I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Spitting Distance

NEPAL - Background

Geography: At just over half the size of Britain, Nepal has a very diverse geography, rising from less than 100 metres (328 ft) elevation in the tropical southern region. However, above the perpetual snow line in the north are around 90 peaks over 7,000 metres (22,966 ft) including Earth's highest, Mount Everest, at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft).

Population and Religion: Pop. 27.47 million (2012). Hinduism is practiced by over 80% of Nepalese, making it the country with the highest percentage of Hindus. The remaining 20% is mostly Buddhist, Islamic and others (in that order).


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Our first full-on day in Kathmandu, Nepal's notorious capital city (Pop. around 1 million), spent entirely in the tourist district of Thamel.

Forget Calcutta (although I've never been there) Kathmandu is the original black hole; the sort of place you must escape from as soon as possible, otherwise you could find yourself drawn into and entangled within its grim but fascinating maze of mayhem - hypnotized and trapped forever in a crazy rathole way of life.

Shops overflow with bright woollen wear and silk scarves, warm fleecy coats and all manner of hiking gear to tempt travellers, backpackers and other tourists.

There's a lot of counterfeit goods here on offer, especially 'The North Face' stuff and other companies that manufacture outdoor gear.

Souvenirs of every type including assorted sizes (and qualities) of must-buy Ghurka knives.

.. and fruit & veg vendors selling from the backs of their bicycles or any other convenient location, or not-so convenient street corner.

You see this sort of spaghetti mains wiring running across every street.

Black outs, called load-shedding, are a way of life all around Nepal, for up to 16 hours every day. There is a schedule of when the lights are supposed to go out, so people can plan around it. But, it must be really hard for businesses to be productive when they can't run their machines and on so. Although we noticed that many establishments, including the larger hotels, have back-up generators to keep the lights on.

We are back in the Third World .. good and proper!

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We quickly learned that REALLY LOUD AND DEEP spitting is common around Nepal. Everywhere you turn you get confronted by guttural hocking sounds followed by flying saliva. It’s a cultural norm that's called the 'Kathmandu Cough' … Wet and slimy, gooey, green, yellow and grey blobs of saliva everywhere. Doesn't matter where you are, you hear the coughing and clearing of throats and then full-on gobbing from all the local men and women - not so much the children though, as they just let theirs hang (see below).

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Saturday-30th - afternoon

After nearly four hours of wandering aimlessly around Thamel's back streets - they are all back streets by the way - just five minutes' walk from Thamel, but metaphorically a million miles away, brought us to the Garden of Dreams where we spent a pleasant couple of hours in the mid-afternoon sunshine of 20-22°C.

To enjoy the Garden's serenity to the fullest, overly [eh-hem] 'amorous' Nepalese couples go pre-armed with picnics - and of course, always with their i-Thingys - to relax and canoodle on the neatly laid-out lawns.


Excellent public Wi-fi is available in the Gardens at 50 Rupees [£0.80] per hour. We both took advantage.

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Sunday, 1st December

Another predictably sunshiny day and we walked, yes, walked the 5.2 km [3¼ mi] to Durbar Square which dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries; stuffed with palaces & temples (many of the original buildings are much older) .. and loads of smiley people.


On the way we passed-by Kal Mochan Temple on the banks of Bagmati river, which was once used as a Ghat (Hindu cremation place).

After about an hour and a half we reached Durbar Square - heart of the 'old' city of Kathmandu.


Crowded with people, Durbar Square is a wonderful place to see Nepalese life go by.



I shot some video footage to capture the atmosphere The music is not dubbed-in afterwards by the way, but was actually playing ‘live’ at the time, which added to the overall ambiance.

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Monday-2nd

Time to retrieve the bike from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport on the eastern outskirts of the city.

I had been warned that the agents at the airport, who you are obliged to employ, regularly try to scam wide-eyed and unsuspecting importers (like me, perhaps?) for whatever amount of Rupee they can extract. Attempting to charge fees of Rs. 10,000 - equal to a month's wages - is not uncommon.

Well on this occasion that was going to be about as pointless as trying to trick Paris Hilton into taking a mathematics test!

You see, I went prepared with my very own personal fixer, Debendra Pandit, our hotel's night-time receptionist, who seemed genuine enough and was quite keen to help guide me through the administrative nightmare that I was sure to encounter around the airport.

