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  #136  
Old 14 Jan 2012
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1/5 Ride to Sarnath

I had scheduled us for another ambitious ride today, so once again, we needed to get on the road early. Around 7:15 am, we walked out to load up the bikes and were greeted by a very damp morning. The bikes were covered in condensation, and the fog reduced visibility to a half mile or less.

As we pulled out onto the road we could see the sun trying to struggle through but not succeeding. The first six miles were on the incongruous four-lane, divided road, that runs only between Khajuraho and the exceptionally shitty, two-lane Nh75.



As expected, the Nh75 eastbound was as bad as the section we had ridden a few days earlier. Unexpectedly, after twenty-five miles or so, the cold and damp must have gotten to my brain, because in the distance, I saw what looked like brand new asphalt. Out here? It can't be. But sure enough, smooth, black, brand new road. We immediately upped our pace and made quick work of the ride as far as Satna.



The sun was still trying to shine, but this part of the ride was a slightly surreal cruise through misty farmlands and small towns.

The traffic picked up again once we reached the outskirts of Satna, and we soon rejoined the conga line of trucks, buses, cars, motorbikes, farm tractors, and oxcarts, all making their way through town. While we were stuck in a row of traffic, I could hear a vehicle behind us continuously blowing its horn, and I glanced in my mirror to see yet another bus aggressively making its way through the line of traffic. I focused my attention back forward and then a few seconds later, heard the unmistakeable sound of a motorbike sliding along the pavement. Oh no. I looked in my rear view mirror to see Re and her bike laying in the road and a big yellow bus stopped behind her. I came to a stop maybe fifty feet from where Re lay and started running back towards her. I yelled to see if she was okay and asked what happened. She yelled back that the bus had hit her. By this time the bus had pulled into the oncoming lane, and the driver quite apparently had no interest in hanging around. Several other people ran up to help Re, and they were yelling and pointing at the bus too. I ran up to the bus and grabbed hold of the side mirror, yelling at the driver and his assistant to stop. As they kept driving, I struck the side window with my fist and only succeeded in bruising my hand. The side door of the bus was open, and I attempted to jump on board, but they were already moving too quickly for me to make the leap. I just wanted to talk to them, honestly.... As they drove away, I was doubly surprised to see that this big yellow bus was a school bus. Nice.

As the red mist cleared, I suddenly remembered that my lovely wife was laying in the road with a motorcycle partially on top of her last I saw her. Oh yeah. By the time I reached the bike, Re had been helped up by several onlookers, and they had also picked up her bike. I pushed my way through the crowd to Re and asked if she was hurt. She said she was okay and that she had hit the top of her head, her wrist, and her shoulder. When she took her helmet off, I took a quick look in her eyes to see that her pupils were both the same size and then had her look up at me so I could see (without her knowing) that her pupils dilated equally and smoothly. One of the onlookers understood that she said something about her head and sat her down on the side of the road and administered a head massage. Re again assured me she was okay, just shaken and mad, but she did look scared. I checked over her bike and the only damage I found was a bent right footpeg and some more cracks in her right mirror. Two of the things that have impressed me most this trip are how well both Re and the Symbas survive crashes. Sturdy. A bigger crowd had gathered now and included people who hadn't seen the accident and were instead interested in asking us the usual trip questions. We didn't really want to take the time to chat, so after Re again assured me she was alright, we left the scene.

A mile or so later, I noticed that Re was lagging behind and pulled over to see if she was okay. She wasn't. There were tears rolling down her face and she was quietly sobbing. I asked if she wanted to cut today's ride short and spend the night in Sarnath, but she said she just needed a minute. I (and many of you) remember the first bike accident that was in no way my fault. When I started riding on the street and on the track, it was easy to convince myself that all accidents could be avoided and that I was in control. I still remember vividly the feeling I got during my second season of road racing, when I was struck by another rider as he was crashing next to me. Up until then I had told myself that as long as I rode my own race and ran my own pace, that crashing was avoidable. After this incident, I very nearly gave up racing, and my false sense of security was destroyed. This seemed to be what Re was struggling with now. She said that she didn't feel that there was anything else she could have done to avoid the accident and was feeling out of control. We talked for a few minutes, and I said that if she wanted to end the trip now and go home, that we could ship the bikes via train to Calcutta or Delhi and fly them home. She immediately said no, she wasn't going to let this beat her, and dammit, she wanted to go to Nepal.



A few miles later, Re spotted an Indian Coffee House, where we stopped for eggs and coffee. It was here that we discovered the other casualty of the accident. Re has been carrying our camera in her jacket pocket and she had landed on it when she hit the ground. The LCD screen is cracked and doesn't display anything anymore. The camera still beeps and acts like it's taking pictures, there's just no way to compose or view the results. Bummer. By the end of brunch she seemed less shaken, and we continued toward Sarnath. To make the day's ride even less fun, the beautiful road that we came into town on did not extend any further. The roads from Sarnath all the way to the border with Uttar Pradesh were pretty bad, and our speeds dropped accordingly.

Once we reached the border of Uttar Pradesh, the roads got really bad. Shortly after we crossed the border, we found ourselves zigzagging our way up and then back down a decent-sized mountain. Uttar Pradesh is sparsely populated and, except for a few towns, not on the tourist trail. We needed to make it to Sarnath tonight. We found ourselves racing the sun (which had made an appearance by now) and we were losing. The sun finally set around 5:30 pm, and we rode the final twenty-five miles in the dark. Over the next hour and a half we bounced and lurched our way over the rough roads, in between slow moving vehicles, and surrounded by dust and smoke. I thought that slowing down once the sun set would be the best way to stay safe, but the riders and drivers around us saw no reason to do the same. They simply turned on their high beams and drove with the same kamikaze zeal. Happy to be alive, we finally made it to our guesthouse in Sarnath around 7:15 pm. After a too-expensive, not too good dinner, Re took a couple of ibuprofens, and we crawled into bed and cuddled up tight.

270 miles in 11.75 hours. I did do a full to empty tank of gas run and got 103 miles out of 1.04 gallons. This was a hard, hard day, and I will not be planning to cover so many miles a day anymore in India. In a related note, Re and I are disappointed in Nandi.
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  #137  
Old 14 Jan 2012
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1/6 Touring Sarnath

After yesterday's events and hard, hard ride, we were both very tired and sore this morning. Adding to our discomfort was the fact that it was chilly overnight, and we woke to a damp and foggy morning. After warming up and loosening our muscles in the hot, hot shower, we had some breakfast at our guesthouse. We waited in the room for the fog to lift and caught up on some reading.

Around 10:00 the fog had somewhat dissipated, so we walked out to make a loop of the town. Unlike all the other temple towns we've visited in India so far, Sarnath is not a Hindu town, but Buddhist. Sarnath is where Buddha came to preach after achieving enlightenment in Bodh Gaya.



