Carried on from The Motorcycle Diaries (Part 1)

 

Katmandu to Mugling.

 

This is probably down in the record books as one of the most dangerous roads in the world. The twisting highway ambles through the valley, often a sheer cliff face on one side and the corresponding sheer cliff face dropping off on the other. All would be fine and you could nicely burble along taking in the scenery, except for the fact that this is the major route to India, in fact one of only two routes to India and as such is full of buses and trucks wanting to get to or from India as quickly as is possible. They are often so overloaded and travel at such speed that they lean going around corners and cross into the oncoming lane. Overtaking is always done on blind corners, they have to overtake on blind corners because this is all you get…no nice long straights, dual carriageway or passing lanes to cruise by here. On this stretch of road I saw one overturned truck and two buses that had recently been involved in head on collisions. I did not stop to inquire what had happened to their respective human cargoes. Sounding the horn on every corner became routine, but I still gingerly edged around them, expecting a bus to be heading straight for me, and often I did get to see TATA or Leyland (Yes they still exist and are here alive and kicking) badges from an angle I would rather best avoid.

 

Now Mugling is the sort of town that exists at a crossroads of two major junctions, and as such was like many towns around the world that exist at the crossroads of two major junctions. What we would commonly call in England a shit hole. Two streets focusing on the the trade and commerce of the transient traveler. Nobody in their right mind would want to stop here. So I stopped here. On trying several hotels, I found that nobody had any rooms available and yet they looked completely empty, it was not till later that I found out most of them were fronts for prostitution. They were saving their beds for the endless supply of  truckers that frequented the town.

 

Eventually I managed to find a mosquito ridden room for 150 ruppees from a drunk hotel manager with one arm. In the evening, as I ate my dal baht, he would laugh, say something in slurred Nepali/English, point with his arm that could still point at one of the girls serving food and laugh. To my ears one of them was called Kylie, but she could not have been called Kylie. I picked up her saying 10,000 and wondered if this is how the front for prostitution operates. You sit there, get introduced to somebody who may or may not be called Kylie, cough up ten grand and away you go with a serving wench, job done. I immersed myself in my dal baht and the perceived naivety of a traveling Englishman.

 

At one point the street went really quite, there was no traffic. I asked somebody what was going on. I got the simple reply “Fatal car crash”. It seems to be a daily occurrence here, allowing the shop keepers to re group and prepare for the next onslaught of travelers. Apparently it is a good thing when the crash is fatal, because it makes things simple, with a nice pay out to the family of the deceased. If it is a maiming then things get complicated. Whole families have been known to riot and close the road for days if an amicable agreement is not swiftly met.

 

That night I fell sick. A fever hit me like none I had had before. I was freezing cold one minute and then boiling hot the next. Now why do fevers and sickness hit when you are in a place that you do not want be? What is more Diwali celebrations were going on outside the hotel till 2 am and that is when my bowels gave way and I spent every hour or so on the toilet, a toilet that was not of a standard that that I wanted to be near.

 

I diagnosed myself with dehydration, and kicked myself for making the schoolboy error of not wearing my jacket while on the bike. The wind and heat had sucked so much moisture out of me, that I was close to mummification…..Water and electrolytes were the way out of this one.

Click on photo tosee more images of Nepal.

 

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Mugling to Pokhara via Gorka.

 

I had to spend a day recovering in Gorkha from the fever and replace the spark plug on the bike as it was having problems starting. Every thing was on tap, a clean hotel, pristine toilet, warm shower, a loveIy view and a garage next door with spark plugs. Everything I needed to get myself and bike back into shape for the road ahead.

 

Being on a bike you feel so much more involved with your surroundings than a car…that thin bit of glass and steel is just enough to mentally separate you from the outside world, to cocoon you in a safety net. On a bike you do not have the luxury of this womb like existence. You are out in the world, you are there and it is happening around you. You feel the changes in temperature and textures of the road, you smell crops and villages long before you see them and your vision is focused, a continuous montage of images each worthy of a photo, stored someplace deep in the unconscious.

 

Pokhra is a wonderful place, a ramshackle collection of the usual tourist crap all neatly set beside a beautiful lake. I spent three days chilling, paragliding and pottering around the countryside. If you are going to come to Nepal and are of the outdoor activities type then spend your time here and not Katmandu. Nothing noteworthy in the way of old stuff, but boy is it a beautiful place.

 

 

 

See The Motorcycle Diaries (Part 3 the End)

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