Day 105 – Chisapani to Mugling (440 km)
With two days of riding with no problems from the bikes, we were keen to make up as much time as we could. After a tasty egg noodle breakfast, with a side show of “pig-being-chased-down-the-street-by-dogs”, we loaded up and were on our way. The town we had stopped at was right by the entrance to a nature reserve, and the road we were on ran right through it. The park is known to have twenty two Bengal tigers in it, but even with the most careful scanning of the undergrowth, all I saw was a dohl, a type of wild dog, which popped its startled head up to watch the bikes pass, then ducked back into the trees. Once we were out of the park, villages began to become more frequent, with houses painted in the most eye-watering colours, which somehow seemed to work in this setting, but back home would just look someone had been forced to paint their house with leftover paint from a nursery school. Traffic was fortunately still quite light, and now we could clearly see that we were driving along a valley floor, with mountain peaks on either side of us. The weather was fantastic after the heat of Pakistan and India, and we continued to make good time.
After driving for a while with no sign of Dad and John behind us, Shan and I pulled over to wait for them to catch up. We waited for over half an hour for them, and when they finally caught up with us, their news was as predictable as it was frustrating.
(ALL TOGETHER NOW): John’s shock absorber had gone.
Seriously, that means that since we got to Turkey, we’ve had eight shock absorbers go, an unprecedented amount. He would still be able to drive a bit further, and in fact it was now less than 350 km to go until Kathmandu, and from there we would be flying the bikes to Thailand. Once in Thailand we would put in some new heavy duty shocks that we had ordered from South Africa. We stopped at one of the larger towns to decide on a plan of action, and after debating the various options (John in favour of staying and getting some oil in the shock to be on the safe side, Shan and I in favour of pushing on while the shock still had some life in it). In the end, we decided to try and get a bit further, but we would probably not make it to Kathmandu today. Now our object was mainly to keep moving. We soon left the valley behind us and entered into the hill country. The tightly winding roads meant that we had to travel quite a bit slower, but this just gave us a chance to take in the stunning views all around us. I know I might be starting to sound like a stuck record, but this genuinely is the most beautiful country that I have ever seen.
The road that we were on soon took us up past the hills and into small mountains, along the side of a sizeable river that had carved its way deep into the valley below us. We passed tiny hamlets perched above terraced rice paddies, glistening like scratched green mirrors under a perfectly blue sky. Although the traffic wasn’t particularly heavy, the sharp curves of the road meant that even a single truck could be a serious challenge to overtake. Occasionally we would see a thin rope bridge stretched over the river 30 m below, and even once or twice a small one-man cable car disappearing up to the peak on the opposite side.
With the light beginning to dim, we arrived at the tiny town of Mugling, and quickly found a hotel. The town is the crossroads between the West of the country, Kathmandu and Pokhara, the next biggest city in the country, and lies nestled deep in the hills. Although we were less than 100 km from Kathmandu, we decided to rather not risk riding in the dark. Across the slopes ahead of us, we could see some menacing clouds starting to gather, and quickly got our gear up to the rooms. With not much to see in the town itself, we got some supper while John enquired about an oil refill for his shock. All we needed from it was now about 85 km.
Supper was another round of Dahl Wat, which we enjoyed from under cover as the gusting wind tore down signs outside and threw the occasional blast of rain and hail at us. With nothing much to keep us up, we retired for a relatively early night, especially considering that most of the power was out. It seems that Nepal suffers from serious power shortages, and so load shedding occurs on a daily basis. For such a small town, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of traffic, and it was still quite a long time before we could actually fall asleep.