So ends our Nepalese adventure, (holiday from India?), and while we only saw a small part of Nepal, I feel as though we got a good taste of what it has to offer. We spent half our time hiking in the mountains, half of it riding Betsy to Muktinath and back, and the other three quarters just hanging out in Pokhara.
There we made friends with the staff at our three favourite restaurants, chatted to Dilli (the world’s greatest hotel manager), and generally took the piss out of DaveG, henceforth to be known as SherpaG, (more on that later, bear with me, this is a long one…)
On entering Nepal it was incredible how quickly the vibe changed as we crossed the border. We left a frantic, staring, honking, dusty India, and even just at the Immigration booth, the simple act of being loaned a pen and casually asked where we’d come from and where we were going, then welcomed to Nepal… it was so refreshing. You don’t remember you’ve missed somethings until they come back to you.
We arrived in Pokhara a day earlier than intended to find our planned hotel full, so we went next door to Hotel Stay Well where we were greeted by Dilli. Dilli is a rare human being in the hotel industry, who actually cares more about making friends with people, than making money out of them.
He personally came with me to the petrol station to make sure I didn’t have to line up for fuel, he found me an extra jerry can, and then took me to the other side of town to find oil for Betsy. He came out on a 2hr drive to welcome Sal and I back from the ABC trek, and was standing at the end with a can of cold beer in each outstretched hand! He found SherpaG a motorbike to join Sal and I on the ride to Muktinath, he organised meat from the markets for a couple of BBQ’s we had in the hotel garden, and even put on a cake and candles for SherpaG’s birthday! Quite amazing.
We were really sad that he had to go to Kathmandu for the last few days we were in Pokhara, but even then, he managed to intercept SherpaG when he arrived there in transit, and took him out for Momo’s and beers.
If anyone reading this ever goes to Pokhara, Stay Well hotel is the place to be.
Aside from Dilli, there was Suriya, who worked at the restaurant next door to Stay Well. Suriya got our attention when he recommended to Sal that she should not have a glass of wine because the bottle had been open a few days, and the next day he suggested we might want some more milk for our coffee because it was all gone. These might seem like simple things to you, but by Nepali standards, Suriya is a god amongst men.
We made friends immediately, and we all seemed to revel in the monotonous routine we quickly settled on.
Morning: Poached eggs for breakfast with plain toast, fried eggs for SherpaG. One pot of black coffee, milk on the side. Salt and pepper, and Tabasco for Sally. A second pot of coffee. The bill please.
Lunch: Dahl with rice for Sally, Spaghetti Bolognaise with extra chilli for me, Carbonara for SherpaG and a plate of communal momo’s. One beer, very cold, three glasses. A second beer, and often a third. The bill please.
Dinner: Same as lunch, but with Red wine instead of beer. If they were out of red wine, or the wine they had was too old, we were free to bring our own in.
For Sherp’s birthday, we even managed to organise a tray with the following ingredients…
3 shots of vodka
2 shots of kahlua
An ice bucket
A cocktail shaker
A bucket of ice
3 Martini Glasses
While that was being organised I ran down the road and got three espresso’s from a hole in the wall coffee place.
Suriya was actually pumped that we were making cocktails in his restaurant, and took a video of the whole process!!
“This is like your home, anything you want, you can have here” with a big grin J
Then there was the old Tibetan lady running a little chinese restaurant where we would go either for a breakfast of…
Poached eggs with plain toast, fried eggs for SherpaG. One pot of black coffee, milk on the side. Salt and pepper, and Tabasco for Sally. A second pot of coffee. The bill please.
Or Lunch of… Moms for Sally, a veggie Burger with added fried egg for me, same for SherpaG (hold the mayo!) and a plate of communal momo’s. One beer, very cold, three glasses. A second beer, and often a third. The bill please.
And finally, courtesy of SherpaG, there was breakfast at The Harbor hotel. The most expensive place in town, where the bill was 4x Suriya’s, but the coffee actually tasted like coffee, so what the hell. We made a few friends there too, one in particular who took a real shine to SherpaG, and actually looked sad when just Sal and I went in early to organise a cake for his birthday breakfast! You’ve still got it Sherp’s!
It’s ironic that one of the greatest things about travel is breaking out of our routines, and yet we settle so quickly into little new ones, and actually find comfort in them!
