Entered Nepal, 24th September 2000.
Exchange Rate: 1USD=72.20 Nepali Rupee
Fuel: 1 Litre = 40 Rp
Camping: Didn’t camp
Pension: Cheapest 320/Double, Kathmandu 560/Triple.
Road conditions: On the whole quite good, but between Pokhara and Kathmandu it can have unbelievably heavy traffic.
Speed limits: ?
Border crossings from the west: Tanakpur
Toll roads near border crossings: Nil
Food & Drink: 660ml Beer 100Rp, 250ml Coke 15Rp, 1L Water 15Rp, Main Meal 40-100Rp (Daal, Rice, Curried Vegetables)
Nepal was part of colonial India, and gained independence in 1949. It is now a monarchy, ruled by a king. The people share many things with their Indian neighbours. It is predominately Hindu, but Buddhism and other religions exist, and seem to be able to get on together. Beef dishes are available widely, unlike in India, no doubt due to Buddhist butchers. Curiously though, if you accidentally kill a cow, it is a mandatory 12 year prison sentence. The relationship between Nepal and India is very strong, and in fact the majority of the roads we travelled on were built by the Indian government. We entered Nepal from the West, and there is a new road that runs about 600km on the flats below the mountains. the road is very straight, wide and fast. There was very little traffic, and we were able to make excellent ground. After the slow going of India, it was a welcome change.
Our first stop was just 7km inside the border. There was a small town with a reasonable hotel, and relatively cheap at 320Rp a double. Getting through the border crossing took about 1 hour, and closes at 6pm. This means that you could arrive as late as 5pm, and still be in a hotel before dark. Cuan and I were travelling by ourselves since we split with the others at Dharmasala, India. The others entered Nepal at Birganj, below Kathmandu, but we had heard that road in the south of Nepal was the best way to Kathmandu, and it passed the Bardir National Park, another opportunity for us to try to see wild tigers.
0103. Just before the Bardir National Park, we encountered this impressive suspension bridge, built by Kawasaki. Motorcycles are almost a sideline for Kawasaki. They make heavy equipment and own construction companies amongst other things.
Once inside the Bardir National Park, we stayed in a village where the huts were made of mud rendered straw, which is the local way of doing things. They have so much rainfall here that I am surprised that they persist with mud, though there is no doubt they have an inexhaustible supply of raw materials. After every wet season, they have to do a lot of maintenance on the buildings, as they melt away. They are very environmentally conscious here. There is no power, and all rubbish is carted away (for someone else to have the problem no doubt). No fridges, no electric light etc. We had to use hurricane lamps at night, and drink hot beer. Sacrilege! We stayed two nights and really enjoyed the experience.
0105. Cuan checking out the local not-so-wild-life, just before out raft trip, in search of wild tigers, rhinos, elephants, fresh water dolphins etc. Unfortunately, we saw none of the above, but we did see some wild deer, otters, lots of birds, and more leeches than I want to see in the rest of my life. Seeing wild creatures is always the luck of the draw, and we drew the short straw on this day. It was a pleasant raft trip down the river none the less.
At several points along the river, we would beach the raft, and go looking for critters. I’m not sure what we would have done if we spotted a tiger in the wild. We were walking through tall grass, and we wouldn’t have seen one until we were right on top of it. You can’t outrun them and it’s no good climbing a tree, so do they. At one point we heard some very agitated monkeys, and quite possibly being menaced by a tiger according to our guide. We waited at the other side of the river for a while hoping he would appear, but no such luck. We did see several tracks left by tigers, rhinos and elephants, so they are definitely there, and I had an email afterwards from someone following my story who told me that they had seen tigers and dolphins. I’m jealous. The leeches were unbelievable. Walking through the grass, I pulled 15 leeches off me in a distance of maybe 400m. One huge one got on the sole of my foot, and I didn’t find him for a while, and he was huge by the time I pulled him off.
0108. Our ride back to the village. About an hour in the back of this with no suspension. Water buffaloes need constant urging to keep going, and the ‘plant operator’ was yelling and whacking them with a stick for the whole distance. None the less, it was a better trip than in the Indian Mahindra 4X4 that took us to the starting point. It had a leaking radiator, and no radiator cap. We had to stop every few km to top up the radiator.
