This is part of the second section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from India
2/3/97 Nepal and one of the easiest border crossings at Kakarbhitta. Less that one hour to complete formalities. I learned Ron was just one hour ahead. After 50 km of rough road it turned into highway conditions and it wasn't long to catch Ron, broken down on the side of the road, broken clutch cable. Minor repairs and off to Janakpur for the night.
3/3/97 A quick tour of the Hindu temples in town and off to Royal Chitwan National Park. The people on the way are still very Indian and scenery ranging from open woodlands to denser forest. Road staying excellent and great highway riding. Obviously more onto the traveller route as we met two British bicyclists travelling the same way.
4/3/97 After 7 days of riding, it is nice to rest at Sauraha where the food is western and the surroundings a National Park. A quick trip to the elephant breeding centre and organizing a two day excursion into the Park and the day was finished.
5/3/97 24 km walk today through Saal forests and elephant grasses looking for the elusive one horned rhinoceros. We came across a sloth bear with two cubs, she hurriedly gathered them onto her back and headed into the forest. A male came down to a waterhole, drank, then moved back into the elephant grass. Whilst not young, I appreciate being much younger than the majority of retiree tourists being hustled around and crammed into jeeps and canoes designed for half the number and half the size of person. To leave travelling to retirement age reduces by more than half what you can experience by travelling when younger.
6/3/97 After overnighting just outside the Park it is another 20 km walk today. With legs screaming at the start, I wonder if I am not too old for this. With animals everywhere, wild boar, chital, barking and spotted deer, jungle cat and bear, eventually the rhino, cooling off in a waterhole in the heat of the day. Realizing our presence, he slowly ambled from the waterhole and off into the tall grasses. Tonight we stayed in a traditional house in Meghauli, foot and muscle sore.
7/3/97 The local bus to take us back to Sauraha would not run today. The only day of the year, Shiva festival, where roads are blocked and a toll collected to fund the evening's celebrations. We eventually caught a truck and passed over 100 road blocks where about 5 rupees was paid each time. The 28 km consequently took 2 1/2 hours. It seems to be the one day of the year when everyone smokes marijuana openly and non stop all day and night. Everyone in the truck other than the driver was stoned. After arriving in Narayanghat it was then a rooftop ride on an overcrowded bus and another truck ride before reaching Sauraha. On the motorcycles and back to Hetauda before overnighting at Daman, 2300m above sea level, for a chance to see Mt Everest. The day was so warm on the Terai that we stopped for a swim and wash in the river before heading into the mountains.
8/3/97 As is often the case at this time of year, the haze and smoke from winter fires and lack of rain obscured Mt Everest. The 100 km of road over the mountains is in dreadful repair requiring first gear most of the way and limiting speed to 20 km/hr. It was only partly sealed, the rest having been chopped up with trucks and roadworks. With the amount of road work this should be excellent within a couple of years. Despite the road, the trip was great with friendly village people and hillside cultivation. Arriving into the Kathmandu valley also picturesque with green rice cultivation interspersed with yellow mustard flowers making a checker plate countryside.
9/3/97 Catchup day again. The Pheasant Lodge here is great. Small rooms but hot showers like home for $A3 a double. Kathmandu is an incredibly touristy town, not backpackers but triangle tourists, Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan, and the prices reflect the client. Still, the services are here and anything is possible to get done.
10/3/97 It's not until you have walked the old town that you realize the history of the place. Literally hundreds of temples, large and small, mostly 2-3-400 years old, some sunk into the ground as the streets build up around them. The ritual ringing of the bells, praying and giving offerings to their favourite gods and spinning of prayer wheels goes on all day.
11/3/97 Today a bus tour of the outer city. It's only here I realized the extent of Hindu religion with it's many gods and different forms of each god and accepting Buddhism within it's net. Four major religious sites, each to a different god or form were visited. The importance of each god rises or wanes depending upon who is worshipping whom and if the individual feels satisfied with that god. Back to town for another decadent western meal, dhal baht gets very monotonous at times.