Our first stop was the Chaukhandi Stupa, where Buddha met his first disciples. The stupa is now largely just a humongous pile of bricks upon which a Mughal tower was constructed in the 16th century. Re and I walked the path around the mist covered stupa, and while there wasn't much to see, we both found the site very peaceful. We sat and talked for a while before continuing on. Our next stop was to be the Archaeological Museum, but today is Friday, and of course, the museum is open Saturday to Thursday. Sigh. Instead, we stopped for lunch and had another delicious thali.

After lunch we continued on to the Dhamekh Stupa, where Buddha preached his first sermon. The grounds surrounding the stupa contain the remains of a huge old monastery and the Ashoka Pillar.



The stupa was an impressive sight at nearly a hundred feet high and was striking in its simplicity compared to Hindu monuments.



The only colorful thing here were the thousands of Tibetan prayer flags and the gold leaf that pilgrims rub on auspicious spots. Next we stopped at the Mulgandha Kuti Vihar, which is a modern Buddhist Temple notable mostly for its bodhi tree. This tree is said to be an offspring from the original tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. Late afternoon, we went back to the guesthouse, ate some fruit, and Re did some blogging. Just before 6:00 pm we returned to the Vihar to listen to a group of monks chant, and then we went to dinner. All in all, this was a very peaceful day and a perfect antidote to yesterday.

0 miles.
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  #138  
Old 14 Jan 2012
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1/7 Ride to Bodh Gaya

When the alarm went off at 6:00 am I nervously crawled out of bed and into the chilly, damp air to peek out the curtains and check the weather. Overnight I heard rain on the roof and was nervous about what I would find. While it had rained some overnight, it had stopped and the ground was drying. Today's ride should only be 150 miles or so, mostly on the Nh2. This is the highway that runs between Delhi and Calcutta, and I had high hopes that it would be a good road. We wanted to get into Bodh Gaya early in the day since this is high season and the time when Buddhists from around the world, especially Tibet, come on pilgrimages. We decided to continue with our original plan and leave by 7:30 am despite the fog and damp roads.

We rolled out the front gate at around 7:45 and were greeted by bad roads that were now covered with slick mud. We made our way back past Varanasi and across the Ganges River, and seventeen miles later, to the Nh2. As we hoped, the Nh2 was a four-lane divided highway, and the good road surface allowed us to cruise between 40 and 45 mph for the next several hours. The day remained chilly and damp, and the sun again struggled to burn through the fog. Periodically, enough of the sun's rays made it through to briefly warm us up, but too soon, it was chilly again. We made it to Bodh Gaya by 1:00 pm and were greeted by a huge traffic jam and a sea of monks in maroon robes. The main road into town was blocked by policemen, and my GPS does not contain the minor roads in Bodh Gaya. Not wanting to fight our way into town to find that the hotels there were full, we pulled out the cell phone and called the local tourist office. They informed us that because some guy by the name of Dolly-something was in town, that all the rooms were full.

Yes, the Dalai Lama is in town for the 32nd Kalachakra Initiation. I don't know what it is, but it is clearly a big deal. My plan was to ride to Gaya, the next town north, and look for a room there, but on the way out of town, I spotted a hotel that didn't look too busy and pulled in. Re went in and found out that yes, in fact, they were full, but had a house available for 5,000 rupees (100 bucks). She laughed and I started to ride off, but a man yelled, wait wait wait! He asked Re what our budget was, and she tossed out 1,000 rupees. He told us to wait a minute and disappeared back into the hotel. A few minutes later, he returned and motioned for Re to follow him around to the back of the hotel. They reappeared a few minutes later and Re said we had a room for the night for 1,000 rupees. We rode behind the hotel to an apartment building(?) across the alley and were shown a double room that we took for the night.

Bikes put away and locked up, we walked out in search of lunch. What we found was a group of monks sitting around a momo steamer and thought, if it's good enough for Granddad, it's good enough for me. And it was. Ten steamed veg momos for 20 rupees (40 cents) and a glass of chai for an additional 10 rupees. So for 1.20 USD Re and I enjoyed a plate of momos and a chai each. We then wandered up into town and marveled at the crowds of thousands and thousands of pilgrims and monks from all over the Buddhist world. Indeed the Dalai Lama is in town and will be speaking tomorrow to the assembled masses. Since it was impossible to get near any of the major temples or monasteries, we spent the afternoon instead wandering around and people watching. Later, we had a dinner of fried noodles at another street stall, followed by dessert of another plate of steamed momos. Yummy! And budget friendly. This is the kind of eating that we really miss from southeast Asia; so much of the street food is simple but delicious. We later stopped at the local liquor store for a small bottle of whiskey and then went back to the room to toast the Dalai Lama (heresy, you say?)

165 miles in 5.5 hours of relatively easy riding.
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  #139  
Old 14 Jan 2012
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1/8 Hello Dalai!

We woke to another cool, damp, and foggy morning and made our way out into the mist for breakfast. We stopped at the same place we had dinner last night for fried eggs, freshly made chapati, and a couple of glasses of chai. We then walked the mile or so into the main part of town towards the Maha Bodhi Temple. The scene in Bodh Gaya today was an odd mix of sacred pilgrimage and county fair. In and amongst all the robed pilgrims were thousands of street vendors selling everything from housewares and clothes to kids' toys, and carnival rides. Along the road into town, there were maybe a half dozen simple kiddie rides set up, but the best of all, was the “Sri Rama Break Dance.” This was a smaller and crappier version of what in the US would be called the Tilt-A-Whirl. But unlike the other rides, it was motorized rather than hand-cranked. Re and I stopped to watch as a small group of street urchins looked longingly at the ride while a fortunate child's dad paid for his ticket. These street kids were essentially dressed in rags and were just a few of the hundreds that we had seen begging on the streets here. Since there were only a couple of kids on the ride, the operator was not going to start it until he got a few more butts in the seats. Re and I looked at each other, and she saw me reaching towards the pocket I keep money in and said, “Do you wanna make some kids' day?” We walked over to the ticket booth and gestured to the kids to see if they wanted a ride. First it was three, then five, then six, and finally, eight. We paid the 160 rupees (about 3 USD) and gave the tickets to the little outstretched hands. Several of the kids yelled “Thank you” as they raced for the gate. We watched for a few minutes as they found their seats and the ride started. It was very funny to see the wide variety of expressions once the ride started- everything from big smiles to vaguely frightened looks, and even a few tears. Two of the girls smiled at us and waved from the ride. This may have been the best three bucks we have spent in India. We have seen too many kids like these sleeping on the streets and eating what looks like garbage to me.

