– The adventures of a solo round the world cyclist –

Day 598 (Nepal Day 24)

I think I might have just had my most enjoyable day so far in Nepal. I woke up refreshed and packed up camp slowly as the sun filtered through the trees and began to warm the day. It turned out I was just below a village. I was invited to eat with a family as I passed through but I declined as I really wanted to make some progress. I accepted some water though.

The first half of the day was spent climbing a steep dirt road. I settled in well and began to think about how much more I enjoy riding dirt than I do bitumen. It makes you feel more adventurous, more of an explorer. I continued to climb until just past Sakranti, where the track began to run along the side of the mountain as opposed to straight up it. This meant a mix of short climbs and descents. The scenery was magical. I felt very much at home. The farms I saw just looked so neat and organised and homely. At about 2pm I met a nice girl on the track and she invited me to stay the night at her place. Her English was okay and we chatted for a while. I learned tht she works for a local NGO. I decided not to stay as I wanted to make it further by the end of the day. I’m starting to feel the pressure of making it to Kathmandu in time for my volunteer commitment.

Towards the end of the day I took some photos of a house that to me was a perfect home. Nestled into the side of a hill, it was surrounded by a pretty garden and crop fields. As I gazed longingly at it, I began to wish I could live there, that it could be my home. I’d only made it a few hundred metres further when I came across a guy on the track who could speak English, having worked in Afghanistan for four years. As fate wold have it, the house I had admired was his home. When I told him how much I loved where he lived, he invited me to spend the night. I have set up my tent in his yard, much to the amusement of the extended family. My stove refused to light on the first try. I almost didn’t bother trying again, but when I cleaned the jet and tried again, it worked perfectly. It seems I will have to clean it out every time I use it. I cooked rice with tomato, onions, radish and chilli, flavoured with mixed spices and a vegetable soup powder mix. I was given a bunch of fresh chilli and radish straight from the family’s garden.

I have pretty much been left to do my own thing rather than be invited to hang out in the house. It got dark as I prepared my dinner and things have gotten very quiet. There is every chance the house has no electricity (no lights are being used), so I think sun down means bedtime. Everyone is settled in for the night, including me in my cosy tent.

Oh the views

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 27.28km
Average cycling speed 7.3kph
Total distance ridden 15,505km
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Day 597 (Nepal Day 23)

I am so very relieved to be able to say that I have had a great day. It became clear that despite suffering through Giardia, I have retained the strength of my leg muscles. In fact, the rest was probably a good chance for my muscles to repair and strengthen. Whatever the case, I felt strong and healthy. I headed north out of Phidim to Jorsal, where I took a minor road off to the southwest. The road started as bitumen, but soon deteriorated into dirt. In my mind I had no major turns to make. I could just continue on the road all day and enjoy taking in the scenery rather than worry about getting lost. Oops. I learned my mistake after I spent ages climbing a sandy, rocky track to the top pf a ridgeline overlooking Tamor River. It was there that I had a lunch break and checked my progress via my phone’s GPS. I had a turn to make and I’d missed it. I was now heading into a relatively remote area, compared to my planned route.

At the same time as I realised my mistake, a motorbike carrying two guys rocked up. They joined me where I sat, which was an earthen platform that formed a lookout over the beautiful valley below. I mainly chatted to one of them, a guy called Roman. As I explained my predicament, Roman told me where this particular road leads. He also shared a couple of joints with me, containing ‘medicinal herb’ that was organically grown in the next valley over. Perhaps influenced by the effect of the smokes, I remained cavalier as I contemplated my situation and I decided to just forge on anyway. Roman was able to tell me that the road makes its way west. It will just take me deeper into the mountains I was hoping to get out of. Time will tell if I regret the decision, but if the ride continues to be as enjoyable as it was today, then I won’t be regretting it.

I think I really loved today because I was finally on the move again. Even so, the atmosphere of the environment was very pleasant and welcoming. There weren’t many houses, but those I saw were neat and beautiful with earthen walls, thatched rooves and clean yards. I pulled up stumps slightly earlier than planned when I came across a perfect place to camp to which I couldn’t say no. A short walking track led from the road to a flat grassed area beside a small shelter with a roof and bench seat, bordered by a stone wall. The place looks like a public picnic area and I couldn’t resist calling it home for the night. My stove performed well until I lifted my pasta to replace it with a pot of vegetables. The wind got in and blew out the flame. I tried twice to get it going again but failed. I gave up and ate the pasta with raw tomato, onion and radish. Now I’m in bed listening to the noises around me. There were some monkeys around when I made dinner and every now and then I hear them yelling in the distance.

