Nepal

Border

I arrived at the border around noon and passed by a huge, few kilometres long queue of trucks. Drivers were sitting together under trucks to hide from sun and were cooking food. Nepal is the main (the only???) friend of India so passing between these countries is very easy (as long as you have nothing to declare :D). My Indian e-visa allowed me to enter the country twice, and the first had to be on selected airports (in my case Kolkata). The only formality on the border was to buy a Nepalese visa (several options for duration and number of entries). The border itself is a narrow, old bridge with way too low capacity given the amount of pedestrians and cars.

I was very happy to be in Nepal. The alternative was to stay on the Trunk Road and cycle across Uttar Pradesh, the most populated state of India. I cannot think about less pleasant cycling route in the whole Asia.

After the border, I got to Tara Plain, the flat and low part of Nepal with occasional views on Mahabharat Mountain Range. The landscape is very similar to the one in Assam – flat and open areas cut by a net of slow, wide rivers. I have also seen many dry riverbeds probably filled with water during Monsoon. However, there was a big difference in flora. The colourful deciduous forest reminded me of autumn in Poland. It was populated by monkeys which happily played on the road. As long as I did not try to make them a photo. Shooting with camera is for them like shooting with a gun 😉 They run away as fast as possible.

Another difference was in people. They were still curious and asked questions, like in India, but never stopped me for a photo or interrupted when I was occupied.

In each small village I could buy some hot food for small money and never felt sick.

DSC01796.jpg
A kind of dumpling you can buy everywhere in Nepal. Energetic bomb great for cycling

I have spent the first night in the country in a hostel in Dulari. While looking for a hostel, I entered the place called “hotel”. Hotel in Nepal does not mean a place to sleep. It is a place to drink coffee. However, a man of my age got interested in my trip and proposed to take me to the hostel of his uncle. He ensured me it would be cheap. When we reached the place, I heard the price 1300 rupees (100 Nepalese rupees = 60 Indian rupees = $1). After a short argument with a man who brought me there and the owner, the price was dropped to 700 rupees. Why again? I had such a good initial opinion on this country but it seemed that also here I would have to negotiate with everyone over everything.

The second night I decided to stay in a newly open hostel. The same story as usual – the owner tried to give me too high price but I just asked one of quests how much he paid (much less) and the owner got embarrassed – he gave me the normal price. During the dinner, one girl from Katmandu joined me. She was working for an NGO focused on hygiene awareness and was on a delegation to teach local pupil how to implement high hygienic standards. She had a negative opinion on rural Nepalese people. She said I should never wild camp because they would rob me and that it is not safe to engage in any contact with them. A girl from capital. It’s funny that my personal experience was exactly opposite: people were kind, interested in my trip and happy to help. They never asked for money  and street vendors never cheated on price. It was interesting to realise how wrong she was about her own country.

The third night was even more interesting. I stayed in a local hostel for 500 rupees (negotiated down from 600 out of habit, as it turned out it was official price so I had cheaper 😊). The owner has two sons. Ayush Lamsai enjoys playing football but there are no money in this discipline in Nepal (are there money in anything in Nepal except tourism?) so he wants to move to Poland to study and work in anything ensuring good living conditions. Given his benchmark, he can choose anything 😉 He said there are many Nepalese in Poland working and studying. I did not know about it. At the end of discussion we made a small photo session.

DSC01834
Ayul, his mother, and me

On the fourth day I finally reached Chitwan National Park. The way to the Park was very picturesque and a bit hilly.

Chitwan

It was not possible to miss the turn to Chitwan. The park is famous home of elephants and there are few big monuments of these huge mammals. It was the first touristic place on my tour after Bagan in Birma. Good and cheap hostel, good food and English speaking people. What a relief!

I  met a group of backbackers from England who could not get how I could enjoy a cycling trip if I was tired all the time. It was also hard to understand them with their super fluent English. We went in the evening to see the elephant bedroom (any professional name for that place?) and a bit of jungle.

We saw there another group of silly tourists who came to close to the rhino and he started running towards them. Super dangerous. Fortunately, our guide shouted at him and waved hands and the rhino got distracted.

DSC01853
Jungle, wild, wild world
DSC01858
A rhino in a rave…
DSC01860
…calmed down by our guide

Next day, I took part in a half-day safari. We were lucky to see a bear, a python, few rihnos, few buffalos, many crocodiles and birds. Before that, in the morning, I went to the elephant breeding center. Just few days before, a wild elephant, Ronaldo, killed a thourist. Ronaldo inseminates all female elephants kept in the center for many years (lucky guy) so he is free to come whenever he wants. The official explanation is that he cannot be locked because he is wild. Such a security problem in 21st century? Really?

