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Day 5 of leg 8 of the Silk Road Trail 2013 – Nepalgunj to Mahendranagar #SilkTrail2013

We get a wake up call at 6.30am with the intention of an 8am departure. I pull back the curtains and am presented with a view of a stack of bricks and a mound of sand. This “hotel” has certainly been the most basic so far, but I’m told that it will be surpassed in terms of its simplicity with our next stop this evening. Our breakfast consists of toast, something vaguely resembling an omelette, and potatoes with a slightly creamy sauce and what I think is rosemary. The latter is suprisingly tasty. We don’t have so far to go today – just over 200 kms – in order to get to the border with India, close to Mahendranager. We leave promptly and re-fuel before leaving Nepaljung. This place is a bit of a dump if I’m honest, and a chaotic one at that. Our guide tells me that tourists don’t come here. As well as people on bikes, rickshaws and the like, and dogs, cows and goats – all of which we’ve become quite accustomed to over the last few days – here there are water buffalo, pigs and chickens wandering freely. As we wait at the fuel station, a motorbike clips a cyclist and sends him flying. The pillion on the motorbike only just manages to adjust his balance and stay on. It’s a good job, because he’s holding a baby.  Meanwhile, a man is cooking on a corner of the petrol station forecourt – as you do. Cooking on petrol station forecourt As we leave Nepalgunj, I spot a boy casually beheading a chicken as nonchalantly as though he was just brushing his teeth or doing some other mundane morning task. He throws it to the ground, it flaps a bit and will no doubt be plucked in due course. Chicken in Nepal On the outskirts of Nepalgunj, the homes become more primitive. Crude huts with roofs made of thatch or corrugated metal. My camera is playing up which is highly frustrating – it seems the humidity is affecting the electronics and causing a miscommunication between the lens and camera body. The problem appears to be intermittent so I’m just about able to get by. There are too many great photo opportunities for me to be without a camera at all. As we do a driver change, there’s a steady stream of people who pass by on foot.  Goats and goat herders, Nepalese ladies carry things on their heads, and so on and so forth. Range Rover Hybrid in Nepal Some lovely children gather to see what we are up to.  They are testament to the fact that money doesn’t bring happiness as they have such lovely smiles despite UN estimates that around 40% of Nepalese people live in poverty. I give them a few pencils and they seem delighted – although it didn’t seem possible, their smiles just seem to get broader.  I wish I had more easily to hand but they are buried somewhere in my luggage and we are on our way again. Children in Nepal We comfortably reach our destination in daylight this time, and have a bit of free time in the afternoon that was initially geared towards a visit to Mahendranagar.  We’re told, though, by our guide that there really isn’t a great deal to see here. Our group leader takes the opportunity to go to the border to try to make arrangements to expedite our border crossing the next day. Come evening, we eat at the hotel (Hotel Opera). Among other things on the menu, there’s “mutton curry” or, for about 50 rupees more (a pittance), “mutton curry without bones”. Following the experience of the last two evenings, I decide that this is one of those instances where paying more – and yet getting less – seems well worth it.  The curry arrives, though, and despite the selection it’s still full of bones… 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.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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