Nepal is a land of discovery with rich ancient cultures and eight of the ten highest mountains in the world. But we were not the first to discover this poor and simultaneously wealthy country. Tourism is the largest industry, pumping big bucks in the economy, but bicycle tourists are still quite rare.
Immediately as we had crossed the Indian-Nepali border we could notice a big difference. The constant honking wasn’t as apparent anymore. The road however, had taken a turn for the worse. There was no safe shoulder for us to cycle on anymore and cars were taking each other over like maniacs. Missing small children and entire family’s on motors by an inch every single time.
Arm’s length distance
To make sure cars pass us at a safe distance, we sometimes stick out our arm to the side when we feel a car is going to get too close. This usually directs them to pass at a safer distance, but here in Nepal it lead us straight to a police station.
An overtaking car raced by us so close, that it hit Robin making the side mirror smack into the side of the car. The car immediately made a u-turn and drove us of the road to force us to stop. The mirror had been damaged and they wanted us to pay. Still high on adrenaline from the clash, that could have been a serious life threatening accident, Robin threw quite the fit, and they decided to take their losses.
On trial in Nepal
At least that’s what we thought, until we realized we were being followed by men on motorcycles. They too forced us to stop, and wouldn’t let us continue. Luckily a local helped us, and told them to let us go. They kept following us however, so we decided we needed help from the police.
At the hotel we called the police, and they wanted us to follow them to the nearby station. A whole gathering had already formed of at least twenty men, sitting in a circle on chairs under a tree and even more surrounding the circle. There were three empty seats. One for Robin, one for Sabina and one for Ross, who would act as our ‘witness’.
A man in his fifties introduced himself as the ‘resident’ of the town. Next to him was another man, in one of the most tackiest suits we have ever seen. He was introduced as the owner of the car, apparently it was a lease. `The driver himself wasn’t at the meeting. The resident explained, the gathering was meant to find a solution, for what had happened. He had been told that Robin had punched the mirror of the car, causing it to break. We explained our side of the story, and that we were not going to pay for the damages. He was lucky we weren’t pressing charges for almost killing us!
Do we need help?
This kept going back and forth for half an hour or so, and we didn’t really feel like it was going anywhere. Only when we mentioned we would call our embassy for legal support, the situation changed drastically. The resident was a bit mad that we were threatening him with this. But threatening? Who was threatened in this whole situation. We were sitting here in a foreign country, with now about sixty or seventy people surrounding us, all speaking and shouting in a language we don’t understand. ‘Maybe it was time to call for help!’, we told him.
He understood. After that there was a lot of fierce negotiating in Nepali amongst the resident, the owner and some other people of whom we still had no idea who they were. Then all of a sudden we were told we could leave. The owner had wiped the smug look of his face. The losses were his to pay for. The police officers escorted us back to our hotel, and that was that. That’s how legal matters are solved in Nepal.
Bardia National Park
We were glad to see that the scenery was changing. The road side shops made place for jungle and the traffic and population was becoming less and less dense. We were entering the region of Bardia National Park . Most people visit Chitwan National Park, due to its proximity to Pokhara and Kathmandu. So Bardia is a little less crowded.
It’s said that chances of spotting a tiger are also bigger in Bardia, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do. We pitched our tents in the jungle garden of a small resort in the park. Our guide prepared us for our walking safari we would do the next day. He showed us a map of where we were going. He pointed at a region and said ‘Here we don’t go anymore, you know. Because of what happened.’
We didn’t for a matter of fact. So he explained: ‘An elephant rider was killed just a few days ago, when he was cutting grass for his elephant. There is an old tiger that regularly attacks people’. Good to know! But he insisted we would be fine. It was more elephant bulls and rhino’s we needed to worry about. And never mind the leopards that visit town every night. A bit scared for the upcoming day and night, we went to sleep in our tent. Just before we turned the lights down, the guides who were camping next to us for our safety shouted through the bushes ‘If anything, make big sound’. You bet we would make a big sound.
The next morning we assembled with our guides, armed with nothing more than a wooden stick. As soon as the gates of the park opened we walked in full of adrenaline from our excitement. We spotted deer, saw beautiful tropical birds, a rhino in the river from a distance and kept seeing fresh tiger tracks. The tigers themselves however, hidden from sight.
A tiger’s tush
We waited for what seemed to be hours in a watch tower and Robin possibly saw a tigers behind far away, as it just walked into the high grass. After that, we tracked the tigers full of hope for a better glimpse. But unfortunately this was all we were gonna get. On our search we did see a few big crocodiles sunbathing in the river, monkeys slinging from tree to tree and all these different kinds of birds, singing and warning each other for danger that lays ahead. It was an amazing day. No tigers but definitely a lot of thrills.
Our surprise was big, when out of the blue Josh appears when we were having breakfast the next day. He was supposed to be cycling in India, not in Nepal. His wild idea of taking a boat down the Ganges had made place for a final ride to Nepal, from where he would fly home. We even starred in his coming home-video inspired by Forrest Gump.
Butwal, Tansen, Pokhara
Josh joined us and Ross and Paxton for two days until we turned North towards Pokhara. Josh would ride straight to Kathmandu. We said our final goodbyes for the fourth time asking ourselves where we would run into him next. It’s great how you can meet people you already know in the most random places, totally unexpected. You’re never really alone for a long time.
The ride from Butwal to Pokhara has to be one of our favorites so far. At first the road seemed like hell. A narrow dusty sand road, packed with massive trucks roaring past the abyss. But later the road became wider, paved and the trucks seemed to disappear. The climbs were also getting feistier and rolled up and down past green valleys and fields. Tansen was our favorite town on route to Pokhara. The town lays higher than the rest of the route and requires some extra climbing to reach. But the steep streets and lovely view made it all worthwhile.
Our next adventure
After Tansen we enjoyed the scenery for every single mile. But we were also looking forward to reach Pokhara and rest in our Airbnb. The feeling we got, when we for the first time could see the city and its adjoining Phewa lake was indescribable.
By now we had also convinced ourselves and Ross and Paxton that we were going to take on a massive adventure. From Pokhara we were going to cycle the Annapurna circuit. A once in a lifetime experience, but one that also kept us hunkering for more.