As we neared the temple and the grounds of the Kalachakra Initiation, we found tens of thousands of people sitting on every available surface (but mostly almost all of the road) so that they could see the Dalai Lama on the Jumbotrons. It was neat to see all of the pilgrims from all over the Buddhist world in their culture's robes, sitting together and listening so intently. The problem with everybody sitting on the road is that it only left a narrow path to walk through, and just before we reached the temple, we ran into a particularly narrow section with too many people trying to pass in both directions. At one point in time, Re and I found ourselves forced to the edge of the scrum and fighting to stay on our feet. We did finally make it through without falling into the seated crowds, but we decided to take a different route back later in the day. The crowds thinned as we finally made it to the Maha Bodhi Temple, and we had a relatively easy time getting inside. The temple is a World Heritage listed site, where Buddha attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree. This temple also has a descendant of that original bodhi tree planted in the place where the original one stood.



The temple grounds are huge and beautiful, and we spent a pleasant hour or two here. Another interesting thing to see here was the various ways in which adherents of the different Buddhist sects worship. We saw people rubbing gold leaf on statues, placing small piles of rice around the temple, setting out individual flowers, floral arrangements, and garlands of flowers, prostrating themselves in different ways, pressing their foreheads or tapping their prayer beads against auspicious sites, walking the circular path, or simply sitting in quiet meditation. Since Nandi had let us down, we picked up some prayer beads at the gift shop and had them blessed in the main temple.

It was now early afternoon, so we decided to get some lunch. We found a restaurant that was supposed to cater to travelers' tastes, and I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich on brown bread and some fried momos, while Re had veg thukpa (a Tibetan soup). After lunch we shuffled our way back through the seated masses who were still watching the Dalai Lama on the big screen until we made our way down Buddha Road and Temple Street.



There we stopped to visit the Thai Monastery, the Bhutanese Monastery, the Indosan-Nipponji Temple, and the 80-foot Buddha. It was again fascinating to see the different styles of each temple, from the very restrained Japanese, to the exuberant Bhutanese Temple.

By now we had seen what we wanted to see and were getting a little overwhelmed by the crowds, so we headed back to the room to spend a little while working on ride reports. During one break from writing I stepped outside and noticed a monk looking over our bikes. He spoke some English and asked about our trip. When I told him we were heading to Nepal next, he looked very concerned and said that area was “dangerous.” He also said that we needed to get something (I did not recognize the word) and further explained that it was the white fabric that we had seen at the temples. He said that we should get some of it and have it blessed and tie it to our bikes to help ensure a safe journey. Huh. So, we hit the road again. We walked back into town, found some of the cloth, took it to the main temple, and had it blessed. Might not help, but it can't hurt. On the way back to the room, we stopped at a couple of different places and made a dinner out of a variety of yummy snacks.

0 miles.
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  #140  
Old 14 Jan 2012
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1/9 One in a Billion

Our destination for today is Kushinagar, another town on the Buddhist circuit. The OpenStreetMaps on my GPS have not been as reliable in northern India and for some reason, would not route us north of Patna, instead wanted us to backtrack west nearly to Varanasi before heading north. We decided to head to Patna and hoped the GPS would pick up the route again on the other side of the Ganges (which seemed to be the problem area). It was another damp night followed by another damp, chilly morning, but at least the fog wasn't as bad. Not knowing how far it actually was to Kushinagar, we left at 7:15 am. We lost the highway about ten miles up the road in Gaya, and the GPS led us down back alleys to dead ends before we figured out where the highway actually was. The GPS showed us to be either west or east of the highway we were on until we hit another town, where we found ourselves once again, wandering the back alleys trying to find the highway.



Somewhere on the Nh83 (?), we pulled over to take a picture to commemorate our 15,000 miles on this trip. We made it to Patna, where the traffic was stop and go and extremely heavy, but we did make it across the Ganges by around noon. Sure enough, the GPS picked up the road again and we found that we still had 150 miles to go, but at least the roads were good. My initial hope that we would be making good time due to the good roads was soon dashed by the number of small towns and speed bumps along the way. We could literally clear the last set of speed bumps in a town, accelerate to 45 mph, hold the throttle open for 90 seconds, and then have to start braking for the next town and next set of speed bumps. It was a slow and frustrating ride.



The weird scene of the afternoon was when we came upon a small tailback of vehicles that we dutifully rode around and into a group of shouting and yelling women and children holding hand-lettered signs on bamboo poles. There was one motorbike rider ahead of us who apparently understood what was going on and got off his bike to speak with the somewhat angry mob that was blocking the highway in both directions. I have no idea what the protest was about, maybe somebody who reads Hindi can figure it out from out pictures. After a minute or two, the motorbike rider started gesticulating towards us, then himself, then to us, pleading his (and our) case. About this time, a couple of men appeared in the crowd and also spoke to the woman who seemed to be the ringleader. She not very happily acquiesced and allowed the three of us to pass.

Sometime later in the afternoon, we came upon little town number 30 or 40, and I silently cursed under my helmet when I saw yet another long string of traffic stopped in our lane. There was nothing remarkable about this town, just another grubby collection of brick and mud homes lining the road, full of people who work in the fields and live a very hard life. We and the other bikes and bicyclists dutifully pulled into the empty oncoming lane and made our way past the 25 or 30 stopped trucks and buses. What is it this time? I thought to myself. As we neared the head of the column, I could see there was a truck stopped at a funny angle across the road, and beyond it, a large crowd of people were gathered. “Just another truck accident,” I thought, but then I didn't see another vehicle. As we got closer I could see the crowd was gathered in a circular fashion around something on the ground. “Shit,” I thought, “there's a motorbike down.” We then ducked to the left and pulled on to the shoulder of the road to go around the crowd. As I went to pull back onto the road, I glanced back to see a sight I'd hoped never to see. Instead of a downed motorbike, the crowd was gathered around a very grubby, too small, white piece of cloth thrown over a too tiny body. One dirty arm and leg stuck out from under the cloth, and on the side of the road was a small woman who had collapsed on her heels and was crying. Not knowing what else to do, I said a quick prayer before riding on. The roads in India are way too dangerous. Everybody drives way too fast, no one slows down for anything, and these roads go right through all the small villages. Road safety is not a priority in India. Hell, it's not even an afterthought. Life is cheap here, and there is almost no penalty for any crime, and certainly not for vehicular manslaughter. And it's not just road safety, there is almost no thought given to protecting the lives of the people in India. Maybe it's because there are over 1.4 billion people here, or maybe it's because the government is astoundingly corrupt and incompetent, or maybe it's the caste system, I don't know. As we rode away, I couldn't help but think about the mom, that little boy or girl may have only been one in a billion, but he or she was somebody's one. And I know that somebody's already too hard life is going to be just that much harder tonight.

The ride for the rest of the day really didn't seem to matter. It just got colder and there was some occasional light rain. We again lost the race with the sun again and rode the last thirty minutes in the dark. We made it to Kushinagar by about 6:15 pm and stayed in one of the government guesthouses. We had dinner at the hotel and both of us went to bed not feeling very good about the day or northern India in general.


