Nepal, Top of the World
If you are thinking of a motorbike trip around Nepal, I can highly recommend it. My wife Linda and I along with 3 others from Victoria, Meghann, Paul and Daryl, have just completed a ride in May 2018 from Pokhara down to the Chitwan National Park on the Indian border and then north to the Tibet border. From 200m above sea level, hot, humid and tropical, to around 5000m of cooler, dry, desert country where there is little to no rain, only snow.
We booked with Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club in Pokhara owned by Matt, an Australian, using local guides, were an excellent crew, and it had to be done on a Royal Enfield. Other Chinese copies of the Honda CRF 250 are also available but for all of us, with one exception, nostalgia on the Enfield won the day. There were only a couple of minor issues which is really surprising when you consider the treatment these bikes had. The Enfields are too high geared, (different geared sprockets are not available), so you could not idle through the rough ground, you had to give it full noise and ride a bit of clutch. This was always a bit of a challenge in the deep bull dust hiding rocks and boondies that would catch you out. It was not unusual to see a bike lying down having a bit of a rest with the rider.
The ride to the Tibet border up the Mustang Valley was definitely the highlight. Around 700km’s of pretty tough roads / tracks most of the time. These tracks are quickly becoming formed roads and in the next years will be a main highway from Tibet to India with a lot of the cost covered by the Chinese. We rode over several suspension bridges that swung across the river, just wide enough for the bike and shared with pedestrians. One such bridge was 350m long and 150m off the water, don’t look down.
Pokhara is nestled in a valley with a small lake surrounded by mountains, and as we rode up the valley these mountains got taller and the scenery became more spectacular. Only a short ride from Kalopani, 20kms to Kagbeni, the terrain went from lush green mountain sides to absolute dry dirt desert and mountains, with the only green down by the river where the locals had irrigation. Amazingly a lot of apples and grain were grown in these oasis.
Our guide, Prabin, was always looking to keep us entertained with side trips. Often taking us off the gazetted road to a track up some valley or to a lookout, even once to a mine site where we rode the bikes 2km’s into the mine.
Most of Nepal is Hindu but the closer you get to Tibet the influence is mainly Buddhist. The country has an untold number of Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries, and some of these are hundreds of years old. One such temple was at Muktinath where hindus from around the world do a pilgrimage.
In not so many years past the Nepal / Tibet border was an imaginary line in the sand. As Tibet is now under Chinese rule the border is well defined with a wire fence that disappears over the mountains in both directions. As is typical of the Chinese, on the Tibet side there are armed guards, cameras, checkpoints, and they are building a big immigration office. Bit of overkill.
The Hearts and Tears team were great, always helpful, very knowledgeable, and fun to be with.
If you are a reasonable off road rider and would like a challenge, don’t mind dust, dirt, rocks, and enjoy seeing something different, this is the ride for you. Cheers to the Royal Enfield.
Photo 1 Myself and Prabin the tour leader looking over to Lo Manthang almost at the border
Photo 2 Linda crossing one of the swing bridges
Photo 3 Daryl, Nungers, Paul, Meghann, Linda, Prabin (Tour leader), Doc (mechanic) and Jay (spare rider) at Muktinath
Photo 4 Daryl gazing back down the valley to Lo Manthang
Photo 5 Kalopani looking north to the desert country