This morning I wasn't my sharpest; see yesterday for details. As was typical of this trip, the other two didn't seem so bad and I was soon dragged to a restaurant for breakfast. Having tried out the table as a pillow for a while I decided that I preferred the comfort of a bed and headed back to the hotel, neglecting the opportunity to kick off the days fruit and veg intake donating my orange juice to Steve "Can't get enough down his throat" Wyatt. While I inspected the rooms facilities for the terminally hungover Steve "Show me the leathers" Wyatt and Andy "Bigger is better" Cross went out to hire some motorbikes for the remaining few days we had in Nepal.
By lunchtime I felt that life might be worth another shot and we wondered to Durbar square through the back streets of Kathmandu. Beyond the square is the famous 'Freak street' where the hippy movement started in Nepal only a few decades ago, along to the locals it must seem like an eternity. Strolling down the street we bumped into some people determined to live up to the name. A late lunch and a wonder back to the Thamel district burnt most of the rest of the day. In the evening we went out to a bar to meet up with Helen (see earlier in the trip - plane ride to Lhasa) and some of her friends. All thoughts of never drinking again seemed to vanish and the dogs hair tasted good. Following this bar we met up with some of the 'Red spokes crew', although by the time we arrived there was only two of them left standing; they had been drinking since three in the afternoon so we forgave the absentees.
So this is the end of the biking trip, an in truth including today was dragging it out a bit as we had arrived the day before. That said we found ourselves in Kathamndu with an entire week to use before we headed home. Time to chill out and relax to ensure we head home in a rested frame of mind? With this lot you must be joking. The hiring of motorbikes had been sorted out and the following day we picked them up, loaded them with our gear and proceeded to give me a lesson on how to ride the dam things. The lesson was restricted to the car park of our hotel, about 20 feet square, so you can imagine that it was a comprehensive lesson on all aspects of high speed biking. Lesson one under my belt, lesson two was taken in the Kathmandu rush hour. With Andy "He's never going to make it" Cross and Steve "Just don't fall off your not wearing leathers" Wyatt fore and aft to guide me through the manic traffic. Progress was slightly hampered by a right hand turn at a busy intersection and with no rules of the road it took a while to force our way across but we made it. As I was getting the hang of things we left Kathmandu and started to get to the open road at which point lesson three started to kick in: biking at night. I have to say that I failed this lesson at the start, having flicked what I thought was the light switch and not got any illumination I assumed that my light was broken - not unreasonable in a bike from Nepal I feel. With the other two ahead I tried to stay in the head lights of trucks to light my way, something which was you think about it carefully probably isn't the most life preserving strategy when one is a bit wobbly on a bike. Eventually Steve "What the hell are you playing at" Wyatt flagged me down and showed me where the light switch actually was and indicated in Anglo-Saxon that I had been flicking the full beam switch. Lesson firmly learnt things got a bit easier. I say easier, this term is highly relative.
To describe the motor biking is tough. To sum it up try taking all the traditional urban hazards and overlaying them on a road surface of terrible quality and further overlaying the road consideration of other drivers normally associated with a banger car race and your half way there. In turn these hazards included people wondering in the road, goats ambling around, cows playing chicken, occasional tarmac interspersed with broken ground, pot holes everywhere, cars speeding past squeezing through the most optimistic gaps and finally the trucks. Truck drivers are aware that they are the biggest thing on the road and drive accordingly, with the filtered kind of vision that only registers things the same size of bigger than them. Or those likely to be carrying armed passengers. As such they often overtake despite the oncoming traffic and flash their lights just once to give you the hint that they should have right of way. I had imagined the motor bike to be a little more comfortable and a little less mortally dangerous than my first experience but they are none the less excellent fun. After a brief stop in a town renowned for Maoist's (generally tourist unfriendly communist movement in Nepal widely aknowledged to be trained by ex-Gurka soldiers) to ask directions, and no we didn't get off the bikes, we rolled into our place to stay in Chitwan national park. The following day was to feature an elephant playing football with a dog, a dug out canoe ride in a lightening storm through crocodile infested waters to trek through a tiger and rhino inhabited jungle through the pouring rain while picking leeches off every exposed surface.....but that's perhaps a little extension to our story which you'll have to buy with some beers.
Writing this diary has cost me, in no particualr order, over a year, a computer and about a crate of gin. However, the chance to relive every moment has been worth it ten fold. Since finishing this trip life has swept me up again with a second year in a new job, the death of my grandad, becoming an uncle, re-finding a fantastic girl and selling a house to move into a tiny rented room where I write this now. Looking back over the whole trip I realise how lucky I am to not only have friends who are willing and capable of these stupid trips but also who overcome my natural risk adverse nature and persuade me to join them - why remains a mystery. While the march of time and responsibilities will inevitably mean the frequency of these trips will diminishm, probably all too rapidly, I'd like to say a heartfelt thanks to both Andy Cross and Steve Wyatt who I admire greatly for their seemingly limitless appetite for life and their firm self-confidence to overcome any mishap which spreads that confidence to those around them. With their help I now have stories I hope to be telling my grandchildren in years to come - with the air of a challenge: go on, live your life and beat that if you can.