255 miles in 11 hours. Crossed the 15,000 mile mark. Doesn't seem to really matter.
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  #141  
Old 14 Jan 2012
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1/10 Touring Kushinagar/Ride to Gorakhpur

We woke to yet another cold, damp, and misty day. This is getting tedious for sure. The weather has been essentially the same for the past ten days or so, and none of the hotels have heat. Consequently, our gear never really dries and it's very difficult to do laundry. We wandered out into the fog and found the one recommended restaurant for breakfast. The so-so food and bad service didn't do much to improve our moods this morning, but we continued on with the walking tour of the sights. Kushinagar is where Buddha died and is the place where he is said to have been cremated.

We started the walk with a visit to the Chinese Linh Son Temple and then to the Burmese Temple complex. We then toured the Mahaparinirvana Temple, which contains a temple surrounded by a huge garden.



Inside the temple is a reclining Buddha from the 5th century. At nearly twenty feet long, it depicts Buddha on his deathbed. Our next stop was at the Mathakuar Temple, which is where Buddha is said to have made his final sermon.



From there, we walked to the Ramabahr Stupa, where Buddha's body is said to have been cremated. There really wasn't much to see here, since the stupa was not much more than a pile of bricks, but it was a very peaceful and moving place to visit. Even though we needed to check out of our room by noon, we sat for twenty minutes or so and talked about life and the future while watching a saffron-robed monk sit in quiet meditation in front of the stupa.

We then hurried back to the room and quickly packed up the bikes. Re is coming down with some sort of cough, and it has steadily been getting worse all morning. Fortunately the ride to Gorakhpur was short and the day had warmed up. Around 1:30 pm we found the recommended hotel across from the train station and checked in. The room was small but very nice, and miracle of miracles, it had a small space heater. The bad news was that while checking in, Re suddenly asked me to finish filling out the paperwork and sat down. She was now feeling nauseated and generally unwell. While she went up to the room and laid down, I unpacked the bikes and got everything locked up. Later in the afternoon I went out to find cough syrup, cold tablets, some paracetamol, and some lunch snacks. Re spent the rest of the day in bed but did get up for room service dinner and to do a bit of laundry. Later in the evening I went out to find the local internet cafe, but the internet service was down everywhere.

35 miles in 1.5 hours. Re is not well.
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  #142  
Old 28 Jan 2012
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1/11 and 1/12

1/11

Re was very sick this morning. She said she'd had chills and sweats overnight to go with her cough and congestion. Clearly we are not riding today. While I left her to sleep, I decided to head out to try and find some internet before the power cut. I did find a small place that actually had a pretty darned fast connection and spent two hours or so posting ride reports and photos and researching Nepal and beyond. As I got up to leave the internet cafe, it seemed like my bones were beginning to hurt. Bummer. Back at the room, Re decided that she wanted to try and get some lunch with me, so we both walked out and found a thali. Re picked at hers and I ate about half of mine. The cold and gray day seemed to have soaked into us. We went back to the room and both crawled under the covers to nap for a few hours. In the early evening, the power came back on, and with it, our tiny space heater. The room warmed up enough to get out from under the covers, so we had some oranges for dinner and watched a little TV. Re's fever seems to have gone, but she has a nasty cough that the cough syrup doesn't seem to be doing much about. I now have a bad headache and joint pains. Yay.

1/12

After a bad night's sleep, we both woke up feeling somewhat better and wanted to get on the road. We started packing up the room, and I started to feel much worse. Between coughing fits, Re went down to the bike and retrieved the thermometer. My temperature is nearly 101 degrees, so no riding today. I ended up crawling back into bed and slept for most of the day. Re worked on blog posts and did a bunch of laundry. I crawled out from under the covers long enough to have some chicken soup and rice for dinner and then went back to bed.
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  #143  
Old 28 Jan 2012
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1/13 Friday the 13th Part: INDIA

We both felt okay this morning and decided we had to get out of this room. While we waited for the fog to burn off, we packed up the bikes and Re went out in search of more cough syrup. By 9:30 am we were ready to go. The bad news about our late start is that it put us in the middle of rush hour, and the roads were chaos. We had to ride through Gorakhpur to get to the highway to Nepal, and traffic was insane. Before we could make it to the highway, I was struck by another motorbike. We were riding on a (barely) two-lane road and I was hugging the left edge of the pavement since everyone was overtaking everywhere. I noticed a motorbike pull up on my right side and match speeds. After riding for eight weeks in India, I really do not like it when other vehicles ride next to me because it cuts off some of the few options I have. Consequently, I tried to shake him. I sped up, he sped up. I slowed down, he slowed down. And then, the Inevitable. Right in front of us, an oncoming bus pulled out to pass, and the rider to my right swerved to avoid becoming a grill ornament. Unfortunately, he swerved into me at about 35 mph. I felt the lurch from the back of the bike and suddenly found myself to be a passenger on the Ohshitthisisgonnahurt Express. Surprisingly, it didn't hurt that much. I came free of the bike before it hit the ground and gently glided through the air until I reached my final destination. I landed face down, fairly flat, and thankfully, no one ran over me. I hopped up, checked myself over and heard Re yelling to see if I was okay. I told her I was, and Re and a couple helpful folks got my bike stood back up. The other guy had picked himself off the ground and I just shook my head at him, while Re screamed at him. He looked rather stunned and actually may have been, since I am sure he hit the ground as hard as I did, but of course, his helmet was made of a scarf. Dumbass. I checked over my bike and found, once again, that Symbas crash well, just a slightly bent right footpeg. Since traffic was backing up and I just wanted to get the **** out of India, we hopped back on our bikes and continued north.

