I left Pokhara on the 14th. The first 12km where straight up. A good start…
I felt a bit like on my first bicycle trip in 2003 when I stumbled upon some hills in Belgium (Ardennen) and nearly decided to go back
I didn’t then and I couldn’t now, so under a scorching sun I slowly worked my way up. Still the people were smiling all around (or are the laughing AT me..?) and schoolchildren walking up at the same speed as me.
But, as I was in no hurry, I stopped here and there for a coke or to throw some cold water over my head and by the end of the day I found a nice spot to pitch my tent just before the daily thunderstorm came over so I even stayed dry.
The Tanson road is beautiful, I already knew this ‘cause I came in the same way on the Bullet in March. It winds up and down over ridges and through forest, along rivers and villages where I can always find a Dahl Bhatt when I’m hungry.
Tanson lies about 5km from the main road and to get there you need to climb over 600m in the last few km’s. But in the town on the steep streets just the surprised looks gave me enough energy to make it up there.
In the evening Don came around on his bike to bring me my old saddle, I left it in Pokhara after buying a new one. But the new one was severely uncomfortable so I rather use the broken old one…
We fixed it professionally with a t-shirt and bits of shoelaces..
Another leisurely day of drinking coffee and takin’ the bike for a spin passed, ok.. I was not riding but still it’s great to be on a motorbike, before it was time to head for the border.
And this time I was going down, I hardly needed to peddle at all as I flew passed trucks and busses on the way to the Indian border at Saunali.
So finally, 5and a half months after my first arrival in Nepal I crossed the border on the 18th of May, exactly a year after I crossed into Turkey. The Nepali border guards asked me when I’d return while the Indians welcomed me to their country and were surprised I planned to get to Gorakhpur that day ;”You are very strong, you are like a Sir…”
But with a heavy tailwind, a cloudy sky and a nice comfortable temperature of 25C, it all seemed perfect.
The Lonely planet tells me: “It can get unbearably hot in May and June …. The hot season is the time to abandon the plains and head for the cooler hills”
Ah well, is all I can say.
Again India surprised me by how quiet the roads seemed. Only in towns it suddenly becomes slightly mad. Funny that it starts exactly at the edge and finishes on the other side of town, like everybody is just taking their bikes, busses, push carts, elephants, oxes and whatever else moves, up and down the main street..
And I like it
The people are good too. When I ask for directions I get them, and there’s no kids running after me asking for sweets, pens or rupees.
I do get many curious glances instead.
And the guys on bicycles who don’t like to be overtaken, so they catch up on me just to slow down again when they’re in front so I can’t do nothing but pass them which starts the whole game over again.
Three young boys got a bit too daring and got so close at a speed they couldn’t handle that one of them hooked the handlebars in my luggage. I just felt a push to the side and when I looked around the boy had crashed to the tarmac. They didn’t catch up again.
But so far I cycle and greet people and they greet me back. Sometimes with such a dazzling smile I stay happy till I have to play that game again with the next silly boy that comes along.
But sometimes one comes along for a chat, I’ve cycled 10km with a 17-year old who wants to be a teacher and practice his English on me.
And in the town of Mau I asked the way to a hotel and Ziaul made me follow him for 2km through windy narrow streets till we came to a building where I was surprised to find a clean, neat and dirt cheap hotel. He went on to arrange food for me and warned me never to open the door, but the window first if someone knocked. How sweet.
When I sat down outside I got swarmed with curious people ‘till the hotel staff asked me to go back in, it was getting a little too busy.
And now I’m in Varanasi.
On the way here I got stuck in a town where the road had turned into an enormous mud-bath. I took of my shoes and socks and with the help of some friendly people I pushed the bike through. Didn’t wanna think what was in that mud… upto my knees… Took a good while to get that stuff of the bike again.
After 120km in 40C I arrived and found my way to a comfy backpackers hotel. Lucky I met 3 friendly Korean girls going to the same place, I needed to climb up a few steps in the small alleyways and the helped me drag the bike up.
Here, on the roof, I pitched my tent and I’ll stay here till I get rid of this annoying cough and a sore tooth.
It’s a crazy place. You can expect to see anything in the narrow alleyways of the centre or along the Ghats that line the Holy Ganga river. I nearly got run over by a chanting crowd carrying their deceased relatives down to the ‘burning-Ghat’, where there are cremations all day and night. Big piles of wood are shipped in and stacked and weighted to have the precise amount it takes to burn a human body. The ashes go into the river, about 4m from where children are playing and learning how to swim. And next to that one of many sewage outflows… And then there’s carcasses of rats, cows, sheep and people who don’t get cremated peacefully bobbing passed downstream while crows enjoy a meal.
I joined a Puja ceremony, let my candle drift down the Ganga, Which should mean good Karma, took a little boat and wandered around the streets.
Now I guess it’s time to head east, into Bihar.
I’ve heard that ‘Bihar is to Indians what India is to the west…’
My plan at first was to get myself a little boat and row to Calcutta. But it’s easier said then done. Apparently there’s ‘pirates’ in Bihar who target boats. Usually I take warnings like this with a big grain of salt. I do think though I might be slightly more vulnerable alone in a boat on the river then on my bicycle in traffic with lots of people around. And I don’t wanna go looking for trouble.
So off I go on my bicycle again.
Into the wild