And so it began, the earthquakes and chaos, trekking for a couple of weeks in the beautiful Annapurna sanctuary with Julz, Pricey and Grum. Back to Kathmandu to the Hanmer Springs embassy at the Rendells safe haven, more earthquakes, figuring out techniques to mount my bag on the flimsy carrier I attached to the back of my new, second-hand mountain bike. Then we're off! Cycling out on the earthquake stricken streets of kathmandu and off down the valley, India bound. With no clue what I was in store for.
Here are some excerpts from my diary during the month that followed...
"I'm feeling great all day, mostly downhill but rolley...issues getting my bag to stay on the back straight, a piece of wooden board soon sorts that after four failed attempts to keep it upright. I feel like I'm cruising...but when we find the accommodation and stop, it hits me like the walls of a brick shithouse falling in the earthquake. I've got the shakes, can't stop sweating, stomach cramps.. I did breathe in a tonne of black fumes today, maybe that's why, this better not be a reoccurring thing!" (Day 1)
"One screw holding the carrier snaps from the weight Of my bag and the seat slips down...the day gets hotter and hotter, next minute it's an absolute sweat-fest and 42degrees Celsius.. I count 170 exchanges with people along the way today." (Day 2)
"Today I developed a technique I call 'sweat recycling' it's where I recycle the constant stream of sweat running down my face by slurping it back into my mouth - saves having to drink electrolytes...dal bhat power for Grum and I for dinner followed by a horrendous, sweaty, mosquito bitey 'sleep'" (day 3)
"It's weird the way the mind works when it hasn't got much to do - constantly getting random songs popping into my head. So far I've had 'all my single ladies'(Beyoncé), 'patience'(guns n roses) and 'say what you need to say'(John Mayer) playing over and over!" (Day 4)
"At lunch I yarn to the young guy working at the busy hotel/restaurant who asks me to add him on Facebook because he likes to practice his English by talking to foreigners, Grum sees this as a good opportunity and tries, unsuccessfully, so sell me, his 'daughter', to the guy for 10 buffalo. So we go back out to the bikes and can't comprehend how, but it's become a lot hotter outside. We decide quickly we should buy some more water, then a few seconds later we frantically look at each other 'faaark its reeeeally hot!' I look at the thermometer hanging from my handlebars, 46degrees... Huhhh, and with that we make a very quick, smart decision 'screw this, let's stay here for the night!" (Day 5)
"After an amazing swim in the river and lunch, the heat has closed in again, cycling downhill was almost hotter than going up - the air I was biking into that normally creates a nice cooling effect, didn't because it felt even hotter than my sweaty skin. The thermometer read 45. Lying on the grass under a tree, Grum discovers that flies can actually create a small cooling breeze...desperate much !" (Day 6)
"When everybody else is sleeping (anywhere and everywhere) and you're riding your bike, you're dumb, there's a reason they're sleeping, because it's too hot to function!" (Day 7)
"we ride through more national park (Bardia National Park)..I'm still on the look out for tigers, but only spot a wild peacock and many monkeys - one huge mother with a baby clinging to her front beside the road. dont see that on your bike in NZ... Today was Grum's 365th day so he has a celebratory shave, haircut and massage (all for $3.50!) and we find an actual ice-cream to eat (which we've been fantasizing about this whole sweaty week)" (Day 8)
"Goodbye Nepal!..I soak in as much of Nepal as I can in these last few hours, and prepare myself for the hectic India i've heard so much about. as we get closer to the border - horns get louder and buses get faster! We stop for some food at a roadside stall where a guy is making fresh samosas (only 40cents for 4!)"
"First impressions of India: More people, more noise, more flies, more smells, more heat, more people staring, more ruthless traffic"
The night of day 9 we decide to bus to the mountains to escape the heat... "18 1/2hr bus trip to Shimla...WORST BUS RIDE I'VE EVER EXPERIENCED!.. the Bus ride could be described as sore arsed, achy backed, dangerous, sweat-fest, squashed to close for comfort, gripping roller-coaster ride of sleepless doom. the guy next to me keeps his elbows in a braced position stabbing right into my left ribs, other passengers vomit without warning out windows as the driver swerves dangerously around corners at speed and slams the breaks on in several close calls with oncoming vehicles...Grum gets sprayed with vomit on countless occasions, failing to close his back seat window in time for the passengers head to be out the window projecting vomit our way. The last 5 hours is winding up and down hills at a scary speed, Grum put his shoes on and pocket knife in his pocket in case we we re all hurled off the road down a steep drop, then he'd be prepared to (Quote) 'walk up the destroyed bus to the driver and use my pocket knife to cut the bastards dick off!' " (Day 9/10)
"Today we see western travelers for the first time since Kathmandu. our bus is much more comfortable, the driver is slightly less ruthless and there's no man's elbow in my ribs so its very pleasant - plus the view the whole way is pretty stunning. Green mountains, big fast-flowing rivers and in the distance the snow covered mountains come closer ans closer! the air is cooler! its so luxury! I notice I'm so appreciative of the small things, like a bed with a slightly padded mattress that doesn't feel like you're lying directly on wood, a shower-head that actually works, any place below 40degrees, shower or tap water that goes a temperature lower than the air, getting a drink that's cooler than room temp, hearing no horns for less than a minute. Small pleasures."
