Nepal

Welcome to Nepal

At 5 o’clock in the afternoon we cycled over the border from India to Nepal. We had our 100 dollars ready for a three month visa. The border area was crazy busy and we had lost each other, but found ourselves again at the visa office. Three relaxed Nepali guys were welcoming us to Nepal and in less than five minutes we had our visa!

It was getting dark and the area seemed pretty populated. We looked on the map and in five kilometers there was a spot with some green. In the dark we cycled through little villages roads, dogs barking and then we found a nice spot on some farm land, hidden from the road by bushes and trees. We washed ourselves in a muddy river where, because of the dark, branches of wood began to look like crocodiles. The moon was beautiful, the sounds of nature were soothing and yes, what a feeling to be in nice quiet Nepal.

Up to Tansen

Next day the start was a bit stressful. Again we lost each other and Sara was tired and upset. The cool thing was though that we saw the mountains in front of us. Finally after more than a year of being in summer temperatures some mountain climates and views. We decided to go first direction Pokhara, which is a great area for hiking. Tansen was on our way and we had heard good things about it, so that was the goal for the day. But it meant 1350 meters of climbing. And the way up in the mountains was shitty. The roads were still damaged because of the earthquake, the dust was intense and the continuous load of trucks and jeeps were honking on volume max next to our ear. It was hot and we decided to hitch hike. An enthusiastic young guy with a broken expensive watch took us in his truck. We got the mountain views, but Sara was exhausted and took a nap.

The truck driver brought us almost all the way up to Tansen. But still we had to do the last five steep kilometers up. The mountain views were so amazing, and Tansen so beautiful. We had our first delicious momo’s in the cute little town with beautiful wooden houses. We looked for a camping spot quite a while, it’s a populated mountain. So we cycled up and down, up and down. With Nepali grandpa’s pushing Sara’s bike over the steep hills.

Finally, a camping spot

After checking out several places and cycling up the highest hills, we found ourselves a campingspot. A full moon, the forest and mountain views next to us. It was our first cold night, but we managed. We saw a beautiful sunset and had our second camping night in Nepal. Next day we got up with even a nicer sunrise and for the first time we saw the snow Himalaya mountain tops. Wauw.

Buddha

Next morning we had our 1 euro breakfast with one of the most beautiful mountain views. We met cute boys who helped their moms in their holiday with serving the drinks and they were proud to show their English skills. We decided to have a sightseeing morning, visiting the famous Buddha on the hill and we were allowed to go on top of the view tower for free when the ticket guy heard about our low budget cycling story.

“No money”

After all these nice mountain views we cycled our way down to Ramdi Pul. Cycling down was so liberating. In Ramdi Pul it was suddenly very sticky and hot again. We had our second breakfast, arranged a Nepalese sim card and three cheeky little girls were asking us continuously for sweets and chocolates. We continued our way to Pokhara. We had to go up again. During mid day we tried to hitch hike. But apparently the truck drivers in Nepal also function like buses. They pick up the local people who pay a small amount of money.

We got picked up and were first sitting in the back. Soon we were invited in the front because people got out. We did not really get what was going on: people getting in and out. Until we saw the last ladies pay. We try to explain we don’t pay for hitch hiking. That normally it’s for free. But the truck driver could barely speak English. He only heard “no money”. And this started to worry him. No money? Not because he wanted so badly, but because he was really worried about us. How do you eat? He asked us confused. So he decided to take us and even treat us on some fatty noodles with cabbage: a local dish called chomein. He was telling everybody around us the story of us that he had understood. At the food stand an English speaking guy came to us to ask what the problem was. Why did we had no money. We explained, we travel low budget, we don’t pay for accommodation or public transfer. But we were really tired and decided to hitch hike. The guy was so nice to offer us accommodation, but we decided it was enough confusion and let’s just go camping. We cycled the last kilometers up and found a nice river spot.

