bicycle travelling
preparing for 3onTour!
NEPAL: sonauli-kathmandu

7. August 2003

NEPAL: sonauli-kathmandu

8910 km, kathmandu (NEPAL)

route: sonauli-tansen-pokhara-donauli-mugling-kathmandu

as if the wheater knows about political borders. when we are entering nepal, the climate is for the first time after 4 months quite cool and comfortable. also the people, the hotel, the restaurant in sonauli seem to be more friendly and comfortable than in india. in the evening bine and i are clinking bottles of cola and beer (guess who is drinking the beer). our 12th country on our journey is reached. cheers!

the siddharta highway up to tansen and pokhara is really beautiful. and a good change to the often boring landscape of india. a small but paved, mountainous road with very little traffic. steep but totally green slopes and valleys around. behind every curve a new scenery appears. it is exciting not to know what is coming next. also bine enjoys cycling. even though it is very exhausting for both of us. it was in turkey when we had such challenging roads to cycle. the whole it is going up. in the evening we are quite tired. but happy.

in the next days we are experiencing RAIN!!! after months of heat and dryness it is raining. and quite a lot. totally wet, we even begin to freeze. eating is very easy on the nepalese countryside. eggnoodles or fried bread, vegetabel rice. all not spicy (because we ordered in that way) and very cheap (about 25 cent).

pokhara is beautiful. situated at a lake, surrounded by green mountains. and the famous annapurna range in the backdrop, quite in close distance. though it is raining season now, bine and i enjoyed more than one time the stunning view of annanpurna south, annapurna 2 and 3, the characteristic machapuchre and the 5th highest mountain of the world, the dhaulagiri. it is really amazing!

most time in pokhara we just are just relaxing. writing, listen to music, walking around. having good food in the various restaurants. and hanging around in pubs in the evening. a good change after rough india. we are also going by boat on the phewa lake, and come very close to some marellous blue kingfisher. we are having refreshing swimming in the lake. and - are cycling. but this time without luggage! this is maybe the reason, why we totally underestimated the route up to sarangkot, a famous view point over the pokhara valley and the annapurna range. in the end it took us not 1 or 2 hours but more than 4 hours to climb the very steep road. the last few kilometers are very bad gravel road, and we are even forced to push our bikes. but it is great, the wheater good, we have a superb view down to pokhara. it is a pity that the annapurnas are hided behind thick monsoon clouds.

another highlight is rafting. we tried a lot to go on a 2 days trip on the seti river. because of low season, other companions are difficult to find. but in the end it works out and we are going by bus to donauli, 50 km east of pokhara. most rivers in nepal are closed now during the monsoon. just trisuli and 'our' seti river are open. but they are now much more difficult than during the dry season. therefore it took us not 7 or 8 hours rafting in 2 days, but only a little bit more than 3! what a fraud! most travel agencies in asia are really shit. but anyway, bine and i are trying not to anger too much about this, but to enjoy rafting and the beautiful landscape.

and rafting is real fun. lets say on the first day. the wild seti is pushing us up and down. we are getting totally wet of course. on the second day, after heavy rainfalls during the night, even our guide is saying that we will flip over at least one time. on this day it is really much more difficult, and two of our crew are falling out of the boat. after crashing against huge rocks i am really happy to get out of the boat. i find it too dangerous under this conditions. but bine enjoyed it very much.

after 10 days in pokhara we are travelling on. we are leaving the town during heavy rain falling down. heading on the privthi highway east to kathmandu. traffic was much more difficult on this section, even the landscape is also very nice. the last 40 km to the capital we are forced to take a bus because of a bad stomach of bine. this saves us from cycling a though pass just a few kilometers before kathmandu.

in that way i am entering kathmandu the third time, this time per bus. this time we are choosing famous thamel for staying. a tourist-ghetto with hundreds of hotels, souvenir-shops and travel-agencies. but especially for the oncoming visits of my friend stephan from austria and bine parents brigitte and alfred from germany, it is a good place to stay. good hotels, good restaurants and bars.

it is very exciting and funny to meet stephan again. it is his first time in asia. and therefore everything is new. the traffic, many strange people, strange smell, strange climate...but he is well prepared. not only with new equipment (i just want to mention the cool-looking snow-goggle, his altitude-watch and compass) but also mentally.

