Throwing up and going up.
Siliguri to Kathmandu
I’m ill again. Damn it.
We are cycling along 500 km of Himalayan foothills then turning right and climbing up over to Kathmandu where my mate Guy will be joining us for a few weeks.
An extra sick day has meant we are a bit behind schedule. The days that follow are a bit relentless as we trudge out 150 km days with strong westerly headwinds trying to push us back. The frustration of feeling terrible whilst having mother nature asking for more energy is infuriating.
Into the wind I’m doing a steady 15 Kph, so I know I’ve just got to sit in the saddle for 10 hours and push through. Despite my constant and aggressive orders for it to cease, the wind blows hard and the kilometres slowly pass.
One afternoon I feel dizzy and slump under a tree, trying to hide from people as I throw down water and munch on sweets. Some kids are playing with their parents outside a house, they spot me and begin rushing over. I’m not in the mood, weak and tired just wanting to be alone, so I get up and move before they reach me. A grumpy foreigner pedalling away.
Finding an open field I lady down and close my eyes. When I open them again an hour has passed and it’s dark.
With the other guys now many miles away I cycle silently into the night. Suddenly i’m hit in the stomach by a hard, leathery flappy object. I swipe it away as it darts in front of my torch. My first ever hug from a bat. Hopefully my last for the time being.
The wind dies as the moon rises and the kilometres pass a bit quicker.
The days go by in similar fashion with the wind pressing hard until we finally reach the town of Hetauda at the foot of our route through the opening to the Himalayas.
The planned route Google Maps had provided turned out to use unfeasible roads so our 80km route to Kathmandu was now 160km.
We have no idea of road quality, elevation levels or traffic, and we all seem strangely anxious, more so than any previous mountain passes.
The uncertainty of what tomorrow brings combined with the unbearable volume of traffic, and it’s clear I will not be sleeping tonight. Listening to the others happy slumber only compounds my awakeness. Swallowing a Valium buried deep in my bag I head down stairs to sleep on table in a downstairs restaurant.
Left right left right.
Push after push, switch back after switch back I slowly climb.
When starting climbs like this I’ve learnt to accept that a day of climbing is exactly that. It’s easy to wish a summit with every turn, peering around every corner in absurd hopefulness, but it just makes you mad when it doesn’t appear.
Instead I’ve learned to resign myself to a day of uphill and it’s much easier to enjoy it.
Stopping to look at maps, the squiggly road lines are ridiculous, like long and confused slithering snakes. Immediately going one way then the opposite, switching back time after time.
As we ascend the views become spectacular and the air refreshingly thin. Hazy mountains sit on the horizons whilst forests and farms line the roadsides.
I presumed Nepal was a small step up economically from India, but was clearly mistaken. Up in the mountains the poverty was stark, and the reception not always welcoming. Children would chase me up the roads asking for sweets and pens, so I gave away my last bits of chocolate. More and more would come, some of them began hanging onto my panniers pulling me back as I struggle up the climb, which was quickly met with a growl.
I wondered why the kids thought I was a sweet and pen distributor, until I caught up with Pete who had admitted he’d been dishing them out ahead of me.
I finally reached the top at 5 pm having been on the road since 7 am.
The others shot for the comfort of a guest house while I pedaled out into the cool Himalayan air looking for a star to sleep under. I purchased a small bottle of whisky (for insulation purposes) and jumped off the road onto a bit of disused farmland to pitch the tent.
Lying beneath the stars in the mountain cold, the moon lighting up the distant peaks, i sat dreaming life away in one of the finest campsites this world has to offer.
‘This is why I set off from London’, I thought, slightly drunkenly.
With a strong cocktail of exhaustion, thin air and whisky, I was asleep In seconds.
Awoken by a splendid sunrise as the mountain outline is met with the purple haze of a chilly Himalayan morning, I packed and enjoyed a long, steep and brisk descent.
Descending was freezing at times but getting chased by the odd massive dog soon warmed me up. Nearing the plateau I enjoyed a noodle breakfast with some young merchants driving across the country selling clothing, they kindly offered me a few articles but I was in no mood to tow anything further up these mountains.
With another short climb I finally rolled into Kathmandu In the early afternoon.
A sprawl of a city. It’s a buzzing place with narrow streets filled with action at every step, a great place to spend a day relaxing and exploring.
I found the hostel and with it came the arrival of Guy who will be joining us for 2 weeks, immediately great to see my old friend, hear stories and feel a link to home after 8 months away. The smallest news from England is fascinating now, marriages, new pubs, news stories, gossip, it’s all poetry to my seemingly homesick ears.
We found the only place in town showing the Six Nations rugby final and I remember little more.
Welcome to Nepal.
Dizzy and ill.
Nepalese army 100m sprint.
She took it off and cooked me noodles with it.
Sleeping bag views.
Found this idiot.