Friday, September 30, 2005

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Kathmandu to Gonda! Pt.5 - An Interlude

A ride through the Nepali Terrai into India:
KTM to Nepalgung (Indian border) – 508 km
KTM to Gonda (India) – 636 km

The ride:
Kathmandu to Mugling Bazaar – 110 km
Mugling Bazaar to Narayanghat – 34 km

The story so far:

After a ride down through the mountains and the rain out of Kathmandu, Mr Felix is down with the flu, and holed up in a hotel room in Narayanghat.

Part 5: An Interlude in Narayanghat!

On the morning of my fourth day in Narayanghat I mount up and go for a ride. I haven’t left the hotel in 48 hours and you don’t have to be a Rhodes' scholar to know I wouldn’t handle prison very well. I make a mental note to never break the law again.

I pedal slowly across to the bus station and turn left off the main drag.

Narayanghat is a surprisingly laid back town for it’s size. It sprawls out along the Trisuli River, rag-tag and dishevelled, but there’s a predominance of rickshaws over motorised traffic and the people seem friendly enough.

“Nepalis, not Indians!” I note. And thank god for that. When you’re as sick as me, the last thing you want is to be in India.

But India looms, just 'over there', and I'm heading that way and I can smell the fear. It must be a little like being a coalition soldier, waiting, waiting to go into Iraq. Yeah, Operation Mr Felix Freedom and 'we are committed!' Oh, dear.

I stop at a small general store, buy a litre of orange juice, open it up and suck it down on the spot. With luck it’ll have some vitamin C in it, but you can never be certain.

The lady behind the counter is short, sweet and smiley and surprisingly, speaks excellent English. She comes out on to the pavement and asks the usual questions and introduces her two kids, and ‘please wait a minute because they just want to show you the school project they’re working on.’

And wouldn’t you know, it’s about kangaroos. ‘Jackpot!’ for the kids, and it’s not what I had in mind but I won’t have to think too hard, so I guess I can handle it.

“Yep, I’m a genuine Ozzie, and I know ALL about kangaroos, kids!” I say, and suddenly their headlights turn on and I’m bathed in light and it’s the best I’ve felt in days, possibly weeks.

I tell them about great mobs bouncing across the Australian plains and how you can feel the earth go ‘thump! thump! thumpity thump!’ and how wonderful it is to stick your hand in the pouch of a mother kangaroo but you’ve got to be careful lest she rips you into six equal slices with her great hind feet – and I rise up and look ghastly and threatening, and then frightened, and the kids fall back and laugh, and gee, doesn’t it make you homesick.

And suddenly I’m drained. I feel like yesterday’s slice of bread, and I’ve got nothing more to give.

There’s an internet café across the street, and it’s easier to get to than back to the hotel, so I say my goodbyes and wheel the bike slowly across the road, dodge a few rickshaws, and go in.

Maybe some emails will pick me up. God, I hope none of them are abusive. When my emotional buffer is down I can handle my own demons, but external attacks are harder to absorb.

I settle into the small, grubby cubicle and Raja the owner looks pleased and turns the fan on ‘11’ and it’s nearly blowing me off the chair, so we sort that out, and he’s just about to go and get a cup of tea and 'would I like one?', and it could be worse.

Ah, the internet, what a release it is. Explorer’s opening up, and Google is coming online, and I’m floating free.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Kathmandu to Gonda! Pt.4 - On ice in Narayanghat!

A ride through the Nepali Terrai into India!
KTM to Nepalgung (Indian border) – 508 km
KTM to Gonda (India) – 636 km

The ride:
Kathmandu to Mugling Bazaar – 110 km
Mugling Bazaar to Narayanghat – 34 km

The story so far:
After a whizzy ride through the mountains and the rain out of Kathmandu, Mr Felix is down with the flu, and holed up in a hotel room in Narayanghat, alone. And he’s trying like the blazes not to lose the plot (whatever that is, because he’s forgotten.)

Part 4: On ice in Narayanghat!

I loathe Julia Roberts with a deep and abiding passion, and I’m half way into my second day in Narayanghat and three quarters of the way through her fourth totally forgettable film. Do they pay her for this crap?

Christ! Cable TV in Nepal, beaming in from India, is designed to make cyclists go mad, I’m convinced of it.