 

DSC01913
This rhino came to the market in Chitwan. Someone managed to frighten him and he run away. I was maybe 2 meters from him on my bike

Cycling in mountains

After a one-day break, I continued my tour to Pokhara. 150kms with 2800m of altitude gain was hard. The road in mountain got worse – especially the first section leading to the road Kathmandu-Pokhara. After the crossroad it got much better. The traffic was dense given the width and condition of the road. No surprise, I saw so many accidents in Nepal. The other story is that most of them happened in the valley in the south of Nepal, not in mountains.

DSC01948
The bridge on the Katmandu-Pokhara road. The surface from now on is much better than on the Chitwan-the bridge section

Close to Pokhara I stayed near a small shop and asked for a stick for my Polish flag. They gave me a stick, a tape and helped mounting everything. I made a photo and cycled back to the road. They were surprised – no money? Sorry guys, I will not pay anyone for a piece of wood which you have plenty of…

DSC01972
For the first time on the trip, Polish flag is on my bike

Pokhara

Pokhara is probably one of my favourite touristic towns on the route. There are cheap hotels, cheap food, a big lake and mountains. And paragliding. Pokhara is one of top 5 destinations to do paragliding worldwide.

I decided to try this discipline. The weather was bad so we could not see Himalayas. Paragliding itself was a bit boring. I was disappointed. Maybe its fun when you can be a captain of your paraglider not just a passenger. GoPro on a long stick is another story – it’s a good example how taking photos can diminish your experience. At the end of the flight, we did two acrobatic figures what was fun. In general, I was happy to be on the hard ground again.

After paragliding, I rented a kayak (a very unstable one) and practised rowing on the lake. Unfortunately, I had enough rupees for only 1 hour of rent with me, so I had to move fast 😉 I think I was the fastest moving object on this very calm lake and I really enjoyed it. Even more than 15x more expensive paragliding 😀

The next day, I rented an Enduro MTB bike and cycled a loop around the lake, as slow as it was possible. I decided to cycle up to the hill from where I started paragliding and cycle down stairs I saw while flying. It was super hard. I walked at least 1/3 of the route. I did not want to finish my Asian trip to early.

Down in the valley, I met few interesting people, e.g. a young Nepalese woman owning a small shop. She was born in this village and decided not to migrate to Pokhara and stay there for life.

DSC02005
A boy on the top of the first mountain
DSC02008
A woman living in a small village, just across the lake from Pokhara
DSC02010
I always wonder where people living in such beautiful villages go for holidays

I also met a very happy little girl with siblings. It is hard to be sad while growing in such a beautiful environment.

Finally, I visited a World Peace Pagoda. After a few minutes downhill, I got to Pokhara suburbs, or I should rather write – slums. There were houses built from what was found – each wall in a different style – around big heating pipes. I regret I did not make a photo. Just after 3 kilometres I got to touristic Pokhara.

DSC02026mod
The boys in Pokhara’s suburbs. The boy on a bike was very happy after I gave him my chocolate bar

Cycling in mountains

Cycling from Pokhara to Lumbini, a birthplace of Budda, was – to that moment – the hardest cycling day. Almost 3000m of altitude gain. I was flustrated many times when I cycled down 300-500m only to cross a small river and cycle up those 300-500m on another mountain.

DSC02057.jpg
I really like this landscape. Nepal is cool

I once stopped in a small shop and many kids with parents came to me. The kids waited until I will buy something for them. I had 5 candies and there were 7 kids. I decided not to buy additional 2 and do a first-in-first-served competition. Investment banks played the same game with me and 1000000 other applicants. At the end, two kids and all parents looked at me rebukingly. Life is unfair. You should fight to get what you want…and still you can fail. And it’s not your fault. What’s more, there is nothing wrong about it. This is how the world works. Learn that and let it go.

Whenever people saw me wearing my helmet, they were laughing. At the same time, I have never seen as many traffic accidents as in Nepal. Maybe they do not value their life high. There are 30 million Nepalese. One more or less – what’s the difference? However, I was probably the only cycling Polish guy in Nepal, so loosing my life would make a difference. After this resolution, I kept wearing my helmet.

I finished the day cycling up 700m already in darkness. I stayed at the holiday resort and pitched my tent in the hotel garden for 300 rupees (they did not agree for 100). In the morning, they asked me guestions about the trip and the value of my bicycle. They receptionist asked “What is so special about this bike that it costs so much?” – “Nothing, this is why it is so cheap”. They looked astounded….