09:00 am. Airway bill and other essential paperwork stamped and signed - and countersigned - by the Thai Airways folk who operate just north of the Passenger Terminal; and we proceeded to the Air Cargo Complex, located about 2 km south.

We had to wait another three hours before we could even start negotiating with one of the many agents touting for what they thought would be lucrative business. So during the wait we crossed the main road to the nearest café, drank too much mud-tasting coffee .. and fed Debendra with two huge platefuls of Dal Bhat .. which is a bland lentil soup with rice and eaten every day by the local people, usually for every meal. Yes, every meal!

'Er Indoors and I decided not to sample the 'items of trout fish' on offer!

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Talking of strange-but-true menus, how about:

.. something from the Launch and Diner menu, that could include ..

French Paper Sauce Steak (served with french paper sauce)

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12 Noon

My black beauty is in there .. somewhere.

By 1:30 pm we get the green light - and my box is fork-lifted to the unpacking area.

The seemingly p!ssed off agents started to rip open the packaging. No windfall money for them today.

After a while in a very dimply-lit corner of the huge storage warehouse, I had the front mudguard and wheel re-fitted, together with the handlebars re-assembled ..

.. and wheeled the beast out into the daylight; reconnected the battery wires - by this time quite a crowd had gathered around - I pressed the starter button and ..


.. nothing happened!

I tried everything I could think of .. checked all the fuses etc, but still just nothing. Bugger!

No matter. Debendra was on the phone to his mechanic mates in a flash .. and within 10 minutes two blokes who seemed to know what they were doing with a tool kit turned up and started working out what the problem might be. With that, everyone dived-in .. and I was relegated to spectator status, I had no chance whatsoever of being even slightly involved in sorting-out the problem(s).

Within another 45 minutes everything was done: she fired-up ..YAY! - the screen was re-fitted, and the pannier frames and alu boxes re-assembled, and rear indicators re-attached and wired-in.

5:00 pm - the start of Kathmandu's rush hour. Ellen went back to the hotel by taxi, with all our other air-freighted over gear; whilst Debendra and I hunted down a filling station - that actually had a supply of petrol in its storage tanks! - and just as darkness fell, we pulled up outside the hotel's entrance lobby. PHEW! .. what a day?!

The cost, all-in (that's everything, including the Cargo Terminal's legitimate fees) was around Rs. 4,800 [GB£30 - US$48], plus I bunged 'the lads' a thousand Rupiah [6 quid] between them. I also tipped Debendra very generously, of course.

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Tuesday-3rd

In Nepal - and we're back in business.

We had heard that a nice day's ride can be had by heading northeast out of Kathmandu for about 100 km [63 mi] along the Araniko Hwy to the township of Kodari on the Nepal/Tibet border.

So we went. What a great 3½-hour ride.

Snot-nosed kids in the little villages and hamlets we passed through waving us to slow down, even stop, just so they could get a better look at two strange people on an even stranger bike.



Too excited for words, especially when I showed them a picture of their own faces. I mean squealing with excitement so they were.

Towards the end of the afternoon, about 10½ km [6½ mi] from Tibet (within spitting distance for most Nepalis!) we arrived at the Last Resort, which as the name implies is [erm] the last resort before you get to the border.

Despite what the Kiwis might tell you, Nepal must be the No.1 outdoor adrenaline pursuit’s destination. Thrill-seekers can drop off a suspension bridge – quite literally – by means of the ultimate bungee jump at the Last Resort - a 160 metre [525 ft] fall into the Bhote Kosi gorge.

Yeah, well fook that for a lark! I prefer to get my adrenaline flowing by other pastimes which involves sitting on your arse; like sailing .. and especially motorcycling, of course.

The chap on the bridge [above] by the way apparently does little else, between cigarette breaks, apart from carrying bricks across, one side to the other .. all day long!

Magal, riding an old Royal Enfield Bullet from Israel, rode-up to Last Resort to bungee-jump off the bridge. He couldn't understand why we weren't jumping too .. 'why for did you come here then?' he kept asking with a bemused and puzzled look on his face.

The ride back the following day. Just a few trucks, often passing in convoys, to contend with; a little gravel and sand here and there where the tar-seal had been washed away by the rush of mountain meltwater. No hazards of any real concern to get flustered about.

After an equally exhilarating return ride to Kathmandu, we stopped 30 km [19 mi] short of the capital to stay the night at the swish Mirabel Resort in the township of Dhulikhel.

