2 Wheel Vagabond

2 Wheel Vagabond

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Friday, 2 December 2016

Nepal, Kathmandu and Chitwan National Park

 
It was good to get another border crossing out of the way and this one went quite smoothly on both the Indian and Nepalese side, as soon as I crossed the border into Nepal things just seemed a little more relaxed, the traffic wasn’t as bad and the people just seemed a lot friendlier. I made my way along the south of the country until the town of Itahari, I spent the night here and then decided to make my way north. If you look on the map, Mount Everest is directly north of Itahari and I was hoping to get as close to the worlds highest mountain as possible by road. In theory this was a good plan, except the plan lacked planning, I started off fine, riding through some nice winding roads and passing many beautiful villages, however eventually the road became worse and worse until it was no longer ridable and I was forced to turn back at the risk of getting stuck in remote North East Nepal. This wasn’t a completely wasted exercise, although I didn’t get anywhere near Everest I managed to see some spectacular scenery before I headed to Kathmandu. I made my way to the nation’s capital from the East and the roads were amazing, they were in great condition and wound their way through mountain passes that showcased some of Nepal’s spectacular countryside, apparently the road was funded by the Japanese government and it was a joy to ide, that is until I started getting closer to Kathmandu and I was once again reunited with big city traffic chaos.
Kathmandu was nothing like I imagined, I was kind of expecting a quiet city nestled at the base of the Himalayas, what I found was a busy, over populated, underdeveloped, dusty and polluted city, but I couldn’t help but still like the place, it certainly had character. I was planning to stay only long enough to get my Annapurna hiking permit do some sightseeing however I arrived during the Diwali festival, which meant the tourism office was closed for 2 days, this gave me a chance to get off the bike for a few days and explore the city. Kathmandu has no shortage of stupas, monasteries, temples and markets to visit and it is full of interesting people along the way, it’s hard not to stumble across something worth seeing as you stroll through the city streets. I based myself at The Valley Guesthouse which was close to the famous Bouhanath stupa and also Kopan monastery, which provided a magical view of the city. The Pashupatinath Temple, situated on the Bagmati river was also definitely interesting, it is known as the crematoria and bodies are cremated on its steps along the river bank. The markets of Thamel were a good place to find a bargain with hundreds if not thousands of outdoor stores selling knock off hiking clothing and equipment, many of the clothing, although not original brand name were great quality and really well priced, you just have to check the stitching and zipper quality. Of all the sights to see in Kathmandu my favourite thing to do was sit in one of the many great vegetarian restaurants (I’m not vegetarian but the Veg food here is delicious) around Boudhanath stupa and watch the interesting people pass by.
I managed to get my Annapurna trekking pass easily enough and was deciding how to spend the next few days before I started my Himalayan adventure when somebody mentioned Chitwan National Park. When I think of Nepal I automatically think of High snowcapped peaks, the thought of going jungle trekking hadn’t even entered my mind until now but I liked the idea. The ride to Chitwan from Kathmandu was interesting to say the least, I left on the day that the Indian Prime minister was visiting so any of the roads were closed down, this resulted in me taking a wrong turn and what I was hoping was going to be a few hours of reasonable road condition turned into 6 hours of dirt road through the mountains. The few drivers that were coming the other way were once again out of control, I had to do one evasive maneuver that meant swerving and dropping the bike on the edge of a 50 meter drop off, I was lying next to the bike looking back at the 4wd that caused the incident, the driver didn’t even stop, probably a good decision, I was a little pissed off. The next car load of people stopped to help me pick the bike up and drag it back from the cliff without it toppling over and I was back on my way. I arrived in Chitwan covered in dust and ready for a beer, tomorrow was trekking time.
The jungle of Chitwan was just amazing, the national park is home to the world’s second largest population of single horned Indian Rhino, not to mention other endangered animals like the Tiger, Leopard, Sloth Bear and wild Elephants. On our first day it was only a few hours before we saw our first Rhino and it was close, these huge animals are very impressive and they can run faster than us so our guide ensured we kept a safe distance. We spent our nights in local village bungalows and when I took my shoes off I discovered that I had had an encounter with another jungle animal, my shoe was filled with blood thanks to the leach that was feasting on me for god knows how long. The leaches seemed to take a liking to me and I would find at least one a day attached to my in one place or another, ticks were also a bit of a problem, I found a few of them as well, some Bushmans DEET 80 insect gel solved that problem however. Our second day was dedicated to trying to spot a tiger, I spent the day scanning the bushes but these stealthy hunters were nowhere to be seen, the closest we got was finding some tiger paw prints close to our bungalows when we left in the morning. Our third day was spent making our way back to town, along the way we managed to get very close to a Rhino relaxing in a river, we saw crocodiles, a sloth bear, monkeys and countless spotted deer, not a bad way to finish off our 3 days. We arrived back at the town and after a long hot shower it was time to grab a meal and a beer, time to relax now the adventure was over….. or so I thought. I heard a commotion outside the restaurant and when I looked down the street I saw a Rhino walking toward me…. a F@#%ING Rhino, now I’ve seen it all!!!. Apparently this big guy takes a stroll through town most nights to get to the best grass for dinner, he was totally unfazed by the crowd of tourists following him, taking photos and videos. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spent my last night in Chitwan, tomorrow I leave for the tourist city of Pokhara and begin my Annapurna adventure.




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1 comment:

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