Kasar Devi, Uttarakhand
The real hill climbing began once we left Ramnagar and headed to the lake town of Nainital. This was Jim “Tiger” Corbett’s home town with a pretty rowing lake below steep cliffs. Compared to the quiet of Ramnagar, this place was pretty touristy. This in turn had bumped up all the accommodation prices and the budget rooms weren’t very good. Once we were shown the vertical parking at a second hotel in town we just decided we couldn’t be bothered staying there. It was lunchtime so we figured we could make it to the next town we fancied, Almora. Inevitably this plan did not go well. First came the rain, so we stopped for lunch on the top of some mountain pass. Then we got to our turn off for Almora. The road was closed for a huge season-long rebuilding operation. Google did not know this. Now we were off the map and without any signs to help us get to Almora.
The detour was scenic and the tarmac was beautiful, but as usual we didn’t get the chance to enjoy it. Because of the hilly topography we now had to do 3 sides of a square in half the time we would have spent, had we not skipped Nainital. Bugger. Thankfully the sun came out and illuminated the deep valley beside us and an armed soldier pointed us in the correct direction (after pointing in the other direction first). We rolled into Kasar Devi, outside of Almora just as the sun was creeping down behind the mountains. Phew!
Kasar Devi was amazing. Our guest house had proper panoramic views across the valley and the sunsets in that direction were superb. Kasar Devi is just a little hamlet with a couple of temples on top of a little hill. A Danish mystic lived there for 30 years and this attracted other westerners and became part of the hippie trail. Dylan, Cat Stevens, D. H. Lawrence, Timothy Leary and artists from the Beat generation all spent time there during the long hair and flower, good times. We zoned out in Kasar Devi for a few days (we now had plenty up our sleeves before our visa ran out). Nickiy even found hummous.
Next up was a place called Kausani which was pretty crap. The hotel was expensive, with a dribble of a shower and a tiny, crowded room. Everyone seemed to be asleep on their feet, and those that weren’t seemed to be the equivalent of mountain rednecks. There was a Ghandi museum there….whatever. We didn’t go. We headed onwards into the valley towards Bageshwar. We stopped for lunch at one restaurant on the way. Lunch? asked Nickiy. No, smiled the woman. Next restaurant:
“Do you have dal and chavaal (rice)?”.
“Ok, chapati and dal?”
Half way through our watery, strange-tasting dipping-dal one of the staff approached and said “do you want rice?”. Exasperating! These guys would open up their restaurant for the day, watch TV, play music, tap on their phones and just didn’t seem to want customers at all, or have any food. I don’t know why they didn’t just keep the shutters closed and stay at home masturbating all day long. At least that’d be productive; they’d never get prostate cancer that way.
Bageshwar was low down on a raging river. This meant it was pretty hot again which was a shock. However the hotel was the most organised hotel we’d experienced in the whole of India. And the town had some interesting alleys lined with colourful market stalls through which we wandered after a lot of choring had been done. They did have a power problem though when switching between mains and the huge container-sized generator in the basement. The power would go off-ON-off-ON-off-ON and back again each time the mains went off then on again. This really disrupted Nickiy’s film viewing!
After careful route selection, we did a long stretch and some more serious climbing up to Pithoragarh. This was a challenging hillside town and we settled on a hotel that I didn’t think had any parking. But it turned out it was the other side of the hotel, through an alleyway and up a bit. Unseen, a young man from the hotel got on the bike to show me the way. This was a bad idea. He didn’t tell me which way to turn until a bit late, up a hill and round a blind corner. I stopped, left foot down, front brake on. The front wheel had no weight on it and just slid backwards. We kept sliding until I collided with and toppled into a shop, trapping the young fellas leg. It was all a bit of a disaster as everyone grabbed the wrong parts of the bike to lift it up again. As usual we’d managed to fuck up a good day right at the end! The young man survived and wanted selfies with me later, luckily the pannier had taken most of the impact.
Pithoragarh was a nice wee hill town with markets all sprawled over and a statue of the Ghandi man as well for some reason I couldn’t fathom. There was a hilltop fort but only the restoration workers seemed to be allowed to climb on that, so we didn’t do much sightseeing. We were also still looking for US dollars for the Nepal tourist visa, and people had them but didn’t seem to want to sell them.
We left Pithoragarh and headed for the border town with high hopes of gathering ourselves for a day or two, getting our dollars and making sure the bike was ready for Nepal. What transpired was a border town whose hotels didn’t allow foreigners to stay in them. Never has there been a more perfect example of Indian logic. So we gave up looking for dollars, then scratched around hoping to find a hotel, and failed. So we just caned it to the border, navigating by memory. What more could we do? We had just enough small dollars to buy our Nepal visas and VOILA! we left the madness behind. It wasn’t a tearful goodbye.