I felt that I had been here before - Northern India near the Nepalese border. The haze, the flat country, green fields all reminded me of Holland. The dark faces and the palm trees gave it away. Border formalities were surprisingly easy as Indian and Nepalese people are able to cross the border unchecked. Our arrival created some variety for the Customs Officers. We crossed into Nepal at around 2.00 p.m. The first thing that caught our eye was two donkeys on top of each other - right in the middle of the road! Laughing out loud inside a helmet must surely sound different too.
We thought that we would make Pokhara that night (170km). Two hours later we have only covered 30 km. The first 20km or so is still on the flat plane, but suddenly rises at an astounding rate. The road is no more than a track and after 50 km we gave it away, totally exhausted. The next day we covered the remaining 120km in 6 hours. The scenery is breathtaking. I have to pinch myself - I am riding in the Himalayas.
Namaste I hear from the road worThe men gaze at the bikes and the kids give us a wave and smile.
I am lucky to be here I think, while my front wheel disappears into yet another large pot hole.
We ride on to a small town called Tansen and check in for the night. We cant take the risk of being caught in the dark again - not with these road conditions.
Higher and higher today. The roads are in such a state that we have to zig-zag around the potholes. The needle on the speedometer doesnt even move - so what is our speed I wonder, 2-3 km per hour?
Fantastic views of terraced valleys today. I suppose they dont have much choice as horizontal ground does not seem to exist around here.
We cover the 120 km to Pokhara in just over 6 hours.
Pokhara is a famous area for hikers as most of them start from here and walk the different circuits including the Anapurna circuit.
A lot of competition in the Hotel area. A taut tries to win us over. Hmm - Kiwi guest house... OK, how much? $1 each per night, good parking sir, he says. OK, you win.
After mailing some cards and getting my camera fixed for $2 we continue to Kathmandu. Again the road deteriorates into a track. After a while and on my left, I see glimpses of the Anapurna Ranges with its snow capped mountains. The area we are travelling through remind me of Bali and Java for some reason, something to do with the terrace rice fields I guess.
Halfway, we cross a swinging bridge and enter the main Kathmandu to India road- bitumen - at last. This road runs next to a large river and offers astounding views.
Since yesterday, the road goes upwards all the time and is very steep in places.
To my surprise we pass two people riding pushbikes. I suppose the yellow jerseys with the name Woensel (a town in Holland) they were wearing gave it away - so I just had to stop for a chat.
Amazingly, these two peorary so I gave them my card and asked them to drop in (which they did 8 months later).
Peter and Charlie kept going, I did not see them for hours which did not worry me as I knew we would come to a checkpoint before arriving in the Kathmandu valley. However, I found Peter there but no Charlie. Apparently, he had not noticed the stopsigns at the checkpoint and continued towards the city. Anyway, we found him.
I was given the name of the Souvenir Guest House by some people who had previously been there with their Landrover. The best way was to pay a taxi driver to ride in front. Twenty minutes later we arrive at the gate to a courtyard belonging to the guest house. Again parking is more important than finding a place to stay. There are plenty of them.
I have no idea what Kathmandu used to be like but I guess cleaner than now. The main roads are choked with black smoke from the diesel powered three wheeled taxis. In India they were usually petrol driven and although they are all two stroke, the smog levels were, most of the time, within reason - Id say mainly because pollution is measured at vehicle level on a three monthly basis. When passed, a sticker is attached, then checked when anyone fronts up to buy fuel at a service station. No sticker- no fuel (tourists exempted)
Peter had hit some rocks and holed his sump. Before anything else, we must find a way to fix it. Quickly dismissing aluminium welding and the like, we set out to find Araldite which is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
After several hours we arrive at the smallest motorcycle spare parts shop I have ever laid eyes on. You cannot enter the shop as you are served through a window! Leaning though the window, it would be possible to touch the opposing wall. Anyway, we found it -Araldite.
In town there are many shops specialising in embroidery of badges. There are many designs. For $4 I get a 6 inch cloth badge made with a picture of a BMW bike and Australia To The Netherlands World Tour embroided on it. For good measure I order two more for gifts for Peter and Charlie.
