My Ride to Gorkha
Written: February 8, 2009
I woke up early to catch the morning panoramas from the viewing tower. I also had a long ride to Naubise which included the other half of the windy Tribhuvan. I wanted extra time so I could take it easy and not have to rush to Gorkha, a ride which would take 8 hours according to staff at the Daman Mountain Resort. The weather in the early morning was cold as I took off for Naubise. Since I had been going uphill from Hetauda to Daman reaching an altitude of 2400m at one point, this second half consisted of windy downhill roads. I clutched-in to disengage the engine as much as possible in order to save gas. I had a good period of 10-15 minutes without using the throttle and only the brakes. I rode extremely carefully due to my recent bad luck and paid extra attention to corner bends, water runoffs, slippery roads, uneven rocks and sands.
The ride from Daman to Naubise took roughly 2 hours and it was very enjoyable. There was little traffic and the views were great. There was a big difference in the landscape on this side of the Tribhuvan. It was less lush/green, more yellow and barren. I passed through many small towns and settlements of a few houses and shacks. Men, women and children everywhere would stop and look at me with curiosity as I rode by. I finally made it to Naubise and took the Prithvi Highway connecting Kathmandu to Pokhara. This highway was a dream to ride since it was mostly straight and in good condition. After being cautious starting out in the morning, I grew more confident and accelerated the bike more.
I quickly reached Muglina, the halfway point between Kathmandu and Pokhara, in about an hour. I stopped for a break like I do after every 2 hours of riding. At the side of the road, I noticed a pharmacy across the street so I went into see if I could buy healing creams or bandages. When the pharmacist came over, I motioned to my knee, made a cutting motion and pointed to my helmet to indicate motorcycle crash. The pharmacist didn’t know much English but enough to say, “Bike accident?” I nodded and showed him the wound indicating I had cleaned it but requiring dressing. He cleaned the wound with iodine, put on some type of paste and dressed it. He did all that for 15NPRs ($0.21 CDN). Day 1 of Knee-Watch was encouraging. The scrape did not look infected and although I still limped and hobbled, the pain had been reduced and I had greater motion with my knees. I hope the recovery continues at a quick pace. I could see and feel my hip bruise getting better but I still had a chest ache when I coughed or moved a certain way. The diagnostic for Day 1 was good and my therapy prescription would be to rest the knee as much as possible. Unfortunately, I would not even listen to my own internal doctor.
I arrived in Abu Kharaini very soon after Mugling. From there, I took a road north for 27km to Gorkha and arrived well within 5 hours of my departure time. The village of Gorkha is the birthplace of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the 18th century unifier of Nepal. The centrepoint of Gorkha is the palace (durbar), temple and fort complex on the top of the hill. Instead of resting my knee and doing the hike up 1500 steps to the Gorkha Durbar the next day, I decided to save time and do it in the afternoon of my arrival. I had the idea to stop in Bandipur the next day and heading straight back to Pokhara. The primary reasons for speeding up and shortening the trip was so I could save on rental fees that I would have to spend on damages as well as using the extra days to recuperate in Pokhara. I also wanted to meet-up with Doug and Kate the two Aussies I had met on the infamous train ride to Varanasi. We had exchanged contacts to try to ride together. They rode their Enfield Bullets from Varanasi into Nepal and gone up to Tribhuvan to Kathmandu, Gorkha and Pokhara. They were a day ahead of me and going off hiking so this was my chance to see them before I head for Kathmandu.
The hike up 1500 stone steps wasn’t as bad as I was expecting even though I had to stop and rest 4 times. Going down 1500 steps was another story and nearly killed me. My knee felt the effects of each downhill steps painfully. Since I favoured my left leg, by the end of the hike it was shaking with exhaustion. Even with the pain, the views from the top of the narrow ridge the durbar (palace) was located on was excellent. I didn’t get to see much within the palace as I didn’t want to pay the admission but I definitely noticed the blood stains on the courtyard stones from the daily animal sacrifices. I was briefly concerned with getting animal blood and feathers on my socks since I had to remove my boots (no leather products within the palace area). The Gorkha Durbar was where the Shah King was born and ruled Nepal after conquering the city states if the Kathmandu Valley. What was especially interesting about the palace was the intricately carved windows and root struts depicting erotic scenes. Throughout my visit in Gorkha, I felt like I was the only foreigner in town as I saw no other tourists.
I haven’t been laughed at by a little girl in a long time but it certainly happened a few times at dinner. At 7PM, I came down from my room to the kitchen of the guesthouse/shop and sat down with two others for my dinner (my only meal of the day). Metallic plates of dahl bhat(Nepalese staple consisting of rice, lentil soup and vegetables) were served to us. Since the daal soup was very watery and there was no naan/bread, I didn't even consider eating the meal with my right hand as was customary and started using the spoon that comes with the soup to help me eat. The landlady noticed my use of the spoon and frowned asking me if I didn't like the food. I sheepishly started to explain that I was enjoying the meal but couldn't eat it with my hand. She adamantly pointed me to the faucet to wash my hands and insisted I eat it the Nepali way as if any other way would be an insult to her cooking. Not wanting to offend the host and deciding to give it a try, I washed my hands and looked at the other two at the table hoping to learn their methods just like how I mastered Chilean hotdog eating in Santiago. It was very hard to copy the other two since they ate very quickly and naturally forming the food into balls before popping it into their mouths. Obviously, they never used their left hand and even with one hand they were able to devour their dinner within 10 minutes. After washing their hands they were gone. Meanwhile, I was torturing myself by slowly shoveling the small amount of food I could pick-up into my mouth. To make it worse, this was my first meal of the day since my previous meal was a late lunch in Daman 28 hours ago. A girl of approximately 13-14 years of age who spoke the most English of the family started laughing at me as she watched my methodology, signs of frustration and flying elbows. After 10 minutes of torture, she started giving me lessons. First, she forced my flying elbow down on the table. Then she motioned he lentil soup was supposed to be poured into the rice but not all of it. I then tried to form the rice into balls before bringing it up to my mouth. It was kind of fun yet in a way childish since we're told not to play with our food in the western world. Finally, after a frustrating 25 minutes I had enough, washed my hands and retired to my room. While the food was very good, I didn't bother asking for seconds not wanting to be tortured any longer. The mocking laughter of the little girl haunted my nightmares.