9 Jul

Everyone is fine in Nepal.

Everyone is fine in Nepal.

Pokhara to Lucknow

“HOW ARE YOU I AM FINE”.

Across Asia the little bits of English that people learn are consistent across each country, especially with children. In Nepal all kids know the above phrase, and shout it at you from roadsides, houses or far away football pitches, always raising a smile from me and a guffawing laugh from them.

Leaving Pokhara we had one final night drinking whisky by campfire under the Himalayan stars before climbing back out of the mountains and enjoying a long downhill to cross back into India for our final stretch to Delhi.

Now, some months earlier, in my standard disorganised haste to sort at Indian visa i’d ticked the wrong box on my application which restricted me to two visits to India, both of which i had now used up. With no Plan B i nervously approached the border control, my only hope that they wouldn’t notice my first entry stamp which was on a previous page.

The three of us sat in a sweaty room as they processed our passports and a short while later two passports arrived back. They keep hold of mine, made some phone calls, tapped some computer keys, as this sweaty english cyclist grew quickly sweatier still.

After a further 15 mins i tried to offer my assistance to any concerns they might have but was sharply told to sit down.

And then, without warning i was stamped and through the border.

Although i definitely shouldn’t have been, I was back in.

A good example of the level of expertise we were dealing with was that the border agent then trying to make a profit on both changing our currency and selling us marijuana.

We headed into a deep misty red India sunset towards Nagar. Guy took on the negotiation for a room at a small guest house. He returned having agreed a standard room price but with one with free naan bread each, which Pete and I agreed was a level of negotiation creativity we had yet to explore.

The next days heading towards Lucknow were fast paced as we rocketed along the flats of northern India. Days were, as always, interspersed with beautiful examples of the Indian experience.

We’d live off a dish of super noodles with an egg thrown in as a staple dish that was delicious and easy to find. Talking to cafe owner in Basti we asked ‘do you sell noodles?’, he replied ‘yes sir’. We sat down. ‘Three noodles please’. He replied, ‘I don’t sell noodles’.

Mopeds continue to pull up alongside regularly, chatting away or asking for us to stop for a photo. An off duty policeman stopped us and asked Guy to hold his small baby as we stood and had pictures taken.

Even if they speak no english, it has become very easy to hold a conversation by guesswork alone.

Almost every conversation goes like this:

(Moped pulls up along side)
‘Hello.’
‘Hello’
[Question 1 in Hindi]
‘England’
‘Ah. Engerland’

[Questions 2 in Hindi]
‘I’m cycling to Lucknow.’

[Questions 3 in Hindi]
‘Im not married’

[Question 4 in Hindi]
‘I have no religion.’

[Question 4 repeated]
‘I have no religion.’

[Question 4 repeated]
‘I have no religion.’

[Question 4 repeated]
‘I am christian.’
‘Ah Christian.
Photo?

The order sometimes changes but the content never does.

We stop, a photo is taken, a hand is shaken, pedalling resumes and soon after the process will start again.

Arriving in Lucknow, a few days was spent taking in the crazy sprawl and enjoying the beautiful ancient architecture hidden in all corners of the city. The usual juxtaposition of desperate poor and hugely grandiose monuments reminds you of the Indian priority machine at work, as we spent an evening walking the 7 Billion Rupee Ambedkar Park memorial completed only in 2007.

From here we head to Agra and Delhi with our final kilometres on India soil, the last  pedalling in this crazy, exhausting but hugely addictive country.

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Bike broken.

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Bike fixed by Team Peach Maintenance Team (Nepalese branch).

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Noodles.

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Nepal.

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Back in.

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Roadside maintenance support.

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Guy with someones baby.

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Remembering why we invited him.

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Lucknow.

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Guy and Tuktuk driver exploring park.

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Ambedkar Memorial, Lucknow.

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