WHERE : Syangja District, Nepal WHEN : Christmas to New Year's Eve 2015 OBJECTIVE : Ride lazily to Tansen; Practice Nepali DISTANCE : 250 kilometers, 155 miles CLASSIFICATION : Wheels (Bicycle), Words
When the holidays roll around each year, I queue up a host of embarrassingly bad Christmas tunes and get my seasonal Cheese on like the next guy. I love those sappy tunes—the kitschier the better.
Beyond that, the holiday holds very little interest for me unless I miraculously find myself transported to a German Weihnachtsmarkt in a random city named Köln. (Why Köln? because Köln, that’s why Köln!) There must be snow on the ground, and a Brauerei Päffgen-sponsored tuba/glockenspiel duo on stage. In those rare instances, I’m easy to spot. I’m the guy snorting powdered sugar off Belgian Waffles, singing “O Du Fröliche” at the top of his lungs into large, conspicuously empty vats of Glühwein. Lederhosen are involved. Glass-blowers. Hijinks. [The animals in the nativity scene, however?—posed in flagrante delicto for the Christ-child’s delight?—that wasn’t me.]
But anyway…. Mir geht’s gut, thanks for asking. No hangover. Nothing.
So where were we? Oh yes: there’s no Weihnachtsmarkt in Pokhara, and the Belgian Waffles are decidedly un-Belgian. Enter Plan B: throw panniers back on my bike and take a leisurely ride south towards Tansen, in Palpa District.
I’ll follow the same timeline as last year’s ride through the Moroccan desert—depart Christmas day, get lost for a week, return home in time for New Year’s Eve.
It’s high time I accelerate my progress with the Nepali language, so I’ll be stopping in every village with a tea stall or momo shop, chatting up the locals in Nepali–and only Nepali–for as long as the tea lasts, and then moving on. If I stop more than once in the same village, raamro hune chha. It will be good. I have nowhere to be, and plenty of time to get there.
This strategy? A+ and highly recommended. I never made it to Tansen, but by the time I reached Ramdi—a small village along the infamous Kali Gandaki river—my language skills were exponentially improved.
Short and sweet: four days out, three days back. Right on cue for Pokhara’s New Year’s Festival. (And, hey…wait a minute! Izzat a glockenspiel I hear?!)
Namaste and Happy New Year,
January 3, 2016
Traveling anywhere in Nepal or India, you’ll pass confounding numbers of temples and shrines to members of the Hindu pantheon. Villages are rightly proud of their temples, and a short, unplanned excursion richly rewards the curious. Hindu temples are unlike those of any other faith: outdoors, colorful, exposed to the elements, and often intertwined with, or built within, evocative natural objects: hollowed-out trees, caverns, a secret copse of trees in an out of the way forest. Primal locations. This devout young woman was tasked with the village temple’s upkeep for part of the day, and for guiding pilgrims and tourists (not usually of the foreign variety). She did an excellent job. My advice? Take a few minutes, wander, let your imagination run wild, and leave a small donation on your way out.