|02-27-2012, 06:48 AM||#1|
Joined: May 2009
Location: Mackay, Qld>
Nepal on the Enfield
We've finally landed in Nepal, a little worse for wear. A hectic start to our holiday. After flying out of Singapore the Napalese airport was very small and antiquated. The cramped hectic state of the airport gave us some inkling of what awaited us outside. The weather was very pleasant even a bit too hot, and my concerns of freezing to death were soon put aside. We were greeted by our hotel driver - a very welcome sight after our long flight, at least we could sit back and delight at the no rule antics of the road users, it all felt some what familiar (Africa's road rules where something we had experienced and this it seemed was no different) even fun when you are not behind the wheel!
Our hotel Blue Horizon is situated in Thamal a somewhat touristy part of
Kathmandu, but fortunately it was down an alley way just far enough from the noisy main road. Our room pleasant enough but importantly we had HOT showers! Having heard about water shortages and power outages it seemed quite a luxury to have hot water.
Despite being so tired we could hardly see straight we gathered our camera gear and headed straight for the Boudah Sturta which is where the devout Buddhist go to celebrate there New Year. An impressive shrine draped in prayer flags which fluttered peacefully in the breeze. Hundreds of devotees and thankfully not too many tourists, walked clockwise around the outside of the shrine in prayer or thoughtful contemplation. This went on for hours until finally the celebrations where ended with peace offerings and prayers at the shrine entrance, the smell of burning incense filled the night air. It was a lovely end to our first few hours in Nepal but bed was now high on our agenda and even the all night symphony of barking dogs did not deter our sleep as we collapsed feeling grateful we could finally lie down on a flat surface and close our eyes.
Breakfast although quite late was delicious. Feeling a little more energetic we decided just to have an easy day looking around Thamal. We ambled aimlessly down the narrow streets lined with shops selling everything you might need. Thankfully we weren't bombarded with the hard sell of the vendors which one becomes accustomed to in the eastern countries, we'll enjoy it while we can practicing in a "gentle" way the art of bargaining, a skill we will need sharpened before getting to India. The usual hustle and bustle of people, motorbikes and small vehicles all occupying the narrow streets kept us on our toes. Browsing took a whole new meaning, a little like being on a slowish moving conveyor belt as you are swept alongside life as it happens around you. Space being in short supply means you either look quickly or enter a shop with well meaning sales people all over eager to please you and send you on your way with purchases you hadn't even considered buying.
The food market places are my favorite. The colors of different spices, vegetables and dried fish and some foods I couldn't identify and probably don't want to, line the streets. The shops are so small that there produce spill out onto the passage ways and the already cramped alleys become smaller. Optimistic Boda Boda (motorbike taxi's) hoot pusing there way through the crowds, there skill and balance with often two passengers on board never cease to amaze me. Some of the roads are rocky, potholed dirt but they fly along in kamikaze fashion weaving and diving in all directions with such confidence and ease and all the time avoiding skit tiling people from all directions. I think a week learning with one of these guys would completely eliminate any apprehension I have when riding on dirt, gravel and rocky roads!!
We decided that the walk back to our hotel was still a bit challenging on our weary bodies and caught a rickshaw - bicycle driven - I think the driver was a little hasty accepting our price offer and regretted it as on several occasions he had to get off the bike and pull us along the streets. We arrived feeling pleased at our decision not to walk, not so for our rickshaw man as sweat poured down his face, I think he probably went home having done a days work with just our trip.
Paul and I decided to go and have a look at the Enfield we were hiring and sort out the pick up etc. We hailed a taxi who took us to the house where the bike was. By the time we arrived there I was feeling pretty car sick. The cars I am sure were designed for the movie "Toy Story". They are match box in size, and that is saying something as I'm not exactly big, although considering the amount of traffic there is and the very narrow streets it's not surprising. But being squashed in the back and dashing through the traffic it felt like some giant had picked the car up and was shaking it around to see if something may just fall out.
The enfield a 500 was everything Paul had hoped for. It was brand new and I have to admit that even I was impressed with it. It had racks on the side to tie bags to and a rack at the back. Without them we would have been in trouble, especially riding two up. We arranged to pick the bike up early the next morning. We then paid the taxi driver to take us to various sights for the rest of the day. We had lunch and watched as several wedding processions passed us by from the rooftop of a restaurant in Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur it is said is a reminiscence of Kathmandu in bygone days. Still fairly untouched by modern life, people still wash there clothes and bathe at the communal wells. The ancient palace is beautifully ornate, adorned with wooden carvings, it would have been an impressive place once upon a time, and as you look up the skyline is filled with their majestic sight of the snow capped Annapurna Himalayas.
We had planned to sightsee some more but jet lag was still rearing it's ugly head so we decided to head back to our hotel for an early night and an early start for a very well anticipated start to our Nepalese adventure.
