Cycled: 36.5km / 22.7mi
Elevation: 275m / 902ft
We’ve lived some weird kind of groundhog day this week, as we nursed Dan back to full peddle power. We’d wake up and eat last night’s cold pizza, before going out for a late eggs Benedict breakfast (yup, we were still digging for that bone). We’d then spend the afternoon watching films and gorging on bourbon biscuits. Come dinnertime, we’d head back out for pizza, doggy-bagging the slices we couldn’t fit in our faces, to eat cold the following morning. I kid you not. We did this four days in a row.
That kind of repetition can make one go crazy.
As much as we love eggs Benedict and pizza, those four bed-ridden days were some of our lowest yet. Dan was still ill. We felt homesick. Defeat. Scammed. A bit lost if I’m being truly honest. To cheer us up, I had the bright idea of applying for our New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.
The WH visa allows Brits to work and travel in New Zealand for up to two years. It’s always been our plan to get this visa, and with a quick, online application, it was a sure fine way to send a bit of good news our way. Then we got to the character questions.
Q) Have you ever been asked to leave New Zealand or another country before?
F%$£@ £!%$^ &$£@%$. God damn it, Russia.
We paused on the application for a few days to scour the Internet for others that have been in a similar situation. The conclusion? It doesn’t look good. We went back to our application with much less excitement. And, after squeezing our confusing Russian ordeal into the tiny text box provided, we crossed our fingers and hit submit. Now we wait. Anxiously.
‘Apply for the New Zealand visa’, she said. ‘It’ll be fun’, she said. What a great idea that turned out to be.
Forgetting the stress of the Kiwi visa, the bizarre mix of movies, eggs Benedict, pizza and bourbons seemed to do the job and Dan felt well enough to cycle to the next town, Patan. This’ll be our first stop on our Kathmandu Valley Tour. Basically, we’re killing time before we need to apply for our Indian visa. Fear not, there’s a silver lining to the maddening bureaucracy… We have our second visitor!
The timings of our Indian visa application align perfectly with Dan’s cousin, Tom’s, holidays. It was Tom’s wedding we went back for in June. He lives in Dubai, so it’s super easy for him to pop over to Nepal for five days. It’ll be great to see a familiar face – and even more so to have beers together.
So, Patan. It’s only 10km from Kathmandu, which made for an easy first cycle back in a wee while. It’s Nepal’s third largest city and actually the oldest city in Kathmandu Valley. It felt like a much smaller, less busy version of Kathmandu.
Sanu, the owner of the homestay we stayed at, was an absolute gem. She was a million miles per hour and a fantastic cook. She also came out with all sorts of interesting stories about life in Nepal. We did get slightly shifty when she told us how her Dad had built her five story guest house.
Sanu’s Dad was not a builder. Nor was he an engineer. He didn’t even follow the build plans he’d had prepared. They were created simply to get the go-ahead from the local government. More worryingly, he didn’t even use tools. She said that rather than a tape measure and spirit level, he used lengths of string to measure and straighten while he built. Imagine trying to swing that with your local council. Build a house with string? No chance. Yet the building is still standing twenty years later.
In Patan, we also met a friendly guy from Syria called Basil. He moved here with his Nepali wife and now they’ve opened two Syrian restaurants. The food was incredible. So good, we went back twice. Okay, so the second visit may have been encouraged by a bet Dan won against Basil.
On the wall of their restaurant, they have a world map mural. Basil asked Dan to show him our route. When Dan got to Norway and Sweden, Basil was convinced that Dan had got the countries the wrong way around. He was so sure that Dan was wrong, he offered up a bet. If Dan won, we would get a free lunch. If he won, we’d buy him lunch. Dan won, and true to his word, Basil gave us some free grub the very next day. I bet he won’t forget the order of Norway and Sweden in a hurry.
Carrying on our Kathmandu Valley Tour, we headed to Bhaktapur. This is another ancient city that has been engulfed by Kathmandu Valley. To enter the city, we had to cross the Hanumante River. As we approached the bridge, a guard came running over and said we each had to pay $15 to enter. We understand paying a small fee to visit the old city squares – like you have to in Kathmandu and Patan. But to pay $15 to enter the city? That’s just downright cheeky.
There was no chance we were getting around the guard without paying, so we tried to find another entry point into Bhaktapur. The guards were smart. They had them all covered. Annoyingly, all the hotels – including the one we’d reserved – were in that area. Thankfully, however, we could cancel our reservation free of charge. $30 to visit Bhaktapur was beyond budget, so we decided to cycle to the next town. Although this proved easier said than done.
We were winging it by this point. Bad idea. The route became messy. The roads impossibly muddy. Inclines so steep we had to push. In the end, we begrudgingly cycled back to Bhatapur, in the hope of finding accommodation outside the pay zone.
Two hostels said they were only for students and one hotel just didn’t exist. Some friendly locals tried to help us find the invisible hotel, and while doing so, inadvertently found us a homestay to stay at. That’s where we met Radhika, another million-miles-per-hour hostess.
At dinner, Radhika asked why we hadn’t gone to explore Bhaktapur in the afternoon. We tried to explain that we were tired from cycling, but she wasn’t having any of it. So we told her the truth. $30 for us to enter the city is preposterous. She understood. Then she offered to take us under the cover of darkness. Wait, what?!
After dinner, she said, I will take you to visit Bhaktapur. We were reluctant. Partly because we were tired and partly because we didn’t want to get into trouble – again. She said they’d be no trouble, she knew a back way into the city, plus, guards would be at home now anyway. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, after dinner, off we went to sneak into Bhaktapur. I suppose it’s situations like this that get us into the constant trouble we find ourselves in.
We’ll finish up in Bhaktapur and head to the next stop on our Kathmandu Valley Tour. Mood in camp has already lifted after getting back on the bikes – made all the more brighter for meeting Sanu, Basil and Radhika. It’s meeting brilliant people like this that completely overshadow the bad guys. Here’s to meeting more people like them.