Next day we were cycling in the morning clouds and were happy to get out of them and get to see the nice morning views. In the evening we could not find a good camping spot, so we ended up behind a hill next to the road with an amazing view. In the evening when we lay in our tent we got a visit from a guy that asked us if we had some marijuana. When we said we don’t smoke and drink, he answered “healthy people” and ran off. Next day was our last cycling day. The road to Pokhara was beautiful but pretty hilly. The last kilometers where going down. Which we enjoyed a lot.

Arrival Pokhara

When we arrived in Pokhara it felt like a holiday. It is such a sunny, relax peaceful city. We were having some momo’s on a terrace, visited the famous phewa lakeside and waited for our warmshower host, Californian Garrett to come home. Garrett’s home was close to the lake and had an amazing rooftop view over the Annapurna’s. We were so happy to get hosted by him. He studied nutrition and was a genius in the kitchen. Making his own ginger sweets, cider, bread and so on. He was a joy to talk to and made us feel at home. Garrett is volunteering at the American peace corp for already more than two years, speaks fluent Nepali and is a baken for all the new arrival volunteers. We enjoyed a delicious hot shower, washing our clothes and of course: the rooftop.

Mountains, here we come!

We decided we wanted to go as fast as we could hiking in the mountains, because October is the perfect seasons with nice clear sights, warm weather during the day and not so many freezing nights. In two days we arranged our permits, hiking shoes, backpacks, food stack and off we went. We had heard the food in the mountains is expensive, so we both had two kilo’s of oats, 12 snickers, 4 packs of cookies, nuts, peanut butter, chocolate spread, fried noodles shizzle, raisins, dates, apples, banana’s and bread. We were prepared for winter. We decided to go hiking very light with small backpacks. Not bringing the tent because there are guesthouses everywhere and the rooms are often for free (with the rule that you have to eat there) or for very less money. Also you can always get extra blankets. We said goodbye to our bicycles which could stay at Garrett’s and took the bus to Besisahar: the starting point of the (click to read stories of) Annapurna Circuit. We continued trekking the Mardi Himal.

Pokhara, stay two

Our second stay in Pokhara was very chill. For five days or so we rested at the apartment, met fellow French cyclists Camille and Xavier that also stayed at Garrett’s. We made some daytrips to beautiful Sarangkot where we had a great view on the Annapurna’s, we once saw so close. On our way to Sarangkot we had to climb 700 plus meters. It was quite a climb. We struggled up hill, until we hard somebody screaming: stooooooop! We thought it was another selfie guy, so we just continued without looking behind. Then again the voice screamed: stooooooop! Please stoooooop! It sounded so desperate in a sweet way that we looked back and saw Ahmad coming running up the hill! Ahmad is a fellow cyclist from Iran who hosted us in Bandar Abbas. We knew he was in Nepal, but to ran into him like this was much of a coincidence. It was very nice to see him, his Iranian friends immediately took the selfie camera out 😉

We continued our way to the top, and finally we had reached it and saw the beautiful majestic Annapurna’s in front of us. A nice moment to do a handstand. We continued cycling a very nice route, way less touristy and at 16.00 we were back at Garrett’s balcony.

Garrett was a great host. One of the last nights he organized a burrito night for American volunteers. He was preparing in the kitchen for hours. But they were the most delicious burrito’s I remember ever to have eaten. In less than 10 minutes the crowd had finished all the food that was laying on the table. During the day we had visited one of the nearby lakes Bengal Tal. Instead of a nice rest day, we cycled 26 kilometers around the lake on unpaved rocky roads. A bit too much for a rest day to Sara’s opinion. But Chris had a nice dip in the lake. We met up with french Leo from the hike and made a fabulous meal with home made Tibetan bread. After these days we were ready to continue to Lumbini.

Lumbini

The way to Lumbini was mostly down, which was great, however it was the same road that we took before. And this road is often crowded and dusty, and the Nepali are honking cowboys. But we managed quite well. Every night we found a spot next to the road, or a bit more inside in the bushes between villages. It got more and more warm. We went from 800 meters to sea level.

We had contacted the panditarama meditation center in Lumbini. A famous center we had heard many stories about. They had asnwered us they are booked, but that we can stay at the Korean temple and do part time meditation and wait for a spot to open. However when we arrived at the center it turned out we were not on the waiting list and the part time meditation somehow did not appeal to us. So instead we decided to explore Lumbini.

