Friday, October 8, 2010

Arrival in Kathmandu

Well, we had everything thrown at us in one day yesterday.
We didnt get away from Hetauda until mid afternoon .
The road from Hetauda to Kathmandu started out magnificently.  Tight hairpin bends that just went up and up and up, through the cloud layer, then up and up and up some more.  Stopped at a lovely village on the top of a mountain, and played with a heap of kids.  All of them are so cute and sneak up for a cuddle.  A quick swig of a pepsi bottle let us top it up with possibly the worst whisky ever manufactured, but at least it provided some internal warmth.  The hairpin bends continued for hours, with sheer drops off the outside and no safety margin at all.  Speeds quite low though, with the bikes rarely hitting 40kph as the corners come at you too fast.  Everyone was in really high spirits and each stop was a minor celebration.
Sadly, as it got dark, things started to go downhill very quickly (not in a geographical sense).  In the space of half an hour, the road deteriorated to little more than a goat track, corners washed away and very deep ruts to navigate.  As central asian freight tends to move at night, the road became congested with Tata's; and this generated solid walls of dust.  This was the most challenging riding conditions yet, and everyone was very conscious that 'getting it wrong' left no margin for error at all. 
The harsh conditions took their toll on the bikes as well, with constant breakdowns.  the engins have been fine, but the frames are just not coping with this.  Both Daves have broken subframes again, Brad's clutch has given up, electrics are intermittent, and two of the bikes need to be kick started or pushed to get going once we stop. 
It got much more dangerous when Ty's lights gave out as well, and the last three hours were in darkness.  Thank goodness for the old head lamp that he bought before leaving Perth.  With this strapped to his helmet and a flashing LED lamp on the back of his jacket, we limped into Kathmandu.
It took nearly 9 hours to cover the 190km to Kathmandu.  Everyone is tired, sore, blistered, and there have been some flared tempers. The team dynamic is good though, and we understand and let stuff slide, rather than respond.  This means you get to blow off steam and then 'rejoin the group' withou any issues (it's a guy thing).
Stayed in the Hyatt in Kathmandu last night.  Expensive - but we all really needed a break with a shower and a chance to feel human again.  I had a bath, and then a shower straight afterwards where I scrubbed to get all the dirt and dust out of places it had no right to be.  Despite that, I looked at the towel afterwards and it was a lovely shade of dark grey.
Despite the dangers and hard physical conditions, everyone was exhilarated to make it to Kathmandu last night (at 11pm), and all felt very much alive and a sense of achievement. 
Need to carry out repairs this morning, then off to Pokhara this afternoon.