So far, in the two countries we have cycled through, alongside sightseeing and viewpoints there are also key images, sounds and even smells that come to mind. In the USA streets had lines of post boxes and the noise of logging trucks; Japan had areas of gravestones and loud humming insects in all the trees. For Nepal to date the key things we noticed was rubble along side the roads and the beeping of horns.
We’ve only just started our journey here and so in fairness it may be wrong to draw an overall impression so early. I’m sure some things will change – the rubble, along every street in Kathmandu, is part of an ambitious road widening scheme, already running way behind schedule. As Edinburgh continues to also introduce a new tram network I can’t help thinking both places could benefit from help from the Japanese. Our visit to the centre for earthquake research in Kobe highlighted just how quickly key systems could be replaced – the example there following the 1995 disaster. However, as I introduce our new journey through Nepal I will move on from an Edinburgh tram rant! ( be good once completed… Question is simply when?)
The original idea for our journey here was to do the friendship highway, as part of an organised tour, from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Unfortunately while we were away the news we had expected was confirmed. We were unable to get a visa for Tibet. However, undeterred and with flights already booked we arrived in Kathmandu on the 2nd September. Our guidebook also arrived that day in the parcel we picked up at our first nights hotel. It was time to investigate our plans for the next month.
While much of the planning for mine and Johns trip had fallen to me it was his contacts in Nepal that would now help us determine our route here. Following a quick call, lunch 15 minutes later and then a meeting with a cycle guide 2 hours later we had a plan. To get the most from Nepal and avoid highways as much as possible we would use a guide to take us off road and to the best viewpoints. Our original trip went via Everest base camp and I was looking forward to this challenge, knowing that we had support as we cycled at altitude. Without visas I did not think it would be possible to reach these heights. Wrong!
We left Kathmandu yesterday and took an uphill climb finishing at Nagarkot. A short ride with amazing views. While we had an itinerary and had discussed the rest of our route before leaving it was only while we were talking over dinner that it became apparent that our new route,through the Annapurna circuit, would take the highest mountain pass in the world. Eek.
We always knew this would be one of the most physically demanding parts of our trip but this new information mixed with a now real understanding of how important it was we had suspension fitted on our bikes fills me with a sense of sheer excitement and utter dread. Still, we are now carrying even less kit ( I have only two cycle and one non bike outfits) and are having a very real lesson in what we really need.
With power and water at a real shortage in Nepal we too face this as we travel and understand just how much we oft take for granted. Power goes off here twice a day for four hours and our guide in Kathmandu told us how he has running water at home for four hours every six days.
However, what Nepal has in abundance is some of the best scenery I have ever encountered ( a rival even to Scotland!), smiles and friendliness and curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here goes…..