The Himalayan Challenge
21 September - 11 October 2018
OCTOBER 5, 2018
Bardia to Pokhara
The Terai can be a noisy place and the permanent inhabitants of the low lying jungle parts of Nepal seem to like an early start. So it was this morning, most crews didn’t need an alarm clock to get them out of bed.
The monkeys on the roof provided a much more authentic reveille. No one actually saw any of the big cats that shared the forest with us but, given the commotion in the shrubbery around our huts, the ever watchful langurs on the roof surely did.
Today’s departure MTC wasn't in the hotel itself, it was just outside of the Bardia National Park, on the main road. As a result, the crews were able to enjoy a slow run through dozens of small farming communities just as the inhabitants were waking and going about their morning routines.
Driving through this almost pre modern world was incredible and Ann Gillis was only one of the crews who commented on the many wonderful photo opportunities which presented themselves to us through our windscreens.
At 452km, today was slated to be a long haul, the longest of the rally in fact, but we were promised both a good lunch in the middle and perhaps even a steak at the end. Before we got to enjoy these rewards though we had a few hours of tight timing and difficult roads to negotiate.
Covering ground in this part of Nepal can be pretty simple and the road to the first Time Control at Satbariya in the Bagar Baba cafe was mostly arrow straight, pancake flat and made of good quality tarmac, which we shared with all manner of other vehicles. Long stretches of this were also set deep in the trees, which kept the edge off the 27°c heat.
Despite this easy start to the day, Bagar Baba was a welcome rest stop and although the crews took on some extra fuel in the form of chai and sweet biscuits, their cars weren’t so lucky, as on the way to it some of the gas stations had run dry. As a result, Matthias Bittner and Denis Billon’s Volvo ground to a halt soon afterwards. Luckily they had a 5 litre reserve with them which was just enough to take them to the next service station and then on to the second Time Control and lunch in the Baabari Restaurant in Rupandehi.
Following a most satisfactory lunch of veg’ curry with dhal, the road to the Regularity at Chappani was typically Himalayan. Steep, loose in places and occasionally busy but, nevertheless just as in India everything and everyone got through safely.
Our Classics category leaders, Mike Velasco and Peter St George however had a bumpier ride than most. They’d lost some pages from their route book en route to the Regularity which fortunately were collected and returned to their rightful owners by Tony and Lee Strelzow. Following this close shave however they had a coil spring break but a new one was quickly installed by Andy Inskip and Russell Smith. These delays meant that they arrived at the start of the section with only one minute to spare which could have put a lesser crew on the back foot. In the event however they managed to keep their heads and kept a clean sheet.
On the way down the hill and out of the Regularity, we then saw the Polish crew of Artur Lukasiewicz and Adam Tuszynski stopped by the roadside, tightening a spare wheel which had shaken itself loose.
At the following Passage Control Karendanda, in the most excellent Roadside Cafe, we enjoyed the best coffee since we landed in Delhi - period. And, they had western chocolate and Internet access!
From here we only had 45km to go until the night halt in the Atithi Resort and Spa, in Pokhara. As the last car pulled away the sky darkened and the heavens opened.
Tomorrow we turn for Kathmandu where we’ll enjoy a couple of well earned rest days.