In this crazy travel life, sometimes for weeks on end, we sleep in a different bed every night – in a different city! We spend hours looking for places to stay, places to eat, or to find somewhere to sit and relax for ten minutes – every day, every minute – everything is new. No road is repeated, no town becomes old, and we revel in the challenge, we look forward to the next big push into the unknown and the thrill of a future unplanned…
In that crazy world, sometimes spending a week in the same city, with an old friend for company, visiting the same three restaurants for days in a row, waking up at the same time, eating the same food and finding the same smiling familiar faces, well… it felt a little like home and was actually really nice.
Anyway, enough of the soppy shit. It’s making me homesick.
So we climbed to the Annapurna base camp in record time and we rode Betsy up to Muktinath and back. We made some lovely friends, ate bbq, bought souvenirs, hung shit on SherpaG at every possible opportunity and then said goodbye to all and sundry and hit the road again.
Dave had been our parts mule into Nepal, bringing over some bits and pieces for Betsy (and hair care product for Sally!), and on the way home we utilised his expert carrying skills once more to ferry some items out of this corner of the world, and into a world where the postage system can be relied upon to actually work. Hence the new moniker SherpaG.
(By the way Sherp’s, that hash is inside the bell we packed. Feel free to smoke it now you’re safely home :))
Leaving Pokhara we weren’t really in a hurry to get to India (you don’t say!?), so we stopped in a small town in the afternoon and went for a leisurely walk around town, enjoying the last of the quiet, the relative cleanliness, and the lack of staring men that Nepal has to offer.
The following morning at 4am, I was woken by a soft knocking at the door… it was so soft we thought it was another room, but eventually I went to the door to find the owner mumbling something about bike…
“bike bike… you outside”
“Oh I see, I need to move my bike outside, now?! It’s 4am! WTF?”
“yes out out, bike out…” and he disappeared down the stairs.
I got dressed and grabbed the keys. Downstairs I understood that another guest needed to exit, and Betsy was in the way.
Insert strong smell of petrol. Continue.
I unlock the steering and gingerly push her backwards over the door frame, and downhill into the night. The other guest rides out after me and the owner starts talking again…
“Leave here, no problem, I watch, no problem”
Noting that his bike has remained safely inside, I pretend not to understand, and push Betsy back up the ramp through the door.
He’s a little miffed, but takes it well. I point to the clock and ask
It’s around then that the smell of petrol has finally registered in my barely functioning brain and i point my headlamp to the floor to find a small pool of fuel. It’s coming from the fuel tank…
“that’s strange, there aren’t any fittings on that part of the tank that can leak…” hmmm
Now I’m really awake. I pop the seat and get the tool pouch, then remove the side cover to get a better look. The owner is genuinely interested and hangs out watching me work, oooing and aaahing from time to time.
Cover removed, i grab a rag and clean the fresh fuel, then watch horrified as a new trickle of fuel comes out the bare side of the tank. There’s a crack in the tank, about 10cm long, quite close the the bottom, and it’s dripping petrol.
(As much as I hate to swear in this forum, sometimes it’s necessary to convey the correct emotion).
That’s a custom tank, made in Australia, and we’re in the middle of nowhere in Nepal.
FUUUUUCCCCKKKKKK (sorry ma!)
I get the kitchen scraps bucket and put it under the dripping tank, this makes the hotel owner happy.
Then we both return to bed. (so much for “I watch, no problem hey!)
Under these circumstances it’s impossible to sleep, so I’m still awake at 6am and head out to remove Betsy from the foyer, then start firing off messages to Paul back home to work out how the hell I’m going to replace that tank.
It turns out he has two of them sitting at home, (of course!), so it’s just going to be expensive, and logistically hard but not impossible. In the meantime I check my spares to confirm I still have some 2 part epoxy, which might slow the leak for a while. OK we can eat now.
We eat a breakfast of dahl rice and eggs, Sal skypes her parents for Easter and then we set out, petrol still dripping from the tank.
As the day warms up, and the fuel level drops, the leak slows down, and eventually seems to stop altogether. I put a stick in the tank to check the level and it’s still well above the crack. Very strange, but I’ll take it. No leak is better than leak!
We pull up early in the day at a national park, eat some lunch and then decide to spend the night there. This gives me the afternoon to remove the tank, drain the remaining fuel, apply several layers of epoxy and then put it all back together minus the fuel.
The following morning I refill with fuel and we hold our breath for the first few minutes while it doesn’t leak. So far so good.
We set off, eventually arriving at the border around lunch time, epoxy holding on, and the grim feeling that takes hold when things go wrong is starting to ease… except that we’re going back to India again.