Lumbini is an interesting place. It is the birthplace of Buddha. He was born under a Bodi tree. In order to pay a round of respect to the spot you need to pay, so we just saw the tree and heard the beautiful chanting of the monks from behind the fence. For the rest every Buddhist country, or Buddhist branch wants to be represented at Buddha’s birthplace. So there are many temples from all around the world to visit. Even an Austrian one. However the temples do appear a bit kitch. Especially with the thousands of tourist buses, selfie tourists, plastic trash and loud music from high tec soundsystems just outside the gates the spiritual experience really has to come from within. So maybe it’s also a good thing. The Buddha’s get lots of offerings like pepsi, 7-up, biscuits, bags of salt, and chips. Everything one needs in life.

For four days we stayed at the Korean temple where we enjoyed a room with a bed and hot shower and three meals a day. We met many fellow travelers, Italian Fausto from Sicily, Spanish and a French Buddhist girl, Claudia from Chile, and we met Chris’s friend again: Cris and her boyfriend Tim! It was super nice to meet up with this shiny adventurous couple and to hear there traveling hiking stories.

Sara had gotten some bad news these days though. One of her dear friends Sofie died just the day after she came out of her first vipassana experience. It felt strange to be at the birthplace of Buddha at this particular moment. There are no words to describe how awesome, full of life and amazing Sofie was.

Plan B

Meditation at panditarama was not in the cards for us, so we switched to plan B. Find a nice campingspot in nature, meditate and create a nice home base. We bought fruits and vegetables and cycled to a green spot next to a big beautiful clear river that turned turquoise at some points. Here we had some good days. Sara could take time to grief, and Chris could continue his routine with meditation and yoga. We were surrounded by the jungle, where many birds where having their nests. Unfortunately there was also a road nearby, however we were hidden enough. Sometime one or two locals would come. We made our tea with water from the river and started with fasting, because we did not had so many food.

After two days we changed the spot, and camped two kilometers further. However this spot was more crowded. In the morning we got surrounded by cows who were so curious about our stuff and apparently really hungry because they chew on Chris his underpants. Also a group of giggling and staring Nepali girls and women carrying big knives surrounded us. They were cutting wood, but were eager to make a break to see how these two strange foreigners make their tea.

Up to Kathmandu

After these rest days we got pretty hungry, so we decided to slowly cycle our way to Kathmandu and fill our bellies on the way. We had to cycle 180 kilometers and 1400 meters up. The first night we cycled through several villages in order to come to another nice green nature spot. However this turned out to be the local hangout/party spot. A group of youngsters had discovered us and in the evening they came back with a ghettoblaster that could entertain a football arena. Sara went in her pyama’s to the guys in the forest and eventually they moved to a different spot.

We slowly made it to Bharatpur, a city half the way. Here we found an awesome couchsurf address after all these camping days. We met the nice Charlie from Alabama, US. We camped in his house. He was a US volunteer at the peace corp in Nepal and now stays have the time of the year in the country he loves. He speaks fluent Nepali, he took us on a walk in the beautiful environment, and showed us his organic garden. We had two nice rest days before we continued the second half to Kathmandu.

The second half to Kathmandu was quite exhausting. The roads are bad, there is lots of traffic, noise and dust. But we were still surprised how many kilometers we made while taking it very very easy. We even took a day rest at a nice beach sandy riverbank where rafters where having fun. Sometimes there was some disagreement about the sleeping spot, because Sara was traumatized by the ghetto blasters of the Nepali and did not want to camp in a nature part inside a village while Chris wanted to check it out. The last day we cycled the last 60 kilometers to Kathmandu. Which was up, up, up. It was a tough day.  The view was not so clear, so we were not rewarded by nice mountains views. But  in the end we were just happy to have made it.