"Sleep is on the cards, after another big day of sitting on my arse in a bus. My whole body is aching - so much more than when I was biking every day for the last 9 days. Moral of the story, bike travel is better than bus travel." (Day 11)
"Yum dinner at a place that offered us 'Laughing Buddha mo-mo's' after dinner - mo-mo's with a weed concoction inside! Instead we opted for the choc-nut mo-mo's covered in condensed milk... livin it up" (Day 12)
"in the middle of the night I wake to a distressed "Tessa!" Grum's curled over on the end of the bed in intense pain -"skype Julz" he says, she's on her way home from work and luckily picks up and tells us what more drugs he can take on top of what he's taken. It's a kidney stone again Grum says amongst yelps of pain. The pain eases slightly but at 1am its back in full force, I tell him we're going to the hospital so they can inject drugs straight into his system as we have no stronger drugs to take. I go down to reception to find someone to help, a door falls open as a guy lands in a heap on the floor, drunk as a skunk, along with a bunch of his drunk mates, trying to help me but being a pain in the arse. Luckily I find the manager and we manage to organise a taxi to the hospital...Poor Grum's pain carries on even after being injected twice. He has an intense headache develop which overtakes the kidney pain! Finally they admit him into the hospital for the night. There's patients snoring, burping and farting loudly all night in this wee concrete hospital room...there's no soap in the hospital toilet...in the morning a guy comes in and does a token sweep of the floor with his old straw brush...but i'm so dam happy this didn't happen halfway up one of those 5000m passes we're supposed to be climbing in the next couple of weeks!" (Day 13)
"Back on the bikes! Gone by 6am, we're keen to get up Rohtang Pass, it's a whole day of climbing (we ascend about 1500m)...it's Wow so beautiful and unique and entirely different from the Nepali Himalayas!...There's horses and goats and sheep being herded up and down the pass by shepherds wearing awesome big woolen, checked scarves - one uses to carry a baby goat on his back. There's waterfalls everywhere you look, fast flowing rocky rivers and we reach some snow just before arriving at Marhi...I've got a racey heart and thumpy head on the steep bits just to remind me i'm at altitude." (Day 15)
"BIG DAY...About 2/3 of the way to the top of the pass it starts snowing!! It was a lot more alpine than I expected up there - there was a skifield! and snow about 6metres deep towering over us on the sides of the road! I got the giggles at the top because the whole situation was just amusing - or maybe it was the altitude making me a bit loopy. The thing that set me off was a chubby, overexcited, Indian family sliding down the snow on their arses in hysterics... then we come accross a carload of drunk indian guys in these huge fur coats who demand to have photos with us, meanwhile me, Grum and our gear are all getting covered in thick layer of snow...and I can't stop giggling to myself"
"The theme songs running through my head for the day were 'Gravity' (John Mayer) - during the uphill, especially the line 'gravity, stay the hell away from me!' - very fitting. and 'Crazy' (Gnarls Buckley) while going down the unsealed, muddy, potholly, FUN road to the bottom of the pass on the other side." (Day 16)
"tonight we're sleeping at an altitude just 40m lower than Mt Cook's peak - in a tent - surrounded by beautiful, quiet, snow covered mountains, and rivers, and a clear sky... Songs stuck in my head today were 'Jolene' (Dolly Parton) and 'Good day' (Dresdon Dolls)" (Day 17)
"Grum's kidney stone decided to have another spaz last night at about 11pm, so i fed him a concoction of 5 different drugs and an hour later it had eased and didn't come back - thank fuck - not a convenient place, at 3500m, alone, in a freezing cold tent."
"We get turned around, with confirmation the road to Leh is closed. But make it up to 4287Metres - on a bike - there's another first for me." (Day 18)
"Lauren, the aussie girl has offered for me to stay in her wee room on a mattress if i want to stay longer in Manali!" (Day 20)
"Our Israeli drummer neighbor heard me singing from his room last night - he said I sound like Tracey Chapman (sweet, I'll take that), He wants me to come do some improvise singing with them tonight at their gig, I agree even though the thought of improvising scares the crap out of me!" (Day 21)
" GOODBYE PAPA GRUM :( A quick trip to the German bakery for his tuna roll and he's off down the narrow old Manali road! Now what am I supposed to do with myself!! I'm jealous of him biking off to Delhi then flying to Tajikistan for his next leg of the journey - but i'm staying here - Lauren, the aussie teacher volunteer stood by her offer of a spot on her floor so that's where I head. I've got a couple of gigs lined up, I'm going to bike back up Rohtang pass in a couple of days time, with some other cycle tourists who have arrived in Manali, maybe a short trek and some more Indian food lessons from the green chilli guesthouse boys, need to sell my bike too. Hopefully I'll fit in a trip to see old mate, the Dalai Lama before flying out to Seattle on the 25th! Let's see what comes my way...plan's are constantly changing in this travelling game, it's always a mystery." (Day 22 - 9th June 2015)
THANKS GRUM!!! An unforgettable couple of months!! I'm hooked on cycle touring now, THE BEST way to travel!! Soak it up for the remainder of your journey! You're awesome!