Woke early but not too bright! Although excited we could have slept a few more hours. But the unknown roads, new places and interesting people to meet beckoned us, so we dragged ourselves out of bed. Possibly too, was the fact that we had arranged for our taxi to pick us up at 7am - a little over enthusiastic I guess - well the taxi driver must have thought so too as he never arrived! So, grateful for the reprieve we sorted out what we didn't need to take and ordered breakfast. Our early start to beat the traffic was slowly melting away as we enjoyed our very nice omelet toast and tea. What the hell, we are on holiday after all! So finally arriving two hours later than arranged(we're masters of "African Time" now) to pick up the bike, we're packed and ready to go!
Fortunately the traffic on Saturdays is half of what it would normally would be as we set off heading west. We planned to stop just over half way at a little village right up in the mountains called Bandipur. It's about 125klm from Kathmandu and was expected to take around 5 hours to get there. Well it didn't take quite As long as that but the roads are soooo windy and narrow. As we started our decent into the valley below I told myself that we'll stop soon so I can stretch my legs and give my bum a rest - riding pillion on an Enfield is not as romantic as it may sound, in fact it was pretty damn uncomfortable! But soon would have been at least another hour and a half to two before we got to the bottom of the valley and before we could find a suitable safe stop.
The roads lived up to our expectation. Crazy and then totally insane drivers! Buses overtaking each other on blind corners, the only indication they give the unsuspecting victim they are coming is their horn blowing. But having said that even the motorbike riders, of which there are probably 20/1 for every truck or bus, are just as mad. However, the lack of any kind of road rule aside, the average speed is around 30 to 45klm not because the road conditions are bad but that's a safe speed when you are run off the road or have to stop unexpectedly because a truck/bus or whoever decides to enter or stop without indication. And of course the roads are very windy and in parts very steep.
We passed many villages along the way, some quaint, some smaller versions of cities with development and progress very noticeable. Even so we were struck by the fact that overall the people were quite poor, a very noticeable devision between those who had some money and those who barely survive. But as always most of the people we have met are friendly and are interested in where we are from and where we were going. We were cruising along when a man greeted us as he passed by us on what we thought was a Harley with soft panniers - not a common sight, but in fact it was an Enfield too. We thought he was a tourist but the fact that he was flying in comparison had us wondering if he was local. About an hour later we passed him on the side of the road and exchanged greetings again. It wasn't long before he flew passed again which left us in no doubt that he had to be local. We were to meet up again further down the track just passed Muglin crossing a bridge, we stopped and chatted. His name was Sherap Sherpa a local from Pokarah living in Kathmandu. He took motorbike tours through Nepal. He was Investigating a trip he intended doing in the future for one of his tours. After chatting for sometime we finally said our goodbyes with promises to contact him when we get back to Kathmandu on our way to India.
With the sun starting to sink slowly behind the ever rising mountains we headed to our first destination Bandipur. A small village nestled high up in the mountains overlooking the Annupura Himalayans. About 8 Klm off the main road we climbed a very steep, narrow and windy road with sheer drops to our left. Each bend we would hoot our horn (which is common practice) to warn anyone coming the opposite way as the road is only wide enough for one vehicle at a time. On our way up we passed many little terraced farms. The village which is situated on top of a mountain is vehicle free and you therefore have to park outside and walk in. We stayed at a little hotel called Green Resort. Met some lovely dance students with their teachers having a picnic and ended up being invited to dance with them. Not wanting to be impolite we agreed and although totally out of debth they were very gracious in making us feel like special guest stars!! Neither Paul or I were under any illusion that we made any real impression with our sad attempt to dance with these very obviously talented dance students, all the same we had fun and we probably provided them with some light entertainment. We retired before too much embarrassment and headed for our much needed bed. We were looking forward to what the next day would bring us.
We awoke long before any self respecting cock would even crow, keen to watch the sun rise over the valley and put on a spectacular display of the Himalayers. With eager anticipation we watched as the sun very slowly crept up behind the valley mountains, mist swirled like candy floss through the valleys below us and as the sun rose the Himalay mountain peaks dripping with snow displayed their majestic forms. The display the mountains gave us where no less spectacular but I could only imagine what an unbelievable sight they would be when the air is crisp and clear and the sky a deep blue.
After drinking in as much of the scenery that we could we headed back for breakfast and packed our bike. We spent a couple of hours exploring the village which gave a very good insight into life as it was before any visitors. The buildings were small by western standards, made of brick and heavy ornate wooden structures. Homes are built on top of shops which sold various produce like vegetables or home wear which would have been woven or made of clay. A lovely village relatively untouched by visitors or even modern life, truely worth the stop.
We did not have too far to go to Pokarah where we'll be spending a few days
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