Couchsurfing and Pushkar

We got the fabulous advice of cyclist Camille to take the road left into Kathmandu, which was a better road and way less traffic. After these 15 kilometers we arrived in the capital! We saw big Buddha stupa’s, the weather was nice and now it was our job to find our couchsurfing address. Which was pretty easy. We arrived in a apartment, fourth floor at Prakesh in the middle of the center of the city. Prakesh made us feel really welcome. He was extremely busy with volunteering with the upcoming elections. We could use his apartment, he was not staying there himself. Next day we were accompanied by the Italian Giuliano who was also couchsurfing at Prakesh. We had such a nice time with him. He could a lot about his work and travel experience in Australia, which made us pretty excited.

For six days we waited in Kathmandu for my parents. Met Camille, Xavier, fellow cyclist Loic and Leon again. They stayed at the place of famous Pushkar. Pushkar is a cyclist from Nepal that cycled for 11 years around the world and crossed 150 countries. He cycled for peace and when he came back he conquered the top of the 8848 meter Everest. Quite an adventurous person. We were invited to drink wine with him and listen to his nice songs on the guitar: “sometimes cycling, sometimes drinking tam ta da ri hi hi”. Which remained an earworm till this day. He told us many funny stories about his travels. We switched after four days to Pushkar’s place and Sara got to read the book who wrote and interviewed him for an article in the paper. Pushkar is now hosting cyclists from all over the world for already more than three years in his villa.

Sara’s parents coming to town!

And then finally, the 6th of December had arrived! We went to the airport to pick up Sara’s parents. It was beyond amazing to see the parents again after more than a year with the reunion in Iran. They had a pretty long flight, but the sun was shining in Kathmandu and everybody was excited. We had booked a great cheap hotel in the center, and it was time for some cheeeeeese. Gerrit and Renate had brought 3 kilograms of Dutch cheese, nice bread, mustard, chocolate letters and pepernoten from Sinterklaas, cookies and some clothes. It felt like Christmas. We started eating the cheese straight away,  but not too much because we had planned some Nepali lunch at our favorite cheap restaurant, western tandoori.

We took it a very easy this day. Went to bed early, so the following day we would have some good energy. Next day the national elections took place in Nepal. There was no traffic in Kathmandu which made it really pleasant to stroll around. We walked through the historic part of the old Kathmandu town and admired all the nice stupa’s, temples and beautiful wood carved buildings. We continued our way to the monkey temple, had some street food, enjoyed some lassi on a rooftop, and tea and enjoyed the buzzling vibe in Kathmandu city.

Bhaktapur

We took the local bus to Bhaktapur, one of the famous Newari kingdoms in the Kathmandu valley. From the 15th century there was a lot of rivalry between the three kingdoms in the valley: Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, because the Malla Kingdom fell apart. A sort of renaissance occurred this time until the 18th century. Every city was competing with the other two, trying to make the most beautiful squares (all called Durbar square) with the most beautiful palaces, buildings and artcraft. Bhaktapur’s old city had remained in contact the best of the three. Its on the UNESCO world Heritage list, so a good reason to check it out.

We had booked a homestay in the old center and navigated our way to little alleys. Because of this apparently we had missed the check post, whom’s existence we were not aware of and therefore did not had to pay the 15 dollars (!) per person to enter the old city. We had a nice evening stroll at the old squares, had a cosy dinner. Next day we explored some other area’s, we almost got caught by the ticket guy but managed to escape.

Nagarkot

And then next day we continued our way with the bus to Nagarkot. Also here, we skipped apparently the ticket office again, because we took the local bus. We drove 600 meters up and arrived at almost 2000 meters. We had a nice stroll in the area and ended up at one of the most beautiful hotels we ever seen. In the garden you could see at the 25 tops of the Himalaya’s, including the small top of the Everest. We saw the sunset from there and Sara’s mom was dying to book a room over there. Unfortunately we had already a guesthouse. But we decided to come back next day and enjoy their garden. Next morning we got up before the sunrise and wanted to knock on the gates of our favorite hotel. But the doors were closed. Instead Chris climbed up a construction building which was higher and from there on, we saw one of the natural wonders of the world: the sunrise in the Himalaya’s.

