Before I could get out of Kathmandu, I had to get a little work done on my bike. I like to do all my own work and don’t trust most of the mechanics here, but I needed a hand. My exhaust was still messed up and leaking and I couldn’t find any material to make a gasket that would actually hold up. I was bogging down 3500 rpm and was still looking for someone to get my new spring put on. Most of all I wanted that spring on so I could ride through corners easier. I’d seen on a forum that there was a guy who worked on big bikes. I met up with Pushpa Narayan and his brother at their shop, Kathmandu Motorcycle Workshop, which is around the corner from the Chinese embassy. If you didn’t know where to look you’d never find it. Down below a building is their workshop.
We worked on my bike all day getting everything done.
They were able to get the new heavier spring onto the shock, which helps keep the bike up and not so saggy. I had gone to three or four Indian mechanics who wouldn’t even try.
Pushpa took out my carb and gave it a thorough cleaning. There was some water in it, so he also took off the gas tank and gave cleaned everything out. I’ve never seen someone so meticulous with every little part and doing things so perfectly. A lot of mechanics in Asia just rush through things and do a half ass job, but he was super organized.
His brother and little man-made up a gasket out of an asbestos sheet for the header to silencer joint. I was a bit skeptical since it was a paper material and thought it would just burn up, but it did the job really well (for about a week until the paper in fact burnt away and left me with a terrible leak again).
Besides the main things I came in for, they did a lot of other small things on the bike and gave it a good look over. They managed to tear the steel reinforcement bar off the ammo cans so that they fit perfectly onto the rack.
It was a good day working at his shop and I learned a couple of things from Pushpa. They’re a nice bunch to work with. Thanks for the help.
The little man is pretty much the helper at the shop. He lends his hand however he can and finds tools for everyone. From what I understood, he doesn’t have the ability to go to school so they took him in at the shop to give him something constructive for his time and learn along the way. Cool kid.
Coming to Kathmandu, I expected to see the apocalypse. I imagined roads mangled and all the buildings crumbled to the ground. The news puts a lot of pictures into my head. On April 25th, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit the city. It’s strange to finally see it since I should have been there for it. If I hadn’t been hit by a truck at the end of March, I would have been getting to Nepal soon. During the quake I would have been in the city or somewhere out trekking. Instead of sitting at home watching it on the internet, I would have seen it first hand. Much of the worst destruction was in rural areas around Kathmandu where structures are built using mud and brick, which can’t handle the violent shaking. A lot of the concrete structures survived with only minor damage, like cracks. In some areas of the city you can hardly tell there had been a major quake, but in others it was very evident. Many places appear to be ok, but on further inspection can see that their completely crooked or leaning over onto a neighbor. Big wood braces are in place all over the city trying to give support. Not sure how much good they can actually do.
While exploring the tangle of small streets around the city, the destruction becomes more clear.
A lot of damage can be seen at Durbar Square, which is a Unesco World Heritage site. I’d been there before a few years back and remembered all the beautiful brick architecture. It’s a mesh of temples and a lot of them have been reduced to piles of brick. The Gaddi Durbar, white pillared structure, made it through still standing, but looks over all the less fortunate ones. I recognized some stuff, but I could tell there were places missing or considerably shorter.
Intertwined with all this are the people who lived through it and are trying to come out of a hard time. Everyone who lived through it is affected in their own way. Some people lost family members or friends, some lost their homes or businesses, and others have mental scars from what they saw in the aftermath. One of the hostel owners where I was staying had a bad dream while I was there. I woke him up out of it and he was panicked and choking for air. He had dreamed he was in the hotel next door when an earthquake hit and it collapsed leaving him crushed under ruble. Regardless of how they were effected, they go about their lives. Delicious momos and lassi are still flowing freely.
Colorful street bazaars still alive.
The ladies haven’t lost their smiles.
Mothers and daughters selling the perfect combination of corn and clothes.
Old guys still sip tea and talk away the day at their propped up tea house.
At the monkey temple in Swayambhu, the prayer flags and monkeys still play in the trees.
Mattress repair men set up shop on the side of the road.
While I take pictures of the insane mangle of power-lines, locals take pictures of me.
And all-in-all life goes on in Kathmandu. The only thing missing are the tourists. Thamel, the tourist area, is a ghost town compared to what it is usually. Businesses are struggling. Nepal relies on the tourist dollar to survive and it needs us to come back badly. If the locals could give outsiders one message it would be to come to their country and see that it’s ok and safe. These kind people are ready to welcome you back to their country.
Before leaving, the bike got the spa treatment. Only in Nepal can you get two guys to spend twenty minutes detailing your motorcycle for 80 cents.
It was time to leave Kathmandu behind and the roses were coming with.
The traffic in Kathmandu is legendarily bad and getting in and out of the city is an adventure. Heading out-of-town towards Pokhara is a mess of vehicles and the first section is dominated by big trucks heading up and down the route. Luckily, eventually most of them continue south towards the lowlands while you continue west. The road can be bad in spots with even worse drivers trying their hardest to run you off the road. The route leads along a river with some beautiful lush valleys.
I kept getting a deliciously sweet aroma wafting through my nostrils and couldn’t figure it out. Then I realized it was growing all over the sides of the roads. This would become pretty normal and only appear more and more.
I also bumped into many cheerful dudes along the sides of the road who loved getting an up close look at me.
I backed up into a ditch along the way and had to get help from a group of ladies.
Pokhara sits next to a Phewa Tal, a beautiful lake at the base of the Himalaya mountains. Some amazing treks start from here, but in the monsoon it would be just short of miserable. In the dry season, Pokhara is framed by towering snow caped peaks, but for now they’re cloaked in thick clouds. The monsoon season had kicked into full gear in Nepal and thick dark skies become the norm. Sun breaks became exciting. The lake sits calm and flat under the stormy skies and stretches out into the peaks.
You can tell it’s a place built for tourists, but it’s missing one thing, tourists. Besides a few Indians on holiday, the town had a sparse collection of foreigners. Hotels are everywhere, but are virtually all empty. It’s a good time to get a room for next to nothing. They’re definitely hurting since the earthquake. For views over the lake and surrounding area, which must be awesome in good weather, there’s Sarangkot. About a forty-five minute ride leads you out-of-town and twists you up to the top.
This is where all the paragliders jump off.
There’s a lot more exploring to do from up there. The rice paddies are full of water and reflect the multi-coloured skies.
Sometimes it’s not too fun being rained on, but it makes it easier when you’re surrounded by beauty. Next trekking season will be an awesome one to be in Nepal. Because of peoples fears to come, the usually packed trails will be much more enjoyable.