Coming back to Nepal a second time was a different experience than the first time I was here. Maybe it was because I left a chaotic, diverse, contradictory rollercoaster of a country (India), for a laid-back, predictably calm country (Nepal). But definitely, it's GOOD to be BACK!
Elad and I took off from Rishikesh on Mike (the Bike) and covered a mere 80 km to a city called Dhampur, where we were the only foreigners in this mid-sized town that had only two guesthouses: a sh*tty one, and a sh*ttier one, where the sheets aren't cleaned and mosquitoes dominate the room, 50:1.
We took off the following morning at 7 a.m. because we had about 200 km to cover to get the the border, as my visa was expiring that day. If anything happened to keep us from reaching the border, I would be in real big trouble, because here in India, they come down on those who overstay their visas (not like Korea, where I've overstayed my visa four times, and a smile and some "cute" broken Korean was all it took to pass).
The pro about riding on a motorbike in India is that you
enroute to Butwal
get to see and feel everything more intimately, but the con is that you really do put your life in jeopardy at times. The stupid underlining road rule here is that the bigger mode of transport has the right of way on the road, which puts us on the bottom of the food chain. The roads have only two-lanes (each lane going in opposite directions), so it's a frequent sight to see big Indian trucks trying to cut past a slow moving car, ox-drawn cart, rickshaw, etc. Keep in mind that because of the unwritten road law, the trucks completely disregard that we are on the road... at times causing us to break completely while driving at 50 km/p/h or to drive off the road. I suggested to Elad that we buy a carton of eggs to chuck at these idiotic drivers. Another obstacle we face on the road is that there are sometimes the egotistical youngins who see the Enfield and think, "Hmmm.. I bet I could race and fade that," and they continue to follow us around, sometimes getting in the way of our drive. Once, Elad was trying to lose these two guys who were shadowing us,
en route to Nepal Ganj
and as a result, we got stuck right between two Indian trucks going in opposite directions, with mere centimeters to spare on both sides. It was THISCLOSE, and probably one of the most frightening experiences on Mike. The last, less-serious obstacle is bugs and pebbles that charge us-- Elad got stung by a bee two times! Once on his arm and another time on his nipple and we had to pull over... Hahahaa! .. it was hilarious (for me, not him)!!! I couldn't stop crying from laughing so hard, and all the villagers came out to see his nipple sting and we all had a nice laugh...hahahaa...
Elad and I were getting pretty weary with all the road games, and luckily, we made it to the Indian border town of Banbassa by late afternoon and crossed over to Mahendrnagar, the border town of Nepal. Victory.
The next morning, we left Mahendrnagar and headed out for the road again, not really having a destination. In our plans, we eventually wanted to get to the heavily touristic Chitwan National Park for a few days and then head over to Pokhara to, sniff sniff, sell Mike. From Mahendrnagar, Chitwan is about
And the cop who pulled us over in Rishikesh said this never happens! (on route to Banbassa)
700 km away and Pokhara is about 500 km away, so it's a lot of distance to cover, considering that the roads here are windy, bumpy, pot-holed and mountainous. We decided to take our time with the journey, just to make sure Mike (the Bike) stays in good condition.
During our drive, we were immediately reminded of the overtly friendly nature of the Nepalese. Possibly we felt this to a greater extent because we are in rural villages and stretches of road, rather than the heavily touristic areas, like Kathmandu and Pokhara. We have seen only one foreigner along the entire drive so far. The friendliness here is not agenda-based as it sometimes is in India (meaning they are being nice to you b/c they want something from you); the people here are just genuinely good-hearted people. Elad and I were so happy to be back. Plus this country has possibly the most blessed landscape in the world, with it's lush farmland, rolling hills, flowing rivers and, of course, the great Himalayan Mountains. Cheesy as it may sound, but no monument, ruin, temple or other man-made creation can surpass the sublime beauty of nature. All along the drive, all
we see are green, green and more green. Oh, and tons of smiles, waves and "bye bye."