0111. Passing through a village on our way back. I took several great photos, but this is the only one that was there when I downloaded them. I had also taken some photos of the mud huts, but they were missing too. Flat batteries!
0113. Heading East, we ran into a Belgian cyclist, who had ridden all the way to Nepal. I never cease to be amazed by what people can do.
After our disappointment again at Bahdir, we attempted to stay at Chitwan National Park. Now that was an exercise in frustration. We rode around the countryside for an hour looking for a lodge. There was a sign on the highway, but after that, nothing but unsigned intersections. It was all dirt, and I even got the KTM bogged in a river crossing (easy with my skinny Indian back tyre). We asked directions, and the Nepalese rate up there with the Pakistani’s and Indians in that department. Eventually we gave up and headed for the intersection between our road, and the direct road between India and Kathmandu, where we spent the night.
0120. We took the old road to Kathmandu. Although it is about half the distance of the new road, it takes much longer, even on a bike. The road was tight, twisty, rough, wet in places, incredibly scenic, and an absolute ball to ride.
We met a couple of Dutch guys on 22 year old Yamaha Tenere’s. They were both having more trouble with them than they could poke a stick at, and they had to get all the way home yet. I didn’t envy them.
0123. Finally in Kathmandu, at the Pyramid hotel. Good, clean, cheap, and close to the action. My bike is in the background. There happened to be two older KTM Adventure 640’s there. They were two Swiss guys, but I didn’t meet them. They had left their bikes here while they went off to Thailand for a while.
Kathmandu is very touristy. Full of package tourists, and also genuine trekkers. We had a good time there, but I’m not sure I would go back except on my way through to somewhere else. Nepal is noted for its’ great trekking. The most famous of course being Mt Everest. many people trek to the Everest base camp, but that takes about 14 days. There are literally hundreds of trails that can be taken. We did a 4 days trek, just around the Kathmandu hinterlands while our bikes were (supposedly) on their way to Bangkok.
0124. We had planned to airfreight our bikes from Kathmandu to Bangkok, so we went to a freight specialist as soon as we arrived. He told us there was a 10 day holiday coming up, so we had to send our bikes as soon as possible. He arranged for crates to be made to our dimensions, and off they went. That left us with no bikes for over a week, three of us went trekking.
0126. We are charged by volume, so packing them as compact as possible can save a lot of money. Horst’s Africa Twin in the background.
0128. Nothing as sophisticated here as a forklift. This is how they moved the bikes into customs. Sam’s BMW R1100GS in the foreground.
0131. No transport anymore, so Tuk-Tuks are the way to go. These three wheelers use a water-cooled twin cylinder two stroke motor, and are made in India. This one could barely make it up the smallest rise, and rattled and weaved all over the road. I don’t have a great deal of faith of anything mechanical made in India. And they have nuclear weapons!
0132. The biggest Buddhist temple in Kathmandu, with the unique ‘Nepali eyes’ painted just above the dome.
0138. before festivals, Nepali’s all gamble. This was some sort of dice game.
0143. Only an hour and a half into our trek, 10,000 odd steps up, and me about to have heart failure, we passed this grove of Marijuana growing in someone’s back yard. In Kathmandu, I must have been offered hash 100 times.
0147. The building in the foreground was our ‘hotel’ the first night of our trek. It looks 1000% better in this picture than it actually was, but it was comfortable and warm. No power, so hot beer again!
0149. The view from the top of the hotel. As usual, the photo doesn’t do the scenery justice. It was absolutely breathtaking in-between being clouded in. It was raining as we arrived.
Sunrise from the top of the hotel. What looks like clouds in the distance are actually the Himalayas.
0165. I don’t think I would get my moter cycle ripered here.
0175. Just near Kathmandu is Bhuratpur, a world heritage site that is an absolute must see if you come to Nepal.
0198. Sunset, winging our way towards Bangkok on a new Boeing 777. An impressive plane with impressive service from Thai Airways.