LOG ENTRY 41
A chilling beautiful day in Pokhara with our friends Nyima and Ton in our last day in Pokhara. As we all know what just happened there recently, lets pray and hope for my friends and their family's well being.
As we promised we spent the day with Nyima and his Indian friend. They took us to Phewa lake which lies on the western part of the town, offering breathtaking views and ice cold water. We took a dip which felt like the coldest water I ever swam in. Even thought it was middle of the summer, Nyima claimed the water was less than 10 degrees Celsius a meter below the surface. He had this fancy watch from Suunto which he got from a Swiss businessman who buys most of their carpets from the sewing factory so I believe in the 10 degrees, to be fair my testicles confirmed it.
Ton, Nyima's Indian friend
The day went perfectly well, Nyima promised us an additional tour around town with lots of promising places to visit. As we were getting ready to leave the lake his Indian friend burst into tears. It was a really weird experience, seeing a grown man cry without any warning. He didn't say a single word just cried and walked around in circles. After about a minute Nyima finally got him to talk so we could have some idea why is the teenage girl like outburst happened. He said that his father's wedding ring which he inherited for his own wedding slipped off from his fingers in the lake.
Another smiles picture of me
Dad has lots of talents, one which I really admire is his photographic memory. He can just look at the map once for a second and he memorize all the roads in the country. He is really good at it and unfortunately I did not inherit his talent. The only reason I mention it is that Dad was certain the ring was not on the guy's finger in the lake. Even thought he insisted that he never takes it off but Dad was sure about it. We ended setting up a perimeter around the bikes and the area we walked and about an hour later we found his ring in the grass. It must have slipped off his finger before we jumped in the lake. Dad quickly grew into a hero and we were instantly invited to a lunch and beer, scrapping all the sightseeing plans.
Heights of the Annapurna Mountain
Heights of the Annapurna Mountain
After a few beers and an amazing home made Indian dish Nyima convinced us to at least walk around Pokhara, check out the Annapurna range, at least what visible from Pokhara.
We also decided with Dad that no matter what, the next day we continue our trip to Kathmandu as we have to apply for a new Indian visa and it might take time so better be around Kathmandu. As at this point we did not expected anything but the course of the trip will be dramatically change from Kathmandu. If you are interested how this change affected our initial plans and what events brought this change, come back and read the next LOG ENTRIES.
As for the recent tragic events took place in Nepal and the devastating earthquake which effected Pokhara as well, I really hope and pray for the well being of the wonderful people we came across there.
LOG ENTRY 40
An unplanned night and day stay in Pokhara, Nepal's second biggest city. Met our new friends Nyima, a Tibetan refuge who showed us around town and proposed his sister for marriage, all in one day.
The hut where we met Nyima
Not long after we got taxed by the rebels Dad pulled over to a small hut, seemingly selling food. The hut indeed sold food but not what we were used to. As we looked into the little section designated as kitchen an old lady asked us whether we had Tibetan dumplings before in perfect English. We nodded and settled down for the dumplings. Two other guy wearing basketball jerseys and hats came over and again in perfect English started to talk to us. One of them called Nyima initiated the conversation and we got into an hour long talk over the dumplings what Nyima and his friend kindly showed us how to eat properly.
We were in the outskirts of Pokhara, one of the biggest tourist attraction in Nepal. Little we know about this place back then, it was just another stop on the way. You might be surprised how unprepared we were but we had no internet, no smartphones and due to weight and space constraints we couldn't carry 25 Lonely Planets with us. Everything we found, met or visited was a pure coincidence, recommendation or something we initially planed back in Hungary. Pokhara was a pure coincidental place and it all happened because of Nyima. He is a Tibetan refuge living in Pokhara with his family in a fairly big Tibetan community, They are making money from exporting hand made carpets and tourism. Sadly they don't get Nepalese citizenship nor any in fact so for them to travel abroad is very difficult. Nyima told us that many of them are getting married to travelers just to obtain a passport. It is clear that we wont go any further today and most likely spend the next days here in Pokhara. Nyima took us to a hostel which was probably the best quality place we stayed since we left Hungary and all for 300 rupees, less than 10 dollars. He then showed us the Tibetan village, the sewing factory and also invited us for a dinner.
Nyima and me chilling
Pokhara is the second biggest city in Nepal with a whopping 250 thousand inhabitant and 3 out of the 10 highest mountains are within 30 kilometers from the city so it is pretty developed for tourism, especially for trekkers. Nyima promised us that he will take us around tomorrow if we stay. He wanted to show us some of the scenic points of the city where we can see the Annapurna mountain the best.
