Update 18 - Delhi to Kathmandu
- the final push.
11th February 2002.
Change of plan. Originally we'd intended to head down
to Agra and Varanasi and then north to Nepal, but encouraged
by some Dutch travellers, a desire to leave India as
soon as possible and an invitation from the British
Embassy for a drink next Friday at 1pm, we decided to
take the direct route to Kathmandu. This meant entering
Nepal in the south-west corner and cycling along the
Mahendra Highway in the lowland sub-tropical Terai.
It's one of the best decisions we've made on the whole
We left Delhi and headed east on the Grand Trunk Road.
All seemed to be going well, and we soon left behind
the busy roads of Delhi. About 50km out of Delhi, we
discovered we were on the wrong road. Woops. We eventually
got back on the right road but that night the milestone
outside our hotel read "Delhi 50km" despite
a full days riding. We made up for it the next day though,
with a Charityride record - 197km! Admittedly it was
flat and we had a tailwind, but it still was a hard
ride - cycling anywhere in India is! Could we keep this
pace up for another 6 days?
We arrived at the Indo-Nepal border the following day.
If the guards hadn't noticed us we could have cycled
straight in, with no visas or passport checks. The immigration
"offices" of both countries were just small
huts set back off the road, upon which crowds of locals
passed to and fro unhindered. The complete opposite
of the Indo-Pakistan border. By the time the Nepali
immigration officer arrived (by rickshaw), it was getting
dark, but we found our hotel pretty easy - unlike India,
the only traffic on the roads were other bicycles -
it was so quiet. First impressions of Nepal - very good.
got better the next morning (apart from the hotel manager
trying (and failing) to rip us off!) - the roads were
good and empty - just schoolkids cycling to school in
the next village. After India it was so peaceful - no
horns, no pollution - you could smell fresh air and
hear birds in the trees. The people had changed too
- in India they just stared as we cycled by, but here
, everyone from the smallest kids to the old ladies
washing clothes would wave and shout "Bye Bye"?!
It was so good to see friendly, happy faces again.
afternoon we crossed the huge Karnali river and entered
Royal Bardia National Park. We were stopped by police
at a checkpoint at the park entrance. "No bicycle.
Man-eating tiger. Take bus". "But we've cycled
all the way from London....". Eventually we persuaded
them to let us cycle the 15km through the park (with
a motorcycle escort) to Ambassa where we hoped to spend
the night. With an adrenaline-rush from the fear of
tigers, we blitzed it through the park. All we saw was
a few deer, but any rustle in the bushes made our hearts
leap. At Ambassa two young teenagers organised accommodation
for us - on the veranda of the park visitor information
centre and we had dinner at the family-run teahouse
nextdoor. Over dinner we were told that this man-eating
tiger was very real - one of Bardia's 68 tigers, he
has "eaten" 8 people, the most recent being
a motorcyclist on the road we'd just ridden .... only
a few weeks beforehand!
The next day was another long one - stopped at a hospital
canteen for lunch and into increasingly bumpy countryside.
We'd slowed down considerably, despite the energy-rich
fudge and noodles we'd been stuffing down ourselves,
and didn't reach our destination, Lamahi, until an hour
after dark. We found a hotel, (cold) showered and came
down for some food .... only to find the hotels shutters
down. "Curfew!" said the hotel owner. What
had been a busy street only minutes before, was now
only occupied by a few dogs. If we'd arrived 30 minutes
later....... We had no choice to eat at the hotel, watched
by the owners two very pretty daughters, whilst a policeman
armed with a huge tear-gas gun checked us out.
The next morning we met a couple of biogas technicians
over morning tea who told us about the curfew - a few
towns and villages in this region are subject to them.
It was the first sign of the "State of Emergency"
that is currently on in Nepal, that we'd experienced.
the next few days we crossed more wooded hills, towns
became more frequent and the roads gradually got busier.
We passed the Royal Chitwan-National Park, where we
saw an elephant and some vultures ripping a carcass
to shreds. Mmmmm, nice smell.
Narayanghat we headed up a narrow gorge into the heart
of the Himalayan foothills. It was a gentle climb, and
the traffic was far better than we'd expected. It was
a hot sunny day and frequent tea and noodle stops were
required. We knew we wouldn't make Kathmandu that night,
and decided to make Naubise, at the base of the final
steep climb and only 25km from the capital, our last
stop. Unfortunately there was only one place to stay
in town, and it has to rank as one of the worst "hotels"
(term used very loosely) of the trip. Dinner wasn't
much better at the rather mucky "restaurant"
The next morning we left bright and early - Kathmandu
was calling, and we were rather keen to leave Naubise.
The final steep hill to Kathmandu was easier than expected
(those 11000km of training must have helped), and by
11 o'clock we were in Durbar Square - the famous square
in the centre of old Kathmandu - temples and pagodas
everywhere. After the obligatory photos and cups of
tea, we headed through the city to the British Embassy
to be greeted by some friendly Gurkhas and the vice
consul. We've finished! And to celebrate, a beer and
steak sandwich at the beautiful colonial British Embassy
Club. "Jolly good show, chaps!".
The End (sort of).....
A trekking update will follow in a couple of weeks,
then after that Adrian flys home, Andy and Matt continue
separately into China and back home via Russia.
Total Distance to Kathmandu