I switch across to Star Movies, Rupert (a pox upon him!) Murdoch’s approximation of a TV station, and there’s Tom Hanks in another poor excuse for entertainment, but it’s either that or the cricket on Star Sports – India versus Sri Lanka, and who gives a toss, so Tom Hanks it looks like it is.

The weird thing about both of these actors, though, is that you can’t take your eyes off of them. You’re lying naked on the bed and grinding your back molars into powder, out of sheer mind-numbing boredom, but still, you're compelled to watch. Which is why they’re ‘stars’, I guess. There has to be a reason.

I haven’t been out of the hotel in 36 hours and I haven’t left the room for the last 12. I’m feeling so wretched I’d join the Nazi Party if it guaranteed release.

I go into the bathroom again for the umpteenth time, clear the snot out of my nose, take another codeine – crickey! I better start counting them, I might OD! – and look in the mirror.

“I hate this! I hate this! I hate this!” I say, like a mantra, and go back to the teev.

My muscles ache, my bones ache and now my bum’s gone numb from all the Julia Robert’s films, so I rearrange the pillows and lie on my side and hope Tom doesn’t make it back from the dark side of the moon this time, but I know he will, because he’s rich and lucky, and people like to look at him, unlike me.

Are we having fun yet? Fuck, I’m not sure I’m gonna make it.

It's 2 AM and I’m wide awake and Tom’s climbed into the LEM and now I’ve got red-hot pokers sticking into the backside of my eyes from too much TV. I mean, really, fuck me, what now Lord?

When I was young and hopeful at St. Bridget’s Primary in Melbourne, way back before the Beatles broke up and the world still made sense, there was a joke doing the rounds of the playground, and when you’re young, cute and Catholic, it was a killer.

It went like this: A man walks into the church and his leg falls off. He looks up to the alter and says: “Why me, Lord?” He hops a little further down the aisle and his other leg falls off. “Why me, Lord?” he calls out again. He shuffles forward on his belly and then his arms fall off, “Why me, Lord?”, so he wriggles closer and his torso drops off, and finally, in one last desperate lunge for deliverance, he rolls forward, just a head now, and bumps into the alter steps – thunk! - and comes to a stop.

He raises his eyes to the heavens one last time, and calls out, pleading: “Why me, Lord? Why?”

And then there’s a flash of lightening and a crack of thunder and a big voice booms from on high: “Because you give me the shits!”

And I never, in my wildest fucking dreams, thought I'd be in the movie.

But there you go, and now I’ve got David Attenborough on Discovery Channel rabbiting on in his insufferable, wispy, pseudo-intimate animal molesting voice telling me about polar bears.

I’ve watched so much Discovery Channel in Asia I know more about polar bears than I do about cycling, and I’ve never set foot in the Arctic. And I love them, I really do. They’re wild and free and beautiful, and they’ll rip you to bits and eat you, and good luck to ‘em, but I’ve seen enough. Surely there’s something else out there on the frozen wastes we can look at.

How about another angle? How about gay polar bears? Some lesbian action? God, anything but this Disney-esque ‘and now the mother polar bear is teaching her young ones how to fish’ crap.

How about teaching them some real survival skills, like changing a tube, or downloading MP3s for nothing?

I go into the bathroom and blow out some more snot and take another codeine, and now there’s nothing else for it; I know it’s stupid, but I don’t have an internet connection, or an animal porn channel, so ‘drugs’ it looks like it is.

I roll up the biggest, fattest joint this side of the Kathmandu Valley. I literally pour the hash in, and then top it up some more. It’s top quality Nepalese Brown, light and powdery, and I got it for a song after a week of hard-arse bargaining in a dank little café in Freak Street, next to the slaughter house.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I’m not sure which, seeing as I’m only a few days from the Indian border, I had to buy 60 grams worth, which is a very large fistful (indeed!), and I’ve only managed to get through a quarter of it in a month.

Hell, for a couple of weeks there I was the hashish king of Kathmandu. I sat on the roof of the Tibet Guest House with Todd and Dawn, a couple of American friends, and we played cards and blew the back of our heads off like Cristopher Walken in the Deer Hunter.

Yeah, sunsets over the Kathmandu Valley, pure orange octane.

I lean back on the bed and suck the smoke in, and feel it run down my throat, and I cough and gag, but I keep at it, and I feel better already.