We had the dinner appointment at 6 pm and we really had no idea what to expect or even bring. We bought some alcohol in the shop and took some of our trip t-shirts with us and prepared for everything. What came after was a little bit unexpected. Nyima and his friend introduced me to their sisters. Nyima has a fairly younger sister, maybe around 25 and his friend's sister was closer to 35 than to 30. It was clear that we will get a marriage proposal from the ladies. It simple, we get married in Kathmandu, ask for our embassies to issue temporary passport to the girls and we all set to go. At least it sounds easy in the heads of the ladies. Of course we had no intention getting married or even stay in Pokhara more than 2 days so we had to politely refuse the offer. They said they try with every traveler as this is the only way for them to leave. Later on we still kept in contact with Nyima and his sister but as we weren't in the age of Facebook, the connection was lost.
The Tibetan dinner
The two bride prospects and me
Dad was busy munching
In the next LOG ENTRY you can see some cool pictures from the Annapurna range and the trip to Kathmandu.
LOG ENTRY 39
A beautiful riding day, probably the most scenic so far with endless curves, beautiful jungle with steep peaks and an unexpected encounter with the Maoist rebels.
Beautiful Monday morning woke us up after our first night in Nepal. The lower temperature is a real big refresher after the month's of suffocating tropical heat and humidity. The morning breeze from the Himalayas smelt like melting snow even thought we are in the middle of the summer. After the great experience riding here yesterday, we decided to make our way to Kathmandu on the mountain road instead of using the southern road close to the Indian border.
Kids are playing in one of the creeks
Heading up North we quickly realized that the road ahead is the most curving road we ever experienced. It was nothing like the mountain pass up to Dharamsala, it was much more extreme. The smallest distance our odometer can show is 100 meters, I spent great deal of time observing the odometer and see whether it can change between two curves, it never happened. What was more common is that within 100 meters we went into two or three sometimes even four curves with great altitude difference. Whether we have died already and riding in the heaven for bikers or this road is just this great was the main thought in my head all morning. Apart from the curves, the giant peaks towering on the sides provided just as much viewing pleasures as the road itself.
Beautiful Nepalese scenery
The only straight stretches were the ones through some villages, here you had the opportunity to overtake the few trucks on the road. Luckily we had enough torque not to worry about overtaking but I can imagine how frustrating could be stacking behind one of these old Mercedes trucks with a car. Occasionally we crossed creeks and small rivers where kids enjoyed the cold water.
One of the villages on the way to Kathmandu
Around 10 in the morning, just after our breakfast we had one of the longest section ahead us without any village. At about 30 minutes in the ride we spotted a guy standing on the road and waving at us to slow down. As we slowed down around 30-40 people armed with AK-47's and rifles jumped out of the jungle. They wore military training uniform with red collars and unlike the troops we met earlier they had no helmet on. Quickly I realized that they must not belong to the government forces and probably are Maoist rebels. We have been warned earlier that this region is the stronghold of the rebels and we should avoid it. As we slowed down and eventually stopped one of the rebel came over to us with broken English and introduced himself. He was in fact the leader of that group and he went into explaining the brief story of the rebellion and that they are in need of money. Quickly it came down to me that we will get robed here, probably they will even take our bikes as well. Luckily the guy didn't wait to long to state their demands. He said that the road we are riding is one of the main rebel road and we have to pay road tax for using it. The surprising thing just came now, he said we have to pay 5 dollars each, not more not less. I couldn't believe it, I asked him again for clarification but I heard it right, five dollars. Dad got the money out, 10 dollars for the two of us, we paid but still unable to go. They told us that we have to wait a little bit before we can go any further. Again, the worst comes in mind, what will happen now. What really happened is the soldiers brought a little invoice book, filled it out with our names and passport numbers, put the amount in there too, showing tat we paid the 5 dollars and they told us that in case we meet another rebel group later we just have to show the slip to them and we wont get charged again. I have to admit, this was probably the most pleasant fine in my life and the tipping point when my like turned love towards this country.
The red shaded area where we spent two days riding
In the next LOG ENTRY you can read about how we met a Tibetan refuge and ended up staying a few days in their village.
LOG ENTRY 38
Our last kilometers in India before reaching one of the nicest country so far in our trip. But before we can enjoy the breathtaking views of the Mount Everest, we still have to deal with the Indian border patrol and also we have no idea how the Nepalese civil war will affect our trip.
The last section in India throw everything at us. Shortly after we left the motel the rain started to fall like there is no tomorrow. After getting sufficiently wet we stopped for a breakfast in a roadside truck stop. We learnt that earlier that the only safe way eating something in these places is if they serve the food on a bamboo or banana leaf. Why so? The dishes normally only swiped down with a dirt cloth or washed in the dirty water flowing behind all of these establishments. The only way to stay safe is to eat from leafs which are non re-usable. After the breakfast the weather started to clear out and we reached the first road in India where we had to pay money. It wasn't like a regular highway or in fact anything different than the free roads, just a toll boot and around 10 kilometers of paved road.
