I think I’m going to love it here. If the Nepali immigration officials are anything to go by, then Nepali people are happy, relaxed and friendly. I have never seen such a lackadaisical border crossing as the one between Siliguri and Birtamode. I found myself riding across the bridge over the Mechi rver and entering Nepal without speaking to any Indian official. None of the customs or police officers said anything as I rode past them, so I assumed I was just yet to actually reach the border. The other side of the bridge was Nepal, so I had to ride back into India and find the police checkpoint at which I could get my exit stamp. On the Nepali side I was surprised by a lack of questions. I wasn’t asked at all about my intentions, whereas at every other border crossing I have been through I have faced interrogation about what I’m doing there by myself on a bicycle. Today, I simply filled out a form, paid the money and got the stamp, and the process was over. As this was completed, I met a Canadian guy who was crossing into India. He is the first foreigner I have seen in about three weeks.
I had a pleasant and short ride into Birtamode where I instantly found an NCell office at which I could purchase a SIM card. I got a data package that should cover my entire stay in the country, which is up to 90 days. I was surprised at how organised and efficient the process was – not because I necessarily expected less from Nepal, but because it’s been a while since I’ve had formal dealings that I can describe as organised and efficient. I also stopped at a hardware and found a nut to fit to my Brooks saddle. It’s the second time I have had to replace a nut to the seat. The shop owner gave the nut to me for free, while another guy helped fit it with a spanner from the shop.
Then it was time to find a home for the night, which came in the form of a cheap guesthouse and grimy room with a funky smell. I had a wash, then went exploring, visiting some food markets to get some riding snacks and a bookshop where I got a map of Nepal for 50r (AU$0.60). Throughout the afternoon I’d been trying different ATMs to see if I could find one that didn’t charge a fee. When I realised all charged fees, I began to search for the one that would let me take out the most money at once. The best deal I could find was a maximum withdrawal of 25,000r with a 400r fee. Over dinner I got some route advice from a Nepalese guy and started developing a rough plan for coming days.
|Distance ridden today||55.46km|
|Average cycling speed||18.2kph|
|Total distance ridden||15,105km|