Where the fuck is Kusma?

Kusma Travel Blog

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We're up early the next day, planning to walk up to Potana to get the best views of the Annapurnas. But it looks like a long walk up a very steep hill, and it's too cloudy for good views anyway. We debate whether or not to bother. The question is settled when we ask the owner of the guest house if there'll be many leeches on the path, and she starts gesticulating wildly, her broken English turning into a babble of over-excited Nepali in her desperation to convey to us the kind of numbers of leeches we'll fall prey to if we dare to walk up there.

We decide not to go to Potana.

Instead, we get back on the bikes and keep going down the highway, enjoying the ride and the scenery too much to turn back yet. Hills and valleys, rivers, mountains and villages roll by. Alison sits on the back, staring around and exclaiming every 5 minutes "look! It's so beautiful!" then when I look, screaming "no! Look at the road!!!"

After an hour or so we come to a bridge over a series of little waterfalls, where a mountain stream flows over a path of massive white boulders. There are banana palms and rice fields spread out below us, forested hills above. I brake so hard we nearly fall off - I'm not missing this one. We climb down the side of the bridge to the rocks and wade into the water. Between the rocks there are a few beautiful turquoise pools, just deep enough to swim. The water is icy cold but we go in anyway, climbing up the rocks to find new pools higher up. All around there are the most beautiful butterflies I've ever seen. No two look the same, and they all are delicately patterned in dazzlingly bright colours.

We stop there for about an hour before getting back on the road, intending to go as far as Naya Pul. So we drive on happily, until suddenly my bike starts to lose power, then stops all together. What the fuck? I was sure we had enough petrol to get to Naya Pul. We try to open the tank to check, but realise that instead of a keyhole to unlock the tank, there is only a hole. Shit. We are in the middle of nowhere. But I remember seeing a couple of little stalls a few kilometres back, and think it is almost all downhill to there. So Alison gets on the back of Ste's bike, and he drives down while I coast my bike down there.

Luckily, like Indians, every Nepali guy seems to have at least some knowledge of bikes. They manage to find a way to spring my bike seat open, and find out that we do in fact have no petrol. Ste's is very low as well.

"Shit," I say to Alison, "I swear we should have had enough to reach Naya Pul."

"Where are we?" I ask the crowd of locals that's now gathered round us.

"Near Kusma" someone tells me.

Kusma? Where the fuck is Kusma? I get out the map and look for it. It takes me about five minutes just to find it, as I'm not even looking in the right place. Kusma, it turns out, is right on the south-west corner of the Annapurna sanctuary, about double the distance to Naya Pul. No wonder we ran out of petrol. Where the hell was Naya Pul then? Like Phedi, we managed to completely miss it. In fact, there are two Naya Puls on the map, so we managed to miss it twice. Smart.

We are told that the nearest place we can get petrol is in Kusma, but I'm not sure even if Ste's bike has enough to make it there. We don't have much choice though so I take his bike and keep going up the road, switching the engine off and coasting every time I get to a downhill bit to save petrol. Luckily I make it there and buy 6 litres of petrol, which is extortionately expensive at the moment because of the fuel crisis. Shit shit shit. I ride back to the others and put the other 3 litres of petrol in my bike. We decide to head back - this trip is getting a bit expensive for our budgets.

Ste's bike won't start. SHIT!

I take my bike and ride back again towards Kusma, this time in search of a mechanic. The guys who sold me petrol laugh when they see me back again, but agree to come and help. I'm aware I've just confirmed all their prejudices about the incompetence of stupid Western tourists, and I feel like a bit of an idiot, but what can you do. The mechanic gets his tools and comes over to my bike, holding his hand out for the keys.

No no no. I ride my bike. The mechanic's friends nearly piss themselves laughing when he is forced to climb on the back. Apparently riding on the BACK of a MOPED driven by a WHITE GIRL is pretty much the ultimate humiliation. It makes me feel a little better about how humiliated I feel.

Two hours, 600 rupees and a marriage proposal later (to Alison - doll face, not me - superbitch) we're finally ready. 10 minutes later, my bike cuts out and won't start again. FUCKING HELL! Luckily this one we manage to fix ourselves but it's still not quite right - every time I slow down the engine stutters and threatens to cut out. Jesus.

'Right,' I tell Alison, 'I'm not slowing down until we get to Pokhara.'

I mean it as well. I can't be hassled with another mechanic. Going round the mountain curves we have to lean right into them like fucking racing drivers. When kids stand in the road in front of us ('Stop! Stop! One rupee!') I just charge straight at them, blaring the horn, and they have to dive out the way. Serve the cheeky fuckers right.

As we approach Pokhara it starts to piss it down with rain again but still I'm not gonna slow down. We WILL make it back! I squint into the rain, seeing nothing but grey, and crash through potholes hidden by the water. Then, something hits me. Hard. And again and again. It's freezing cold and fucking painful. Still unable to see and now in quite a lot of pain, I skid the bike into a small ditch and we drag ourselves under the nearest shelter, huddling together like penguins for warmth. Since when does it fucking hail in the sub-tropics? One hailstone bounces in under our shelter and Alison picks it up - it's the size of a marble. No wonder they hurt. Ste is nowhere to be seen.

The second the hail turns back to rain again we sprint outside, drag the bike out of the ditch, thankfully manage to start it, and race back to Pokhara. We have hot showers, dry off, and go and sit in My Beautiful to eat soup and wait for Ste, who eventually arrives about two hours later. We are all alive, and the bikes are somehow still running. I declare the trip a success.

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