Up at 6.30am, quick milky coffee, left early, crossed the long suspension bridge over the river Rapti, a cool blustery wind surprisingly chilly when I was stopped at the checkpoint on the eastern side.
Tigers on the Road
“You can’t cycle for the next 15kms,” he said, “not alone, too dangerous.” On asking why, thinking some kind of local insurgency, he said, “tigers, too many walking across the road. There are 125 in the area, no two wheeled vehicles allowed.”
Today was my birthday and I didn’t want to be eaten by a tiger.
The weather was predicted to be cooler but since the soaring temperatures of the Middle East, India had also been warm but near the Himalayas in late November it now feels cold and I have only my cycling jersey and a thin Yamaha long sleeved tee-shirt. What started as an early start to cover 193kms is beginning not to happen.
Small motorbikes arrived, grouping together with several cars to form a small convoy and then allowed to go but I was held back. The tigers were commonly seen crossing the road and there have been attacks and my newly stronger legs would be a juicy morsel for a hungry carnivore but the delay was eating into my schedule. It’s odd how such an inconsequential consideration comes to mind when confronted by the possibility of being torn apart, maybe being eaten and still alive. Hard to imagine but flooded with a cascade of adrenaline it’s likely that would protect me from the pain.
More Tiger Signs than Tigers
Every short while and at key river crossings, bridges, border posts there are prayer shrines. Tiled on the inside with a four armed statue of Vishnu with a heavily painted face and an appearance of indeterminate gender. To one side was a speaker wired to a car battery. maybe it was a public display of affectation or a more crystal-clear way of messaging the gods, I thought it would resonate across the valley and with more presence than the human voice. Outside and hanging on a small wooden trellace painted in the Nepalese colours of yellow and blue, a bell moved gentle in the breeze. Passengers of small mini buses would step out and ring it once then touch their chests in the way a Christian might make the sign of the cross.
I’d been seated for an hour and it was likely I might ride into the night so it was fortunate I had charged up my front light.
There were small mountains everywhere on the near horizon, forested with bare scree where water had eroded the surface or it was too steep for anything to anchor a foothold. The smog of Delhi had reduced all colour to light brick brown layered with a hint of charcoal from carbon particulate. Haze extinguishes colour and only beyond the northern environment of Utter Pradesh did any blue pierce through. By Nepal blue sky was more of a permanent fixture.
Portrait of a Bicycle
I don't always talk about the bicycle because functionally it's so perfect it hums in the background like a great tune which you only notice when it stops. It's how I like it. This journey will prove that the Wabash RT is without any doubt the best engineered electric bicycle in the world. I know I'm sponsored by Yamaha to say this, but it's the bicycle doing the talking.
Beyond the sensation of the tiger park small hamlets remained steadfast to their worlds. At one scattering of corrugated sheds I noticed a girl cooking skewers of meat over her small wood fanned fire. A second girl carried a handful of broken charcoal from a hessian bag to feed the cooking process whilst the other made me black tea. Next door the men were playing a board game. I sat on a plastic chair by a Formica topped table and the standard of hygiene was basic but not an inch of surface could be considered clean. I wanted to see Nepal at its simplest, where further into my day I could analyse if it was poverty, a juxtaposition of have and have not or just something else that didn’t make sense.
I rode all day and some of it is boring. I have met 3 cyclists since leaving home and only one of them was alone. On the road you have few conversations that discuss more than the amount of sugar you have in your tea. Except for the insect / snail hunters of Nepal - must research but here they are.
Scene from Where I Stopped
I think the ladies are searching for a snail-like creature which is edible. They were having a lot of fun doing this, well, most of the ladies were laughing. Simple and fascinating pleasure to observe.
At Kohalpur Chowk, a big city for these parts I stopped for an omelette. My stomach can not take anymore spicy food. Nor can my bottom. The lady who served me said, "it has given me great happiness that you came into my cafe to eat here."
Agaiya village near the Rapti river where I enjoyed my birthday meal. £5 room, cold shower, dry myself under the ceiling fan, again. Free bed bugs. Nice food. Lovely people. It's been a great birthday.
Once again, time for bed. Ride, film, edit, blog, sleep. Repeat
Map of the Day