1992 Around the World on 80 Spokes

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Updated 02 October 2007

Dhualgiri from Tatopani, Annapurna Circuit

The decision to travel for a year on our bikes was made about ten months before our departure, when we moved out of our rented house in Burnham and into a small one-bedroom flat in Slough to save money. The cramped conditions focused the mind: there was just enough space behind the tired-looking sofa in the living room for our bikes, and books were piled against each wall. Downsizing our accommodation saved us a fair amount of rent though, and we each built up about £6000 in savings before we left.

The end of the monsoon season gave us a natural starting date of late September or early October for arriving in Nepal. After reading Bruce Ringer's "Cycling in New Zealand" and Leigh Hemming's "Cycle Touring in Australia", we were set on visiting these during the austral autumn, so it made sense to bridge the gap between Nepal and New Zealand with a month or two in South East Asia, even though information on cycling here was scanty.

We'd stop work at the end of September, giving ourselves a bit less than a week to sort everything out before our departure for Kathmandu. I can remember thinking that we'd have a day or two of relaxing with everything packed before our flight, which we could spend with our families. We booked our tickets eight weeks before departure through Trailfinders in Kensington and started to put together the odds and ends we thought we'd need, like four-season down sleeping bags rated to -10°C and a First Need water filter.

I reviewed the tool bag and added freewheel removers for both bikes, spare spokes, and more patches and rubber solution. Janet organised injections against rabies, Hepatitus, and cholera; these were done through our local district nurse. We started taking Paludrin tablets to proof ourselves against the fatal strain of malaria prevalent in the Kathmandu valley. Dave Russell Cycles built our 40-spoke wheels for us, and I picked up the shining rims from him towards the end of our second-to-last week at work.

Leaving work was a fairly quiet affair for both of us; Siemens were losing talented kernel developers at a steady rate at the time and the brilliant team I'd worked with were already scattered to the four winds. Janet was looking forward to a change from the daily grind of getting to Cap Gemini's Heathrow offices, which would be closed forever by the time we returned to the UK.

Still, the week of relaxing before the flight passed in a blur of early starts and late nights. So much stuff to move into attics or throw away! Janet's 1300S Beetle went into semi-retirement in Rugby, spending a year under a fir tree that slowly filled the engine vents with pine needles. My brother bought my disintegrating Fiat Panda, which developed a loud and terminal-sounding knocking noise in the last 150 miles down to his house in Somerset. I was up until 2 AM the night before the flight, fitting replacement Blackburn carriers to Janet's Orbit touring bike; the days of relaxing with the family had just evaporated before our eyes.

Anna and Nick took us and our plastic-wrapped bikes to Gatwick airport in their VW bus, Nick following in another car in case the bus broke down! Fortunately the journey was entirely uneventful, and we were soon on our way to Delhi in the cheap centre seats in front of the toilet block in the economy section of a Boeing 747. It was a sleepless flight, we lost track of time.

Delhi airport should have been a short stopover for us, but the onward flight to Kathmandu was cancelled. We couldn't explore much, being penned up in the arrivals hall, but my immediate impressions were olofactory; the sweet, overpoweringly cloying smell in the toilets, my damp clothes sticking to me in the high humidity, the chipped green and white gloss paint on the walls, and the absence of the omnipresent exit and airport signs we see around us at airports in the UK.

I remember being tired and emotional, more so after a young girl collected all of our baggage tags, leaving us with nothing to prove we'd brought our small mountain of cycling gear into India. It was a troubling time for Royal Air Nepal too; there'd been another aircraft crash two weeks previously on the Kathmandu leg and everyone seemed to be jittery. Fortunately we had a little cash with us, so we were able to buy a chicken curry with rice and two bottles of beer towards nightfall to celebrate our arrival. Afterwards, a porter started building a mound of luggage from the London flight in front if us, and sometime after that a rumour went around that a replacement aircraft had been laid on. Some of us bound for Kathmandu pushed their way through the wrong door at this point and disappeared through passport control for ever, but those of us that remained boarded a small, battered Boeing 727 in the middle of the sweltering evening for the final and most exciting leg of our outward journey.

Because we were flying at night, we couldn't see the mountains beside our wingtips, but we did know that the 'plane was overweight with the fuel it needed for its return journey to Delhi and that the final approach aids weren't working in Kathmandu... the last fifteen minutes saw a rising level of what can only be described as hysteria in the cabin as the 'plane began to swoop down valleys and climb between peaks like a demented Pac-man character. Five minutes before touchdown the twinkling lights of Kathmandu briefly appeared below us like glow-worms on a bush, and then people were clapping and cheering as the aircraft landed safely and rolled up to the terminal building at the King Tribhuvan airport.

I've scanned the first 92 pages of the diary from this leg of the trip, you can view them here if you feel brave... other round-the-world diary pages for Bali, New Zealand, and Australia are also available.

Index of accommodation-

Oct 03, 0ct 04, Oct 05

Welcome Guest House, Biswari, Katmandu, Nepal  
Oct 06 - Oct 14 Shambala Guest House, Chetrapati, Katmandu $12 US
Oct 15 Pati Lodge, Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu 20 Rupees
Oct 16 Shivapuri Lodge, Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu 40 Rupees
Oct 17 Chisapani Guest House, Chisopani 80 Rps
Oct 18, 19, 20,21 Hotel Puska, Thamel, Katmandu 350 Rps
Oct 22 Katmandu Guest House, Thamel $8 US + tax
Oct 23,24,25 Purna Guest House, Pardi Dam, Pokhara 250 Rps + tax
Oct 26 New River View Lodge, Birenthanti 45 Rps
Oct 27 Laxmi Lodge, Tirkedhunga 20 Rps
Oct 28 Super View Lodge, Ghorepani 60 Rps
Oct 29 Trekkers Lodge, Tatopani 50 Rps
Oct 30 Dhualgiri Lodge, Tatopani 50 Rps
Oct 31 Kali Gandaki Lodge, Ghasa 50 Rps
Nov 1st Laxmi Lodge, Tukuche 40 Rps
Nov 2nd Neeru Lodge, Marpha 40 Rps
Nov 3rd Red House, Kagbeni 30 Rps
Nov 4th North Pole Hotel, Muktinath 25 Rps
Nov 5th Paradise Hotel, Marpha 30 Rps
Nov 6th Kalopani Guest House, Kalopani 40 Rps
Nov 7th Eagles Nest Guest House, Ghasa 50 Rps
Nov 8th Kamala Lodge, Tatopani 50 Rps
Nov 9th Riverside Guest House, Rahugat 20 Rps
Nov 10th Lucky Hotel (trailhead between Khanuagar and Saus Dhara) 80 Rps (5 beds!)
Nov 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th Purna Guest House, Pokhara 250 Rps
Nov 15th - 20th Kingsland Guest House, Thamel 200 Rps
Nov 21st, 22nd Rhino Lodge, Suraha, Chitwan $8 US
Nov 23rd - 28th Kingsland Guest House, Thamel 200 Rps


Copyright ©Jerry Webb 2007

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