Wednesday, January 6, 2010

From the archive - Thailand & Nepal - II

[The diary that I compiled during our visit to Adele in Nepal in January & February 2008 came up in conversation the other day. As far as I know only Mum & I have ever read it - so here is part of it for posterity, the photos are complimentary - yeah, they are for free.]

28/1/8 Kathmandu

Slept in a bit, but still managed to meet at 0915 for start of MTB tour. My guide, for my purposes, named Andy, took me through early morning rush hour north out of the city. I was so glad to have my soft-tail bike – and that was just for the road riding – many large potholes! A wonderfully clear day, rather crisp at that time of the morning. We had soon made our way past the cacophony of horns & motorcycle engines. We spent the next thirty to forty minutes steadily climbing the hill road beside Nagarkot Forest – good views of the Kathmandu valley & a glimpse of the Himalayas.
We finished the climbing on the other side of the range looking in to the next valley, then popped on to dirt road downhill in to first valley. Nice cruise downhill with enough rocks & potholes to make it interesting. Stopped for photo of rice, wheat & potato fields & Andy discovered he had a flat tyre – also saw a beautiful blue woodpecker & numerous eagles soaring about.Continued down to river flats (the river is pretty small at the moment – pretty much a stream in the dry season) – there were many small trucks & people loading the trucks with shovels of sand for construction. Another short climb up to a very popular temple for lunch. Cruised back in to the city & hit the traffic the again. There were a number of sets of three speedbumps that were great for jumping over all three at once. Got back before 1300 – apparently I was quick, but probably due to the fact there was only one of me. 32 km, 2.15 riding time.What a fantastic way to see the city & villages & be able to stop easily, yet still cover reasonable distances – so glad I brought my own bike (pleased not to be on a hard tail).

Pokhara tomorrow – am looking forward to escaping all the horns of Kathmandu & seeing Adele.

29/1/8 Tuesday Kathmandu – Pokhara

We made it to Kathmandu domestic in an early ‘80s Corolla – bike bag in boot & all the rest of the luggage jammed around the passengers – a tight squeeze. It turned out that the 1000 to Pokhara actually left at 0945 – the first time I’ve been on a scheduled flight that left early. We didn’t see a lot flying – a bit cloudy, but got a decent view of Nagarkot forest & the valley I biked up yesterday. Got to Pokhara airport well before Adele as we were there very early – the Yeti Airlines flight was great, a Jetstream 31 turboprop, no dreary safety briefing, lollies, cottonwool for the ears & three biscuits. All in half an hour!
Adele was very pleased & excited to see us. Her favourite taxi driver managed to cram us & our luggage in & on top of his Maruti Suzuki 800 (the taxi of choice in Nepal now the polluting Vikrams & tempos have gone). Arrive at Adele’s home, Blue Planet Lodge & met her other family – Ram, Sabine, Tara, Asmita & Madu.

Lunch lakeside & afternoon spent wandering Lakeside, assembling bike (again!) & scoping out a guide for a MTB ride tomorrow morning.

30/1/8 Pokhara

Up early (0645), as Adele thought it a good idea to meet at 0800 for a bike ride ex. Pokhara MTB club. Our guide was 19 year old Ashadin & a couple of younger boys (~12-14 years old) tagged along – rather, were in from most of the way.
We eventually got going, rode through Lakeside (beside the lake), then Damside (beside a dam at end of the lake). The rain had pretty much stopped by now – but very low cloud & mist – a great day for riding, but an awful day for taking photos as no mountains to be seen anywhere. Crossed a lot of fields that are crossed by irrigation dykes – these make excellent little obstacles to hop over or jump off. Winding through small villages & small land holdings and as today is a holiday there are kids everywhere who are all saying namaste, hello or bye or encouraging tricks – bunny hops, wheelies or jumps – by saying “jumping, jumping”.Following the Seti River downstream & enjoying gentle gradients up & down. A nice downhill to get to top of cliffs over big river plain – another tractor & trailer down the bottom collecting sand. We ended up 15 km away from home before reaching small bridge to cross river, a decent climb up to bigger village & eventually a town. We didn’t ride on many roads – instead keeping to back tracks & still seeing kids everywhere.The track continued near the end for a long way beside an irrigation canal & the start of a powerhouse construction. The canal ran a long way through town & ran quite quickly. Rode by Pokhara Stadium, over bridge across very deep narrow gorge, beside airport & home at 1300 – 42 km. A long ride for Adele – once again a great way to see a lot, pity it was so cloudy. Lunch with Kim – a nurse from Canada that has been working with Adele.Dinner with Pushpa, Menuka & Jonathon. Great to meet them finally after hearing about them so much from Bronny. Jonathon 10 months old, but a bit under the weather so we didn’t see much of him & Menuka – he is quite the cutie though. A lovely dinner & there was so much to choose from – I am so full! At least it wasn’t too hot for Dad.

