Love letter to Nepal

As I am writing this I have spent some 10 days in Nepal and I am already in love. I am now in Pokhara, roughly in the centre of the country where I have spent the day getting the permits required to enter the Annapurna national park where I will spend the next 4-5 days getting as far into the park and up the mountains as roads and trails allow. Unfortunately I will not have enough time to continue on foot this time but I am confident I will be back in Nepal for some hiking in the not too distant future.

So what is it I love so much about Nepal? Well, the scenery is amazing. The people are super friendly and intensely relaxed. And the scenery, did I mention the scenery? Green valleys, rolling hills and always snow covered peaks for backdrop. And I am sure their first priority when planning the road network was practicality, but they all turned out ridiculously scenic as well.

This is what the scenery looks like pretty much wherever you go
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Anyway, another highlight of getting to Nepal was to meet up with my dad and brother (Lennart and Pontus) who flew down and rented motorbikes to join me for the first week here. After having had to rebook their trip once we actually managed to meet up almost as planned (only a day late) and had five days together exploring the eastern parts of Nepal.

Day 75 – meeting up with my dad and brother: After failing to meet up the day before (I got stuck changing tyres as per my previous blog post and Lennart and Pontus got lost for a bit exiting Kathmandu) I got up early to ride the two hours from Dharan (where I spent the night) to Lahan (where Lennart and Pontus spent the night) so we could start the journey into the mountains from there. Besides the pleasure of meeting my dad and brother for the first time in I don’t know how long, they also brought a nice bottle of whisky which was much appreciated!

Finally joined up!
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So without much research other than a quick Google maps session we headed north from the lowlands into the mountains with a rough plan to get to a town called Charikot in two days. And that first day riding together was just as sad as it was spectacular. This was the day where the effects of the 2015 earthquake were most visible, with long stretches of road washed away and bridges collapsed. For that very reason it was also the most challenging day of riding, with long stretches of sand and dust where there used to be roads and rocky river crossings where there used to be bridges. And in between stretches of perfectly paved windy mountain roads with virtually no traffic (only bikes and serious 4×4 vehicles could get past the river crossings).

Nepal is offering the most technical riding so far, by quite a margin…

 

And the scenery is still amazing
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As an extra bonus, I managed to make a very solid first impression on Lennart and Pontus by falling over no less than twice during that first day. Both times when trying to get going again from carefully selected parking spots (the things you do to get the perfect photo…). But every dent adds a bit of unique character to the bike so I am not at all unhappy about it.

Day 76 – getting to Charikot: After a really long and challenging day the day before, we had an easy ~4 hour ride from where we spent the night in a town called Bhimeshwor to Charikot. The roads were more or less all undamaged but it was another scenic ride showcasing the amazing difference in climate that can be found in Nepal. From 32 degrees and humid when going all the way down into a valley to cross a river to around 20 degrees when traversing a mountain half an hour later.

Then we got to the hotel I had checked out in Charikot, and it was amazing! So amazing I will give my first (I think) hotel recommendation of the blog. Charikot panorama resort (charikotresort.net), lodged on a mountain top with unobstructed views in all directions. And as if that wasn’t enough, they are also building a sauna! There is no easier way to get me really excited than a good sauna building project. So if you are ever passing through the area east of Kathmandu that’s an amazing place to stay.

Morning coffee in the garden of Charikot panorama resort
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Day 77 – just doing a light day trip: We decided to stay two nights in Charikot and just do a day trip to a town called Jiri. This meant a day riding without luggage which is always a nice treat after riding around with the equivalent of a dead body strapped around the back of the bike for weeks. Jiri was the most common starting point for climbing mount Everest before you could fly into Lukla, but these days is mostly just a normal Nepali mountain village. The ride there was very nice though with nice roads for the most part and a high mountain pass (2,600m) before the final descent into the Jiri valley.

Stopping to (again) admire the scenery
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Day 78 – going to Kathmandu: After a couple of relaxing days in the mountains it was time to head to Kathmandu for Lennart and Pontus to fly out the next day and for me to have a couple of working days to organise the rest of the trip. We had a pretty big thunderstorm overnight and the rain had done quite the number on the roads leading out of Charikot towards Kathmandu, so for the first couple of hours we were averaging less than 20km/h. Eventually the roads got better but as we got closer to Kathmandu traffic picked up and all-in-all it was quite an uneventful day.

More riding on narrow mountain roads with spectacular views
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Day 78, 79 & 80 – hanging out in Kathmandu: The day after arriving in Kathmandu, Lennart and Pontus flew out and I was once again on my own (pretty used to that at this point). I spent those days exploring a little bit of Kathmandu but mainly organising a few things for the remainder of the trip. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about it now, but there will be some exciting things coming up so stay tuned.

Found some cool street art in Kathmandu
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Day 81 & 82 – going to Pokhara: The ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara was about 5 hours and not very exciting (compared to the rest of Nepal anyway) but Pokhara itself is really nice! I had to go here to get the permits to enter the Annapurna national park (where I am heading tomorrow) but I am glad I did as the town is very laid back and pretty, situated along a lake in a valley with (again) snow covered mountains as backdrop.

The street I was staying in Pokhara, always with a good mountain backdrop
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