’d said it was about half downhill, half uphill which sounded rather arduous.

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After a quick breakfast we were on the road by 8am. The countryside was so different to where we had come from – so green and fresh – that we couldn't contain ourselves as we let out shrieks and yells of excitement while butterflies fluttered overhead. The rolling hills and warm humid climate reminded me a lot of Durban. It was mostly an undulating potholed downhill, alongside the Sun Kosi river and possibly the Bhote Koshi river at some point, which took us to about 60km but the going was slower than we had hoped. Things started getting very hot as it got closer to midday and we had to stop every now and then to wet our buffs in the water dripping off the side of the hills. We couldn't help smiling at the trucks and bus hooter sounds as they went around corners. They hooted melodious tunes, a welcome relief from the loud, sharp hooting in China. Every bus and truck is well decorated with bright colours, pictures and slogans like adidas, Coke and Nike.

The smells and colours were so vibrant and it felt like we had woken up to a new season – summer. Quite something experience such a change of season over such a short distance. Women were beautifully dressed in delicate saris, children were walking to school and cows roamed the streets…

As we went through a few bigger towns, the rubbish got more hectic, streets were lined with it. Rivers and gutters backed up from the filth that clogged them. We were going along slowly as the traffic whizzed past, it had been a while since we had ridden with all our panniers and in the busy traffic. The heat added to the slow but steady pace. We made the mistake of not stocking up with food in Kodari before getting onto the road. Some of the roadside kiosks didn't have what we needed, coke and water do help, but there comes a point where you need food. I was on the edge when we stopped for more water and coke, and also found some bread which wasn’t satisfying at all. We pressed on after that break and started to climb a never-ending uphill. I thought we might have made it to Kathmandu in one day (115km), but the climb just wouldn’t end and after 82km we were wrecked from the heat and the massive hill.

Along the climb we came across Snow Mountain View Resort (which was exactly that) and I went to see a man about a room. The price was pretty expensive for our budget and with only dollars on us we negotiated a rate. The location was idyllic and tranquil as we were perched on the hillside overlooking the rolling hills and valley below, adding to that were the gentle sounds of cows and chickens grazing.

I crawled into bed at 8:30pm and passed out. I have never felt so tired and depleted of energy. Just to walk up a few stairs was a massive effort and I felt that I needed to take a break after climbing them.

To Kathmandu

The next morning we left that sanctuary and finished the never-ending hill which had punished us the day before. It landed up being 30km – all uphill! Still feeling the effects of the previous day we went along slowly as the small towns started to merge into one big city. The rubbish, filth and animals (dead and alive) were one up on China, but having gone through China first it wasn't as much of a shock. We also had no cash at this point so our breakfast at the resort was the only thing sustaining us for the day.

We arrived in Kathmandu after lunchtime and there were riot police everywhere (we found out later that they were moving squatters from the stinking river nearby). We were at our wits end having to ride in the worst traffic we’d experienced so far and the manic heat with no water. I stopped to ask for directions from a five-star hotel while Tham plonked herself in a bush – too tired to care.

After what felt like hours a bit of back and forth we found the tourist district of Thamel, a collection of alleyways, and dived into the tightly-packed maze of shops, eateries, hotels and guesthouses – it was overwhelming to say the least.

We came across a fellow cyclist – Robert from Austria. He had been there for a few days already and showed us some areas where we could stay and gave us an idea of prices. After a little more walking a guy from Romania approached us and said we looked like the kind of people that should stay at his hostel (he was working there for a bit). We followed him after his brief introduction and arrived at the Travellers Home Nepal. Everything was quite basic and rustic, but it will be fine for us.

After some a chilled lunch in the garden of the hostel and a shower, we were settled in. Back to the maze and we found a pub and shared a local beer and relaxed for a bit, but it wasn't long before my stomach was calling for food. We had been warned against eating meat in Nepal but mostly India so I wasn’t sure what to eat.

Some interesting facts, the food price is only slightly cheaper than South Africa, however accommodation is really cheap. We paid R40 per night which is an ok price for the standard. Alcohol is expensive too. Today we went to apply for our Indian visas; those should take five days to process. We were allocated a 15-day visa for Nepal.

