Darkness. My hotel room in India on the border with Nepal. No window. Bleary-eyed, I glance out the door and walk towards the balcony. Outside the fog is still thick. Reducing visibility down to less than a few metres. One can only wait and see (or not see). I’m having a milk tea and some cigarettes at a street vendor. Slowly, I can feel the first rays of sunshine. The main road towards the border crossing becomes visible and I’m on my way. India doesn’t have a proper border post at this point. Customs duties and passenger traffic are handled at two bars on the side of the road and if you don’t pay attention, you will quickly find yourself in Nepal without your documents being stamped and you’ll be sent right back. Despite all the chaotic circumstances and conditions in India: the Carnet de Passage is processed automatically and with precise information for documentation. Ciao India!! Even though I’ll come back on my journey eastwards, but for now I’m happy to take a break. The sun is already shining in Nepal! Go through border procedures, put down 30 dollars for a month’s stay and off you go. Nepal is much more lightly populated and it’s an incredible feeling to experience the people and, above all, almost empty streets. People are smiling instead of staring. The birthplace of Buddha and at the same time, after Afghanistan, the second poorest country in Asia.
The snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas are visible on the distant horizon. The road begins to climb high at the foot of the world’s mightiest mountain massif and I enjoy the ride through the green jungle-like landscape. My first stop will be the Chitwan National Park, where I will stay for two days, enjoy the peace and quiet of the country and participate in a one-day safari. Up until now, I had never seen a wild rhinoceros, grazing on the river bank. It’s hard to encounter wildlife because the area is densely covered with vegetation, so the path must be cleared with machetes. It’s interesting to see how, in this case, man has given priority to nature, adapting to it, respecting the wilderness.
In Nepal, I meet elephants for the first time and again, I realise how far away I am from home. In Europe, winter has already arrived and here, I am still enjoying the days with up to 25°C.
I have a long day ahead of me, the journey to Kathmandu. A single road connects Chitwan to the capital of Nepal, where the country’s entire infrastructure is located, while at the same time the roads are still severely damaged by the terrible earthquake of 2015. With a seemingly endless queue of traffic on this route, I can manage to travel 150 kilometres in seven hours. I’m able to make it to Kathmandu before nightfall. I find a secluded place to stay and look forward to a ten-day stay in the city. The travel documents need to get in order for the next visas and I’m due to visit a KTM workshop. The mechanics at KTM are only used to the small 125 Duke bikes and completely out of their heads to get to see my Adventure 950. Right on time, the fuel pump breaks down and I am able to replace it with the spare pump I brought along. The year is coming to an end and so is my time as a lonely traveller. I’m ready for the next stop, Myanmar, and I will need a guide for this. Quite an expensive matter, but in this case the price can be reduced by the number of participants. A month ago, I started my research and it ended with the fact that from now on, I will continue my journey with Nora from the Netherlands and Joe from New Zealand. When thinking about this, a light skepticism comes up because my whole philosophy is designed for travelling alone.
The time has come. Shortly before the turn of the year, we meet in Kathmandu and we all have dinner together at the table. That night, I wake up with severe breathing problems. Due to aggravating symptoms, I’m being picked up by the ambulance and admitted to hospital where I suffer from an excruciating pain for 12 hours. Pneumonia, according to the doctor’s statement, probably caused by air pollution in northern India and on the southern side of the Himalayas. The area in the north of India, whose industry produces so much exhaust gas that a huge cloud of fine dust particles is already trapped in the ridge of the Himalayas. It is astonishing how much man can influence nature and how much this way of life can lead to the contamination of entire continents.
So I spend five days in hospital – the travel health insurance I had taken out before my departure has proven its worth and saved high costs.
On the third day of the New Year, I am allowed to leave the hospital and I leave it as a non-smoker, after 14 years, this experience has led me to realise how sensitive the lungs are and how much I have burdened them with my lifestyle.
My farewell from Kathmandu is coming up – now there’s three of us. A new stage, a new chapter. I quickly become aware of the advantages and beautiful aspects of this shared adventure. We drive on the Japan Highway, a beautiful mountain road financed by the Japanese – hence the name. We share the views and feelings, setting our direction towards south-west. Nepal charmed me, but it was definitely the wrong time in this country. I’ll be happy to come back here one day. But now, we head off to India, to the state of Bengal and for another story and new experiences.
RISER – Driven by Adventure