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Pokhara to Baglung

Friday, 04 May 2018
Waking up on day 2, we were a touch weary and in no rush to continue our journey so wandered out in search of breakfast. Fishermen were already at work. There were any number of places to admire the view of brooding skies, mirror-like waters of Phewa Tal reflecting green forested hills and ridges. It was lovely but, tantalisingly, the himals were hidden.
Soon after the smiley waiter had taken our orders, he suggested we move inside. ‘Big rain coming,’ he explained.
The ensuing tempest trapped us inside a really very good little restaurant where we managed to endure the ordeal bravely sustained as we were by excellent hot chocolates, Americanos and other flavoursome victuals. The storm meant a not unwelcome late start although it didn’t clear the air enough for good Himalayan views; we headed on refreshed and looking forward to exploring the countryside further north-east. I did begin to wonder though whether Alex might become impatient at my rather sedate pace of driving as I was still rather tentative perhaps because of my understanding of the likelihood of an unpleasant tumble and a tar tattoo. I also wanted to enjoy the scenery. But he was cool and enjoying the ride and the landscape too. The road was quiet and we were treated to a close up encounter with a large troop of langurs – white leaf-monkeys with long, long tails and black faces.
Alex’s favourite mountain was the stately Ama Dablam in the Everest region but one of my missions was to show him that Machhapuchare (the fish tail) which nestles inside the Annapurna horseshoe is far lovelier. The weather remained cloudy though and we were only getting occasional tantalising glimpses of eternal snows.
We drove together, sometimes with me ahead. Sometimes Alex led. There was usually only one road so navigating was no challenge. Alex was out of sight and a little ahead of me on a lovely shady forested stretch that was gently winding up through the Middle Hills.
There was a long squeal of breaks. My stomach hit my guts.
I rounded the corner dreading the scene that would greet me.
Alex’s bike was on its side in the road. He was on his feet (thank God) and people – also riding bikes – had appeared from nowhere. Someone was righting the bike, wheeling it to the side of the road and getting it on its stand. Someone was remonstrating with the taxi-driver who was shouting his innocence. Two men were fussing over Alex. We were both a bit stunned. The witnesses were asking if they should call the Police. The taxi-driver’s shouts became even louder. One of the witnesses was now checking the bike. He drove it a little way to be sure. It was all quite crazy for a few moments. Then, in that odd time-compression you get in a crisis, everyone was suddenly gone. We, of course, weren’t wearing proper protective bike clothes but Alex had fortunately been quite well covered. Even so, he sustained some nasty grazes on his elbow, hip, ankle and knee. I didn’t have enough dressings to cover all his broken skin.
Alex insisted he was all right to carry on so that’s what we did.
We hadn’t gone far before Alex realised his bike wasn’t okay. The taxi had actually hit the bike. The handlebars were wonky and the front disc-break was only working intermittently. We needed a pharmacy and we needed a mechanic.
Pressing on, we got some more tantalising glimpses of Himalayan snow. Then at one point where the road wound upwards, the tip of Machhapurachare revealed herself and Alex conceded it was a very fine peak.
We found the mechanic before any pharmacy but that was a full two hours later. He diagnosed a bent suspension rod (it turned out both were bent) and a bent disc break. He said we needed to return to Pokhara to get them fixed. This seemed like good advice to me but Alex was determined to continue and we pressed the mechanic to try sorting the problems. There were assorted crashed bikes lying around, and he plundered pieces from the wrecks. We chatted to another local biker while the mechanic worked. We swapped stories. The local chap wasn’t working so much any more. Not since his accident. It was a head-on collision with a car and he ended up inside the car that hit him. His memory and concentration aren’t what they were before the crash, but he rides much more slowly these days.
Clanging and bashing sounds continued to emerge from the workshop as the mechanic applied a hammer to the disc break. An hour later, he had the bike working perfectly, and seemed puzzled when I tipped him heavily. Soon we were on our way again wondering whether we’d be racing to our next hotel as the sun was setting.
We aimed for Baglung, the nearest town, and at dusk drove across the lower reaches of the Kali Gandaki. Then the road wound up scarily hair-pinning as the setting sun turned Dhaulagiri himal rose-red. As were Alex’s horrible wounds and grazes.
 
A Glimpse of Eternal Snows at last - Machhapuchare shows herself, briefly
 
Warm but cloudy weather mostly kept the himals hidden
 
There was an abundance of crashed bikes to scrounge spare parts from
 
Dhaulagiri himal in the morning light from Baglung town

This piece is part four of a series of posts on our Mum-and-Son transHimalayan trip. For the first of the blogs click transHimalayan Adventure. The next blog is Standing on the shoulders....