Getting Into the Hippie Vibe

This morning was a slow start for us. I think our bodies are telling us to chill for a bit. Last night we had a great meal at the hostel, Tham had a garlic chicken curry with rice and I had spaghetti bolognaise... with a glass of Spanish red wine. We were planning to go to Pokara tomorrow by bus, but we might have to wait a few days, Nepal's government is going through a restructure and possibly rewriting their constitution, so people have been striking in order to get themselves heard, therefore limited public services...

May 13th

We have decided to cycle to Pokara and catch a bus back to Kathmandu and today we left the very quiet streets of Kathmandu (due to strikes). It will be 204km one way and we plan to cycle it in two days. The road was mainly downhill in the beginning then it became undulating as we road through the valley alongside a winding river. The scenery was lush and constantly reminded us of Durban. The road was bliss to travel on cause there was virtually no traffic due to the strike. We stopped a few times for coke and water then at lunchtime we found a restaurant where we made our tuna sarmies (travelling with some food is a wise idea).

Cycling in the middle of the day is very hot and humid and we are not even in India yet! We cycled till 5:30pm when we came across a resort which was half way to Pokara. It was very pleasant and we had a relaxing evening and slept well that night. It was up early the next day and we made a good start. The roads were quiet till about 1pm when the busses from Kathmandu caught up to us. Today is very hot again and the road undulating.

Our lunch stop was disturbed by a dozen inquisitive kids which became a bit too much for Tham so we moved on a little earlier than we wanted to. Further down the road we came across two fellow cyclists – Anna (Austria) and Christian (Germany). They had been cycling for 10 months already and left from Germany. They were hardcore and they had the best touring bikes and kit. We had a great chat and exchanged details, then continued on our way. In the distance we could see a storm brewing and before long the wind picked up and the big drops started to fall. We found refuge in a small roadside restaurant and drank milk tea as the rain pelted down. It was about an hour later before the rain eased and we hit the road. It was starting to get late and dark. I was anxious to get to Pokara now. The road had flattened out and to our right we could see the Himalayas catching the setting sun, spectacular! To the left the red clouds and bright orange sun as it dipped behind the hills.

By now we had to bring out the headlamps as it was getting really dark. Fortunately the busses and trucks were off the roads, not sure if it’s because they don't have lights. As the rain started to fall again we arrived in Pokara. We were greeted by a guy on his motorbike who wanted to take us to his guest house. I was keen since it was dark and we didn't know where to go but Tham wanted to find her own way. After an argument over this issue and a third guy came up to us we decide to follow him. Tired and wet we arrived at Hotel Miracle (I smiled at the name and thanked God for his provisions) – I think he must have a great sense of humour. Hotel Miracle is a quaint multi-story colonial looking building with a courtyard entrance. The reception and restaurant is open and has no doors, something which makes sense in this climate. We made ourselves comfortable and tucked into a meal at the hotel. This morning we woke up both feeling like we had been run over by one of those trucks from yesterday. As we slowly made our way up and down the main road we laid eyes on the Phewa Lake. Idyllic! We wandered the streets ate some food then Tham went for a Thai massage as I sat and drank coffee. It’s been a very relaxing day today.

Fellow Cyclists at Last!

On our way back to our hotel in Pokhara we met Rita and Pascal from Switzerland – fellow cyclists. We had a great chat and planned to meet up for dinner later. They arrived for dinner and soon after Sammy and Samantha from the UK joined us – another cycling couple. So that made three cycling couples that we'd met in two days! Sammy and Samantha have cycled from Manchester in the UK, through parts of Europe and into Asia. They've been going for 18 months and have racked up some serious mileage. It was helpful chatting to them since they both came from India, so we got some tips on places to go and routes to take. It was a fab evening as we wished each other well and parted ways.

It was an early start as we made our way to the bus station; we were taking the bus back to Kathmandu because we need to pick up our Indian visas. The bus trip was long, bumpy and hair-raising. It's surprising that we landed up sleeping towards the end. Back into town and it was a short ride back to Thamel. We tried to look for somewhere else to stay but decided we would come back to Travellers Home. It was a warm welcome as we arrived.

That afternoon we walked to the Monkey Temple and at the top of the steep climb of stairs we were treated to perfect views of the city below. That evening was warm and pleasant as we strolled back. Since we've enjoyed really great food at the Hostel, we decide to stay for dinner and were not disappointed with the tasty meal. The one owner had a projector and within a few minutes had a setup in the garden and we watched ‘The Artist’ – a super end to the day.

