Mon 21 to Mon 28 February 2011 – Still more Kathmandu to Mahendranagar
It really was a very good thing that we had Nimar & Harpreet's 's wedding in Chandigarh to aim for, as otherwise I think we'd just have never left Ktm! Jyoti looked after us far too well making it a bit of a shock to finally tear ourselves away and go back to car camping! Nevertheless we really had to leave on Sunday 27 February just a day before we had to cross the border as our visas ran out once again.
Before we left we had a last breakfast at our favourite pizza place Fire & Ice with Jyoti and she took me shopping for a salwar kameez for the wedding, and a wedding present (a hand beaten copper vase, and coasters out of the same material - hope they like them -it's really hard to buy for people you've not yet met!) for the happy couple so we were all organized, all we had to do was get ourselves there.
We said a FINAL sad goodbye to our friend Bipin, Jyoti, her daughter Pragya and her staff who'd looked after us so well, and to our various dog acquaintances, Jyoti's Pancho and Jack and to our scout dogs Chopper and Kali. I was really sad to leave Chopper who is the less dominant dog and gets a bit of a hard time with Kali. I was concerned to see he'd dropped some of the weight he'd put on whilst we were there, and very sad to leave him. The scouts man said I could take him with me if I wanted, and I was very tempted but it'd be very hard on him taking him around the world with little room and he'd then have to be quarantine before he got to the UK, so all in all better to leave him there, where he has his freedom is sort of looked after and knows everyone. Very very hard to leave him though.
Before we left we had to pick up some oil for our next oil change and Mobil once more came up trumps, arranging a press conference where we were interviewed by journalists from 2 motoring magazines (Nepal Auto & Auto Bajar) about our trip before receiving the oil. See the magazines at www.nepalauto.com & www.autobajar.com After 95,000 km since we left Australia our 27 year old car is still purring along. Mobil is really helping keep the engine (360,000km) well lubricated and keep our fuel consumption down which is all to the good. Thanks so much to Ashish Jajodia at Mobil for all his help. To see more of their great products see their sites www.exxonmobil.com www.mobil1.com
On the subject of thanks we'd also like to mention our mechanic friend Kishor at Shree Bishwokarma Wayside Garage, Kalimati. Kishor specializes in older vehicles and VWs in particular and so has been of much help to the overlanding community. Kishor went out of his way to help us on many occasions doing our stay in Ktm and we'd really recommend him if you need a mechanic, he can be contacted on 9851052833.
A further thank you is also owed to Nepal of Swift Technology and family, as well as fixing our laptop so it worked better than ever he had us around for a delicious dinner before we left. Thanks guys.
Incidentally Bryan Adams played whilst we were there, which was huge here as it's the first international star they've had playing live. This was quite a big deal as due to security concerns (the Maoist situation mainly) no international artists have ever played here before. Tickets sold out immediately and there was a crowd of 10,000 outside and all went smoothly so hopefully many more will follow.
We left really early on Sunday morning and drove pretty solidly all day to arrive at Nepalganj by early evening. As ever some of the truck driving was a bit scary so it was quite a tough drive though the roads were good, and we were determined not to drive after darkness fell, hence the early start. Jyoti had recommended a hotel there the Hotel Batika which is owned by a friend of hers and they let us camp in their roomy car park. We had a really nice dinner and drank our last Lhasa beer (bought on the Tibetan border on our trip to Kodari) before collapsing into bed where we slept like the dead!
We had another early start the next day and were on the road by 7am. Actually we had an early wakeup call as most people who stay here are on their way to the nearby Bardia National Park and we caught the 6am jeep safari leaving! This park is supposed to be a less touristy alternative to Chitwan and we had really hoped to visit, but no time. Never mind you have to leave something to come back for! We did see a passing elephant though- first in Nepal so a bit of a wildlife experience.
The guides on the gate all came rushing over when they saw us - apparently we'd come just days after a "special" guest Leonardo Di Caprio and his 4 body guards and 10 other staff in his capacity as representative of a wildlife fund. He was lucky on his safari (they would have pulled out all the stops!) and saw a tigress with 4 tiger cubs. Apparently (according to one of the guides) he's aged a lot since Titanic (sorry Leo!)
We were leaving from the far western border Mahendranagar where we first ever entered Nepal on our first visit this trip in 2009. On that occasion we had to do a few full on river crossings, so this time it was a weird contrast driving across dry river beds. They were all ready for the next monsoon though as a lovely brand new bridge was in situ though not yet open.
We also crossed a very smart bridge which we'd crossed before but after we'd met a Swiss guy in Hile who had been involved in building it we appreciated it more! Funded by the the World Bank (who this guy worked for) it is the largest bridge in Nepal at half a km. It was INCREDIBLY windy as we crossed - a poor guy on his bike got just about blown off!
The terai or plains area was far hotter than the mountains, and you could feel that summer was round the corner. The area around the Mahendranagar border was scenic with quite a few ethnic villages (mostly Tharus) and some patches of wild flowers as well as a wild life reserve.
On the border we met some other overlanders -always a pleasure- Fritz and Arthur had driven a '79 Mercedes campervan from Austria the same route we plan to through Iran & Pakistan. They'd had no problems in Pakistan and managed to lose their police escort (mandatory for foreigners) and had a great time which was encouraging! So, (on the last day of our visa as ever!) at midday on Monday 28th February we crossed the bridge from the Nepalese border town of Gaddachauki to the India town of Banbassa.