Status Update:

Current location: Bochum / Germany

50 countries, 1226 days, trip mileage: 124200 km

7 Jan 2009

Nepal ( + Photo Gallery)

20_She had such a cute smile (Dec 2008)

I had been looking forward to coming back to Nepal ever since my first visit to this beautiful country over 10 years ago. And after this second visit, for some strange reason it now feels a bit like a second home.

01_Buddhist monks gathering around my bike in Lumbini (Nov 2008)

Last time I was here, I did a fair bit of trekking in the Langtang region. This time, I wanted to see some of the places I couldn’t visit back in 1998 – most importantly the little town of Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace. Timing couldn’t have been better: there was a huge Buddhist Festival in Lumbini, and lots of monks had come from all over Nepal. When I rocked up in the guesthouse, I was immediately surrounded by a crowd of Buddhist monks who were all keen to have a look at the bike.
On my first evening in Lumbini, I made friends with one of the monks (Jayzin), who happened to be into graphic design and spoke very good English. We had a real good chat over some chai, swapped e-mail addresses and arranged to meet up again in Kathmandu.

After checking on my e-mails for the first time since about a week, I found out that Bangkok Airport was occupied by demonstrants, with no flights going in or out of Thailand. Not good, as I had already booked a flight for me & the bike from Kathmandu to Bangkok – 10 days from now. The idea was to meet my parents in Thailand and then spend Christmas & New Year together. But with Bangkok closed for air traffic, and me being potentially stuck in Nepal, we had to re-schedule our flights so we could at least meet up for a few weeks.

07_Masapucchare, 6997m (Nov 2008)

A 5-hour ride on the gorgeous ‘Siddharta Highway’ took me to Pokhara, a relaxed little lakeside-town I had already visited back in 1998.
Since then, Pokhara has changed quite a bit: streets are all tarmaced now, gears on the rental mountain bikes are actually functioning this time around, and restaurant prices have risen sharply.
Other things stayed the same: bad cover-bands trying their interpretation of “Sultans Of Swing”, street-merchants selling Tibetan handicrafts, regular power-cuts, yes, even the “Himalaya Haircut & Saving” still exists, with the same typo/missing ‘h’ on the shop-sign.

18_A long time since... (Dec 2008)

In an attempt to visit some familiar places outside of Pokhara, I spotted a little family-run corner-shop where I’d been back in 1998. As I parked up the bike, I noticed a young girl sitting next to the table. She spoke a little bit of English, and I soon realized that it was the same girl I had photographed back then. And she was more than happy to pose for a second photograph.
As if this wasn’t enough of a coincidence: a few hours later, I bumped into another familiar face – Willy, a Swiss guy I had met on a trek 10 years ago (and never seen again since then). When I first asked him if he was from Switzerland and if he had worked for a tea-company a long time ago, he was speechless. Then it dawned on him and he remembered me as well, said he was here on holiday with his girl-friend Sarah, and the three of us arranged to meet up for dinner & beers that same night.
Just as I was ready to leave Pokhara, the good news from Kathmandu finally arrived: Bangkok Airport was open again, and my flight could proceed as scheduled. So: off to Kathmandu!

Shipping the bike was really straight-forward, and Eagle Eyes Cargo from Kathmandu kept every promise – really fantastic service. (More about this in the ‘Shipping’ section on this website).

29_Crating the bike (Dec 2008)

After the bike was crated up and sent off to Bangkok, I had another 2 days for sight-seeing in the Kathmandu valley, and to meet up with Jayzin (the Buddhist monk from Lumbini) and his two cousins Dorje and Balden. As it happens, Dorje and Balden are also keen motorcyclists who’ve been around Nepal quite a bit – including a trip into the remote Mustang area, where one of their bikes fell down a mountain track and had to be recovered by helicopter (no big deal apparently!?)…
The four of us had a great evening together, and it goes to show that young people are the same everywhere – Buddhist monks included: even if posing for images, flash sun-glasses and mobile phones might not go with the some westerners’ perception of monkhood & Buddhism.

Leaving Kathmandu by airplane felt a little strange after so many miles of overland travels on the motorbike. And although part of me was glad to have some time ‘out of the saddle’, I would have preferred to keep on riding. Maybe one day it’ll be possible to cross Myanmar/Burma by motorcycle.

For more details & images (including comments), have a look at my Nepal Album on FlickR.

The full-screen slideshow version can be found here. (To read the report during the slideshow, click 'Show Info' in the top right).

Here are more samples from the album:

02_Buddha's birthplace (Lumbini, Nov 2008) 05_Buddhist chanting ceremony in Lumbini (Nov 2008) 13_Pokhara bat cave (Dec 2008) 06_On the 'Siddharta Highway' between Lumbini and Pokhara (Nov 2008) 09_Children playing (Dec 2008) 37_Buddha's Eyes (Dec 2008) 48_Wood carvings, Bakhtapur (Dec 2008) 53_Monk in front of prayer flags, Bodnath (Dec 2008)