Don’t mind if I do

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 27.17km
Average cycling speed 7.8kph
Total distance ridden 15,478km
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Day 596 (Nepal Day 22)

It’s clear the drugs I’m taking are working. My diarrhoea has stopped and I’ve even stopped peeing, so I think my body is sucking up as much water as it can after losing so much fluid over the last week. I can now turn my mind back towards my cycling adventure. I am trying to work out whether the apprehension I feel about moving on is because I’m not quite ready yet, or because I’ve got into a lazy routine and having another day off doing nothing is the easier choice. I have set my alarm anyway, so I will decide what to do in the morning. To pass the day I spent a bit of time perusing TED talks and I came across a really cool one called Life is Easy. Watch it! I also received an email back from the school I contacted in Kathmandu. They said they will love to have me as a volunteer!

Stocking up

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 15,451km
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Day 595 (Nepal Day 21)

I usually enjoy developing a closer relationship with nature, but when it comes to parasites like Giardia, nature can go f*!k itself. Being holed up for the last week as the little bugs ravage my intestines and slowly render me a shadow of my former self has not been a pleasant experience. Fortunately, I am finally taking the right drugs and seeing signs of improvement. This morning I managed to bomb the toilet instead of spraying it, and this evening at dinner I was able to accept seconds. I think I’m on the mend.

Dreaming of better days

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 15,451km
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Day 594 (Nepal Day 20)

I have just had dinner. This means I am now bracing myself for another night of uncomfortable pain as my gut swells with gas. Explosive diarrhoea is still a problem. I shat myself during the night in an unforeseen attack that proved to be the worst way I have ever been woken up. Such is my plight with Giardia. Yep, it’s confirmed. Parasitic protozoans are clinging to the walls of my intestine and wreaking havoc in my digestive system. I saw the doctor first thing in the morning and came away with some drugs to target the little f!@kers. I hardly ate anything during the day but at dinner I managed to eat more than I have across the last three nights.

Still here

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 15,451km
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Day 593 (Nepal Day 19)

I didn’t find any relief (or sleep) until after 4am. The only position in which I felt some kind of comfort was kneeling on the ground with my body across the bed. I am now certain I’m suffering from Giardia. My symptoms are 100% consistent: gas bloating, abdominal pain, watery diarrhoea, loss of appetite, sulphur smelling burps. It’s this last disgusting thing that has me completely convinced my self-diagnosis is correct. I’m particularly worried that I can’t eat much and I’m losing vast amounts of water through diarrhoea. If I’m right and I have Giardia, then I really need to take something to kill the parasite, otherwise it’s going to remain in my system and cause recurring issues later. I have just tried to have dinner but I could only eat a tiny bit. As soon as I eat anything, I become painfully pregnant with gas. Tomorrow I will see the doctor for a formal consultation.

Trapped

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 15,451km
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Day 592 (Nepal Day 18)

For how long can I lie on my stomach? It is the only position that gives me slight relief. The pain in my stomach is worrying and I haven’t been able to eat anything. I have lost a lot of water through watery diarrhoea, so I’m probably a bit dehydrated too. It’s 2.30am and I’m yet to fall asleep because the pain is just too much. I’m in serious trouble.

Through another day

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 15,451km
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Day 591 (Nepal Day 17)

Between going to bed and waking up I became sick. I couldn’t really identify what was wrong when I woke up, I just felt strange and instinctively knew I shouldn’t challenge my body just yet. I hunkered down in bed and hoped the feeling would go away. I got sicker as the day progressed. I began to feel nauseous when I moved around. A slight headache crept in. My legs started aching. My guts started hurting. It’s this last thing that has become my greatest concern. My insides have filled with gas and I’ve become bloated. Diarrhoea has recently joined the party. I am worried that I am suffering the harsh side effects of the painkiller I took yesterday. I saw the doctor I met yesterday and he directed me to take some Pantoprazole to alleviate my stomach troubles.