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Wednesday-4th

The view from our bedroom window at the Mirabel:

[Panorama - click to enlarge]

.. vistas don't come much better than this. A KICK ASS view .. as our merrycan cousins would say.

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There's not much alternative, heading west to the regions on other side of Kathmandu BUT to 'run-the gauntlet' through that rat-hole of a city. You can skirt the traffic mayhem by using the city's ringroad to a certain extent, but you can't avoid it completely.

Through the city traffic and out of the Kathmandu Valley. Looking back before we start to make progress along the main westbound Tribhuvan (H02) Highway.

We encountered at least two accidents on the road out of Kathmandu that afternoon; the first was a truck where the driver had lost its right set of wheels in the opposite roadside ditch - no doubt attempting to overtake the truck in front of him. You see this sort of thing going on all the time.

Another bus taking an arresting diversion into the ditch!

The worst one though was very bad. Fatal, in fact. Makeshift stone barriers either side of the incident halting traffic in both directions. Police, Army in control of the scene, which, seeing we were foreign travellers, waved us to drive-on through. We could clearly see that a motorcycle was involved. A smashed-up bike with two lifeless men lying alongside with their faces covered. No-one attending to them, so they were obviously both killed. Not nice.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link → Nepal, Kathmandu and the Himalayas

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Thursday-5th

The township of Bandipur. Like a scarf draped along a high mountain ridge.

Climbing up the winding, twisting road to Bandipur, and arriving there at the end of a stressful day's ride was one of the highlights of this trip so far.

The name 'Shangri La' sprang to mind.

Bandipur and its people seem to live centuries before the rest of the country.


Sunset looking south from Shangri La Bandipur. Complete with a new moon.

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Friday-6th

Onwards to Pokhara, Nepal's third largest city. Pop. 1,000,000 (2013)

Pokhara, one of the Nepal's most beautiful spots. A good place to get one's footwear mended!

My everyday shoes - which I've worn almost daily since buying them eight years ago - had finally been falling apart at the seams. Got 'em both stitched-up again by an young illegally-entered Indian fellow looking for any street-side work he could get. Good job done - and now they'll last me another eight years, at least.

The locally brewed Nepalese beverages here are: Gorkha, Everest and Nepal Ice beers.

Nepal Ice 'Strong' is 7% alcohol by volume. A very serious beer indeed, and for some reason costs around 20% less than standard 'Natural' [5% ABV] Nepal Ice beer. Strange? but true nevertheless. To be avoided at all costs, of course .. just too darn dangerous!

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Down by the lakeside (Phewa Tal Lake) in Pokhara.

Phewa Tal is surrounded by monkey-filled forests and the high white peaks of the Himalayas' Annapurna mountain range.

No motorised boats whatsoever are allowed on Phewa Tal. It's paddles and oars - with the odd sail - all the way, which can't be bad.


Singapore Slings (buy one, get one free) during Happy Hour, which incidentally runs from 3 - 9 pm! Buy a Nepal Ice beer - at Rs. 180 [£1.15] - and most establishments chuck-in a free plateful of fresh popcorn.

It's all good in Pokhara!

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Time to introduce ..


Calgar Erkend, from Turkey, who has ridden his Honda XRV750 Africa Twin from Istanbul to Nepal (website). We have become good friends with Calgar since arriving in Pokhara on Friday-6th. He has steered us in the right direction for all manner of local goods and services. He even fixed my 'sticky' throttle that had been bugging me ever since we re-assembled the bike at the airport in Kathmandu. It all now works perfectly, better than ever.

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Calgar also arranged a couple of paragliding flights for us with his Turkish paraglider pilot mates, which was sensational, particularly as I could sit on my arse and simply admire the view throughout the whole experience - definitely qualifies as my kind of adrenaline sport!

Ellen takes-off .. she's in the air. I'm next (uh-oh!)

Did I ever mention that I can't stand heights?!

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We are both looking forward to meeting-up with Calgar and his friends again when we pass through Turkey sometime next June [2014].

And here's the video:



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We plan on riding one more excursion, lasting around 5-7 days, down south towards the Indian border before we leave this fascinating country at the end of next week.

My word how the time has flown-by since leaving England, outbound for Phnom Penh, back on Friday, 25th October. That's what happens when you're enjoying yourself so much.

Just one last blog post to conjure-up in about 10 days' time. Please stayed tuned.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link → Bandipur and Pokhara

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