The information here is but a brief overview of Nepal and the areas visited by us.
Nepal is a landlocked country, a little larger than England. It is bordered to the north by occupied Tibet and all other sides by India. For such a small country, Nepal is incredibly geographically diverse. Eight of the world’s ten highest mountains rise from Nepali territory, including of course the biggest of them all. The south of the country, on the edge of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, is just a few hundred feet above sea level (abv). Thus, the mountains that cover two-thirds of Nepal rise incredibly steeply and it’s possible to be standing at 300ft abv, looking up at the summit of Annapurna 26,500ft abv. The southern plain is known as the Terai and covers some 20 per cent of the country. It is geographically identical to much of northern India, but has suffered from less ‘development’. Once a malarial swamp, there is much pristine wilderness. It is while in this area we will visit the wildlife reserves. ‘Nepali’ is the official language, with around 60 per cent of people using it day-to-day.
On the low plains, you can expect temperatures similar to northern India, though at the time of year we visit it shouldn’t be too hot, with a maximum of around 33ºC. Early morning starts can be chilly, though. The Himalayan climate is, as you’d expect, somewhat cool. Daytime temperatures at lower elevations can be as high as 28ºC, although on average you’re likely to be riding in a range of 12-15ºC.
‘Nepali’ is the official language, with around 60 per cent of people using it day-to-day. English and Hindi (to which Nepali is similar) are widely understood in places visited by tourists.
Nepal’s recent past has been a turbulent, intriguing and bloody. More than a decade of insurgency by Maoist forces against the ruling monarchy cost over 11,000 lives, before the warring left-wingers and royalists laid down their arms and in 2006 agreed to move toward democratic elections. The Maoists won, formed a government (now dissolved) and dethroned the less than popular King. Having turfed out the monarchy, the parliament’s next major job was to thrash out a new constitution – a process whose deadline is expired. There remains tension over this and other issues, usually manifesting itself in ‘bandhs’ (paralysing strikes).
When visiting any foreign country, the change in diet can bring on minor stomach upsets and Nepal is no exception. A few simple steps can help minimise the chances of this happening. We recommend that customers drink only packaged, sterilised water which is always available on tour. The eateries we recommend are tried and tested by us and we monitor the hygiene of hotels that we use. Our medics have a huge amount of experience in all fields and always carry a wide range of medicines to deal with tummy upsets and any other malaise from which you might suffer.
For general advice on inoculations, talk to your GP.
Roads and riding
Surfaces can vary from perfectly smooth tarmac to rubble, dust and sand. Potholes are to be expected on most back roads; animals, hawkers and cyclists wander everywhere with varying levels of awareness and stability. Expect the unexpected at all times. There is nothing so formal as a Highway Code and little by way of driver training (‘buying’ a licence is relatively easy), but after some time you will start to recognise a system. This can roughly be equated to big-man-hits-boy-hits-dog.
Size matters. Unless there happens to be an army tank in the vicinity, trucks have right of way in all circumstances, then buses, smaller trucks etc. You will fit in just above a bicycle, but below a three-wheeler. Passenger-carrying vehicles will stop in the middle of the road to deposit tired travellers, auto-rickshaws will swerve madly into your path and dogs will attempt to end their miserable lives under your tyres. Rarely will any manoeuvre be indicated. Your road awareness will go up dramatically during the course of an Indian adventure.
Nepali time is four hours and 45 minutes ahead of BST; five hours and 45 minutes ahead of GMT.
The Nepali Rupee is not an independent currency, but is linked to the Indian Rupee at a rate of 1.6 Nepali Rupees to each Indian Rupee, making it incredibly good value for visitors. Today’s Exchange Rate: £1 = NPR0.
Nepal is a wonderful venue for wildlife-watching, with the jungles of the sub-tropical Terai being especially rich in fauna. Among the larger animals that can be spotted are elephant, one-horned rhino, tiger and leopard. While your chances of spotting the last two are remote, there are lots of other, smaller animals to see.