our big aim is trekking in langtang. the journey to sybru besi with local bus is an adventure of its own. it take us 12 hours to complete the 130 km to the langtang-valley. a slow, rugged down vehicle. loaded with tons of nepalis, 3 tourists, sacks of potatoes and rice, goats and pupils on the roof, oil-barrels. in and out in a constant chaos during 12 hours. the road turns to gravel, lots of checkpoints, people in and out all time, people going up and down the roof all time during driving on the bumpy road, nepalis spitting and puking out of the bus all time. because of a landslide we have to walk nearly one hour. we are very happy and relieved to leave the bus in sybru besi alive.

the weather is quite good, when you think about the season, monsoon. during day there is nearly no rain. and sometimes we are able to catch a view one of the stunning ice- and snow covered mountains all around. the first day is very steep trekking up to lama hotel at 2800 meter. mostly through forest which is infested with thousands of leeches, whick causes bloody wounds on stephans and bines skin. my blood seems to have a bad quality. the rooms on the whole trek are basic but clean and comfortable. the food and beverage is quite expensive of course. most things have to be carried up thousands of meter. on the second trekking-day we reach the village langtang itself. lying above the forest in a landscape of mountain pasture. a little bit like in the alps. but about 2-3000 meter higher. and with 7000 meter peaks in the surroundings. on the next day we go up to kinjin gompa, a tibetan village at 3800 meter in altitude. the temple, the praying flags, the smell of candles made of butter, the tibetan people... all this reminds we very strong on my tibet-experiences in 99 and 00. stephan and i are walking up to lirung glacier at 4200 meter. we are lucky to see an avalanche coming down from the nearly vertical icy and snowy south wall of langtang lirung (7200 m). we are spotting yaks, and listen to rock-landslides not far away. it is really good to be here with stephan.

back in kathmandu, we have not much time left. and 2 days later bine and i are accompanying him to the airport. stephan, very nice of you for your visit. see you next time!

on the next day we are going to airport and further time. bine parents brigitte and alfred are also visiting us in nepal. it takes some times till they appeared outside the airport. and the three wenzels can hug themselves for a second time during our journey.

together, 3 wenzels and 1 sertl, we are exploring kathmandu and the surrounding the following days. walking around in thamel, at durbar square, in freaks street. enjoying good views from rof-top-restaurants, visit the famous 'monkey'-temple. and visiting the old city of bakthapur. and hanging around in restaurants and pubs in the evening of course, and talking for hours. it is a very nice, funny and comfortable time.

whereas the bus-journey to pokhara changes a lot. traffic is always dangerous, even in europe. but when a crash really happens, it is totallt different. especially when you are right in between.

our 'swiss-travel'-tourist coach is going at very high speed on the curvy privthi highway grom kathmandu to pokhara. the orange TATA truck who is coming from the other direction, is in the middle of the road. no idea why. i am thinking that it will be very close. like so often on my journey. but this time it crashed. our bus hit the truck on the right side. causing the driver and 2 people sitting in the front going through the broken frontpanel. the truck crashes over a one meter solid roadbarrier, turning over a few times and smashes into the river below - with the wheels on the top. the frontscreen of our bus is broken, the fittings broken out and turned 90 degrees, the bus body in the front totally damaged, the wheels and axis twisted...

the passengers of the bus crash against the seats with their faces. one woman has a cut above her eyes, many people (including alfred and me) have cuts on their lips. bines injuries are a little bit worse: her teeth in the front are twisted about 90 degrees in the rear. brigitte, as a experienced dentis-assistent in germany, knows what to do. pulling the teeth in their original position. we are more or less shocked. bines face is totally white. but we realize that we had big luck. the driver of the truck is badly injured. what would have been happened, if our bus tumbled down into the river? we probably would be dead. if we would have crashed frontal against the truck. we probably would be dead. if, if, to say, nothing has happened to us. and we are really happy to be alive. and even quite healthy. but thoughts about the fact, that my life could have changed totally in a second, are even today in my mind.

the stay in pokhara is then of course totally different. bine and brigitte, also with injured teeth, are going to dentist. good news: bines teeth are not broken, but dead. she can use her own teeth. now, after two root-treatments (in kathmandu) she is much better. although she has to wear a teeth-brace for 3 to 6 months. brigitte will also need root-treatment back in germany.

after a few days of recreation and enjoying to be alive, we go back to kathmandu. but the road is blocked by landslide since yesterday. a bridge is also broken down. because we hav not much time left, we are forced to take a 55 euro flight with 'cosmic air' to kathmandu. the big advantage: we avoid the horrifying bus trip along the privthi highway.

in 2 days brigitte and alfed will go back to germany. and also for my beloved binerle and me a totally new adventure will begin.
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