13th to 16th January

Monday 13 January

Today is a rest day, finally, and what’s more in all the comfort we had dreamt of. We send most of the day in the hotel, working on the computer and resting. We also take care of the bikes, they have suffered these last days in Nepal. In the evening, we eat dinner in a restaurant nearby, the pasta is not bad.

Tuesday 14 January

In the morning, we enjoy the sunrise over the mountain range, including the photogenic Machhapuchchre (a sacred mountain, that is forbidden to climbing).

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Today, we planned a small bicycle day, from Pokhara, to the valley, down to Tansen. We should arrive in Tansen tomorrow night. After a breakfast in the hotel, we go with Nirwan to buy bread in a French bakery, that Sophie (our host in Kathmandu) recommended us. Their French baguette is really good, it tastes like at home! Afterwards, we go to the International Mountain Museum of Pokhara, still with Nirwan. This museum is really interesting, it’s a pity we have less than two hours to visit it. We learn a lot about the mountains here, the famous 8000m and the exploits of the first expeditions… but we still have not seen any of them, although Pokhara is at the foot of Annapurna.

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On the way for lunch, we meet a Serbian lady, Svejana. She has already been travelling by bike for two years, and is now writing a book, in a small quiet guest house of Pokhara. Later on, she’ll go to Mongolia, Japan and South East Asia. After some momos (the local dumplings), we continue our route to Tansen. In the end, Nirwan continues with us for a little more time. The road starts to climb again, with a lot of curves.

In the opposite direction, we see a tandem coming. On board, there are two French, Olivier and Karine, who are also on a long travel. They left Lyon 8 months ago to cross Europe, and then after flying from Istanbul to Delhi, they are now in Nepal. The next destination is Hanoi and South East Asia. The blog of their adventures is: http://untourdetandem.uniterre.com. After some time talking with them, we see two motos stopping and coming to us: they are very equipped, looking like Dakar rally competitors: it’s two Dutch engineers, on a world tour by motorbike, with the objective of meeting people from petroleum companies. So we are now 7 on the side of the road, talking about travels, while the trucks passing by horn and don’t understand what this meeting is for.

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Finally, it’s 15h30, and we need to go. We’ll shorten today’s stage for sure, and we need to be careful not to arrive by night. The pass is not very far, and afterwards, the roads goes down smoothly. The landscapes are really wonderful. Finally, the road is smaller than the previous days, and we feel like being in remote areas, with nothing but the mountain and local villagers around you. The main problem now is the front panniers of Mick: the hook holding the pannier on the bike keeps opening, for every little shock. So he has to stop every 2 minutes to put it back! No more Vaud panniers!!

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On the road, we saw a small accident between a car and a truck. One wheel of the car is totally destroyed. The truck did not stop so the car driver will have to pay it. But what would happen if there had been some casualties? Nirwan explains us that if a truck kills someone in a village, all the villagers would come and block the road until the truck driver has given compensation (enough money). And in case of someone injured, and not dead, the responsible should pay for the hospital bill. Knowing that this bill can be very high, it sometimes happens that the faulty driver comes back to run over his victim to kill him/her, in order to pay the compensation for the death and not the hospital bill!

We finally arrive in Syangja for sunset, and find a guest house quite comfortable. After a last drink together, Nirwan heads back to his hotel, in some kind of small van, where they put his bicycle on the bus. It has been a really great day with him, and we wish to see him again.

Wednesday 15 January

We get up at 6h30. It’s still dark outside. After a quick (and quite bad) breakfast at the hostel, we leave for Tansen. The city of Syangja is totally in the fog. We expect a tough day today, because we have to climb the pass to arrive to Tansen, with more than 1000m climbing probably. The morning goes smoothly, with many uphills and downhills. Yesterday Olivier showed us that he was using a bungee cord to stick the front panniers to the bike. So we try it today, and it seems to work really well: none of the panniers has jumped out in the whole day!

We are on a quite small road, on the flank of the mountain, jumping from one valley to another, with a small river at the bottom.

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For lunch, we arrive at the village of Ramdi, down the climb to Tansen. We enjoy very much the potato samosa they have. And we start the climb: 25km to go, 900m to climb! Easy, it’s like a Semnoz. There are many buses, trucks, motos passing us on the road. The road itself is pretty god. And very soon, we start rising above the valley, on the flank of the mountain, with wonderful views on the surroundings. In every village, many people salute us. Some children are more motivated and run next to us! for several kilometres for two of them!!

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The last part of the climb is on a small road, and very steep. There are many locals walking by (probably left at the beginning of this road by a bus), it looks like the camino de Santiago. Tansen is located on top of the mountain. The low part of the town is for the locals, and the high part for the hotels. We arrive at the guest house Sophie recommended us, but they are full. So we go to another guesthouse, where they produce yogurt and cheese. The cheese tastes good, but lacks salt. But the yogurts are wonderful.

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Thursday 16 January

After breakfast, we go up the hill: there is a view tower on the top, it’s like half an hour walking. As today we will go down the mountains towards India, it’s our last chance to see Annapurna. Once we arrive at the foot of the tower, a surprise waits for us: we see high mountains on the horizon. We distinguish without doubt the Annapurna I, and next to it the Dhaula Giri. Youhou!!! Finally we see some 8000. On the top of the tower, we have a breathtaking view on the Himalayas. We see 4 summits higher than 8000, and many more high mountains. In all the directions, the view is impressive. It’s really hard to leave this place.

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So, would you guess who is who?

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Finally, we leave Tansen, around 11h. Now, we have to rush to go to the valley: we have 90km to cover today. The road going down is quite good, although with some potholes. But thanks to Olivier’s technique for the bungee cords, the front panniers don’t jump at all. It would have been a hell otherwise.

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We arrive to Butwal, in the valley, and now we feel no more in Nepal. There is a little smog covering us, we cannot see the mountains anymore, and the traffic is becoming crazy.

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Tonight, we sleep near the border with India, in Lumbini. Lumbini is the birth place of Siddartha Gautama, better known as Lord Buddha. We stop at the complex of temples. Apparently, Buddha did not born here, but on the way to this palace! anyway, the temples are beautiful, richly decorated, and this place brings peace and solemnity in the surroundings.

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The small village of Lumbini just next by is roaring with excitement. A lot of children run in the streets. We are invited there by Fazlur, the cousin of Shakil, a friend of Julien in Madrid.

We are treated as princes: as soon as we arrive, they bring us milk tea and cookies, then they cook for us. Only Fazlur eats with us, the other men look at us. As they don’t have bathroom in the house, they arrange with a neighbour so that we can take a shower. And there is always someone with us, for if we need anything. We feel bad they do so much for us! we do not need all this attention.

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And our traditional video:

Answer of the little quizz: On the left Annapurna (8091m), on the right Dhaulagiri (8167m)