We left Rishikesh heading for Nepal and Pokhara. After a relaxed first day we reached our target town of Nagina and asked around for a hotel, but the locals told us there were none. We pushed on but it was getting dark so we had to settle for a slightly dodgy camping spot in the middle of a sugar cane field.
Two more days took us to the Nepali border and Mahendrenagar. We got a hotel room for about £2 although it was probably the worst of the trip; the number was appropriate:
To make matters worse I spent much of the night in the toilet after a suspicious dinner of chicken with rice crispies. It was a slightly traumatic start to our time in Nepal so we were slow getting started the next day, but once we got going it was nice riding. The busy and stressful roads of India were soon a distant memory.
Nepal is of course extremely mountainous but our route initially was very flat as we went across the southern part of the country. We covered about 100km and then started looking for somewhere to camp, keen to avoid another Room 101. As we eyed up potential camp spots we were approached by a local who invited us into his family’s home. We gratefully accepted the invitation and were warmly welcomed by a confusing array of family members (I think some of them were just neighbours).
Dinner was an interesting experience as we were sat down on the floor at the centre of the living room. There was a power cut so the room was dim except for a single light aimed at us, with the rest of the family sitting around watching as we struggled through vast quantities of rice and vegetables. It was delicious but an odd experience. Later the two of us were invited to share our host’s bed. You can judge for yourself how comfortable I was with this arrangement:
Once the others had gone to sleep I sneaked out and slept on the floor. I awoke to the sound of him repeatedly asking Nick why I was on the floor. It was 6am and he had already been up for half an hour doing his morning exercise. We were taken on a brief tour of the neighbourhood which was nice.
We got a lot of curious but friendly looks. As we tentatively said hello to some locals our host flatly explained “They don’t understand English because they are uneducated.”
We were given another enormous meal for breakfast and then went on our way. The family gave us a handmade bowl as a parting gift:
We wanted to reciprocate after the hospitality we’d been shown but we carry so little that the only gifts we could come up with were a one pound coin and a cycling shirt, which was a bit embarrassing.
We only had a short ride as we had decided to make a stop at Bardia National Park. We knew nothing about Bardia except that it happened to be on our route, but decided to take a day off from cycling to go on a “jungle walk”.
We were warned that there’s no guarantee of seeing anything interesting, which made it all the more exciting when we saw a tiger, and later two rhinos. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to get any pictures, so you’ll just have to believe us.
The next day was the concluding day of the Hindu festival called “dosai” (no idea how to correctly spell it). This presented a bit of a problem for us as it meant all the restaurants were closed so we couldn’t find any lunch. Eventually we stopped at a small shop hoping to at least pick up some biscuits. Our expectations were exceeded as the family who ran the shop gave us some lunch and got us involved in the festivities by giving us the ‘tikka’ mark on our heads.
Like the Turks, the Nepali people clearly aren’t familiar with the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”.
As we got nearer to Pokhara we headed into the mountains which were hard work but a welcome change and the scenery gradually got more and more spectacular.
Pokhara is described by Wikitravel as “the most beautiful place in the world” which may be a bit much, but it’s not bad.