12/3/97 As mentioned before, anything can be made in Asia. The quality may not be 100% but the product is there. The speed bumps of India have taken their toll on the underside of my motorcycle and it is only a matter of time before I put a hole in the oil tank, just 13 cm off the ground, with a rock on some of the poorer roads. So a bash plate is needed. After just 3 hours from starting to look and completion, one was designed, fashioned, cut, welded, ground and ready to fit, 6 hose clamps the attachment method. Of course the hose clamps made in India are not quite the same as the west's. Two had broken before installing and the rest wouldn't tighten. After 2 hours of searching, one Taiwan quality product was obtained but no more in Kathmandu. A kid on a bicycle was despatched to scour the streets and 3 hours later returned with the only remaining 4 in the country. He assured me he visited 21 shops in his search before returning for his payment, $A1. Of course he could also have included his commission in the price of the product.
13/3/97 The road from Kathmandu to Mugling is great for motorcycles, twisting down beside the river without too much traffic. From there to Pokhara it deteriorates with roadworks. I had tea with seven sadhus (wandering holy men). They were sitting by the roadside smoking marijuana (which grows wild around Kathmandu) and brewing a concoction of local leaves. One had been travelling India for over 12 years relying on the goodwill of people to support his quest.
14/3/97 The rain the night before had washed away the majority of the haze and the snow capped Annapurna mountain range was peering through the low cloud. The trip to Bagling and back (145 km) rising to great views over Pokhara Lake, through mountain valleys and following mountain streams was one of the best days this trip. Most of the trekking starts along this road.
15/3/97 An earlier start and with the day and the sky completely clear of cloud and haze, the Annapurnas were in full magnificence with the sun reflecting off the white snow. I rode to Sarangkot, 20 km to get the full magnificence and sat to watch the cloud slowly envelope the mountain over the next two hours before returning to Pokhara for a restful day at the lakeside.
16/3/97 Just as we were leaving Pokhara, Ron got an offer for his motorbike so we parted company with me heading south to the Mahendra highway via Tansen before going west, and Ron, well I don't know, he will probably get lost in Pokhara for a few more days. The road south, again mountain scenery, with terraced cultivation and mountain rivers. The road surface not so great with it often breaking up. Still it was only a comfortable 4 hours for the 110 km journey.
17/3/97 Down from the mountains and onto the Terai and back to good roads through villages and Saal forests. Heading west and stopping at a truck stop at Manikapur, 240 km for the day. These truck stops, usually at big intersections, are also repair stations, tyres, welding and machining where almost anything can be made in a fashion. Not good quality but enough to get out of trouble. It is fascinating watching limping trucks being repaired, usually wheel bearings seized from the load, wear and no seals. Also tyre and puncture problems which is no wonder when you look closely at the tyres.
18/3/97 My birthday, I am now 44. Off at 6 am and a great road to Chisopani and beyond where a new bridge signals the end of road funding. From here to the border good road is cut 10 times by some atrocious river crossings. Seven are wet crossings, with large river stones, and inevitably I am wet to the knees, boots and all. The new bash plate came in handy receiving some hefty knocks. While the deepest water was only 60 cm, this road is impassable to cars because of the deep ruts and probably impassable to all vehicles at wetter times of the year.
My summary of Nepal, Mostly good roads across the Terai and poorer but avoidable roads into the mountains. Scenery as you would expect, great and the people friendly and welcoming. The tourist triangle, Chitwan, Kathmandu and Pokhara, very touristy and the usual associated problems with high prices and rip offs. The air pollution at this time of year disappointing and if it hadn't rained to clear the air during my stay, I would not have been able to see any snowy peaks. A little dearer than India with the Government setting the standard of allowing to charge foreigners more by charging 65x the price for National Park entry compared with locals. All in all great and I will be returning for a longer stay and some extended trekking.
Move with me to India or go to my next visit
Story and photos copyright ©