The next day began with 30km descent. Pretty awesome. During this downhill, I met few students who were happy to make me a photo session. Nepalese girls are really happy to make a new contact / start conversation. Actually all non-Muslim Asians…

DSC02096
My personal photographer. Much better than her male collegaue. There are jobs which are more suited to women. This includes all “personal” ones 😉

When I stopped to correct my Ortlieb panniers which are the worst panniers in the world (more on that in equipment review), I touched my front brake disc what resulted in the second degree burn of my finger – I had to go pretty fast to cool it down 😀 I have also seen the worst accident over the whole Asian trip. After in total 70km I reached Lumbini.

DSC02065
Many Chinese tourists walking around surprised

Lumbini

Lumbini is the most saint place for all Buddists. It is a complex of several temples funded by different countries, regions and minorities around the world. In the centre, there is an alleged birthplace of Budda with the simple building built over it. The whole place is still under construction so currently not all temples are connected with good pathways. There are plenty of Indian tourists / pilgrims there.

DSC02099.jpg
The birthplace of Buddha His mother, an Indian princess, was in travel and stopped in Lumbini to give a birth

Tara Plain again

After one day in Lumbini, I started cycling again. I decided to follow navigation and take a local shortcut. Thanks to that, I now know that taking shortcuts in Nepal is as bad idea as it is in India. On one crossroad I decided to take the longer road as it was asphalt. After winning another competition with a local cyclist (yes they do it also in Nepal), I got to the next crossroad and asked the guy whether the left road (shorter) is still asphalt. “Yes, of course. It’s perfect.” After 5 minutes I was again on a shitty road…what, after countless kurwas, turned out to be a very good choice – just look at the photo below 😉

DSC02115.jpg
When I arrived, they all stopped and looked at me (incl both teachers). When I took out my camera, they started exercises again 😉

I also had an opportunity to see the first of many valley accidents.

DSC02112.jpg
Obviously, local load engineers miscalculated the center of gravity. Not judging, shit happens

Finally, I got to the wall of the valley. Even valley has a mountainous section in Nepal.

DSC02119.jpg
The wall of stones, a.k.a. the mountain

And after dying for few hours I got on a flat section again and met Mart. Mart is a Dutch cyclist traveling from Netherlands to Nepal. So we met at the end of his trip and in half of mine. But what is the most important – we have the same bike: Kona Sutra 2018.

DSC02124
Kona Sutra 2018 x2

OK, so we met, we talked, and time passed. When it got dark I was still on the road. I decided to turn into the first road and pitched a tent next to the empty riverbed. Someone was shining a light on my tent in the night but I did not care. At this moment I was already used to attention.

The next day, I passed by Bardia National Park and was catched by a cold wind front. And I soon became the only moving vehicle on the roads.

DSC02140.jpg
Cold wind front. The silence before the storm

After the rain, I reached a dam with few crocodiles and turtles. At this moment I was interrupted by a message from a younger sister, who could not agree with my brother over rules of sharing the laptop I gave them. It was fun to get back to normal people problems in such a not normal (for me) environment 😉

I finished the day in Chisapani, next to Karnali – the main tributary of Ganges. The wind from mountains was so strong that I was cycling following S curve using all the width of the bridge. I was so happy it was dark and the traffic was non-existent.

DSC02165.jpg
This is the bridge over  which I passed the day before, fighting with the side wind

In the village, I stopped at the hotel where one guy started asking me plenty of personal questions (e.g. do you have a girlfriend?), wanted my Polish phone number, messenger, WhatsApp and God knows whatever else…of course it turned out he is from India. I will event not comment on that.

The last day in Nepal I really felt like being in much less touristic area. Turists come across from India to Bardia National Park, but there are not many of them. I enjoyed a lot of kids waving hands to me, smiling and shouting at me from their houses. It was like in Cambodia.

I also took part in the last Nepalese race 😀 I allowed the guy to overtake me and next followed him. His short term happiness quickly changed into agony. He was so grateful when I finally overtook him and he could stop and take a rest 😀 I just love to prove people I am better 😉

DSC02168.jpg
He really thought he was faster. Heh

Over the whole 3 days of cycling in the valley, I saw many accidents. Much more than in mountains. I present below few of them. 90% of them involved a bus. NEVER USE A BUS IN NEPAL!!!

DSC02133.jpg
“At least we have a break. O look, a foreign cyclist. And he wears helmet. Hahaha”

And out to India, as late as possible by using Banbasa border crossing far in the west of Nepal.

Summary

Nepal is definitely a more pleasurable country than India. There are plenty of similarities, but people are less irritating, more used to white tourists and density of population is way lower. It is also very easy to obtain visa. I really enjoyed cycling across Nepal and I will for sure come back for trekking in Himalayas. I still regret I did not spend 1-2 days more in the western part of the Tara Plain and that my Warmshowers account was not working correctly in Pokhara.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s