I arrived last night in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. The country holds great intrigue for me and my initial impressions do not disappoint. Kathmandu is a relaxed and historical place which, I get the inkling, has a great deal to offer for those who are willing to hang about and dig deeper below the surface chaff of tourist internet cafes, craft, clothes, trekking and book shops. I arrived on a bus during the night.
I decided to take the bus so I could see the capital without rushing and not have to backtrack on myself. My plan is to cycle the length of Nepal then drop back down into India at the most western border crossing and on to Delhi.
A few days ago I had a street food binge of samosas, fried chillis, jelebi, endless chays, and I wish I hadn't because it's left me with a lingering stomach bug. However, I'm used to fighting off this sort of thing, it comes with the territory. Still, it's become particularly apparent how my physical state, unavoidably affects my mental state particularly my mood and being able to cope with the rigours of cycling in the most populated state of India - Uttar Pradesh.
I found myself quite miserable, sometimes interpretting the relentless intrigue from locals negatively (when I wanted some time alone). However, the good thing is I am aware of it, and therefore, although it is a struggle, I am (sometimes) able to act to prevent 'negative externalities' resulting from my weakened physical state, from being acted out in the real world. For example manifesting itself as - me going into my own shell, seemingly failing to notice anything around me, being silent (when I am asked my name, country, profession etc for the upteenth time).
For me, if I am like this then I'm wasting my existence because whereas positive interactions yield a good feeling and an 'upward spiral' of happiness (I also tend to take more photos, film more stuff, and have more to write about), negative ones tend to lead the other way. I think this process is a lengthy one to learn but, in the long run, is an important lesson to be learnt in self-control and to quote from Alastair Humphrey's website (or wherever he got it from -sorry Alastair) - 'grace under pressure'.
When interacting with locals in India the best way to act has always been totally calm, respectful, and having some fun. In fact I think it's possible to have a meaningful interaction with pretty much anyone (but that requires a stillness of mind to be able to recognise these opportunities throughout the ups and downs of physical existence), but that's evidently beyond my enlightenment just yet.
I digress.... Putting a bike on a bus is always a bit of a gamble. My bike when I retrieved it from the bus roof on arrival was missing one of my 'custom designed' foam pipe insulation bar-end covers. This is not the end of the world admittedly, but it had a certain amount of sentimental value (ahhh... at least 6000km of self-realised comfiness). Today I have been able to recreate a new set with some more foam sourced in the local market and some gaffer tape. At first I thought I wasn't going to be able to find foam with the right 'non-flattening, non-popping, bouncy-consistency' then I found a roll that was just right.
My trailer suffered some damage to the net which I will fix with tie-wraps. It's in a fairly sorry state now but it's come a long way. I stand by the design and performance of the Extrawheel trailer above the Bob competitor, having test-driven both on and off road. I walked through the busy streets near to Durbar square and gazed at all the interesting little shops- hand made tools, fabrics, sweets, household items, ornaments, clothes, shoes, tailors, herbs, pulses, spices. Colourful and a bubbling atmosphere lacking the aggressive and persistence tourist touts at touristic places in India which really started to grate after a while (not all bad but sometimes over the top).
Around Durbar square is the old city where the streets are narrow and old buildings overhang the street below. Some of the old city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1934 and many were rebuilt, not to the same specification as before. The square was declared a world heritage site in 1979. One can see different ethic origins, Mongolian, Chinese, Indian, Nepalese and it's very exciting and wonderful to see new faces.
The ambience and people feels like, what I might imagine to be, a stepping stone between India and China but at the same time, here, has a totally different feel to the dirt, dust and chaotic overload at the Indian border. It fuels my adventurous desire to cross China in the future by bicycle and explore the far east. I spent a percentage of my day going round in circles on my bike, getting lost and navigating gridlocked traffic.
Often I would get off, and wheel my bike on the back wheel between any available gaps appearing in the motorbikes, cycle rickshaws, cars, cyclists and people shifting along in a stop-go fashion. Pedalling around I had the pleasure to be able to stop and gaze at the new style of temple here compared to India. Buddhist shrines with intricate carvings.
I'm off to sample some Nepalese food, or maybe cook some fresh vegetables in my room on my stove. My plan is to stay here tommorrow and aim to leave the day after to start cycling. Although I would like to spend more time in Kathmandu. It is like any city, expensive and generally (for me at least) tends to grind down my spirit and bring on a certain lethargy which can only be broken away from by getting out there into the real world.