We made it out of the city, and the highway opened up some. Traffic was still very heavy, and we had to take to the shoulder several times to avoid oncoming traffic. Maybe thirty minutes after my crash, while passing through Small Town number elebenty billion, we came upon a truck stopped perpendicularly across both lanes. He didn't appear to have plans to move any time soon, so I rode onto the shoulder and went around the rear of the truck. When I glanced in my rearview mirror, I saw Re had apparently hesitated before deciding to follow me. Unfortunately, by the time she pulled behind the truck, the driver woke up/put down his cellphone/had an idea/I don't know, and started backing up. Re was valiantly blowing her horn and trying to get past, but didn't make it. The good news was, she was going less than 5 mph when the truck backed into her. I saw her tip over, jammed on the brakes, and spun around. I was a few hundred yards up the road when I turned around and rode back going the wrong way against traffic on the edge of the road since all the oncoming traffic was stopped by the now leaving truck and the crowd that had gathered around Re. I wasn't too concerned about it until I spied a motorbike riding in from the dirt “parking” area on the right. He was riding from my right to left, from the dirt to the paved road while texting. I quickly realized that I was riding too fast for conditions, and that if I did not avoid him, we were going to collide. In my haste to get back to Re, I did not realize how fast I was going until I hit the brakes. I was not slowing fast enough on the pavement, so at the last minute, I eased right, onto the dirt. What I did not do was let up on the front brake when I transitioned to the dirt. The front end immediately snapped right, and I found my head striking the dirt, followed by my shoulder, the rest of me, and then the bike. I estimate I was going somewhere between 20 and 25 mph when I hit, but I hit hard. I was dazed for a second, but eventually noticed that my right foot was trapped under the bike, and I could not get up. Once again, the helpful passersby of India, who must do this several times each day, came over and lifted the bike off me. I'd had the wind knocked out of me, so it took a few seconds to recover. I stood up and found that while my shoulder and ankle both hurt, they seemed to work okay. I took off my helmet, checked it for damage, and saw none. I looked over the bike and found that the front brake lever was slightly bent and that the ball end had snapped off, but amazingly, no other apparent damage. I re-situated the load that had shifted and looked for Re. She was still lost in the crowd a few hundred feet further down the road, and I didn't know her condition. I hopped on my Symba and it fired right up, and I rode back to Re. She was okay, no damage, just double extra ready to get the **** out of India – like me. She said she had checked over her bike and everything looked hunky dory, so we kept riding.

In the first few miles or so, I did find three problems. The first and most minor (but irritating nonetheless) is a shattered right mirror. The second and more problematic is that my rear brake lever is, once again, bent, and it sounds like my rear brake might be dragging. I discovered the third and most problematic bit of damage when I hit the first pothole and felt the unmistakeable pain of fractured ribs. When I fell, I landed on my right side with my arm trapped under my body. It appears that the impact was hard enough for my trapped arm to fracture a couple of ribs. Having had a similar landing after a crash at Road Atlanta many years ago that resulted in fractured ribs, I recognize the sensation. I pulled over to have Re run her fingers over my ribcage to see if she could feel any displacement of the bones, and she found none. It ain't an x-ray, but she is an x-ray tech (amongst other things). By now I had also noticed the tip of my pinky on my right hand was numb as well. She felt for a boxer's fracture and thankfully, found nothing. Since we still had an hour and a half or so to the border, it was time to ride. When I used to roadrace, we had a phrase at the track that was, “Nut up, shut up, and ride.” While I did ride, I will admit that there were more than a few whimpers inside my helmet as we bounced through the potholes and broken pavement to the border.

Shortly before 1:00, we reached the outskirts of Sunauli and stopped to fuel up. I had read that Nepal was suffering from a petrol shortage that began just before the New Year, and I wasn't able to find anything that said it was over, therefore, we made sure the bikes were full and that our fifteen liters of jerrycan space was also full. That would give us plenty of fuel to make either Kathmandu or Pokhara depending on what we found. As expected, the border was chaotic on the India side, and the Immigration post is a series of card tables inside an open shopfront with four guys just sitting around. A guy ran out in the road and yelled that we needed to pull over for Immigration. Re and I stopped, looked at the setup, and both immediately thought that it was some sort of scam. But no. We got through Immigration, changed our India rupees for Nepali rupees at a kind of bad rate, and then, went to Customs. Here is where the wheels came off. Apparently, today was training day, and they directed me to a guy who had never done a Carnet before. For the next hour, he read what little there is to read in the way of instructions in the Carnet itself, flipped through the souches, folded the covers of our Carnets, asked if I wanted any tea, had a guy draw some pencil lines in a ledger, and then eventually started filling out stuff in the ledge. Several times, he asked me what stuff I thought should go in there. After an hour or so, another Customs official came over and finally told our man how to finish. That's India. With everything stamped and souches torn out, we crossed into Nepal.



The Nepal side was no more professional, but they were faster and very friendly. At Immigration, we paid our 40 USD each for 30-day visas and were in and out in under ten minutes. At Customs, I had to wait a minute or two for the guy who does Carnets, but twenty minutes later, everything was stamped and we were good to go. Other than the 80 USD for visas, there were no fees on either side of the border.

We were riding again by 3:30 pm (which is actually 3:45 pm Nepal time, since they are fifteen minutes ahead of India) and made Lumbini in about an hour. My ribs and I were happy to find that the roads in Nepal are in much better shape and have much less traffic. One problem we are going to have with Nepal is that we do not have a current guidebook for it. Oh, we have a copy of the latest edition of Lonely Planet Nepal sitting in a storage room in Portland. Why, you ask? While planning for the motorbike trip, we purchased a copy but then decided that winter in Nepal seemed like a stupid idea, so we left the book at home. Now that we're feeling stupid, we don't have it. We do have the 2006 edition in PDF format on the laptop, but it's not very handy to use while riding.

The accommodations in Lumbini are spread out over a large area around the Development Zone, so we were riding around looking for something likely. In front of a not very likely looking location, I spied an Enfield and its western rider. While Re pulled out the laptop to try and figure out where we needed to be, I rode back and spoke with Patrick. Patrick gave a halfhearted recommendation of the place, so I called for Re to take a look while Patrick and I chatted. Re came back and said the room was basic and relatively clean, with a hot shower, and wonder of all wonders, wifi in the room. I could tell by the rivulet of snot running out of Re's nose that she was feeling worse. My ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, and ribs were all also voting for not riding anymore. So for about 9 USD, we checked in for the night. We talked with Patrick for quite a while longer since he had ridden in Nepal before and had just come down the Siddhartha Highway from Pokhara today. He was a wealth of information on what to expect in Nepal and a very interesting guy to boot. He's French but has been living primarily in India for the past several years supporting himself by playing online poker.

We unpacked and had dinner in the room. Later in the evening, I actually got to talk to my parents on Skype for the first time since Christmas. The room came with two beds, and Re and I decided that between her coughing and my battering, that we ought to make use of both of them. Re was kind enough to dig out my Big Agnes pad and blow it up for me for some extra comfort tonight. Given her respiratory problem, it was a very nice thing for her to do (I am, however, concerned that my Big Agnes is now filled with 80% air and 20% snot) .


90 miles in about 7 hours, including an international border crossing and three trips to the ground. I will write a post about our impressions of India at some later date, but right now, I can say that I will never tour India on two wheels again, and I cannot recommend that anyone else do the same.

