From Cape Town I flew to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Getting an Indian visa in South Africa was very costly. In Nepal the entry regulations are much easier. My whole luggage including bike arrived undisturbed. I had to get used to the traffic in Kathmandu. After a while I had got used to it and it even made a little fun to cycle through the whole chaos.
Kathmandu is the largest metropolis in Nepal, with a population of 1.4 million in the city proper, and 5 million in its urban agglomeration across the Kathmandu Valley. It has a multiethnic population within a Hindu and Buddhist majority. Historic areas of Kathmandu were devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 25 April 2015. In the hostel I soon got to know Jock from Scotland. He is cycling for a few months through Nepal and India. With our bicycles we made a few excursions to different sights in the city. Some of which are very impressive such as the Boudhanath Stupa or the Pashupatinath temple.
The Pashupatinath Temple is a famous 5th century Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva (Pashupati). On the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. A significant part of the temple was destroyed by Mughal invaders in the 14th century and little or nothing remains of the original 5th-century temple exterior. The temple as it stands today was built in the 19th century. Believers in Pashupatinath (mainly Hindus) are allowed to enter the temple premises, but non-Hindu visitors are allowed to view the temple only from the across the Bagmati River. The funeral with the ritual washing in the river and burning the corpse on a pile of wood I found quite impressive.
After ten days I finally could pick up my Indian visa at the agency. Jock had recommended a route through the mountains to the flatlands which was very nice (via Daman to Hetauda). My first goal there was Lumbini. After a few days I reached the pilgrimage site. It is the place where, according to Buddhist tradition, Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in 563 BCE. Gautama, who achieved Enlightenment some time around 528 BCE, became the Gautama Buddha and founded Buddhism. Lumbini has a number of temples, including the Mayadevi Temple and several others which are still under repairing. I needed a whole day to visit the whole facility by bicycle.
The ride on the highway I felt extremely comfortable. Since there are many small locations on the way, you do not need much provisions and water with you to drag around. Also places to camp can be found without major problems. After only a few kilometers a German motorcyclist stopped me. Frank is also a long-term traveler and he has traveled a lot through Nepal and India. He told me to make a stop in Bardiya National Park. Three days later I arrived there.
The Bardiya National Park was established in 1988 as Royal Bardia National Park. Covering an area of 968 km2 (374 sq mi) it is the largest and most undisturbed national park in Nepal’s Terai. About 70% of the park is covered with forest, with the balance a mixture of grassland, savannah and riverine forest. The wide range of vegetation types in forest and grassland provides excellent habitat for 642 faunal species. The Bardiya National Park is home to at least 53 mammals including rhinoceros, wild elephant, Bengal tiger, swamp deer, and Gangetic dolphin. Current checklists include 407 bird species.
The Wild Trak Adventure Lodge we stayed in is run by John and his business partner Sitaram. John is an experienced zoologist specializing in this area and has lived here for several years. Sitaram led Frank and me through the park for one day. Frank wanted to stay after the lunch at the observatory place while Sitaram and I went on a walk through the jungle. Suddenly a male tiger came round the corner. He was not even 50 meters away from us. With a loud roar he turned and disappeared in the thicket. The whole went so fast that I had no time to make a picture. To see such a majestic animal in the wild at close range is enormously impressive. We saw many other animals in the course of the day.
In the lodge I also met Nick and Simon. They both come from England. Nick travels by motorbike through India and Nepal and Simon regularly visits the same area with his bicycle. We had many exciting discussions and I got some very helpful recommendations for my trip from them.
Moreover, Simon offered me to cycle a bit together. This offer I could not refuse. His bicycle and the equipment are a lot lighter. Nevertheless we found a good tempo and Simon was a good pacemaker. In the evening I wanted to camp once again before I drove over the border to India. Since Simon has no tent, we had to say goodbye to each other. Many thanks for the common ride and good luck Simon.
The border crossing the next day in Mahendranagar ran without major problems and quite quickly. The time in Nepal I enjoyed very much. So many things that I missed in Africa I could experience here again. Especially the architecture, culture as well as the varied landscapes and friendly people I liked it here. Already I am looking forward to returning. Only the children with their eternal <bye bye> calls I found sometimes a little annoying. But at least they do not throw stones and always run after you. Namaste Nepal!