Day 106 – Mugling to Kathmandu (137 km)
By the time we woke up the next morning, the clouds from the previous night, with their loud mutterings, had cleared away and now just vanishing traces of mist curled around the highest peaks. Before we could start out, there were a few things that needed attention. Firstly, we didn’t actually have an address for Suraj, the director of the shipping company that will be handling the shipping of our bikes. John also got a final answer on filling the shock with oil, and the bike was definitely quite bouncy. And just to add to the fun, Dad’s dodgy shock had finally packed up and was also bouncing freely. So ironically, the only shock absorber that was actually working properly was Shan’s unholy abomination.
The power outage was still going strong, and we were only able to get power back on to buy a SIM card and check e-mails by about 8:30. But once we had everything in order, we were ready to face the final stretch of this leg of the journey. After a quick look down at the huge bridge over the river by town, we were on our way. Now that the two major highways had converged, the going was much slower, with a lot more trucks on the road. In addition, the road was now heading steadily upwards towards the mountain pass that leads into the Kathmandu Valley.
By the time we reached the top of the pass and started to get our first views of the city, the traffic had come to a complete stand still, and we had to summon our most skilful traffic weaving skills to make it into the city. Suraj had e-mailed us the suburb he was in, and the well known guesthouse next to his office. We stopped to ask directions a few times, and gradually made our way towards the office, diving deep into the tourist section of the city, thronged with hippy hikers. And then turning a corner, we were there. And with that, we had essentially conquered the second leg of our journey, through the Middle East and Central Asia. Now it is just South East Asia to go!
Elated, we went in to meet Suraj, with warm hellos all round. First things first, we needed to get to our hotel, just around the corner. We dropped off our bags, and then went to park the bikes in an underground parking lot a couple of minutes walk from the hotel. There we met Sara, Suraj’s wife who had come meet us. She too works for Eagle Exports, their shipping company, as well as Sudan, Suraj’s brother. Once we had unpacked everything and had a shower, we went back to the office to finalise the shipping arrangements. It seems that we can either fly on Monday, which will be quite a rush, or Friday, which will mean a lot less time in Thailand. Always keen to keep going, we decided to try and push for the Monday flight, which meant that we needed to get the bikes measured so that the carpenter could get to work right away. The arrangements actually ended up taking a few hours, and at the end of it Suraj invited us to join his family for their New Year’s celebration. Nepal works on a slightly different calendar, and today marked the start of the year 2069. We went back to the hotel, where we made that very welcome discovery of free wi-fi down in the restaurant at the back of the hotel. At around 5:00, we all gathered in the front of the hotel, and jumped into Sudan and Suraj’s car. Suraj was already at the house, but Sara was also driving with us, which meant that four people had to squish in the back. Being the tallest, I was gifted with the front seat, and while the others made plans to syncopate their breathing so as not to kill themselves in the back, we headed to their house just outside the city.
Nepal is a country with a very turbulent recent history, and the peace process that ended the civil war is less than ten years old. With a government still trying to find its feet, many things like road maintenance are down on the priority list, and the road that we drove on would have Evil Kaneevil down to under 10 km/h. The house was lovely, and when we entered, we were introduced to their aunt, Sudan’s wife and Suraj’s daughter. Family structures are a lot closer here than is typical back home, with both families living in the same house, sharing cooking, vehicles, etc. At one point Shan and John disappeared for a while, leaving Dad and I with the aunt watching TV. She happened to be watching a documentary on snakes in South Africa, and with absolutely no way of communicating meaningfully with her, we settled in to this little taste of home. I never would have imagined that hearing an Afrikaans accent would make me nostalgic.
Supper was delicious. We started off with a whole selection of snacks eaten sitting on the floor (Us, not the snacks. The snacks were on plates. On the floor). We also seemed to be making up for all the “dry” countries that we had passed through, and even Dad had a glass or two of beer. Once that was finished we went through to the kitchen for the main course, chicken curry, rice, vegetables and dahl. Suraj’s daughter s definitely not the shy type, and she kept us all quite entertained with her antics, drawings, English demonstrations and the like. After having spent the last couple of weeks with just ourselves for company, it was great to be able laugh and share with new people. Our hosts are all very well educated, and we really enjoyed being able to speak about a wide variety of topics, their business, travel, life in Nepal, and so on. It was a great evening, and a great way to celebrate getting this far. At the end of the evening, we all squeezed back into the car, and made our way back to the hotel. Although it was great to be staying in the vibey part of town, the downer was that the vibe doesn’t stop when you go to bed. In fact it keeps going through most of the night. But eventually, despite the dogs, loud music, and drunk, screaming Frenchmen downstairs, we were asleep.