It’s 5.30am and the telephone rings by my bedside. That’s my cue to quickly get up, get breakfast and get packed. We’re leaving promptly today as we have more than 400 kilometres on the Land Rover Silk Trail 2013 to cover in order to reach our next destination of Nepalgunj. Or at least that’s the plan.
The Range Rover Hybrid Prototype 1 went for a bit of off-roading yesterday, and met with an unfortumate ‘pothole’ in a river bed, resulting in water coming over the bonnet. I swap places into Prototype 3 so that Steve, one of the technial guys from Land Rover, can keep an eye on the vehicle’s performance.
5 kilometres into our journey and there are sufficient worries that a decision is made for us all to head back to the hotel to allow for closer inspection. Our plans for ‘breaking the back’ of the journey before there is much traffic on the roads are thwarted, and there are some anxious looks among Land Rover technicians that make you wonder whether all three hybrids are going to make it to Mumbai.
I talk to a member of the Land Rover team – he’s suffering and thinks it might be the mutton curry he ordered last night. He tells me it was very odd and rather soft. Things start to fall into place – my “fish” curry – was… well, meat… and very tough. It appears our dishes may have been mixed up and I’ve possibly been let off lightly as a result.
A couple of hours later and we’re off again, negotiating a dead dog in the road as we leave Pokhara. The road takes us up on steep-sided valleys to a height of over 1,100m – higher than the highest mountain in England. The road isn’t bad, considering, but there are some hairy drops offering little protection to any wayward drivers.
We pass through various little villages and, as we near the halfway point in our journey, we drop down from the hills. At one point, the road drastically narrows, partly blocked by a landslide. It’s at this point of course that we meet a truck coming in the opposite direction. After a little re-negotiating, we are back on our way, still dropping down, now to less than 250m, with a beautiful view of the river flowing in the opposite direction down to our right.
We pass a guy laden with bricks on his back, aided by a support that passes across his forehead, just before dropping down into the mayhem of Butwal to re-fuel. There are rickshaws everywhere and a goat refusing to come down off a truck. Eventually he’s persuaded, but he’s equally stubborn at the propect of then getting on to a rickhaw.
After Butwal we seem to make good progress and stop to change drivers as a cluster of very happy-looking children gather to look at us.
Further still, we find ourselves negotiating a rockslide takes up half the road and eventually, covering the last hour or so in darkness, we arrive in Nepaljung at around 8.30pm and check into the hotel for a much-needed rest.
The choice at the hotel’s buffet dinner is limited, but not as much as the internet connection which continues to get worse as we get further from Kathmandu. That should change when we reach in Delhi in a couple of days. The chicken curry would have been nice if it wasn’t full of fragments of bones, so the veggie option proves to be the best bet. I don’t recognise the main vegetable in it – Robin tells me the Nepalese name for it, but doesn’t know what it is in English and I’m too tired to properly take note. My bed beckons.
The Silk Road Trail 2013 is a 16,000 kilometre expedition across some of the world’s most challenging roads, passes and trails, and the final development drive for the new Range Rover Hybrid from Land Rover.
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