I am at the very edge of what my body can endure and I need to be careful not to push myself over the edge. I felt like I only just survived today. It’s just so tough. The harsh terrain and the extreme weight I’m dragging is taking its toll. There is no room for errors, yet yesterday I made a big one. Singapur was not the village from which I was meant to leave the road. I simply didn’t look at my map properly. Before I left Taplejung, I had studied my map enough to know that once I’d crossed the main river, there will be a track coming of the road at the western end of a very long switchback. Unfortunately, this part of Nepal is so hilly there are multiple rivers and switchbacks. Today I ended up learning that the one at which I turned off yesterday simply looked similar to the one at which I was meant to turn off. I would have worked it out yesterday if only I’d zoomed out on my map a little more than I did. What all this means is that yesterday’s tough off road adventure, and last night’s annoying camp situation, never had to happen.
My sleep was interrupted three times: (1) I woke up drenched in sweat, having over-prepared myself for the cold weather; (2) I had to have a night-time pee; and (3) I woke up to discover someone poking around my bike with a torch. I shouted ‘Oi’ and they moved off. I wasn’t as bothered as I should have been. I think my lack of strong reaction has a bit to do with instinct – I simply didn’t feel threatened and I knew my bike was ultimately safe, as I’d tied it to my tent.
When I woke up at 5.30am it was still dark. I got moving when first light came about 20 minutes later. A friendly group of spectators (ladies and children) watched me pack up camp and prepare my bike. It was then time to start suffering for my mistake. It was while eating breakfast (left over rice from dinner and biscuits, jam, nibbles, apples and mandarins) that I realised my error and I quickly decided I would backtrack to the main road and find the track I’d originally planned to take. The alternative was wandering blindly for several days trying to head in the right direction on unknown paths. I had neither enough food nor the knowledge that I would find some along the way.
I quickly learned that going uphill on a steep, muddy dirt track with a load as heavy as mine is next to impossible. It took me two hours to travel 6km and this was with help most of the way. I was helped initially by a young teenager who took it upon himself to push me up the steepest bits. I was going to give him some money for his help, but he disappeared suddenly. I was on my own for just a few minutes before a group of young school children on their walk to school lent a hand. A group of ten kids fought for about five positions behind my bike and their combined strength was amazing. At some points I only had to point the bike in the right direction and let them do all the work. I was going to buy them some sweets (I thought we’d reach Singapur together) but they disappeared down a track to school before we got there. I battled through the last stretch on my own. My whole body was ready to pack it in and I’d only gone 6km.
To make matters worse, I hadn’t gone far when one of my sandals broke, with one of the back straps pulling out of the sole. This isn’t the first time this has happened to my sandals and I have already had some repair jobs completed while In Thailand and Myanmar. With a couple of other straps very nearly tearing through, I know that my sandals are on their last legs and soon even repair jobs won’t be enough to keep them alive. I am hoping I can get them to last until India, where I will fit a new pedal system to my bike. There is no point running SPD pedals if the Shimano’s sandals fall to bits every six months. In their place I will be trying platform pedals with a strap.
Things didn’t get easier when I got back to the main road, for I spent the next four hours riding 20km of steep incline, reaching Gopetar around 2.30pm. I went straight to the guesthouse I’d stayed at on my way to Taplejung and bought noodles and vegetables for 120r. I also bought 6 tomatoes, 4 onions, bread and biscuits for 90r at an adjacent shop. Then I rode on, struggling big time. Fortunately, I only had to put in about five kilometres of notable effort before I passed over the peak and began a descent. I decided to find a place to camp before I hit the river at the bottom of the valley. I ended up finding a spot on the edge of a dirt track that leads off the main road. I have squished myself onto the only flat piece (just the size of my tent) of ground that I could find beside the rack. The rest of the surrounding area consists of a steep mountain slope. A family living nearby came to investigate my presence and a couple of guys walked past, but other than that I’ve had peace and quiet. I’m only about 80m from the main road though, so the odd bit of traffic is a bit noisy.
I tried and failed at cooking dinner. I suspect the system didn’t flush properly last night. Perhaps I didn’t let enough air run through it upon turning it off? Whatever the case, the fuel was not passing through the hose as it should. Consequently, I had no burner and thus no heat with which to cook dinner. I resorted to eating bread and tomatoes, along with some of my day snacks.
|Distance ridden today||37.44km|
|Average cycling speed||7.8kph|
|Total distance ridden||15,427km|