In July we headed off on our greatest adventure yet:
A grand tour of India and Nepal!
After restoring our house for 5 years and working hard to pay for it(well Jen works hard), we decided it was time for a little more adventure in our lives. We had always dreamed of doing a route from Tibet through Nepal & into India (the main reason being that there is more downhill than up!). Unfortunately due to factors rather outside of our control, the proposed starting point of Tibet is at present off limits to anyone who wishes to travel independently. The only way we could have got in would have been on a tour party,No Ta!!. Anyway, we decided on an alternative start in India. The plan being to cycle up through Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and into Nepal, arriving in time for the monsoon to have slowed a bit if not stopped altogether. Spend the dry season exploring Nepal, then head south to wherever our wheels may take us.
If anyone out there has got any special places they have been to in India or Nepal please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org . Any suggestion would be great.
We will update you all as often as possible, putting post most recent first.
Chitwan to kathmandu (posted 20th Jan 2010)
After Chitwan we decided to head upto kathmandu for christmass.
Three days riding, one of which turned out to be the steppest road we have ever ridden. 1600m of ascent in 40km, 1000m of which was in a single 8km section. Amazing scenery but very sore legs. The descent down to kathmandu finally destroyed our front racks for good, 30km of sand and rocks.
Relaxing in Kathmandu was far to nice, more steaks, beers, drinkable coffee and even a warm shower. Managed to get some new racks made, heavier but indestructable.
After time to think and being inspired by friends we decided to change our plans. After 3 months of deserts in India and 3 months of mountains in Nepal it was time to hit the beach. So Thailand here we come!
Pokhara to Chitwan (posted 17th Dec 2009)
After a week of relaxing, fixing the bike, eating and drinking far to much it was finally time to leave Pokhara for good. Heading south over the mountains. On amazing winding roads with great campsites and stunning views we made our way to Chitwan. It was all a bit of a shock at first, three weeks off the bike had left us a bit out of shape. We soon got back into it and after a few days of pounding on the pedals we arrived. Chitwan was wonderfull, canoe trips to see croccodiles, elephant and jeep safaris to see the Rhinos and stunning bird life. Unfortunately this time the Tigers eluded us but we did get to have a bath with the elephants.
Chitopani (posted 27th nov 2009)
We arrived at the tiny hill village of Chitopani the hard way as usual! After leaving the tarmac we headed in the direction that some locals vaguely pointed us in heading towards Chitopani. An hour later after carrying across rock falls, riverbeds etc we arrived in the village next to the school. Our friend Jeevan shepherded us to his mother’s house, our home for the next 9 days. A great traditional Nepali village house with surrounding rice and dhal fields and amazing views back to Pokhara.
The following week saw us busy from sun rise to sunset, a daily routine of up at 6am a quick cup of tea then helping as best we could with the household chores. These consisted of feeding the goats, milking the buffalo and collecting dhal and millet from the fields. 9am was breakfast time, traditional Nepali Dhal Bhat (rice, dhal soup and some form of curried veg. Normally spinach or beans). Then of to school for 10:00, the school day starting with prayers and then a rather odd hygiene inspection for the children, not us. Classes from 10:15 till 1pm, break till 2:00 then more classes till 3:30. The day always finishing with sport of some form. Jen introducing the children to loads of new games and activities.
Jen spent her day teaching and trying to pass on some new teaching skills to the well meaning but under trained staff. Dan kept himself busy sorting out the schools rather haphazard electrical system and painting the class rooms. After school it was back to Auma’s house for more tea and Dhal Bhat before an early night (7pm some days. No electric most nights). We had many wonderful and interesting experiences. Adapting to the Nepali way of life, cold washes by the outside tap, Dhal Bhat twice a day, spiders the size of our hands and some friendly rats that would run across our feet in the early hours of the morning. The whole village treated us as if we where members of the family.
Our host Auma was amazing, making us feel instantly at home and providing a constant supply of tea/food and entertainment (largely due to the language barrier). Finally it was time to leave, the village gave us an amazing send off with garlands of flowers and traditional Hindu tikkas. Sad to leave but looking forward to some steak and beers in Pokhara.
