Stopped at one of the fancy tourist stops for momos. Too hot to eat. The dreaded climb up the hill into Kathmandu was not to bad, and they are slowly tarmacking new sections. Still hair-raising overtaking trucks to find out the road has bike eating potholes.
The ride through Kathmandu was again not to bad until Thamel where my clutch hand was about to die. Riding past the burnt down Pilgrims bookshop made me sad, you could still smell the aftermath. Pulling into Z Street, we were collared by Pujan and Michelle, they insisted that we stayed at Hotel Courtyard instead of our cheaper option of Hotel Florid. Difficult decision as I don’t like to offend the family at Florid either. Ke Garne- what to do..
Settled into Hotel Courtyard. Expat scene. Its funny pulling into a fancy hotel when I am covered from head to toe in mud and my face is black from the truck fumes. Had a huge cow steak and red wine. Decedent. Met some Everest ascenders. Made my adventure seem like small fry. I struggle with the atmosphere at 3600m, let alone up there, maybe that’s what happens when you live in the Fens at 0 meters above sea level for too long.
Ride out of KTM and back down hill, man I hate riding downhill. I diligently followed my satnav on a road that turned into a small single track twisty road. In the dry, and without Tata trucks hurtling round the odd corner, it would be a great ride. This road went on and on.. I climbed from 1200 to 2500. Lovely and cool. Through temperate forests and botanical gardens down onto the plains. Once I hit the plains, my average speed increased from 20kph to 80kph. Progress.
The plains were as before- monkeys on the roadside, little dusty towns. I found a hotel that looked more robust than most of the hut/trucker hotels. Remembering to put my ‘single woman on the road hat’ back on, no nonsense. No eye contact with men, no small talk. I feel like an asbo (anti-social) but that is the way it has to be. This place was run by men and therefore the rooms were filthy, so out with my groundsheet and airbed. The insect life was on steroids. I’d never seen such huge ants, crickets, mozzies and cockroaches. Yag. The heat also hit me like a tonne of bricks, but best get used to it.
Had my ‘last supper’ of Dhal Bhat and thakali bits and bobs including saag.. yum. A long conversation with a young lad after dinner, he was practising his very good English with me. I loved the conversation… so what religion are you.. ‘Hindu’. And what is your favourite Hindu god? ‘Oh I don’t like hindu gods, my favourite gods are Jesus and Buddha’. Classic.
I was up before the Azad.. just hearing it was a novel change, and being up before it was unheard of. Another long blast along the long straight highway. Was bought tea by a very kind chap, with the inevitable crowc of kids and men. Was too scared about the upcoming border crossing to eat. I am very naughty and had stayed in Nepal for too long according to by bike passport (Carnet De Passage). I did stop at a Sherpa café at the border town and managed 1/4 plate of Chow Mein. What a waste said the face of the woman serving me. Changed some Nepali rupees for Indian rupees..
So. the border. I felt like a criminal. Got back into my border routine- ditched my jacket into my big bag- too hot to be riding 100m here and there wearing it. Locked up my helmet to the bike. Separated my passport and cash. Can’t have the officials seeing my wedge of cash, that would be asking for trouble. First stop was the customs office. Trying not to shake like a leaf, I’m sat down and offered more tea. The head of customs wants to be my best friend. I can’t belive my luck, I have to show them when and how to stamp the document, they don’t notice the date. Every time they start to look at it closely, I mention my love of Cricket or Dhal Bhat and try and initiate a distracting conversation. The head honcho invites me into the booth where Indian drivers purchase their visitors vehicle tax and lets me have a go at stamping their forms. What an honour. I ask him if I can have a job. He says yes, but my visa is about to expire. Damn. This could have been my third job in Nepal. What a happy hunting ground!.
Immigration next, to get me stamped out. I have 6 Nepali visas in my passport so this takes time for them to figure out. Even I don’t know if i’m coming or going. Then comes the conversation about where I am from. Uk. The queen, London Olympics.. The passport chap asks if I can help his son get into the British Gurkhas. I tell him to check the British Army website and make sure his kid is training and fit. I can’t help the son get the ‘Golden Ticket’
Its not over til the fat lady sings… so I get on the bike, the gates are pushed open for me, I weave through a million rickshaws over the bridge, one last glimpse at my beloved Nepal, and its all over. Welcome to India.