India Wrap-up

In 60 days, we covered 4,520 miles for an average of 75 miles per day. We spent 3,141 USD for an average of 52 USD per day. We used 106 gallons (401 liters) of petrol for an average of 85 miles per gallon. More incidents and accidents than I care to count now (I do think that accident is not the right word for collision in India – I shall call them “Inevitables” from now on)
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1/14-1/16 Recovering in Lumbini

1/14

Neither of us slept very well last night, so we stayed in our beds late this morning. Re had a fitful night of coughing and nose blowing, while I had a hard time finding a comfortable way to lay. It was chilly in the room when we rolled out of bed around 9:00 am, and a glance out the window showed that it was very foggy. After downing our various pills and potions, we made our way down the steps to look for some breakfast. It turns out the area we were staying in is really just a local village without too many recognizable options. We wandered into the most likely looking tent “restaurant” for some chai and some sugary fried swirls. We walked the mile and a half through the temple area to reach the Lumbini Bazaar. At the bazaar, we found a chemist and bought some more paracetamol and cold tablets. We continued our search for warm gloves but sadly, found none. We did however, find a small bottle of Nepali whiskey to try later. At around 2:00 pm, we found a restaurant that actually had “buff” on the menu. Finally, I would have a chance to see how delicious all those water buffaloes actually are. Re has lost her sense of taste, which is too bad, because the buff momos were way too good. In addition to the buff momos, I ordered buff thanthuk, while Re opted for the veg thanthuk.



Thanthuk is a kind of soup or stew that has flat, chewy, doughy noodles in it. Honestly, this is the first meal I have really enjoyed in quite a while. For dessert, we ordered another plate of buff momos and ate until we could eat no more.

We then walked the mile and a half or so back to the guest house. The return walk was much slower than the outbound walk, as the muscles in my right calf and foot (that were trapped under the bike) were protesting the strain, and Re was also feeling weak and light-headed. We are quite the pair! Back at the room, we worked on ride reports and blog posts into the evening and had some fruit for dinner. Neither of us felt well enough to want to do anything else, so we went to bed for another fitful night.


1/15

I had a better night sleep last night, but I am finding new aches and pains up and down my right side every day. My ribs don't bother me unless I cough or laugh, and then they really hurt. Re again spent much of the night coughing and didn't get a whole lot of sleep. It's hard to tell what's going on with her since this has been going on for almost a week now. She's better during the day when she's up and around, but nighttime is hard. We decided to try breakfast at the guesthouse, and it was a little strange. Our fried eggs seemed to have been deep-fried, and our toast appeared to be something like hamburger buns that had been split open and had one side placed directly on the charcoal fire. While we waited for breakfast to be served, we looked over our Thailand and Cambodia/Laos maps. Pretty soon, we will be flying to Thailand, and I wanted to start working on some sort of route. The usual route from Kathmandu is to Bangkok, but I have a vague recollection of someone on HUBB talking about flying into Chiang Mai instead. Honestly, if we could avoid Bangkok, I would.

We were determined to get out and see some of the sights today, so after the fog cleared, we headed to the Maha Devi Temple. On our way, Re and I talked about having to refocus. We were finally in Nepal, and yet, all we could talk about was our time in India and what we were looking forward to in southeast Asia. There are things that we really want to see in Nepal, and we need to get excited about them. The last couple of weeks have really been the low point of the trip, and we both seem to have lost our excitement for traveling. We spend more time talking about what we miss in the States and complaining about India than we do anything else. We both know that this is temporary, but it's really hard when both of us are feeling so bad.

Eventually, we came to the temple, paid our money, checked our shoes, and walked in. The Maha Devi Temple is the place where Buddha was born.



There is an ugly, modern building housing the remains of the temple whose remains date back to at least the 3rd century. We joined the line of pilgrims and shuffled along to eventually see the purported actual spot where the birth occurred. Afterward, we toured the grounds and read the signs containing quotes attributed to Buddha.



Just before we reached the meditation garden, we came across one that seemed especially fitting to our circumstances. It said, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” That seems to be our problem right there. Lately, we seem to spend too much time looking backward and forward and not being present in the moment. While we talked about this, we wandered into the meditation garden and decided to pull up a pallet and meditate on it for a little while. A while later, we rejoined our tour of the grounds and vowed to try and spend more time thinking about the now.

In fact, now, it was time for lunch. We walked back into the bazaar area for some surprisingly tasty pasta and more medicine.



Re had run out of her codeine cough syrup from India and instead decided to try the poorly named, “Brica BM.” We walked back to the guesthouse, and both of us found the trip easier today. Maybe we are getting better, or maybe it is that the sun made a strong appearance today. Back at the guesthouse, we hiked up to the roof and sat in the sun until it set. Back in the room, we watched some TV and had a room service dinner.


1/16

We woke to a sunny, sunny morning, which was the first we've seen in a long time. Again, I slept better, but Re's coughing has got to stop. Late-morning, we hiked back to the bazaar for lunch, after which we planned to tour some of the monasteries in the Buddhist Development Zone. Unfortunately, just as we walked out of the restaurant, it began to sprinkle. So much for our sunny morning. Instead, we hustled back to the guesthouse as fast as her bad lungs and my gimpy leg would take us. From the look of the sky, the light rain had settled in for the afternoon, so we took advantage of the free wifi to plan our time in Pokhara and catch up on some news. The rain never let up, so it was nap time. Later in the evening, we had a dinner of fruit and cookies and started packing up our gear in anticipation of riding tomorrow.
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1/17 Ride to Pokhara

When the alarm went off at 6:00 am, it must have sounded like an old folks' home in our room, with Re hacking and coughing like a 12-pack a day smoker, and me groaning while I tried to figure out how to gracefully get myself out of bed. A quick glance out the window showed that it was a little foggy, but the sun was making an effort. We showered and got the bikes loaded and were on the road by 8:00 am. We do not know how long it will take us to get to Pokhara because the road is reputed to be very twisty and generally slow-going. We took the unusual step yesterday of actually pre-booking a room for the night, just in case we get in late. My other issue this morning is that my GPS does not recognize where we currently are, so it refuses to route anything.

We fired up the bikes for the first time in several days and slowly pulled out onto the road. Both of us are a little trepidatious about today's ride since our last one didn't go so well. Once again, my ribs and I were glad to see that the road surface was in good shape.



The sun was doing its best to push its way through the fog, and the fields were lit with an ethereal light. Once we made our way back to Bhairawa, the GPS picked up the scent and informed me that the ride to Pokhara would be an additional 110 miles. The ride between Bhairawa and Bhutwal was uneventful, and the pavement between towns was in excellent shape. The one thing Re and I did notice in this stretch is how unlike riding in India it was here. Vehicles have brake lights, people used turn signals, other drivers and riders actually looked before they pulled out, and oncoming vehicles actually pulled back into line when they saw us, rather than completing their passes and running us off the road. In short, people were safety conscious and polite.



Once we reached Bhutwal, we knew the ride was going to be fun. Facing us was a solid line of mountains, and the Siddhartha Highway led directly toward them. For the next ten to fifteen miles, the road followed a beautiful river gorge through the mountains. As we twisted and turned along the river, Re and I both found ourselves smiling for the first time in a long time. Then the road climbed up through the mountains and snaked back and forth along cliff edges for miles and miles. Generally, the pavement was in excellent shape, except where there had been rock falls that had destroyed the surface. Here we bumped and bounced our way through, and I was glad to find that my ribs seemed to be doing much better. I found a way to brace myself against the impact, and the ride was actually not too uncomfortable. One section found us descending back down along a river and crossing a bridge over some beautiful, green water. There must be limestone or some other rock in the area to make it such a beautiful color. It was also a very bright, sunny day, and when we were lucky enough to be in the sun, we were actually warm.