Annapurna Circuit (posted 10th Nov 2009)
Leaving Pokhara, we began our epic adventure by taking three days to reach the official start to the circuit at Besi Sahar with a little off road practice. This turned out to be rather a challenge in itself, with a slightly dodgy map we climbed what seemed endless rocky switchbacks followed by bone rattling descents, and this was before we’d even properly begun!
Finally, very early on the 25th oct we left tarmac for the next 2 weeks and began to climb - only a mere 4600m to go……………. The first few days saw a mixture of carrying, pushing, and the occasional few metres of riding, which made us question the wisdom of our endeavours and curse with a vengeance those who had suggested the ridiculous idea to begin with! Finally as we reached the small village of Timang at 2270m the track suddenly levelled before our eyes and whooping with delight we pedalled our way through sweeping forest tracks, opening into stunning Himalayan wilderness all the way to Thorung Phedi three days later! At this point, 4450m up the air was getting thinner and the track was getting steeper! Pushing laboriously up a scree covered, rock strewn pathway we eventually reached high base camp, shivering at -10 degrees and battling with the head pounding nausea of sleeping at nearly 5000m.
2nd of November dawned very chilly marking our final push through the snow and ice to reach Throrung la Pass at 5416m, making us the first tandem to ever cross the pass. (There was a very good reason for that fact, which we stubbornly ignored with the usual British attitude of ‘well we’ve started so we’ll finish!’) Skidding our way down the other side with Dan valiantly sliding along with the bike whilst Jen vomited along behind with altitude sickness, riding was out of the question as keeping upright was enough of a challenge by itself! We dropped over a 1000m before Jen was coherent and the track reached a sensible gradient to ride, then promptly free wheeled into the nearest village of Muktinath, where after scoffing an incinerated Yak steak (we would probably have gladly eaten the table at this point!) we elatedly dropped into bed!
The following day we descended 2000m (although there was 850m of up too, just in case you thought we were maybe being a bit lazy…..) through the stunning Mustang scenery, on dusty jeep tracks to the village of Tatopani which is Nepali for hot springs……….we didn’t leave here for two days due to these!!!!!! Feeling invigorated with all those extra red blood cells racing about we decided to take a couple of days off the bike and walk up to Poon Hill to enjoy a slightly different view of Annapurna and surrounding mountains. Several million steps but well worth the aching muscles that followed! All that remained was the final leg of the journey back to Pokhara, a mere trifle of a ride (105km 1600m of ascent but a glorious 2000m of descent!) Kept going with the image of steak and beer we flew along reaching our destination at record pace where you’ll be pleased to hear we ate probably more than our own body weight for tea……..
Rafting on the Kali-Gandaki (posted 15th Oct 2009)
Switching transport from bike to boat for 3 days down the Kali-Gandaki river. Grade 4+ rapids to get the adrenaline pumping, stunning scenery, great riverside campsites and loads of dunkings in the VERY refreshing mountain waters. The pictures say it all!
Pushkar - Jaipur - Agra - Lumbini - Pokhara
After various setbacks of boils and bowels we headed off east again, first stop Roopangar. Beautiful roads (or desert tracks to be precise) ending in luxury at the Maharaja's palace (at a heavy discount in return for taking him out on the tandem!)
Onto Jaipur, a long hot ride to a city of madness like we have never seen before: traffic chaos, pollution, rubbish and agressive sellers. Not so relaxing but nice trips around the palace of the winds and the Amber fort.
The heat building to 40 plus every day made the next few days towards Agra the hardest ride of our lives. Dan's boils returned with a vengence and Agra made Jaipur seem like a holiday park. Unable to walk more than 1m at a time before being hassled by touts, rickshaw drivers or shop owners.
On the verge of a mental breakdown due to heat stroke and over zealous locals we decided it was time to except reality. 45 degrees is too hot for cycling and we also remembered that this is supposed to be fun after all. 5 days, 1 train, 1 taxi, 2 cycle rickshaws and a bus later we arrived in Pokhara(Nepal). Oh what a relief, 10 degrees cooler and a sudden calmness previously unexperienced in India.
Stuffing our faces with steak and chips, drinking cold beer and proper coffee whilst staring up at the Annapurna mountain range makes us feel like real tourists. But after two months of near starvation(for jen), sweating through the desert and being hassled stupid we deserve a holiday ahhhhh!
