Monday, 5 October 2015

Biking around Pokhara and the Bat Cave

We met Lutie and another new volunteer Julia from Germany at Kiwi. We then went to the bottom of the road to hire out bikes for the day. There were normal city bikes for 300 rupees and mountain bikes for 500 rupees. Really not a big deal as its a £1 more expensive but we were like woah 500 we will just take the 300 rupee bikes...even though the guy renting them had already warned us they will be fine riding around lakeside but its better to get mountain bikes for further afield. Did we listen? Nope. So we took them for a short test ride up and down the flat road and everything seemed fine. So we paid up and off we went. Direction old Pokhara and the Bat Cave, a 10km ride away.

It was around 3 mins into the journey when we hit the main road and our first hill when we noticed the reason we should have got mountain bikes...most of it was uphill, bumpy and full of traffic, and even though Lutie and Maren had got the decent and Julia had gotten bad dibs! My bikes gears didn't work properly and I had to pedal furiously to get no where, and Julia's bike had no gears at all! This was going to be interesting!

After navigating the dodgy junctions on the road (there are no road rules in Nepal, in fact the only rules are to break every road rule that Europe has in place for safety reasons) we set off on the main highway up to old Pokhara, past the tiny airport, getting honked at, almost knocked over by cars and is basically the same as if you hired bikes in India...and if you have been to India you know how much of a death trap that would be! Even though the fuel crisis from the Border issues was in full swing by now, there were still enough vehicles on the road to matter! Also, the roads were all uphill! So my bike struggled and a few of the hills Julia and I had to push our bikes up as we were more likely to go backwards rather than forwards.

By the time we made it to Old Pokhara we were exhausted and it was only then that we realised the next issue, there were more downhills than uphill, and we realised then that the breaks were dodgy (if you pulled too hard it almost threw you off, if you didn't pull at all you sped down so fast if you hit a bump or junction in the road the only thing saving you from oncoming traffic or falling off, was praying! And thats what happened. At one particular hill we sped down and couldnt stop in time for the junction where we had a bus coming from one side, and a truck from the other, we literally just had to go for it, horns blaring and screaming until we hit the alleyway ahead, all limbs intact.

The rest of the way to the first Bat Cave sign was smooth apart from the massive hills we had to push our bikes up. We stopped under a big tree for a break, some water and some shade. While here a little girl and her grandmother came up beside us wanting water, and Maren gave them an apple as it seemed they were quite poor and possibly starving. The grandmother chatted away in Nepali which we didnt understand but with hand actions we made out that we should give it to the little girl as she needed it more than her, or thats what we gathered.

We then carried on and hit our third disaster...Julia's bike had gotten a puncture! So she had to push her bike most of the way until we hit the next town where luck had it that there was a bike repair shop! So for 50 rupees they managed to fix the puncture and we carried on following the signs to the Bat Cave. By this point we had been biking for over two hours and were hot and tired. Eventually a half hour later we arrived, chained up the bikes, paid our 100 rupees entrance fee to which Lutie said if we don't see bats can we get a refund, and took our cave flashlight with 'do you want a guide?' echoing behind us but we ignored this warning too.

Once down in the cave we then realised why we might need that do we navigate this?! It was pitch black save for our lights which didnt light much more than our shadows. And we figured out eventually that we had to go through a tiny opening where we heard voices coming from but who made those voices we have no idea as when we climbed through there was no one - spooky! It was even more spooky when the first thing our lights hit upon were little rock/stone piles everywhere, it looked like something out of the Blair Witch Project! These were just Mani Stones (or 'stone men') though, which mark the path of a route or journey taken by Tibetan and Nepali people. Its also a kind of offering to the gods for a safe journey.

But it was when we lifted the lights to the ceiling that we realised why it was called bat cave...there were tiny bats hanging above us everywhere! It was kinda cool, but then we also realised the reality of having bat shit and pee on us, which is pretty toxic. We then tried to navigate further but realised what we thought was the exit was more of a caving experience that you had to wriggle out of a tiny hole to the top and so we turned back and came the way we entered.

After getting back to our bikes, I had a little mishap which entertained the locals, in which I was so busy trying to get the bikes in a picture, I didn't realise I was heading towards the roadside ditch, and only realised just as i was about to fall, so fell gracefully down into a ditch which was the height of my knees and had a good giggle between us and the locals just cracked up.

We then biked back down to grab something to eat where we went to a local place where we basically pointed and ordered what the school kids were having. It turned out to be delicious buffalo Momos in a noodle soup for only 70 rupees (45p).

Once refuelled we decided it was time to head back as it was after 1-2pm and needed to get back to lakeside for 5pm. So we decided this timw to take the big highway back which was more direct and luckily all downhill! So it only took us around an hour to get back. It was a chaotic road and very dusty. We got stuck in a Nepali traffic jam due to the game of 'losing face' which is a big thing here. No one wants to admit they are wrong. So basically you get two cars blocking the road, and neither one wants to move out the way to let the other one through or clear the road, and so a traffic jam is caused and your basically stuck until one gives up, which can take a long time of sitting and staring at each other and maybe a bit of shouting! Lol we luckily on our bikes could shortcut round it on the dirt track pavement and be on our way.

Upon reaching lakeside Lutie handed her bike in which i then took as I couldnt bare my shoddy bike any longer, and she went back to the hostel as she had to email someone before they had to be back at the orphanage. So me, Maren and Julia went to a cafe down by the lake, had ourselves a mango lassi while listening to some chillout jack johnson and gave our bums and legs a rest before heading back and handing the bikes in. We then just relaxed and showered and went for a meal at Cafe Nirvana -  our regular place now. And then exhausted, we hit the sack!

The next day was yoga in the morning and a chill day at the swimming pool with Julia, Lutie and Maron. In the evening we went for a locak meal at Maili which is where all the locals go for 180 rupee daal baht and it was delicious. We also prepaired and packed for our hike up to Sarangkot the next day!

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