We continued twisting our way along through the big mountains, stopping occasionally to take in the scenery. We weren't making very good time, only averaging around 20 mph, but we didn't care. We were actually enjoying riding for the first time in quite a while. With about thirty miles to go, the pavement changed and became very bouncy. The combination of this and the fact that my paracetamol was wearing off made it uncomfortable.

Sometime before 3:00 pm, we made our way into Pokhara and easily found the guesthouse we had reserved. My two goals for today were to make it to Pokhara and eat a big-ass steak. Later that evening, I accomplished goal #2. Re and I went to the New Everest Steakhouse and each ordered a big-ass steak. We ate until we could eat no more, and I am a little embarrassed to say, there was still meat on the plate when we left (it wasn't a steak at the Acropolis, (link is definitely NSFW!) but it was still pretty damned good). The bad news for the day is that Re is still coughing, and I'm getting a little stuffy, but all in all, this has been a good day.

135 miles in 7 hours. It is good to be enjoying riding again.
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1/18 Easy Day in Pokhara

It got downright chilly overnight, and we were glad to be snuggled up under our 43 lb comforters. We are viewing our time in Pokhara as a vacation from our trip, a chance to relax and recuperate. With this in mind, we got up late and made our way up to the rooftop seating area of our guesthouse for breakfast. We are both feeling a little malnourished after our time in India, but we found the antidote on the breakfast menu. The aptly named, “Hearty Breakfast,” consists of two eggs, fried potatoes, a small loaf of brown bread with butter and honey, a bowl of fruit, muesli, and curd, and tea or coffee. While we waited for our order to arrive, we looked in awe at the surrounding mountains. Our view this morning was of the peaks of the Annapurna Range of the Himalaya Mountains. The peaks we could see range from 21,000 to 24,000 ft of elevation and were beautiful in the morning light. We also were able to see the paragliders launching from Sarangkot, which is a smaller peak, only about 3000 ft high. Re ran back to the room and grabbed our binoculars so we could get a better view of the action. While we ate breakfast, we basked in the sun, and the day got warmer and warmer. I'd guess that it made it up to about 70 degrees, and the sun felt great.

Completely stuffed with breakfast, we laced up our boots and went walking in search of one of the recommended paragliding companies. We stopped in at a couple of places and asked for rates and times and eventually settled on Frontiers Paragliding, as they looked the most professional. Not convinced that I was going to do something this stupid quite yet, we made the short walk to Lake Fewa and sat by the water watching the boats and paragliders. After discussing our options, we decided to skip the 30 minute introductory tandem flight and go directly for the 1 hour tandem flight. We walked back to Frontiers, made a reservation for 11:30 am tomorrow, and paid our deposit. On the way back to the guesthouse, we stopped at a restaurant that had a sunny garden for cafe Americanos and cinnamon rolls.

Back at the guesthouse, we worked on ride reports for a little while before Re took a nap. Her Indian Lung Death is still hanging around and she is having a hard time sleeping through the night. Around 7:00 pm, we made the trek to a restaurant that promised Mexican food. The nachos were a bit odd but tasty, and Re enjoyed her chicken enchiladas quite a bit. My chicken burrito was a little dry, but hey, it wasn't mushy, and it didn't taste like masala anything. Back at the room, we had a dessert of Snickers and whiskey before crawling back underneath our 43 lb comforters for the night.
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1/19 Paragliding!

Re slept better last night and only woke up for one 20 minute coughing fit, so she was feeling a bit more refreshed this morning. When I got out of bed, I opened the curtains to see a beautifully clear morning and a great day for flying. We enjoyed breakfast so much yesterday, we decided another round of “Hearty Breakfasts” was the way to go. Re ran out of cough syrup and cold medicine, so we went out in search of a chemist. We found a chemist that said it did “consultations” and went in for some advice. The woman at the counter seemed very professional and after listening to Re's symptoms and cough, recommended a course of different antibiotics and some more cough syrup. She sounded like she knew what she was talking about, so we paid for the goods and hit the road.

A short while later, we found ourselves at Frontiers, where we filled out some paperwork and then waited for the Jeep. The interesting discovery of the morning occurred when I was told to weigh myself for the flight and I saw that I was about 10 pounds lighter than I usually am. I guess my feeling of being malnourished may have some basis in truth. Pretty soon the Jeep and pilots returned from the early morning flight, and we were loaded up and ready to go. The Jeep ride up the mountain was perhaps the scariest thing I've done since we left the United States. They must have imported the driver from India, since we haven't seen anyone else in Nepal drive in such a hazardous manner. This might be a good time to mention that I am incredibly afraid of heights. So once we finally arrived at the top of the hill and I had a chance to survey the area from which we would be flying, I started to get a little nervous.



But then we met our pilots, and any nervousness disappeared as they helped us into our harnesses and started going through the takeoff instructions. My pilot for today was Ivan, from Barcelona, while Re's was Serge, from somewhere in France. Ivan explained the takeoff procedure to me, and then we waited for a breeze. In the two minutes or so that we waited, I had the opportunity to reassess the wisdom of what I was about to do, but decided that I would probably never get another chance to paraglide in the Himalayas. And then the wind came up, Ivan said, “3, 2, 1, go,” we took two steps, and my feet were rather improbably, dangling in the air. As instructed, I shoved the part of my harness that would become the seat forward and sat down. I wasn't nervous or scared in the slightest, it was just amazing. It took me a minute or two to comprehend that I was sitting in a sling chair attached to the sky. Honestly, the wing just does not look big enough or substantial enough to support even myself, much less me and some Spanish guy. Ivan was a great pilot and explained what we were doing and why we were doing it.



For the next hour, we chased some thermals, flew over the city and the lake, and even got a chance to fly with Re and Serge for a while. Too soon, it was time to land, and we made a perfect standing landing at the landing strip right next to the lake.



Once my harness was unclipped from Ivan and the wing, I had just enough time to sit down and take a photo of Re landing on her butt. We both sat for a few minutes and talked about how much we loved, loved, loved paragliding.

