Posts Tagged ‘Pokhara


Sikkim part1

I took an overnight bus from Pokhara to the border, quite a routine affair, practice Buddhist patience squeezed in a seat designed for Asian shortness and not for legs like mine (actually I am not that tall but in comparison to the locals I am). Arrived in Karkabhitta early in the morning surprisingly fast, despite the puncture we had along the way (safety first, one tire had a whole as big as a human fist in it and they changed it wisely). Quickly made it to the border post for check out of Nepal. The Immigration officer was obviously very unhappy about my overstay and demand very rudely an excuse, I told him some alibis (punctures, strike, unreliable public transport blablabla) which satisfied him or he was simply to lazy to do all the paperwork which is necessary for cases like that, even he didn´t fine me for that (which I was expecting and also prepared for, as it is an offense against the law without question). Lucky bastard I am. Nearly missed the well hidden Indian immigration, which was a very quick affair done by the most friendly Indian official I have ever met. Later followed the only road leading away from the border and into the state of Westbengal. I wasn´t exactly sure what to do, going direct to Darjeeling or have a rest day to recover from the bus trip. Decision was made after I missed the turnoff to Mirik, along a minor road up to Darjeeling. So I ended up in Siliguri, a typical dusty, crowded, chaotic town in India. Got a room for a good rate and enjoyed Hollywood propaganda on HBO (watched some movies in a row, some CIA commercial, another about genderism and one about the importance about having a mobile phone which can track you down wherever you are) . The night was ok but got fast remembered that India is a country of inconsideration while other guests made noise like a wildgone school class on vacation. Wanted to leave the plains as fast a possible but decided to go to Sikkim first instead of Darjeeling just to avoid that I´ll get stuck there as it happened many times to me, wasting time in a convenient place. So I ended up on the Highway for the first part of the day and reached the first mountains soon. It was a steady up and down and the Teesta bridge was reached fast, actually I wanted to stay here the night but it was still early and I went further to Rangpo, the gateway into the small Himalayan state Sikkim. In Rangpo itself the first thing to do was to get an Inner Line Permit (ILP), Sikkim is a sensitive area caused to the closeness to chinese occupied Tibet. To get the ILP it’s rather a routine thing and issued very quickly and actually wanted to check for a hotel there. Somehow I found myself out-of-town and to Singtam the next town was only 10km away so I went on. Suddenly strong wind appeared and big branches of trees fallen down next to me gave me a kick to pedal much faster to get out of danger, before the heavy rain began I was in Singtam bazaar road confronted to find a place for the night. Why all bars and restaurants call themselves hotels is a big myth to me and it was not so easy to find a real hotel suited for accommodation. A conversation I had while looking for a room:

Me: Hello, do you have a room?

Girl: no we don´t have rooms at all.

Me: Ok, but you have a sign that says here is a hotel.

Girl: Oh, yes we are a restaurant.

Still didn’t get it…

Finally got one in a real hotel, a nice one and HBO was already there…

My hopes from the afternoon became true as rain in the mountains mostly cleans the hazy sky and a blue one greeted me in the morning. The view was nice and lifted my mood a little bit, as the first feeling of Sikkim was not a pleasant one for me. Also it was time to gain some altitude. The road went high and higher following countless of hairpins and the views down the valley were nice if one can ignore all that constructions which are going on there: Waterpowerplants and distilleries for the nation seems to be the parole here. In the distance my planned destination could be seen already but it was still a long and sweaty day, all uphill while the road winds into every hidden corner of the mountain range. Two boys accompanied me on their way home from school for some 5km or so and they had not big trouble to walk next to me the whole time and after all it was a funny conversation as they didn´t ask the tons of same questions which every Indian has in store whenever meeting a foreigner and they also kept the barking dogs at distance. The climb went long and longer and I  drown myself in endless litres of any kind of soft drinks in so-called fair price shops. The last 10k´s was such a mess and I was more than happy to reach Ravangla (aka Rabongla) in the afternoon. This day was an ascent of more than 1800m in less than 40km, if this will be every day maybe suicide will be a better way to life. Ravangla is a small town which not much to do, I searched a telephone shop got sent from one shop to another and ended in an Internetplace where I sent some mails instead of doing phone calls. No telephone but internet, strange, but what to do.

to be continued…


The Siddharta Highway

Nepal´s calling and in pleasent anticipation I will give a route descritpion about Nepals most beautiful highway, the Siddharta Rajmarg. Even though it is an easy and short ride, it has its charme and is a very nice one.

This 1970 opened road connects Pokhara to Butwal, the western middle country with the Terrai further to Sunauli with the bordercrossing to India south of Bhairahawa (Siddhartanagar). Typically for this stretch are deep gorges with boiling rivers, great views over some snowcapped mountains and the rural Nepali life in the smaller settlements along the road. Normaly it would take two- three cycling days (depends which direction you go), but it is strongly recommended to take time and explore the area a little deeper, for example the beautiful hill town of Tansen/ Palpa or Lumbini, the holy Buddhist town, where Siddharta Gautama was born in 563 before Chr.