To Chitwan National Park

The bus ride was long and bumpy from Kathmandu to Chitwan with the usual pit stops at overpriced restaurants. It was already quite hot at 7am when the bus rolled out the parking lot. We both slept for the first few hours until our first stop. Tham either picked up a stomach bug or the food last night made her sick, so she was feeling fragile this morning after a busy night.

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Chitwan wasn't on our original plan of things to do and see but a large part of our trip has been like this so far. We welcomed the spontaneity and bit the price bullet and at lunchtime found ourselves in sweltering Sauraha (on the edge of Chitwan National Park), wow it's humid! There was someone there from the lodge with his "Jeep" to meet us and we loaded the bags in his small Suzuki and road behind him for the 2km stretch to Safari Jungle Lodge. Very basic but adequate. It was a tight program but never felt rushed. We had a nap after lunch then at 4:30pm it was time for the jungle walk which lasted about an hour. On our way we went past the elephant holding area. It was amazing to see these giants so close and to hear their grunts and groans. The jungle area was thick with tall trees and the plain had waist high Elephant grass met by a winding river with an elephant (and handler) having his even bath.

The cultural evening seems like it’s on everyone foreigner's itinerary cause it was a packed hall. We watched the Thardu people (ethnic group) perform some of their tribal dances - lots of stick tapping. Back at the room it seems the powers back on, thankfully, so the fan is working, but not sure if it makes any difference.

Next morning it was up at 6am for our elephant ride. There were 4 of us and the handler who were perched on top of the dozy animal. It was a 2 hour ride through the jungle where we saw 2 types of deer, some peacocks and 4 rhino (not sure the species). I saw Tham nod off a few times as we gently rocked in the saddle through the quiet of the forest on the back of our friendly giant.

After breakfast the next day we packed our stuff and departed. It was a brief stay at Chitwan, but very cool, nice to see some local wild life. Today was not as hot as yesterday but still pretty warm. From Sauraha to Cholmara was 65km. Cholmara is a small town and we almost missed it but with the help of some 10 year olds they led us in the right direct... right to their auntie’s guest house. These young kids were very sharp and not afraid of telling us what to do and where to go.

Once again the room is very basic, in fact it’s decrepit! They are still building the floor above us and complete is a relative term here - concrete floors, un painted doors and walls, very dusty with limited light... but there is a fan! This family "hotel" is run by a husband, wife and 2 children. Since the parents don't speak much English we have been communicating through the kids - 8 and 11 years old. It feels like we have only dealt with the kids, but they have been very confident and competent with showing us the room, taking down our food orders and translating for the parents. A very proud father came to us after the meal to introduce his kids as we sat here in this 2 bit place sipping our tea feeling very welcome and relaxed.

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May 20th

It was an earlyish start from Kowosoti on our way to the border town of Bhairahawa, 84km away. The roads were quiet since they were still striking. It got hot pretty quickly and we were longing for that hint of a breeze which showed up from time to time. We had a non-stop 7km climb early on in the day which I was glad to have done early because by the time midday arrived it was sweltering. Going through the next town it was apparent how passionate they felt about the strike. They were 2 trucks and 1 bus and a motor bike that were burnt to a crisp in the middle of the road. There were also numerous unofficial road blocks using rocks and trees but for some reason I felt quite safe through all this. May because as a foreigner I'm totally removed from the situation. Tham felt a little uneasy which was understandable.

Everything was now flat with the road raised about 1m from the rest of the landscape; it must be like this for coping with the monsoon season. It was another hot humid day and our lunch stop was in Sunwal. Very quiet and dirty little town. I tried to eat egg Chow Mein but decided it looked too dodgy and left half of it. The coffee was ok but there were so many flies around and the owner - a grubby weighty man with a shaved head, thick eye brows and wearing a vest was ordering the kids around to clean the tables and take orders... interesting. We sat mesmerized in front of a little TV with the rest of the shop watching some Bollywood movie, super cheesy!

Back into the heat and we plodded along the quiet road. Our stop for the night was in Bhairahawa, 4Km from the Nepal, India boarder. We arrived as the wind picked up, there was a storm brewing! The Yeti hotel was a reasonably fancy hotel. We took a fan room which was a little pointless since the power was on and off the whole time. That evening I walked to the shops to get some water and came across some guys with a Royal Enfield (Classic 350) motor bike. Awesome looking bike!

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