Fact: I am the only person I have seen in the traffic who looks over their shoulder, left and right. Vehicles swarm around you, cut in from the left and right with complete disregard for right of way. Afer a short while I got the hang of crossing a main junction. It generally works out better if you can use a big truck as a shield or form a gang of other bikers to assault the junction. As the day wears on and it gets to rush hour the traffic noise takes on a different tone – horns sound angrier as vehicles try and push past each other. I really should have got off the road but was loving weaving in and out of the traffic. Out of all the adventurous sports I have tried – this was without doubt the best – waiting until rush hour then zooming about for hours in the traffic. A distinct lack of road signs makes life entertaining and downright difficult after dark!
The traffic men and women do an incredible job herding the seething mass of trucks, buses, tuc tucs, bikes, rickshaws, cows and dogs along. In some places pedestrians take their lives in their hands to cross the road. Officially they like you to cross on a pedestrian crossing but as far as I can make out they are just a place where you can knock more people over!
In five days I ended up seeing some amazing, unbelievable and scary sites – day and night. I think the award for sheer lunacy goes for a guy pushing his wheel chair bound mate out into the oncoming flow of traffic on the ring road, in the rush hour and after dark! Again, I shouldn’t have gone out at night but after surviving the Ring Road in the dark at rush hour I felt quite at home coming back from Bhaktapur on the treacherous Arniko Highway at night.
I have taken a couple of videos of the traffic as I was riding – gave a friend a near heart attack when I told them that! I reassured them that I had gaffer taped the camera to my coat and did not operate the camera while driving – safety first! Had a close call with a lunatic dog that tried to take on and kill a tractor on the Ring Road – boot was at the ready as I was next in line but thankfully it lost interest. I’m a dog lover but I didn’t fancy being dismounted by a crazy dog! I only had to give one taxis bumper a good kicking in the rush hour – either that or be flattened! My new boots are more than broken in now and half an hour with a shoe shine guy had them looking presentable again!…now in Pokhara taking it easy…but going to find a bike tomorrow!
Despite having had a bike licence for 24 years driving a motorbike in Kathmandu is a crazy thing to do for a westerner as there are no rules of the road..well, there are, sort of..I was told. I decided to assume that everyone was trying to kill me and I would probably be ok. I know the city quite well but was really looking forward to having the freedom to go where I wanted. I did the sensible thing and put on some jeans and my Altberg Field and Fells hoping to keep some skin and feet intact if I came off – not much use when you are crushed by a huge TATA truck but it made me feel erm..invincible haha! Passport in pocket with a stream of contact details and off I shot around the back streets of Thamel to see what the bike either did or didn’t do!
The side streets were overcrowded with rickshaws, sleeping dogs and I could have done with an off road bike instead of standing on the bike pegs to stop myself from being shaken to pieces. After I got used to the bikes funny little ways of jumping out of gear at critical times I decided to pile out onto the main roads.
The day temperature is still quite warm and the sun provides a glare through the polluted air but after a short while I ditched my Oakleys as it was difficult to make out hazards on the ground that could cause a skid or completely dismount the unwary. These ranged from all manner of liquids, solids, drain holes with no cover, chunks of concrete, metal post sprouting out the tarmac and shop owners throwing buckets of water on the pavements and road to tamp down the dust.
Within half an hour I had survived head to heads with buses, avoided being crushed in a stealth like pincer movement from the rear by TATA trucks and another motorbike sliding across the road followed by the owners flip flop. I managed to out run a left flank attack from a bus but my luck ran out when I went off roading on the Honda..Yeah, I know..stupid..but I had to do it!
The plan for the day was to head north out of town through Lazimpat after a couple of jabs at the CIWEC health clinic. Curiosity got the better of me as the road started to get steeper and steeper and more potholed. I decided enough was enough and failed miserably on a U turn on the track- felt the bike going over and decided not to fight it and try and lay it down. The plan worked – just as well as I was literally less than 6 inches away from a 10ft drop into a monsoon drainage channel full of erm nasty smelly stuff! One scuffed bike and elbow later I was haring back down the track into the centre of town.
Over the next few days I will be catching up on photos and course write ups – have found some electricity to use that doesn’t electrocute me too much!
Left the Peak District in a taxi for Manchester Airport. Had a great drive by B and G Taxis from Buxton over the tops of Cheshire to avoid traffic. Was a lovely journey looking at all the snow and part of me didn’t want to leave the Peaks but I was also looking forward to Nepal.
I flew with Etihad: flew with them to Thailand on a trip organised by Wicker Camp – Muay Thai Boxing club in Sheffield and found the airline to be comfortable and reasonably priced. I enjoyed the journey to Abu Dhabi which flew past with a selection of movies and good quality food – all in Coral Class (Economy). I wasn’t ready for getting of the plane six hours later as I was still busy with the on board entertainment. Abu Dhabi airport is a good place to stay for a few hours with a wide selection of Duty Free. Next stop was Tribhuvan Airport – Kathmandu after fours hours of more movies and regular feeding!
First thought on getting off the plane was ‘Woop! what mischief can I get up to’! Kathmandu Guest House arranged a free pick up for me. The hotel is located in the centre of Thamel – tourist District. The ambience there is great and I have stayed there over the last five visits. There are other places to stay for the same money with more modern facilities. However, it may be a little worn around the edges but the staff are friendly and helpful, the gardens are lovely – many a book has been written in the gardens – it’s one of the places I go to have a good think and decide where High Peak First Aid is going next.
Shortly after arriving I had sorted out a flight to Everest for Christmas Day, checked out the gear shops for ‘North Face’ Jackets and bags – posted an update on Face Book for friends orders and found a motorbike for hire. The choice for the bike was difficult! I wanted the Royal Enfield. However, the gear system is different and parts would be expensive in a crash. So after a chat to the shop owner I decided on a 150cc Honda – parts came from India so were cheap!..couldn’t wait to get up the next day to go and explore!
Happy New Year from Nepal! Latest news section is going to be very busy over the next month. We are just coming up to our fourteenth year The last few courses of this year have taken place in the Peak District at our venue, with Mountainbiking Spain at Almanzora and we will see out this year with a course for Paddle Nepal in Pokhara and welcome in 2011 with a second course for them as well:a good start to the year. Courses will be running throughout January as usual in the Peak District and at other locations where we have group bookings. So, if you want to know what happens on a Mountain Biking Wilderness First Aid Course in Spain, wondered about rafting in Nepal and combining it with our course then this is the place to look each day as I will be posting regular updates and photos. I’m off to the Trisuli River for Wilderness First Aid Training until 4th January – so more updates and photos later!