Tuesday 13 November

I feel my negotiations to get breakfast included in the price of the room were not entirely necessary, as at 5 am I don’t really feel much like eating. I gulp down a coffee and slice of toast, and then head straight for the ‘Last Resort’ office. I am anxious not to be late, as they gave dire warnings of leaving stragglers behind.


Tibet Road

As it happens, nothing much happens until about half-past six. There are quite a few people on this trip, including a Swede called Bengt and two Israelis, ‘Zee’ and ‘Arnie’. We walk from the office to the edge of Thamel, where we finally locate the bus. We drive out of the centre and along the Bhaktapur road in early-morning fog, the sun a pale yellow disk behind the cloud. About an hour and a half along the Arniko Highway, the road begins to seriously deteriorate. It looks like being another lurching ride along the edge of a precipice.


Bhote Koshi River

We reach the resort at around 10 am, cross the steel-rope bridge high above the Bhote Koshi, and enter the grounds. The sky has cleared, and it looks like being a beautiful day. I take a few moments drinking in the fresh air and the fabulous view of the valley. This haven of peace could not be further from Kathmandu.

The bungie jumpers go straight off for their briefing. The rest of us sit on the terrace under a canopy at one end of the lawn, with tea and coffee, and wondering just what lies in store. There are four of us booked in for the canyoning today.

The resort manager arrives with bad news—the canyoning instructor is sick with food poisoning, and it is too late to get the others up from Kathmandu. They have to send messages with the bus, as there is no telephone out here. So the canyoning is not going to happen today. It’s a bit of a blow, but there is a good chance that we’ll be able to go ahead on Thursday instead. But three Israelis are a little less relaxed about it, as they were not all planning on staying that long. I wander off while negotiations continue. There is talk of refunds and compensation, but eventually a deal seems to be struck.


Pausing for breath

Biking up to the Tibet border is the alternative, and we finally get away, albeit a little later than is ideal. The initial half mile from the bridge is downhill. On the loose surface, I am a little unsettled that the brakes on the bicycle are the other way round to what I am used to. But the downhill soon ends, and the slog to the border begins.

This is the main road between Kathmandu and Tibet, and a steady stream of lorries lurches past throwing up clouds of choking dusk from the unpaved surface. It is now quite hot, and I’m sweating profusely making the dust stick to my face. Some parts of the road are so rocky as to make riding almost impossible.


Friendship Bridge


Tibet-Nepal Customs

We pass through villages along the way, and are greeted by ‘hello’s from the children. Eventually, we reach Kodari, the border, at about 3 pm, utterly exhausted. The guards are very relaxed, and are quite happy for me to walk through without my passport in order to see the Friendship Bridge, linking Nepal with Tibet. We walk out into the middle. On the far side, the Chinese flag flies above the gateway. At the head of the valley to our left, quite modern-looking buildings cling to the hillside in the distance. Back in no-mans-land on the Nepal side, lorries are queued up waiting to pass into Nepal. I wonder where our guide has got to. Eventually I locate him in a café just polishing off a bowl of noodles. This seems like a splendid idea (I am utterly famished) and I join him to demolish a hearty noodle soup.

Our downhill return journey is considerably faster, and quite exhilerating, partly due to the loose and in places rocky surface, and partly because I keep hitting the wrong brake. We stop off at Tatopani for the hot springs, although anticipating further dust and sweat I decide to postpone a shower until we get back.


Dinner

Back at the resort, I’m sharing a large four-man tent under a thatched awning with two others. I make straight for the shower, which is completely cold. All right when you get used to it though...

The light soon goes, and we have dinner by the light of candles in the dining pavillion, a stone and slate building fully-open on one side, with a bar at one end.