Cycling in Nepal – Five Mishaps on Our First Day
Our first full day of cycling in Nepal took us from the border town of Nepalgunj to the tiny village of Kusum. It was hard not to compare it with India, as we were still reeling from our last couple of days there. Our immediate impressions: Terrain – less trash. People – less aggressive. No one is crapping in the fields! So this really is a different country!
The day turned out to be a trip of small mishaps (and one potentially catastrophic one). We didn’t ride long before we encountered Mishap #1: A squeak from Mila’s Brompton. We stopped to investigate and I traced the noise to the bolt inside the Bromptons’s suspension block. Water from rainy riding and subsequent bike washing must have washed away the lubrication. Experience helped here – About a year prior, I’d been driven crazy by a squeak I could not locate until I finally traced it down to the same component. A couple of drops of oil later, and we’re back on the road, only to encounter Mishap #2: A sudden, nagging pain in my left ankle, below the achilles, that intensified quickly with pedaling. It was completely new and bad enough that I needed to stop a few times. Lowering my saddle helped, a bit.
After 50km we stopped at a tiny roadside restaurant for water and a COLD Nepali beer. Heavenly. All around were friendly faces, but no one was in your face. Another change from India. A smiling young woman was working the stove, easily bantering with the two truck drivers eating dal bhat next to us. It was all so… normal. Why should this stand out? We think and realize: We never saw women in these settings in India. Seriously, never. Almost every single eatery where we’d stop was staffed exclusively by men. Maybe women were cooking behind the scenes, but we didn’t see them.
We paid, said goodbye, and rolled off, only to stop immediately due to Mishap #3: My front tire was flat! We cycled 1,300km over 2 months in India without a single puncture. And there we were, with a flat on our very first day in Nepal. We walked right back to the restaurant so I could patch the flat. The staff was curious but didn’t crowd in too much – in fact, I heard the boss tell his employee to fetch a tub of water and realized he’d anticipated my need to find the puncture in the inner tube. I hadn’t even asked! Twenty-five minutes and a Brompton folding show later, we were really off… for a couple of kilometers, when we were met with Mishap #4: A new noise from Mila’s bike, a kind of clicking on some bumps. Our investigation found the culprit: the hinge clamp on Mila’s main tube was not tightened all the way.. pretty big oops, but a quick fix and we’re off. But wait. Yet ANOTHER noise coming from Mila’s bike means it’s Mishap #5: This is the one I don’t want to write about. A small clattering noise that, to my horror, was the result of a loose bolt securing the front wheel to the fork… a very loose bolt. In fact the clattering was a result of the washer jumping around. This was bad and not funny. I broke into a cold sweat at what could have happened and vowed to check all nuts/bolts more often! Which is fortunate, because Mila’s rear bolt wasn’t tightened all the way either. We realized that 2 months in India – and especially the last 2 days over the rocky dirt roads in north India – have really done a number on our bikes. Another easy fix, and we rode on without further incident.
The Terai, being as close to India as it is, wasn’t what we expected. Much less traffic. Less honking. Once we measured 4 minutes between encountering vehicles. Also, more trees! Many dried-up river beds and not much settlement. The road surface wasn’t smooth per se, but it was at least regular. Compared to north India it’s heaven.
We spent the night at a tiny roadside guest house mentioned by Mr. Pumpy’s blog, “Lodging and Fooding”. With all-you-can-eat dal bhat (rice and lentils) and a $7/night room, we were happy.