Nepal: Prithvi Highway- Pollution, Potholes and the Road to Freedom.
I was ejected out of the cab and onto the dusty muddy hell hole that is Kathmandu-Thamel to be precise -the quintessential backpacking hub of Nepal. Within minutes I was offered hash, young girls and a ‘tunga’ (a common instrument configured of a piece of wood from the trash and hastily stringed with un-tunable baling wire)
I began to wander, dazed and confused through the pollution and crazy touts, in search of a worthy steed for the Nepalese leg of my journey.
After running out of funds in Peru, I had returned home to the Land of Oz to secure more funds for my travels. Having quit full-time work and not having any ties or possessions, it was easy to save 20 grand incredibly fast.
To be honest I couldn’t wait to leave, coming home always opens my eyes to the sterility of the Aussie culture. The only real culture that exits in Australia is the Aboriginal people’s culture. For everyone else, it’s binge drinking, meat-pies, and football.
The shitty quality of motorcycles in this part of the world is an understatement. Bikes are rarely maintained, covered in rust and have generally no working brakes. After careful consideration and with the help of my good friend Dhan, I purchased a ‘battle green’ 500cc Royal Enfield for 250 000 rupees, which is roughly $2500 US dollars.
That’s incredibly expensive. (There is a 200% import tax on motorcycles in Nepal. The same bike over the border in India would have cost me no more than $1000) I had a buyer lined up already for my exit, so getting most of my money back seemed quite reasonable.
The amount of shops selling pirated hiking equipment was astonishing. They have impromptu sweatshops in the rear, filling jackets with anything from chicken feathers, dog hair or buffalo scrotums, then they slap on a “North Face” label and a ridiculously high price to seal the deal. It was all quite entrepreneurial really. I was impressed.
Once the sun sets though, things get pretty wild in this part of town. Hookers, street kids, shady hustlers and apparently every fucking taxi in Nepal cram the streets in demand of your attention. Any un-seasoned traveller will be swamped by these persistent bastards and wind up having a total freak-out. Many moons ago, that would’ve once been me. Now I just tell them to fuck off.
Feeling a tugging at my sleeve I peered down to see a disheveled youngster that had latched himself to my leg, much like a sloth does with a high tree branch.
“Please sir, very hungreeee, please sir, very hungreee,” he pleaded continuously. I ignored him and continued on my way down the street, limping with my newly added weight.
Ten minutes later I finally succumbed to his pleas, stopped, looked down and with feigned annoyance exclaimed,
“For fuck’s sake kid, waddaya want?”
He paused for what seemed like an eternity, still clutching my leg as if he was about to drop off a cliff. Opening his eyes impossibly wide like Puss in Boots from Shrek he stared up and exclaimed,
“Please sir. Very hungry!”
“Jesus fucking Christ son! All right!” I shouted, handed him 100 rupees and pretended to boot his ass as he ran off.
Kids are great.
Itching to hit the open road and away from all this fuckery, I loaded up the Enfield with all my worldly possessions and hit the road west towards Pokhara, via the Prithvati Highway. (of which I was ecstatic to learn has earned itself a mention in the list of ‘The Worlds Most Dangerous Roads’)
Well let me tell you for a start the Nepalese government couldn’t give a fuck about building roads, let alone maintaining them. Obviously the tax money in this part of the world only goes to buying truckloads of Cuban cigars, hookers and brand new Land-Rovers for those high up in office.
Landslides, flooding, potholes, cows, speeding buses overtaking on blind corners, and pollution you can barely see through, are only a fraction of the wonderful odds you may face whilst getting to Pokhara.
After the ten-thousandth pothole and a half-ton of cow shit, I pulled over to contemplate my decisions in life. Why do I do this to myself? I wondered. After downing a warm red bull, and a soggy mars bar, I took off into the nether, narrowly missing a crazed wild buffalo and a bus that was now careening into my lane to avoid a collision with said buffalo.
Moments before I left the road and drove into what appeared to be an impromptu sewerage drain, I noticed a huge ‘Don’t Worry, Be A-Happy!’ sticker emblazoned upon its windscreen.
“Welcome to Nepal” I thought to myself.
- Kilometres travelled-31 069km
- Flat tyres-13 and a 1/2
- Amount of bruises on my ass- More than a gay Pornstar.