Day 3 cycling: Bandipur to Pokhara
DST = 75.4km; RTM = 4hrs 29 min; AVS = 16.7km/hr; MAX = 51.1km/hr
(NB. Bandipur to Pokhara is a little further than this; the bike & I were obliged to travel several km in a van; see below)
Bandipur is a very pleasant place, with one especially great feature - there is no vehicular access to the main bazaar area, allowing you to amble about without having to always keep part of your mind alert to the possibility of being run over (as per KTM). I had expected the 8km ride back down the hill from Bandipur to rejoin the main Prithvi Highway to be a joy, which initially it was. It was a foggy morning however, making it quite hard to see what was ahead, and the brakes seemed to be slipping due to the dampness. And as the road largely comprised hair-pin bends I found myself braking constantly, to the extent that the rims became red hot from the friction of the brakes on the wheels. Could they become so hot that the tubes could melt, I wondered nervously? Will I wear the brake pads away entirely (I don't have any spares)? Am I worrying excessively? In the event, I descended gingerly, only averaging about 22km/hr & hitting a maximum of 44km/hr. Damauli, the next town, might have "little to recommend it" as the Lonely planet guide seems to unfairly suggest, but the ride into it was certainly sweet. The initial ride from the turnoff was a slow, steady, uphill slog for maybe 8km, but the next 8km was a blissful downhill ride (hitting a maximum of 51km/hr). After some while I began to notice a small problem with my chain, which eventually snapped as I started to pedal uphill about 20km from Pokhara. I rolled back into the town I'd just passed but was met with a shake of the head on enquiring if there were any bike shops around. Happily for me, the fellow I'd asked elected to arrange a lift for me & the bike in a delivery van a few kilometres to the next town, which, fortunately had a bike shop, someone who knew how to fix chains & the requisite equipment - a big metal hammer. Before long it was fixed & I was back on the road. The van driver & the fellow who assisted wouldn't accept payment for their help, but suggested I give the bike shop bloke 25 Rp (about 50 cents) for his work. Their kindness negated the actions of some dickheads a few hours earlier who'd thought it amusing to douse me with water from the roof of a bus as they passed. (The chain doesn't sound quite right anymore as I pedal & I'm not sure why. I'll take some time today to have a good look at it before pushing off south towards Tansen.)
Mysteriously, nearing Pokhara, the road surface began to degenerate and the vehicle fumes seemed to become blacker, whereas the children's English seemd to improve. Now, instead of asking "one rupee" they demanded "give me money" or even simpler: "money!". It was rather horrible.
Despite its problematic aspects, the ride from Mugling to Pokhara was nowhere near as forbidding or steep as I'd for some reason imagined - the road, except for the last stretch into Pokhara, was in pretty good condition, fairly flat in many places, and there were quite a few good downhill runs.
Surprisingly, Pokhara is very full of tourists and I had some trouble finding a room as the first few places I tried were full. I eventually found a room at a place called Hotel Bien Venue, a new & very characterless place. As I tried to take a rest in my room, I was assaulted by the sounds of kids yelling & screaming & people talking loudly, and for some reason sitting outside my room doing this. After boiling inside for a while, I finally lost the plot & stormed outside, giving everyone a rather unpleasant piece of my mind. I'm thinking I must have been feeling a bit tense. For a short while I felt a bit embarrassed about it all ... "well, "Mr Anger Management"... what do you have to say about that!?" ... " This morning I moved to the Hotel Nirvana & am feeling a lot more relaxed. Must be time for some lunch & then a look at that bike chain.
Hmm. Inspection of the bike chain revealed it had been threaded incorrectly through the derailleur. Thinking to find a local bikeshop that might be able to do it for me, I headed off into the depths of Pokhara only to be advised that there weren't any decent bikeshops in town. But suddenly, 4 Spanish cyclists came cycling toward me, and trusting in the fellowship of cyclists I hailed them & they were able to assist me in effecting the required adjustment.