After a very pleasant night’s sleep under the warmth of two heavy blankets, I woke to the sound of a Nepalese/English rap song coming from the phone clutched in Pema’s hand. Once Pema got moving, the raging music was replaced with the soothing tones of Buddhist song, to which Pema sang as he bustled about the ‘house’. As promised, Narangurung had turned up around 5am but as it was still dark and freezing cold outside, he’d climbed into bed with Pema and dozed until we all began to stir. I had an easy pack up as I didn’t have to pack up my tent. I ate bread and peanut butter and jam for breakfast, then made the discovery that I was within range of internet reception (for the first time in four days). This delayed my departure as I checked my emails and let my friends know how I was doing.

Hitting the road, I joined the flow of students as they walked towards their school in Besanatpur. Despite thinking I’d reached a peak, the road managed to continue to climb around hidden summits. Epic scenery took me through a pleasant mix of climbs and descents between Sindhuwa and Hile. The next stretch into Dhankuta was one humungous downhill, during which I nearly died. I was cruising down the mountain at about 35kph when my front tyre blew. I instantly lost all control of steering. To my left was a sheer drop with intermittent concrete bollards. To my right was the mountainside. In an incredible stroke of luck, my bike pulled me to the right. I smashed headfirst into the ditch that runs between the hill and the road. The ditch is square in profile, about 60cm deep and 60cm wide, made from stone and cement. My front wheel took the brunt of the impact as it dropped in first and I was thrown into the hill, head-butting it and putting a gash in my knee. The rest of the bike followed. I extricated myself from the bike and paced a couple of circles as I waited for the immediate pain to pass. Then I assessed the bike. The rim seemed okay, all spokes were intact and all my luggage was still secure. The only apparent problem was that my handlebars were wildly askew. I have later learned my mirror cracked. I unloaded my luggage, then pulled the bike from the ditch. I placed my rear bag that has the safety vest on it down the road a little to act as a warning sign to incoming traffic, then set about changing the tube and restraightening the handlebars. Soon enough I was back in business and cautiously continuing my descent.

The road wound downwards until I reached the mighty Tamor River at Mulghat. From there I gave myself 30 minutes to find a place to camp. The road followed the river’s edge, with only a tremendously steep slope on the other side. I explored a couple of tracks leading up the hill but didn’t find any suitable camp spot. I thought about camping on a dry section of riverbed, but I wouldn’t be hidden from passing traffic. I searched for 45 minutes and didn’t find anywhere I could call home. Altogether I didn’t find the vibe of the area very inviting at all. In fact, the atmosphere of the world had changed on leaving Hile and descending into Dhanuta, and not in a good way. I felt that if I was to camp here then I’d have to be 100% hidden to avoid trouble with locals. There was just nowhere to go.

My backup plan was to return to Mulghat where I’d passed a lodge. I had just crossed back over the bridge when I was stopped by a guy who wanted to chat. He said he “really” wanted to help me out and said I could stay at his brother’s house, which was next to the bridge. When his brother made it clear I wasn’t welcome, the guy said I could stay at his house. As soon as I accepted his offer, he started making excuses and I realised he wasn’t really prepared to help me out after all. Rather, he just seemed to like the attention of being the guy who is chatting to the foreigner. I noticed the alcohol on his breath at the same time as he told to come and drink with him. This was when I decided I didn’t like the guy. I left him to find a room in the lodge. Annoyingly, the guy followed me and before I could stop him he had rushed ahead and chatted to the owner. He came out and told me it would cost me 1000r for a bed and dinner. This was a ridiculous price. It was clear he had struck some kind of deal with the owner. With no other options around I had to take what I could get. I bargained the price down to 850r, which is on par with the price of some guesthouses in other towns, but by no means a cheap deal. Fortunately, the room is very comfortable and I even got to have my first proper wash since leaving Phidim five days ago. Having had dinner and a chance to observe life here, I have come to the conclusion that alcohol abuse is a bit of a problem in the area.

In the ditch

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 64.21km
Average cycling speed 14.7kph
Total distance ridden 15,645km