Next day we had a nice little hike, were surrounded by the sweetest animals and ended up for lunch at our favorite garden. And then unfortunately we already had to take a bus back to Kathmandu, because we had things arranged in the national park in Chitwan. Sara regretted a bit that she had planned the trip instead of impulsively book all the places. Therefore there was not so much freedom to stay one day more at beautiful Nagarkot and take a rest instead of all hop from bus to bus. After a three hour bus ride we arrived in Kathmandu in the evening, got the first “cheapest” hotel and slept like babies, because next day we were in for another 8 hour bus ride again.

Chitwan

Our new adventure took us to touristy national, safari park Chitwan. A beautiful, mystic area, was it not for the big loudspeakers on maximum volume that try to entertain the lots of tourists. The riverbank is amazing, so beautiful and in the morning the water is covered in a layer of fog. Our hotel owner said the rhino’s would come to the riverbank years ago, and sometimes close to the garden. But with the “development” in the area, the little village became a loud noisy area. Next day we had a canoe, walking and jeep tour. We saw rhino’s, a slot bear, many crocodiles, wild pigs, bison’s, deer’s, many beautiful waterbird, and the footprints of tigers. It was nice to experience, but I have to say that it’s not our kind of thing. It’s feeling a tourist the maximum 200 percent. So we were happy to go to Pokhara, where we could finally rest for a couple of days.

Pokhara

Joehoe, we were back in beautiful Pokhara! We slept in amazing hotel room with balcony and flowery rooftop where you could see the Annapurna’s. For three days we just strolled around, visited the Peace Pagoda, had a boat ride on the lake on our way back, went to Sagarkot, enjoyed the cosy restaurants, did some Christmas shoppings, drank delicious lassi’s and enjoyed our bread with Dutch cheese on the rooftop. This finally felt like a holiday haha. We returned to Kathmandu and next day Sara’s parents took their flight back home. It was hard to say goodbye, and Sara had the urge to walk with them through all the gates and step into the plane with them. Next time. Next morning we really missed them with breakfast. We moved to Pushkar’s place where we rested the next few days, and where we met fellow Dutch cyclist Walter.

Christmas at the beach and up to India

It  was time to leave Kathmandu the last time. The sky was clear, we could say goodbye to the beautiful snowy mountain tops and we rushed our way down from 1400 meters till sea level. On our way we camped in the bushes and we ended up at our nice white sandy beach next to the riverbank a day before Christmas. But it didnt stop us to already wear our Christmas hats. Next morning we started cycling with the hats. This had a very cheerful effect. Everyone was waving, smiling and yelling merry Christmas. In Nepal they don’t celebrate it, so we had to provoke the Christmas vibes. At Christmas night we arrived in Bharatpur with some bicycle problems again. It was in the night, we were tired and Sara came up with the idea to keep the tradition alive and book a hotel. Just like she did last year in Iran with Christmas Eve. A Christmas present for the both of us. So we found a cheap hotel and Sara’s was as happy as a child.

Next days we camped in the cold moisty bushes of a forest next to the highway. Where there was unfortunately no connection to skype with the family. We continued cycling during the day and camping in bushes in the night. Until we reached the beautiful west part, with mud clay houses and national parks. What an amazing environment. And then we arrived at Yamlal’s place. A professional Nepali cyclist with one leg. It was wonderful to stay with his nice wife and their two amazing kids. We spend the evening together, drawing playing and checking the shells Sara still carries and the kids were making their own show.

New Years at Bharat

At new years eve we arrived just 60 kilometers before the Indian border at warmshowers host Bharat. Bharat and his family have a beautiful house in the idyllic country side. He was super welcoming, arranging some drinks for us, and with our camping rhythm again this new years was slept through. Next day Bharat was ready to cycle at 6 o’ clock. Sara stayed indoors. It was way too cold. But Chris joined him and his friend. Making some classic photo shoots. We chilled for three days at Bharat’s nice place and then it was time to leave beautiful Nepal and return the beginning of 2018 to the beloved India.

It were a great thrilling three months in Nepal. So thankful for the trekking in the stunning mountains, the delicious momo’s 😉 the great people that crossed our ways and the visit of Sara’s parents. Now new Chapter: India 3!