And it’s all making sense now. Julia, Tom and David, they’re all part of god’s big plan, and it’s my mission to kill to them. It’s so simple, why didn’t I think of it before?

The smoke is rising and turning slowly up towards the ceiling, curling around the fan, and the red-hot pokers behind my eyes are withdrawing, gently, saying: “Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!” as they go, like demure Japanese schoolgirls, and I forgive them.

By the time I get to the end of the joint, I can even forgive god, almost, but he’s tricky, and holds the Death card, so you gotta keep your eyes open, even when you’re flat on your back, stoned immaculate.

Let me tell you about heartache and the loss of god
Wandering, wandering in hopeless night
Out here in the perimeter there are no stars
Out here we is stoned

(The Doors)

I'm with you, Jim, and it’s 5 AM, and Narayanghat is waking up outside my window, and I may never move again.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Kathmandu to Gonda: Pt.3 - Good morning Narayanghat!

A ride through the Nepali Terrai into India.
KTM to Nepalgung (Indian border) – 508 km
KTM to Gonda (India) – 636 km

The ride so far:
Kathmandu to Mugling Bazaar – 110 km
Mugling Bazaar to Narayanghat – 34 km

The story so far:
Mr Felix has ridden out of the Kathmandu Valley, down through the mountains, and is now onto the plains of the Nepali Terrai. Unfortunately, it's been raining, and he arrives in Narayanghat cold and wet, and it's not looking good health-wise.

Part 3: Good morning Narayanghat!

Bang! Bang! Bang! (Pause) Bang! Bang! Bang!

Holy shit, there’s someone bashing the door in! I’m half awake, stumbling out of bed, grabbing for a towel, standing at the foot of the bed. Where’s my glasses?

Bang! Bang! Bang! There goes the door again. It’s gotta be a drug bust! Where’d I put the hash? Where’s my glasses?

Shi-it! Dunno! Jesus, it’s 7 in the morning! Kee-riste! What’s going on?

I open the door an inch and peer out. “Your coffee, Sahib!” says Raja the houseboy, cheerily. I’m dumbfounded.

I fling the door wide open – th-wump! It cracks against the wall and in one grand sweeping motion I lift both my arms to the heavens and say: “Wot the fuck? Wot the fucking, fuck, fuck!” and then finish this grand morning welcoming speech with a breathy and frustrated: “Jeezus! Jeezus!”

My heart is pounding and I’ve got a headache the size of an elephant and my sinuses, oh god! Somebody’s come in during the night and shot spak-filler up both my nostrils and it’s expanded and hardened, and it’s now pushing both my eyes forward from the back, out of their sockets, and it feels like hell in a box.

I take a breath and let my brain settle in my cranium for a second or two.

Oh, boy! I’m down with a very bad flu, and it’s 7 in the morning and now Raja’s standing at my door with a coffee, looking dumbfounded.

“Your coffee, sahib!” he says again, a little less confidently.
“Ah, I didn’t order coffee!” I say.
“You don’t want?” He looks puzzled.
“Well, yeah, I want, but how much is it?” I say.

I’m instinctively suspicious of room service, and even though (now that I’m up and wide awake) I really want a coffee, rule number 1 in Asia is ‘ask the price before you partake’, no matter how you’re feeling, or how good it looks.

“OK!” he says, cheerily, and abruptly turns and walks off down the hall. And I know, even in my half delirious state, I should just let it go, but I’ve now gotten a whiff of the brew, and I really want that coffee.

I take a few steps down the hall, clutching my towel roughly over my private parts. “Hey!” I yell. “HOW MUCH IS THE FUCKING COFFEE?”

He stops and turns. “You want?” he says, and tentatively holds the cup out towards me like I’m deranged, and possibly dangerous, which would be reasonably accurate.

“Yeah, yeah, just give the coffee! Fuck it!” I say, and snatch it away and turn back towards my room.

As I’m going back through the door he’s still standing in the hall, looking at me, expectantly, so I turn and throw my free hand in the air in one final gesture of grand idiocy: “And don’t expect a tip!” I say, and slam the door.

Holy shit! Why is it so hard? Why do I feel so bad?

Alright, just settle down, drink the coffee, hang the cost and think about the oncoming madness.

I’m really ill, and I’m stuck in Narayanghat by myself; in here, with these four walls, and millions of Rajas out there, beyond these four walls.