Pokhara- Tansen/ Palpa- Lumbini- Sunauli (India) ~190km

Pokhara (800m)- Waling (800m), 65km, asc. 700m, dsc. 700m, max. 1180m, min 790m

Start in Pokhara heading south, leaving Damside turn right at Berauta Chowk and passing the first roadmarker of the Siddharta Rajmarg and getting through Chorepatan with the peacful Tibetan settlement of Tashi Ling (worth a visit) and the gorge with the famous Devi Falls. Now a climb starts of 20km leaving the Pokhara- Valley to the highest point on this day, the gate to Pokhara- Valley with 1180m above sealevel. After this warm- up its a pleasent ride down to Syangja set in a nice valley. Ascents and descents are changing but in generally its an easy ride with great views over nice gorges, green rice- paddies with singing farmers and small villages with typically Nepali houses and also passing small street- towns build along the roads, with more or less charme. Soon the town of Waling greets you, set in the scenic Adhikhola- Valley. Waling has a choice of some Guest- Houses along the mainroad, but they are not very cheerful and it could be noisy during night due to the location on the Highway. Exploring the Bazar road or the Valley are the only things to do here, but still worth. You can also continue a few km further, to the next town where accomodation is also available.

Waling (800m)- Tansen/ Palpa- Butwal (285m), 100km, asc. 100m, dsc. 1500m, max.1200m, min. 285m

From Waling it begins with some flat k´s before winding down on a narrow road to the town of Ramdi, crossing the Kali Gandaki River at the lowest point beetween Pokhara and Butwal at 500m. The scenery and the villages become more rugged and rural, the road winds through the narrow dramatic mountain scenery, mostly with a river set deep on the one hand and rocks rising high on the other. Get ready for a long ascent, up a small ´pass´ (don´t miss the views over the valley), but be aware the road climbs a little more up to 1200m, before descending down to Bartung, the junction to Tansen/ Palpa (1400m), from here its a last sweaty 6km up to this pleasent historical hill town. Palpa doesn´t look cheerful from the Highway through it is worth spending a few days exploring the ancient centre of Tansen and the walks in the surrounding hills with superb Himalaya- Views.

From here its an almost 40km downhill ride to the town of Butwal. But take it easy and enjoy the views over gorges with rivers and green valleys. After winding down the mountains passing by a big hindu- temple, were devotees threw coins and will pray or thank for a safe trip over this dramatic road. 4km more the mountains spit you out into the town of bustling Butwal a typically Terrai Town, hot, dusty and crowded. Butwal has a big choice of GuestHouses, Lodges and Hotels, but none are very inviting.

Butwal- Lumbini, 45km, flat, flat flat

Butwal welcomes you to the Terrai.To the sacred town of Lumbini its about 45km further, heading south follow the main road to Bhairahawa (Siddhartanagar) on the roundabout, which cannot be missed because of the huge Buddha image atop, head right and its a last 20 more k´s to the birthplace of Lord Buddha. After Butwal you will see a completly different Nepal than in the mountain areas of Kathmandu and Pokhara, its a little more `Indiantouched´ and flat, hot and dusty. Lumbini has a decent range of Accomodation available, but its a little overpriced.

further exploration around Lumbini

27km west lies the ancient Kapilavastu, where Siddharta spend most of his childhood, with ruins of the former palace. This way get connected to the Mahendra Highway, locals will show the direction.

to India:

From Lumbini its straightforward to the Bordertown of Sunauli, get back to Bhairahawa (Siddhartanagar) and 4km further south India begins.

For those want explore the far western Terrai heading West its only 400km along the Mahendra Rajmarg ( East- West Highway) to Mahendranagar, the most western border to India. For cyclist heading to the western Himalaya of northern India. Approx. halfway the Bardia National Park awaits visitors with wildlife, if you can see them. This stretch is mostly flat except a small section between Chanauta and Bhaluwang. The road sometimes seems endless because of the lack of bends, so its actually straightforward, but the Terrai has its special touch of Nepal…


