Mallaj to Pokhara
Despite the luxurious settings, I didn’t sleep well and woke groggily with sticky eyes, a snotty nose and cracked lips. Living in the tropics for decades softens you up somewhat and harsher conditions take longer to acclimatize to.
Several coffees, a hot shower, a good breakfast, a group shot and a couple of hours later we were on two wheels again heading back towards Pokhara on the final leg of our Himalayan odyssey.
We were soon back on main roads again along with other bikes, trucks, and those mentalists driving busses who were determined to kill anything that wasn’t another bus. Full concentration was needed to stay alive and avoid the traffic – I was beginning to miss the solitude of mountain roads.
The landscape was predominantly green again with verdant terraced hills and flowing valleys so I stopped to grab a few shots where I could. We were approaching Pokhara from the northwest and stopped at a viewpoint called Sarangkot for lunch and more panoramic vistas over the town and lake – this country has a postcard around every corner!
It was a downhill ride for the last half an hour into the town where we set out six days ago – it felt like we’d been on the road for months. The nine battered and muddied motorcycles rumbled into the Hearts & Tears clubhouse where we celebrated surviving some of the toughest roads in the world and having the adventure of a life time.
The following people made it special: Tony, Leo, Dicko, Norto, Debbie, Fai, Jai, Suriya, Matt and the support crew.
Due to the ongoing Coronavirus/Covid-19 outbreak our airline had cut its schedule and delayed our return to Thailand by a day. We were now due to fly out on the 18th leaving three days to kill in Pokhara. Another concern was that countries were rapidly locking down their borders and we may have problems re-entering Thailand if overzealous officials wanted to cause problems. Nepal had already stopped issuing tourist visas so it may be a mission to get it extended if we have to stay in country.
Tony’s leg had turned nasty following his rock encounter on day two so he made several visits to a local clinic and was put on heavy antibiotics, advised not to do too much walking, and no beer. I spent the days cleaning up our gear, starting on this trip report, wandering around the largely deserted lake, and sitting on Tony’s balcony or the roof with a telephoto and cold tinny taking shots of the surroundings.
We sampled several good curries in local eateries in the evening as the entire town, usually bustling with tourists, ground to a slow halt and those places still open welcomed our custom. One night we felt a minor earthquake which when later checked measured 4.1 and was recorded just 26 kilometers away.
Met up with Matt from Hearts & Tears on the last day to go shopping for yak cheese, local coffee, a pashmina for the mrs, cheap chocolate, lots of curry power, paste, pickles and prayer flags, and of course some Khukri rum. We bid our farewells and he returned to close up the clubhouse as all further bike trips had been cancelled for the foreseeable future; we were the lucky ones and the last ones to see this beautiful place for a while.
He also got the very sad news that a fellow biker from a group of Spanish riders that we passed doing a similar trip was killed on the same road a day ago. It was a collision with a truck and a sobering reminder of how dangerous things really were on the road.
The hotel had pretty much cleared out by the time we left it and headed to the tiny Pokhara airport for the short 25 minute flight to Kathmandu and onto the next plane to Bangkok that afternoon. Sitting on the left side of the plane was advised as it was one of the best window seat views I have ever seen, flying below the peaks but close enough to them to be wowed every few minutes. I wanted to spend more time in the capital but it was not to be this time around, we were heading home on an empty plane, contemplating the premise of refused entry.
Once we’d reached flight altitude, which was above 30,000 feet, I wondered about the possibility of one of the two visible peaks just protruding above the cloud-base being Everest. It would make a fitting end to an unforgettable journey to the roof of the world.
Note: A few days later Thailand closed its borders to all foreign nationals, restricted inter-provincial travel and imposed a nationwide lockdown.
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