While we waited for the return Jeep, we were directed to a small restaurant near the landing zone, where we ran into an Australian couple riding DRZ400s from London to Australia. We compared notes for a few minutes but suddenly had to leave since our Jeep was departing. On the Jeep ride back to the office, Re and I decided that someday we are going to have to take up paragliding as a hobby, because that was just too enjoyable. From the office we walked back to the guesthouse to do some more basking in the sun and to talk about our flights. After spending some quality “together time,” we walked out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant we had seen the previous day. Once again, we ordered too much food, but damn, it tasted so good! I ordered Gong Bao Pork with Peanuts and Cabbage Soya Sauce, while Re ordered Ma Po Tofu and Garlic Greenbeans. But before those arrived, we had an order of chicken stuffed wontons as a warmup. I am sad to report that we, once again, left food on our plates, because it was so delicious. The bad news for the day is that Re is still coughing and I am getting very stuffy. My ribs are doing better, but even a shallow cough is quite painful.
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1/20 Lazy Day in Pokhara

Re slept better last night but still is hacking this morning. I have a bit of a shallow cough but am trying very hard not to. When the alarm went off, the light in the room didn't seem as bright as usual, so before getting out from under the covers, I peeked through the curtains and saw an overcast, gray morning. We had considered riding to Kathmandu today, but turning off the alarm and going back to sleep seemed like a better plan. Sometime after 9:00 we finally dragged our lazy asses out from under the 43 lb comforters and into a steamy, hot shower. It was a bit late for breakfast, but we decided to repeat our hearty breakfast order. The sun did make an appearance eventually, and the day started to warm up.

For the first time since Malawi, I decided to give Re the day off from charwoman duties, and we paid to have our laundry done in a genuine washing machine. It is vacation, after all. Around noon we decided to go out for an extended walk and see some of the town. We also picked up two replacement carabiner clips for the ones that were stolen in Mumbai. After our walk, we came back to the room and researched our upcoming trips to Kathmandu and Royal Chitwan Park.

After some more quality “together time,” (we are obviously both feeling much better) we put on our warm woolies and headed out for dinner. What's for dinner tonight, you ask? Why, it's Italian night. One of the recommended restaurants caught our attention, not only due to the menu, but also the large fireplace in the dining room. We scored a table right next to the fire and were doubly pleased to find out that it was still Happy Hour. We ordered two, large Gorka s, spaghetti carbonara, and the pizza Nepalitaly. The Nepalitaly pizza was an interesting combination of tomato sauce, pesto sauce, walnuts, fresh tomato slices, mozzarella cheese, and yak cheese. The pasta was okay, the s were surprisingly good (after drinking Kingfishers for two months), but the pizza was excellent. After gorging ourselves on familiar food, we sat by the fire and finished our s. Life does not suck (except for the cough. Oh, and the ribs). Maybe we'll go to Kathmandu tomorrow, but it's awfully nice in Pokhara.
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1/21 One More Day in Pokhara

Once again, we woke up to a cool morning, and since neither of us really felt like getting out of bed, we decided to stay one more day in Pokhara. We finally slid out from under the covers and into the chilly morning air around 9:00 am. This morning, we decided to forgo breakfast at the guesthouse and instead, went out in search of... bacon. A couple of days ago, we noticed bacon listed on several restaurants' menus, usually as part of a full English breakfast. We hiked up and down the main street, looking at a dozen menus until we decided on our favorite.



For three bucks each, we got juice, coffee, eggs, toast, beans, fried tomatoes, potatoes, and most importantly, two big slices of bacon! As we nearly finished our meals, Re let me know that I was truly loved by giving me the last bite of her bacon.

Since we really didn't have anything else to do today, we wandered back to the guesthouse, where Re handwashed our SmartWool base layers, which we have worn virtually every day in Nepal.



Then, while she worked on blogposts, I plopped myself in the sun with an iPod and a book and spent a relaxing morning reading and listening to music. Still stuffed from breakfast, we decided to skip lunch, and instead, fired up the Symbas for the three-mile ride or so to one of the paragliding landing zones next to Lake Fewa. We spent about an hour drinking sodas and watching the succession of paragliders land. Re and I again agreed that if we ever resume a normal life, we'll have to learn how to paraglide. We rode back to the guesthouse and after deciding that we would go to Kathmandu tomorrow, booked a room online. Re posted the results of her morning's writing and we then worked on ride reports until dinnertime. Dinner tonight was a conundrum since everything sounded good. We finally decided to return to the Chinese place from a couple nights ago. I ordered a delicious duck dish, and since Re enjoyed my gong bao pork on our previous visit, she decided to get that. We rounded out our meal with two vegetable dishes and some rice, and stuffed ourselves silly once again. Back at the guesthouse, I posted ride reports while Re started packing for tomorrow.

6 miles.
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1/22 Ride to Kathmandu

When the alarm went off at 6:30, it again seemed awfully chilly, but we'd booked a room in Kathmandu for the night, so it was time to go. The bad news of the morning was that the hot water in the shower was none too hot for some reason. On our previous four mornings here, the shower had been steamy hot, but not today. Consequently, we skipped showering this morning and instead began loading the bikes. We ordered eggs and toast and ate breakfast between trips from the room to the bikes. Re had mentioned that her bike's driveline seemed a little snatchy on the way to Pokhara, and sure enough, her chain needed adjusting. While we were at it, we adjusted mine and lubed the chains.

We turned out onto the road at 9:00 am and made our way east. The sun made a strong appearance this morning, and we actually needed the sunvisors in our helmets for the first time in a long time. For the first twenty-five miles or so of the trip, there was a fair bit of traffic, and the road surface was bouncy. It appeared that the surface of the pavement had slumped in many places but had not broken up. After the first twenty-five miles, the road suddenly smoothed out and descended to lower elevations. With the lower elevation came a considerable amount of fog. We rode through misty low mountains along a river gorge, where everything was lush and green. While it was pretty, the lack of sun made for a chilly ride and cold fingers. About halfway through the ride, we picked up altitude again and the fog cleared. Back in the sun, we enjoyed all but the final ten miles to Kathmandu.

The last ten miles were miserable. Kathmandu sits on a hill and we had to ride up it. Unfortunately also driving up it was a huge line of trucks, buses, cars, and motorbikes. The pavement also became very rutted and broken in sections. We jounced and bounced our way slowly up the hill, occasionally coming to a full stop before desperately gunning our way around slow vehicles. We made it to our guesthouse in Kathmandu by 3:00 pm, but they had double-booked our room. They put us up in a guesthouse across the street, which had warm, but not hot water. Considering that the lows this time of year are in the mid-30s, warm wasn't good enough.

While the sun was still up, we walked to Pizza Hut for a pepperoni and double cheese pan pizza. Unlike the pizzas in India, which are all just a little weird, this pizza tasted exactly like it would in the good old US of A. When we left the restaurant, the sun had nearly set, and unlike in Pokhara, where the temperature dropped slowly, here it just plummeted. Even wearing every warm thing we have with us, it was still too cold to do much more that grab some s and head back to the room. The other bad news about Kathmandu is that the power only appears to be on for two or three hours in the afternoon and about six hours in the middle of the night. We snuggled up under the covers, drank our s, and played Text Twist on the iPhone.

135 miles in 6 hours. A beautiful ride, and the bikes are running well.
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