Yes, that's right, around 10 kilometers of paved road, the rest was dirt or mud to be precise. Not as we are complaining or anything but it was surprising. Later on the muddy road turned into a brick road. Felt like we are riding on Hadrian's road towards Rome, except the mixture of elephants and colorful Hino trucks. The earlier rain also made this reddish bricks very slippery, the only reason we could ride on it safely is that the cracks and elevation difference between the bricks provided enough uneven surface for a good traction. As we approached the Nepalese border the road was getting worst. At one point we thought that we are on the wrong way, even thought locals confirmed that we are heading to the right direction you still can't be hundred percent sure in India. When we arrived to the border town our hopes started to be fulfilled. After a brief going around in the town we found the right track, which was clearly only used by cows and headed to the border post. On the Indian side the border ranger had no idea about the Carnet or even about our passports. He wrote one page full, we didn't understand what is going on but later someone translated his writing and it was basically a short story saying that we were there and left India at that day and time, no stamp was used.
Crossing over to Nepal
To reach over to the Nepalese side we had to cross a little dam. It was so narrow at some points that we almost couldn't get through with the panniers on. Custom on the other side was great, nothing like their counterparts in India. The officer spoke English and right away knew what the Carnet is and how they have to fill it out. First experience good. Normally we have problems at the borders, well lately and this puts a rather sour taste in our mouth for the first few days in the country. This seems to change now, everything is smooth, problem free and most of all, done in an exceptionally friendly way. After leaving the border we realize that the civil war between the Maoist rebels and the government forces are still on and we most likely will see more than we paid for. Military units marching everywhere in columns, escorted by armored vehicles, main intersections are guarded by tanks with their turrets facing you and barb wire on both side of the road. However, behind all those weapons, uniforms and sandbags, all we see is wide smiles and welcoming waving.
Curios locals at one of our rest point
Shortly after the border we stopped for our favorite refresher, an Indian spicy tea. It didn't take long until the local villagers surrounded us for a photo op, not sure how often they see European travelers here on bikes -probably often- but they really looked at us like we just came from the Moon. For the rest of the day we started to go up hill and got a preview what sort of riding we should expect for the following days. The roads are great, similar to Hungarian roads but the scenery is outstanding. To see more pictures of the incredibly pretty Nepalese countryside and read how our first encounter went with the armed Maoist rebels in the forest, come back and read LOG ENTRY 39.
Dear reader, due to a nasty accident I ended up in a hospital with a fractured vertebrae and torn knee, hence the long break between log entries. Luckily my fingers are operational and riderslog is back on track with daily updates from now on.
LOG ENTRY 37
Sadly leaving the embassy and heading towards the Nepalese border. Little we knew the trip will take two days.
The time of farewell has come today. After a very relaxing, warm and hospitable week we sadly have to leave the embassy. Our visa is going to expire and the bug in our ear couldn't stop buzzing so we decided to go to Nepal. The plan is to go up north and drive across Nepal and come back to India at Darjeeling where we visit the tomb of Alexander Csoma de Koros, who was a Hungarian traveler and a librarian and wrote the first Sanskrit-English dictionary.
Dad has sleeping problems, or at least that time I thought it is a sleeping disorder, as I grew older I understood older people wake up way earlier than the ones in their mid teen ages. Now, right at thirty I am like Dad, up early every day but ten years ago I had problems keeping up with his habit. That day back in India Dad did not wake up early, we slept in until 9 am which was a major mistake since we planned to pick up the Nepalese visa and leave one of the most populous city with one of the poorest road system during morning rush hour. After buying some souvenirs for Mom and Grandma which the embassy will post to them we headed out of the compound and went to pick up our passports at the Nepalese embassy. We planned to reach Nepal or at least somewhere close to the border today but we soon realized this will be an unfulfilled plan. It took us almost three hours to leave Delhi. The chaos was indescribable. Cars and bikes kept hitting us, not hardly, no one really moved, sometimes we switched the engines off and just pushed the bikes in the chaos. It took us over 10 hours to ride less than 170 kilometers. Our map wasn't very accurate on this part of the world and every time we stopped somewhere for direction they either sent us the wrong way or just couldn't understand us.
To make our day a little bit better the rain started to pour so after 10 plus hours of ride we reached the town of Umari in Uttar Pradesh province and rented a room in the only hotel. Luckily we had our sleeping bags and mattresses as the one provided by the hotel was already occupied by a bed bug colony.
The next day we crossed over to Nepal. To see whether it lived up to our expectations and how we copped with the raging Maoist civil war, come back and read LOG ENTRY 38.