From Pokhara to Shimla

Before I reached Shimla, the starting point of my cycling trip through the Himalaya this year, I had to challenge a 48hours bus trip all the way from Nepal to India. My empress and my very good friend Tsetan brought me to the bus station where the first leg, a 22hours bus nightmare to the border town of Mahendranagr, the most western point in Nepal. During this 22hours there was only one driver (yes one!), and at one point he seemed very tired, while I hoped he knows some ‘keep awake medicines’. After the food break, just ten hours after departure, he became very active, as he drove this vehicle as a wild gone   that winding roads in a pitch dark night.  I think my hopes became true, but here I found myself praying that he will become sober as soon as possible. The bus was not in a better condition than his driver, as it rained outside very strong, it started pouring through the bus ceiling inside. At one point it felt like in a cave, but I took this as a welcome refreshment because of the heat from outside. But it became even worse, as the viper was not working at all, and driver and one conductor ended up pressing their noses into the front window, while the second one was hanging out of the door to give instructions about what is coming ahead. After all suddenly we stopped in the middle of nowhere with an engine problem. The staff discussed a while, and a cooper wire was taken out of an electrical thing, one head and the belonging arms disappeared in the engine room and one minute after we kept going again, thanks to a small cooper wire. A very drunk man also wanted my attention while shouting out loudly into my direction, but after he recognized that I am deaf to his nonsense talk, he started complaining out loudly about the snoring man behind him, what was very annoying because he make more disturbing than that deep sleeping man, but not enough, as he also fell asleep he cut the whole rainforest even louder than that other one, but for sure he did not complain at all now. After we reached Mahendrangar I got familiar with the topatops of Nepali music of the last 50years (quite a few nice among them), and know how many porn movies the man behind me stores on his cellphone (quite a few), he was watching in full volume during the entire trip. I made the last five km to the border very quickly and was very confident to change my last Nepali rupees into Indian one at the changing booth in front of the Immigration, but here I was told that they don’t have Indian bills and I have to go back to town to the bank offices. I went back, begged in three offices the last Indian bills, it seemed that there is a shortage of Indian money over here. Maybe all the other tourists came after me made a long face, but sorry guys, first come first serve. The border crossing was as easy as always (I took this for the third time), only the Indian official was not very happy about my one day overstay on my Nepali visa, which was no problem at all. they even didn’t fined me for that. After he told me in a very strict voice ‘in India not possible’ , I got my passport stamped and here I am back in India, the country of impressions, positive as negative. The further upcoming trip was more straightforward than supposed. I got a direct bus to Haridwar, another 9 hours. I arrived there around 10pm and it was still damned hot as i directly jumped into another bus to Shimla and avoided to stay for one night in that holy Hindu city. To Shimla it took 12 hours more in a rattle trap, but finally i reached Shimla dead tired, went straight to the hotel where i got stacked last year with a Guardia, but it is still the cheapest in that overpriced hill station. For the next two days I recovered from that trip, got prepared for my cycle trip through the Himalaya this year…

bottom line: did I tell that I hate bus trips? As riding the bike I mostly have the control of everything, but taking puplictransport I give my life in the hand of a not trusty looking driver. This thought doesn’t make me feel comfortable. Now any die-hard cyclist would say, why he don’t cycle all this way, well I did this stretch, even some parts already two times in 2008 and 2009, and I can say it is quite boring one…


A travel update

Some time past since the last update, so here it comes in a very short form.

In the last month I stayed most of the time in lovely Pokhara, enjoyed the reunion with my empress TY, went out on regular bike trips, with my friend Tsetan, in the entire Pokhara- Valley and also had to do alot of paperwork.

Since the last year many things changed here in Nepal, but the political situation is as instabil as ever, since the Maoist quit their government in 2009 there is a so called ´puppet cabinet´ on power, which the Maoist don´t accept. So there were rumours about a new peoples war in this beautiful Himalayan country, but instead there came only an almost three week strike in the whole country, to set pressure to the government. During this time all occasional daily life went to stillstand. No buses, cars, nor motorbikes were allowed to ride (even rumours about the ban of bicycles went around), all shops and offices kept closed (shops were only allowed to open between 6 and 8pm, due to do the necessary shoping of daily needs). But many shops simply ignored that to open their business through the back door (but were still feared of got their shops destryed due to the strike patrols). After some time the people get tired about that nonsense of blocking the usual business and many people start to demonstrate against this, which is clearly understanable: Nepal is one of the poorest countrys in the world and they harm their own economy alot, only because a few political leaders do not like each other. The only positive during this time was, that there was more electricity provided than normal. I guessd that this is for kept the people busy with watchin TV instead of going out on the streets, but others said there´s nobody in the power houses to cut the line (Nepal has a power schedule, where are the times noted when line cut), because he´s home an watching TV. Anyway, after pressure from outside the strike was stopped and very fast every went back to normal life, what was quite time. The prices for vegetables increased more than double, piles of fruit rottend next to the street because sales were not allowed, and still many people are starving in this country, what a paradox. This shows more and more the nonsense of this government- game, if they would really care about the people, why they harm them with stupid things like such a weeklong srike. It is everywhere the same with politics, if their paycheck is less, then they speeding ticket, and the next comes… I suppose also that there will be a mass of something like a newborn wave in the beginning with the new year.

But of course I also enjoyed  many bicycle trip with my very good friend Tsetan in and around the Pokhara-Valley. Tsetan is a Tibetan teacher in the SOS- school in the Tibetan-Camp of Tashiling and shares a huge passion about riding the bicycle. So he showed me a plenty of wonderful rides. Great, we went to areas where the ´onerupie, onechocolate, onepen´- Mantra still doesn´t exist (normaly tourist will hear this request for small giveaways all the way, what fastly gets very annoying, but worth to mention that the tourist has created this problem by themself). I was always surprised how simple the life turns just around the corner from the tourist hubs like Pokhara. Realy lovely, thank you Tsetan for aplenty of wonderful rides, and for sure many more will come…

Currently I am in Shimla/ India, recover from a 48hours bus trip. The starting point of my Himalayan bike trip this year, but this will be another story…

Here a few random pics from the last few month:

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nilam e.V.

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January 2019
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