After three days in the Jungle we left for Bandipur. Sure enough the bike wouldn’t start. Three jump start attempts are not what I want to start the day not even 10 minutes into the days ride and I was hot and sweaty. The exit road from Sauraha was being freshly tarmaced when we were leaving. Nothing that unusual except the people making the tarmac in a large cauldron fired by nothing more than a few large gas canisters were roughly 8-10 year old kids, very wrong. We had to edge our way along the side of the road, after seeing the bollocking dished out to a woman on a scooter for driving straight over the freshly laid road.
Much of the road to Bandipur was highway, an easy highway with good quality roads so the journey was short and sweet – 3 hours. This is the perfect amount of riding time on an Enfield for me. Paul was taking it a bit fast as the bike didn’t like being in low gears. The threat of losing power was constant; therefore the compromise was to remain in higher gears but maintain a higher speed. So we did hit a few pot holes at speed which make me go oooooooh very loud. I can’t see the road direct infront, so I don’t get any warning. We made a plan to get it fixed in Dumre before we left for Kathmandu.
The town of Bandipur traces the spine of a high ridge above the town of Dumre, and the hills around the town are ripe with green terraces and the roads to reach the top are steep and winding. Staying in a high gear around the hairpins was impossible [and deadly if we did] but dropping down resulted in the inevitable chug chug and then cutting out. We made it to the top with only a couple of restarts.
The first place we enquired at originally said they had rooms but then changed their minds – obviously didn’t like the look [or probably the smell] of us. By the time they had come to that conclusion we’d already paid an old lady to protect the bike outside of the village [motor vehicles are banned] She was very jovial towards me, she even wiped the sweat of my head and liked touching my arm.
A quick wander around the village revealed most of the beautiful old town houses were full [probably with the exception of the restored $100 + property] so we ended up in a part built guesthouse place with wires hanging out of the walls. Paul woke me in the middle of the night as he heard something under his bed – he thought it was a rat but I spied it escaping under the door and I’m pretty sure it was only a mouse. I’m ok with mice after killing so many in Dairy Cottage [our house before we left] but a rat would have kept me awake.
Bandipur village itself is a small settlement of beautiful Newari-style town homes lining the neatly-cobbled walkways, red brick and intricate carved dark brown timber. It’s reminiscent of Hoi-an in Vietnam, antiquated but well-maintained. By nightfall it feels like a movie set with gentle flicking candles in shop doorways [mainly due to the constant power cuts] We didn’t have much time in Bandipur so we only walked upto the temple for a view and had dinner. As we were high up we could see a fantastic thunderstorm way in the distance which lit the night sky. It was a beautiful little village that I’m glad we went back on ourselves for. The next morning, predictably the bike didn’t want to start but as we’re at the top of the hill I didn’t need to push [yeyyy] we just rolled for a little while and then it started.
As planned we stopped in Dumre and got it looked at. All that it required was a fuse change and some more messing about with the wires [well, same as when we started].
Confident the bike was in good working order again, we stopped just after the repair at a huge waterfall. Paul couldn’t resist swimming with the truckers in their grundies, so joined them in his. After the dip we set off properly for Kathmandu once more.
Roadside shops are everywhere along the highway and mainly offer the same fare, crisps, pop, biscuits and alcohol. We walked into the roadside shop of choice and opened the fridge, which still feels wrong as they look like domestic kitchen fridges so it feels like your raiding their own personal fridge . The first thing my eye is drawn to is the four chicken feet sticking out of a small cup delicately balanced on top of the bottles of pop she is selling. The women wanted 120 rupees for a Diet coke, coke and crisps. A voice from above called out and the price went up to 200 rupees. My Diet Coke smelled of the chicken feet too, the odds of salmonella were pretty high.
The road again was pretty good and we covered a good distance quite quickly. Then we got to the last 25km. You would think the capital city would make a main approach road once of the best to allow good supply of goods in and out, but no. It was by far the longest, shittest, bad bit of road of our entire journey in Nepal.
Trundling lorries strain their engines to the maximum and create a nice billowing black cloud of fumes behind them for us to inhale. Overtaking is risky with endless blind corners, not to mention the impatience of other slightly faster lorries and 4×4 wanting get ahead of the slow paced trucks, yet ignoring the fact we’re ahead of them. The road has deep crevasses which look more akin to the bottom of a river bed than a road and the congestion only adds to the difficulty of the road. They are working to clearly improve the road but that is another hindrance as it creates more tailbacks when vehicles are all vying to use the one side of the road that is open. There were a lot of heart in mouth the last 10km into Kathmandu must have taken about an hour.
Once back in the main hustle and bustle of Kathmandu the traffic flows nicely, all be it from every direction but it moves and before we know it we turn the corner and we’re back in Thamel and heading for the backstreet peaceful haven of the Blue Horizon Hotel.
I read a comment that ‘non-sucidal foreigners just don’t ride in this mess’ but my conclusion is that it always looks way worse than it is. I think Paul shares the same perspective and in some instances having little road rules can make it easier to drive.
It was nice being back in Kathmandu, I like the buzz of the densely packed narrow streets and the availability of everything on your door step. However your bogies do turn black from the car/motorbike fumes and it does have its down sides – the rivers are really just wet rubbish, beggars have physical deformities that are heart breaking to see, westerners with red dots on their head trying to find themselves, and there is a constant whisper of offers of drugs. I think they realised I wasn’t their target market quickly with a reply of ‘No I’m quite alright thankyou’. We found some really nice places during the remaining time in Nepal – Phat Kaths and O2K in particular. Paul is now as close to a vegetarian as I think he will ever get. He will never give up his love of bird or cow but at least he’s enjoying meals without meat. Onto India next.