As always, it was great to be back in Nepal. Suddenly our time pressures evaporated and we welcomed the chance to see a few more places scattered across the country. First up was a hilltop village called Daman which was billed as a great place to view the mountains. It had been cold enough in the final days in India so climbing to 2,500m quickly seemed like a bad idea. Just as we parked outside the ‘resort’, the frigid air became full of snow and we experienced winter for the first time in 19 months. The resort was not everything we’d hoped for; and our unheated, waterless, dingy room would still be the best place to spend time. When the electricity went black, the staff just left us to fumble around in the gloom. Thankfully some locals were having sekuwa meat, flame-charred over fire barrels. This at least gave us some place to get warmth and was a much better option than the barren concrete and open-air ‘restaurant’ half way up the view tower.
One night was certainly enough in Daman and after removing the snow from the bike, we picked our way carefully down the icy road towards Kathmandu. What soon became a painful pattern in Nepal, Google decided to make our day very long indeed. Whatever method we used to plot our route, all roads led back to Google routing. Except Google has clearly never been to Nepal.
We followed a ‘main’ yellow road through small villages and began climbing on bulldozed mud back up towards 2,500m again. The hill of Chandragiri would be our last obstacle before dropping down into the valley of Kathmandu. We could see the building we were going to spend the night in. It was less than 4km in the distance. But the yellow road was a goat track that widened into a wet, rock-strewn quarry road.
Already shattered from some wrong turns on equally bad terrain, we steeled ourselves and began bouncing uncontrollably down the hill. At the first hairpin we met some small bikes coming up and they stopped to tell us some bad news. Conveniently enough they had video evidence to back up their claims. Our road was blocked by a landslide and they had carried their bikes over boulders the size of cars. Once more, I had to turn around then bounce back up to the goat track. Shit. Being within sight of our destination did not make our next move pleasant. The only way to get into Kathmandu was to go back, way back and find a different route. After 2.5 hours deja-vu struck and we passed the spot we had been at earlier that morning. This detour would turn out to be 70km off-road and meant we had to push hard all day, just arriving at the guest house by sunset. What a fuck up. Thanks Google.
Once in the capital city, we managed to get chores done so quickly we were left staring at our feet. This efficiency-contrast to India left us time and space to think. We had to think about our onward journey and work out what it would involve. It allowed us to streamline our luggage and rationalise our belongings once more. We even managed some sightseeing!
To test some stupid modifications I had made to the bike, we took a trip to the east of the city. After a quick overnighter at the border to do some customs paperwork, we headed towards Pattale in the foothills. This small village was at 3,000m and had excellent views of the eastern Himalayas. Unfortunately our cabin registered a casual 0 degrees celcius overnight so we immediately got to test our new sleeping bags. We were rewarded with excellent, if chilly, views of Everest the next day and crazy, unintelligible chat with the family owners.
Descending from Pattale proved a little too much for Stein and his rear brakes made a funny squeaking noise then stopped working. I assumed this was the end of the shoe lining and we were now, like Anvil, playing metal-on-metal. I wound them off and stopped using them, which made riding a lot more difficult. But, later inspection showed that the damage was already done, the drum had overheated, glazed the shoes, and the grease had melted out of the rear bearings. More worrying was the obvious wobble in the bearings. Was this the start of the end for our long-repaired rear hub?