31/1/8 Pokhara

Another ride today, after passport photo for trekking visa, set off 0930 through Pokhara retracing our path from yesterday afternoon. A big climb up technical rocky uphill for twenty minutes, then up sealed road for another forty minutes, then continued up dirt road for a further twenty minutes or so. Still very cloudy, so no good views. At highest point, we could just make out the lake – Begnas Tal. Cue six kilometre downhill that was very rocky & a lot of fun – unfortunately near bottom was going too slowly through very rocky part, over handlebars, landed on arm & chin. Very bruised right wrist, upper forearm & upper arm – I thought I came close to breaking it – but not enough pain. Managed to also split chin open & bleed everywhere – guide cleaned this up & we rode back in to town. ~42 km again away only three hours. Chin wound was deeper than I thought, Adele patched it up & I should get a nice little scar when it heals.

Adele took us to visit Green Pastures Hospital where she has been working for three months. Saw many patients – leprosy, spinal, burns - & not so many doctors & nurses. Good to meet everyone & have a look around. Then also tea at Dr Simon & Dr Sarah’s – Adele has spent much time in surgery with Sarah – a plastic surgeon.

Lovely dinner back at guesthouse with Ram & Tara & Asmita – they also enjoyed the Cadbury Dairy Milk that Mum had brought over for them. Had good meal of Nepalese food & ate with one’s right hand (which was rather difficult with my sore arm).

1/2/8 Friday Pokhara

Big sleep after last night’s pain – Adele up & off to her last day at the hospital before 0800. Up to Sarangkot with Shyam in taxi, past where the paragliders launch from. Saw a couple of chutes take off & also some rescued birds (Eygptian vulture & kite) released to soar with the paragliders.

Clambered up many steps to the Sarangkot temple & lookout. The least amount of clouds we have had for three days afforded great views of the Annapurnas.

After lunch we walked along the ridge line for three hours through villages & paddies – walking was a bit slow after the previous days’ rides, not sure how I will survive seven days trekking. Shyam picked us up at end of the track (on a main road up into hills only built 13 years before). The road passed by Shyam’s house.

2/2/8 Pokhara

Up & downtown to buy replacement SD card for my camera. Mum & Adele went off shopping a bit later & Dad off in other direction for the next instalment in the Yeti Airlines ticketing debacle. I arrived back first & met Kim – chatted for a while, Mum & Adele back, chatted a while longer & then us three younger ones off to go paragliding!

After signing our lives away (they did actually have medical/travel insurance) we proceeded for about forty minutes (Nepali time) for the jeep to take us to Sarangkot. The Mahindra jeep chugged to the top with us three & five pilots in the pack & a number of sails on the top.

Kim was the first to take off with her bright yellow glider. Adele got airborne with their fourth attempt. I waited a little for my French flier, Pierre, to pay a short (read long) visit to some trees & then we were away quite easily – lean forward & pull on glider as it rises & tries to pull you back & then run off the edge of the hill to certain peril. There is nothing to it. Somewhere in there you float away & then sit back in the harness for the ride. The sensation of floating up in the sky in peace & quiet is fantastic. With my camera securely tied to the harness I took plenty of photos of the immediate surrounds – the mountains were hidden in cloud, but that didn’t matter much as the flying was so good.
Pierre was keen to fly up, so we climbed high above the other gliders. Apparently the weather & wind were really conducive to good flying today. I couldn’t spot Adele’s red & purple wing for a while & began to look for it plastered in to the hill side – eventually it came in to view well below us.By now we were literally soaring with eagles (perhaps hawks or vultures) & we chased each other around & around (I wonder if he is using the same wind that we are using?) - plenty of good photos here. Adele came up towards us to meet us & then fell away a bit. Pierre & I (really Pierre only had the say) went much higher in to the clouds & it got a lot chillier & with reduced visibility it became quite disorientating – did manage to get a good view of the path that we walked down yesterday.At lower altitude we went close to the road up to Sarangkot & could get good view of Pokhara & all the main roads. By now, Adele was heading well over the lake before going down to the landing zone on the shore.Over the lake & much closer to the ground/water surface, Pierre performed a series of sharp left & right turns in succession that flung us out to the side – it was similar to being on a rollercoaster, but so much more peaceful. The stomach was noticeably elsewhere for the first time on the flight. Landing was a non-event, smooth approach & touchdown.

Out of the harness to find Adele & Kim both enjoyed their flights – in spite of Kim emptying her stomach while Adele was trying to photograph her & also while landing. Adele even got to steer her glider – she was suitably pleased. Jeep ride back to town, where Adele managed to feel more motion sick than during the flight – she thinks the anti-nausea pills were doing her in – they sure did when she had an out of body mind experience while shopping.

Strolling back home, we met Mum & Dad for lunch. Then it was off shopping for next week’s trek. I eventually ended up with fleece pants, trekking pants, fleece gloves & the standard Pokhara fake down jacket.

We enjoyed our best dinner yet at Monsoon with one of Adele’s medical families & Kim.

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