After driving about 150 km, we decided to stop over at Bardiya National Park which is less famous than Chitwan Nat'l Park b/c of its far distance from Kathmandu and Pokhara. The guy said that they get about 5% of tourists while Chitwan gets 95%. We had a group of touts follow us into the park, and we chose to follow Laxman, the quietest one of the bunch (the others were soooo annoying). The first night, we chilled around in the lodge and played the guitar and local Nepali drum, while singing Nepali folk songs ("Leh sam pre li li"). Was quite nice.
The next morning, we had a pleasant surprise. While Laxman went out "fishing" (a term they use for getting customers from the main road), he saw a Dutch couple, Wim and Peet, who knew Elad. Wim and Peet are a mid-aged married couple who bicycled from Turkey through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and now Nepal, with plans to cycle from China to Tibet, then through Southeast Asia to Australia, then from Alaska through Canada, America, Mexico, Central America
on our attempt to leave Butwal
and then South America. They took a detour in their plans when they arrived into India; Wim sensed too much danger from the Indian roads, so they motorbiked through India. During their journey, they met Elad and from there, the three of them spent a few weeks traveling together.
Imagine Elad's pleasant surprise when Wim and Peet bicycled into our lodge! He had already told me lots about them, so it was nice to finally meet them. They have a website if you want to check: Wim and Peet
. The two had originally planned to stay for a few hours, but ended up staying two nights, and we heard some hi-la-ri-ous road stories from them.
From Bardiya, we did about 100 km to Nepal Gung, which is another border town along south west Nepal. Nothing much going on there.
From Nepal Gung, we drove about 200 km for Butwal, and along the way, we had two motorcycle malfunctions. The first was a problem with this small tube-cylinder thing that got clogged (ok, I don't know the "technical" names for these things), which was stopping the reserve fuel from going through. Elad fixed it within an hour, and we took
off again... but the problem was that there were no petrol stations along the drive... only diesel. So we eventually ran out of gas. While we were pulled over the side of the road, a minute later, an Enfield came along, so we flagged him down and he donated a liter of petrol (he refused our money). See what I mean about the niceness here?
We planned to stay only one night in Butwal, but when we took off the next morning, a mere 5 km out of town, the bike's gears stopped working. Elad tried to fix it, but a part was broken so we flagged someone for help, took Mike for repair, and was back in Butwal for a second night.
From Butwal, we decided to forgo Chitwan and took off for Pokhara, which was about 150 km away. The drive was simply b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! The entire drive was soooo amazing, with beautiful, climbing paddy fields, fertile mountainous landscape and clear flowing rivers. Wowwwwwww! The entire drive was a treat, and it was the first time that I had not been restless on the bike, as the scenery was just too enticing! One of the highlights (there
were just too many) was when we were rounding a corner on the mountain and all of a sudden, we were greeted by the Himalayas peeking over the mountains. WOW. Just breathtaking.
We finally arrived in Pokhara and it was a nice feeling to be back to this sleepy, lakeside town. After doing about 1,000 km from Rishikesh to Pokhara on Mike, a part of me was ecstatic that we would no longer have to do the grueling drives under the hyperactive sun...but still a bit sad, nonetheless.
As the unofficial Korean-food ambassador, I had raved so much about Korean food to Elad (and every other person I met), so we of course had to eat it. I took Elad and some other travelers out for Korean food at a place called Hangook Sarang-- three different groups, three different occasions. I was so sick of Korean food by then. I had been eagerly anticipating kimchi, bulgogi, samgyupsal, donkatsu, japchae, ban chan, etc, but sheesh, talk about mediocre Korean food overload. I kept telling each group, "Korean food is much better than here," but all of them didn't seem to mind, and thoroughly enjoyed the dishes. Later I found
my third and last night of being a Korean food ambassader in Pokhara (we're eating sam-gyup sal and bulgogi!)
out that the Korean restaurant on the other side of the lake is 100x better. :( By then, I couldn't even think of eating Korean for dinner again.
Most of the time in Pokhara was spent at the Busy Bee, and I bumped into Gali, who I had met in Varansi, while Elad bumped into a girl he knew from back home. So that's how the days in Pokhara passed. I may very well be the only person to go to Pokhara (two times) and not have done a trek. Does the climb to the World Peace Pagoda count? I think so. :)
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