Wondering through the city, we inspected several temples and the market area. Pity we are on motorcycles - they have fantastic things here.
fter buying bracelets for my daughters we headed back to the city centre
We found an absolute dive of an eating place - just a hole in the wall. But the food was good.
We learned quickly to eat at the cheaper places as you can actually see what they are cooking - which is done in front you. The more expensive restaurants have kitchens out the back and after seeing a few of them, decided early in the piece to give them a wide berth.
While Peter refitted the sump to the engine, Charlie and I went back to the badge weaver only to find that he made only two. Shame.
After returning we paid the bill which was $2 per person per night, packed up and left to go to the American Express office to collect the mail.
Before leaving the area we visited the Monkey Stupa, another typical Nepalese temple complex but this one was, as the name implies, crawling with monkeys - so watch your stuff.
Off to the other side of the city to see an even bigger one but got swamped by onlookers - so Peter stayed with the bikes as he had to do some more adjustments. This time it was the front fork top yoke nut which had become loose.
It is never difficult to find the spot where the bikes are parked - just look for the crowds.
Leaving the city behind we take the same fantastic road which follows the river but do not take the turnoff to Pokhara. Instead, we continue down the gorge and follow the river for many kms.
Alongside the river there are many stone quarries located in strategic positions. They employ thousands of people - most likely for a few dollars or less per day.
The workers pick up the stones and spend all day smashing them with hammers. Men, women and children. For a while I think about it - that is child labour, yet I suppose they dont go hungry as millions do who have to revert to begging.
The problem presented itself the very first day in Madras - kids pulling your arm and asking for money with a cry in their voice. What for? I ask. For food. they say. I offer some biscuits but they dont like it. I noticed Grandma on the corner of the street keeping an eye on things.
An old man in bare feet, putting his hands together in Indian fashion, points to his mouth. What would I do if it was my father? I think. This man has been following me around the hotel in Kathmandu. Early in the morning on the way back from a shop he corners me again. He is almost crying - one hand pointing to his mouth, one hand hidden away. I give him one of the bread rolls I have just bought, but he wants money. I refuse and a minute later I look back and see him smoking a cigarette.
Then there are the many women who beg and keep following you. They think I look at their sad faces. Theyre wrong. I just look at their gold nose ring and the silver rings on their fingers and toes. Across the corner is a little shop - a man attracts my attention. A leper, no doubt. No hands, no feet - he has yellow hollow eyes and lives in a cardboard box which is strategically placed next to a grocery shop, so he does not have to crawl far. I weaken and give him some rupees, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not.
The best thing is, if they want to sell something, a few rupees makes a difference for them but not for me. The item bought can always be given away to some child.
We continue our journey back towards India along this magnificent road. On our left, the rocky face rises straight up for hundreds of meters. On our left, the reverse. Hundreds of meters straight down, absolutely breathtaking.
Petrol is sometimes a bit hard to find as diesel seems to be the go in this country. We stopped at a petrol station or maybe better called a diesel station because there was no petrol available. After a drink, we push on and continue down the road to find a place which would be able to sell some out of a drum.
At 5 p.m. we arrived at Chitwal, famous for its National Park with elephants and tigers.
As this is a rich tourist area, we were faced with a charge of 1000 Rp per night. Interesting how quickly one get used to the value of a rupee - $22 is way out of proportion.
We left Chitwal for what is was, met some people who told us of a local problem - children being taken by tigers. Before leaving Australia, I had noticed a story in the newspaper about it and remember thinking that it might be an unusual incident. Being on the spot, I learned that 17 children had been taken during the last few years.We ran into a couple who stayed in a nearby village. They told that us that no-one spoke English and that communication had been a problem. Whilst staying in the village, they learned that another child had just been taken but could not work out where the incident had happened. The next morning there was some commotion in the village and they were asked if they wanted to have a look. Expecting a dead tiger they said yes and followed some people out off the village to some vacant land where a mass of villagers had gathered in a circle. They found not the tiger but . the head and part of the torso of the missing child. An uneventful day riding the lowlands of Nepal, crossing the border at the same place once again. The Indian customs officers were very friendly and talkative, wanted to know where we had been, plus a demonstration of the working of a BMW systems helmet. When everything was done they insisted we have tea together before our departure - something we were slowly getting used to.
Nepal - an electricians paradise !