June 15, 13:00: 80km from Kathmandu, 760m
This morning we continued our ride down, down, down to the China/Nepal border. There we waited for it to open at 10AM and wheeled our bikes through the building. It’s difficult for vehicles to cross the border, but luckily (and this is probably the only time I’ll ever say this) bicycles are not considered vehicles by Chinese customs. Our Chinese-registered "jeep" and truck could not cross, so the tour company hired porters to take all our gear across and load it onto a Nepal-registered bus.
Nepal is hot and humid and reminds me of India. Nepalese people are slightly less friendly than Tibetans in general but there’s a lot less of a language barrier so it evens out.
June 15, 18:30: Dhulikel, 30km from Kathmandu, 1800m
After lunch we had to climb back up to Dhulikel, our last climb. The scenery was great, and such a change from Tibet! It’s basically Sapa writ large: terraces (though mostly growing corn, not rice) up the side of hills, and winding roads through them. The roads mostly carry Indian-made trucks and buses, all handpainted and "horn OK please." The truck horns are interesting too.. not the warble of Vietnam or the monotone of the rest of the world, but usually they play a short tune!
We’re now in a very nice resort with a view of the Himalayas. One small adventure this evening was getting Nepalese Rupees.. the nearest ATM was in a town 3km away! So one of the resort staff drove me on the back of his motorcycle to get money, and I got a small preview of tomorrow’s route.
June 16, 12:00: Kathmandu!
Made it! This morning we rode down into the traffic jam that is the Kathmandu valley and onto our hotel. Not a terribly exciting ride but a necessary one, and now we’re done!
…and the rest…
I spent 2 more days in Kathmandu before flying back to China, one of which was spent visiting Child Haven International, which deserves its own post.
I washed the bike with a pressure washer in the hotel parking lot and rode it to the nearby Thamel area, which is the backpacker district. I sold it for about half its new price to a rental shop. Lhasa-Kathmandu cyclists seem to be the main supply chain for these stores. When I walked by the next day, my bike was hanging in front of the others.. it’s a couple of years newer and shinier than any of their other bikes. I hope it has fun!
I toured the area around Thamel, which is a maze of twisty passages, all stinky. The main means of garbage disposal in Nepal seems to be: put it in a bag and drop it out your front door. Eventually, the city might send around a crew to pick it up, but in the meantime there’s rotting garbage everywhere. If you can get over the smells, there are lots of neat little shops building and selling things (harmoniums anyone?) and shrines, both Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu. Around dusk, people buy candles and light up some of the shrines, and the shops and markets go on selling.
I did a small amount of shopping in Thamel for my upcoming train trip. Thamel itself is full of guesthouses, trekking agencies, and gear sellers. Much of the gear is even genuine, but not all of it. I bought a fake Nalgene bottle.. it didn’t occur to me that anyone would bother counterfeiting a water bottle, but I realized afterwards that that’s what I have :)
Early on the 19th, the tour company drove me out to the airport. Wow, KTM sucks! The terminal dates from the 70s and is rundown and filled with litter. Getting to my flight required several illogical security-theatre processes… the TSA could really learn something from these guys! It’s also the only airport in which I’ve been bitten by mosquitoes while well inside the terminal building. I was glad to be on the relative civilization of an Air China-owned plane.. Air China is OK but not great, kind of like Air Canada but differently mediocre.
The flight to Chengdu stopped in Lhasa. It was nice to see the brown mountains again! I had to go through immigration (but not customs) in Lhasa along with the other KTM-CTU passengers, and an agent traded my boarding pass for a new, handwritten one. After this, we waited in a small area a few gates over from where the aircraft was parked, then reboarded the aircraft via some jetstairs to the rear door while passengers originating in Lhasa boarded via the jetway. Weird!
So that was Nepal. I didn’t have time to form too strong an impression of the place, but it seems pretty messed up. The current problem is that there’s not enough electricity (they don’t run the streetlights, the power randomly goes out for hours at a time, businesses have generators and UPSes) but I think the main problem is one of role models: Nepal wants to be like India, but sadly India is a shithole. And so it goes.
(I was in Nepal until June 19.)
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