Guesthouse view

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 15,451km
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Day 590 (Nepal Day 16)

I’m feeling better about life again. My back is still killing me but everything else has gone well. My seat is stitched, my stove works and I have food to get me through a couple of days on the bike. I spent much of the morning battling poor internet to join Workaway and contact my first potential host – a school in Kathmandu who is looking for a volunteer to help students practise their English. The opportunity comprises free lodging and food in return for up to five hours of work, five days a week. I am trying not to get my hopes up but it sounds like an ideal way to contribute to kids’ learning, have fun and rest my back, all the while placing me in an interesting city that will be exciting to explore.

In the early afternoon I headed out of the guesthouse to find lunch and pain killers. Fortunately, my guesthouse adjoins a hospital so a shop dispending medication is located just outside. Before I approached the counter, I got chatting to a guy who was standing around and it just so happened he was a doctor from the hospital. He advised me on what to get and even wrote some names for me to present to the shop. I came away with Aceclofenae tablets and Dicofenae gel, which is apparently much better than the ibuprofen or paracetamol I was going to get. I attempted to rest my back through the afternoon, then wandered down to the street to stock up on some more food. It’s likely going to be a couple of days before I pass through a place where I can restock my food supplies.

Home again

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 15,451km
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Day 589 (Nepal Day 15)

Today was a day of ups and downs, both physically and mentally. Camp pack-up proceeded without interruption and I enjoyed a long downhill roll to Hewa Khola River, beneath Phidim. Up was the only way from the water’s side. As I slowly wound my way uphill, I thought through my options. Option 1: proceed with my plan to spend the next week or so camping through the mountains; hope that I get my stove working again; and hope that the blisters that have formed on my bum stop growing and causing me trouble. Option 2: return to Phidim; take some time to really understand my stove before having to rely on it in the wild; and take some time to sort out my seat so that bum blisters don’t become an issue. I disliked the fact that option 2 made more sense, as it felt like failing a little, but common sense prevailed and I decided to return to Phidim.

There was much more hustle and bustle in Phidim this time around, given the fact that the Diwali holiday period is over. Shops were actually open and there were places offering readily available cooked food. For the first time in Nepal, I was able to walk into a place and be served food almost immediately. I devoured some chow mein before returning to Singapore Guesthouse. Once settled in, I got to work.

My first mission was to find someone who could cut and weld my seat frame. My recent bum issues have arisen from the fact that the leather of my saddle has relaxed so much that my bum hits the metal frame. I thought I could cut out a piece of the frame and weld on a new section in a position further away from the leather top. I wandered all through town, but didn’t find anyone who could help. I turned to my second idea, which was to bend the frame away from the leather top. Impossible. By this point I was flustered and frustrated and needed to step away from it for a little. This led me to discover that the guesthouse has WIFI. I jumped on the internet and after a bit of searching, I hit upon a solution to my saddle troubles. I learned that I could stop the leather from sinking onto the metal frame by preventing the sides of the leather to splay out when I sat on it. One way of preventing the sides from splaying out is to lace up the saddle. I marked some holes in the leather then ventured out and found a garage with a drill. Back at home I laced it up using some paracord (a standard component of my gear repair kit). Voila. I am hopeful my seat problem is now solved.

My second mission was to gain confidence in using my multi-fuel burner with my Trangia stove. I cleaned the jet, then gave it a go. Nothing. I dismantled the whole burner, gave it a thorough clean and then tried it again. Nothing. I sat back and thought hard about what might be wrong. I began to suspect that not enough fuel was being released initially. I decided to completely soak the wick in fuel before trying it. Success.

With my two main problems solved, I could turn my attention to a third one that increased in significance throughout the day. I have messed up my back, which is now incredibly painful whenever I am sitting, standing, kneeling, lying…all the time. Wrestling my bike up and down hills (and/or hiking to Pathibhara with the weight of my bag on just one shoulder) has taken its toll. If it gets any worse I won’t be able to function. Despite such a dilemma, I’m still determined to spend at least the next week camping through the hills as I head west. I think I will stay in Phidim again tomorrow so I can rest my back and get properly prepared for my next adventure. I need to do some surgery to my riding sandals, as another strap tore out of the sole today. The work never ends. 

Phidim

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 24km
Average cycling speed 11.5kph
Total distance ridden 15,451km
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