Over the next few weeks we plan go on a white water rafting trip, cycle the Annapurna circuit (possibly the first ever by tandem) and then have another holiday to recover.
Udaipur - Ranakpur - Jodphur - Jaisalmer - Pushkar
(posted 31st August 2009)
A beautiful ride through a mountainous woodland took us on a sweeping switchback descent down into Ranakpur to visit the wildlife sanctuary situated in the area. Unfortunately we didn't see any leopards but plenty of large deer and some huge bats the size of Zebbs (our cat - and he's a big fella at that!)
It then took two days of hot, long desert riding to reach Jodphur- famous for the introduction of the horsey type pants of the same name! The town has a stunning fort which is being lovingly restored my the current Maharaja after his time at Oxford University when he became aware of the cultural neccessity to preseve historically significant buildings. Apart from the fort Jodphur was a busy incredibly noisy desert town so we decided to hop on a sleeper bus (Sleeper in the ironic way, as you would need to be unconscious to sleep through the blaring of horns and incessant music, whilst being pounded around as the bus narrowly avoided camels, potholes, goats........etc.) to Jaisalmer for a couple of days. As Jaisalmer is right up in the Thar desert it would have been a little foolhardy to attempt it on the bike, so whilst there we took alternative transport.....camel!
After returning to Jodphur we took three days to ride across to Pushkar, leaving the desert thankfully behind as we once again entered the wooded mountains, cool air and even some rain!!!! The pretty little town on a rather depleted lake at the moment was a relaxing spot to re-charge the batteries and explore on foot some of the hilltop temples.
Mount Abu to Udiapur: (posted 17th August 2009)
After 3 days, relaxing and sightseeing at Mt Abu it was time to move on, looking forward to the descent back down to the plains but not the heat we would meet when we got there. Two days of hot and eventful riding bought us to Udaipur. Best known as the setting for James Bond’s Octopussy. A city of stunning palaces, lakes, temples. Very reminiscent of an old world under the rule of the Maharajah and British colonial India. We spent 2 days enjoying relaxing whilst viewing the sights.
The adventures begin:(posted 15th August 2009)
We reached Ahmedabad at 11pm on the 31st August after 24hrs of travel, amazingly all our gear including the bike arrived intact. We did have a bit of a brush with the Indian customs officers who wanted to charge us import tax on the tandem in case we tried to sell her (little they know!)
Ahmedabad is hot and busy, with a rather interesting mix of odours and sites; certainly a bit of a culture shock with shops selling designer goods, next to street vendors trying to sell anything they can to scratch a living.
After sorting all the essentials we headed out of town, lusting for the countryside. Surviving the madness of the worst traffic we have ever seen, a mix of buses, truck, cars, rickshaws and camel carts, not to mention the holy cows and wild dogs!
Once free we could relax a bit and start to enjoy the ride; tree lined roads for as far as the eye can see, colourful temples and loads of friendly people all amazed to see two white people cycling past on a tandem cycle, their faces are a picture of shock and amusement.
The first stage of our journey has taken us from Ahmedabad(Gujarat) to just inside the border of Rajasthan at Mount Abu, stopping at Vijapur, Modhera and Taranga Hill on route. Four days of great riding starting of flat, then finishing with a monster climb to the top of mount Abu; the highest point in Rajasthan at 1200m above sea level.
The heat(35c) and humidity(80-90percent) have been overwhelming at times, meaning we have to start riding a 5am to avoid the hottest time of day. It does mean however, a nice long siesta from 12-3.
The food is amazing, although a little too spicy for Jen. My favourite so far is the local Thali: a mixed platter of Roti(bread), rice, dhal and curry, all for 50 rupees(about 80p). Accommodation is plentiful, good, and cheap. Only camped one night so far and nearly died of heat stroke! Opted for the soft option of room with a fan until it gets cooler.
The people here are the friendliest we have ever come across, everywhere we go they are constantly asking to help and always interested in what we are doing. Regularly surrounded by 30+ people all wanting to know where we are from and where we‘re headed. Even been in the local paper(Gujarat times) photos and all.
The climb up to mount Abu was well worth it, the gain in height offering a respite from the heat of the plains. Stunning views over the mountains and lake Abu from our hotel room. We are now lounging luxuriously on a rooftop swing overlooking the setting sun on the lake and mountains, what a place to be!