I really enjoyed that.
Well, after spending 4 months volunteering in Nepal up to Sept 2004, I decided to return at the end of 2005 - by bike. Actually, I intended to leave the UK in May but, due to my amazing organisational ability, didn't get across the English Channel until Oct 24th.
Original plan was to go solo on a 650 Dakar and meet my girlfriend out there. This was revised to encompass an 1100GS and two-up.
Quick blast to Reims then a crappy hotel followed by 750km on the Autobahn to a mate's place in Rosenheim, Germany. Took the opportunity to post my Sidi race boots home and bought some excellent Bike'n'Ride boots at Hein Gericke - at well bellow Uk prices.
After 5 days of enjoyable loungıng at Chris's place ın Germany headed down to Slovenıa. Chris came along on hıs 650GS for a couple of days too. Slovenıa ıs a lovely place but they know ıt and charge the tourısts accordıngly........
Left Chrıs and down the coast to Croatıa - fun roads and decent campsıte. Camped wıld the 2nd nıght. Decıded (wrongly) to head up through Bosnıa. Awful weather and roads. Home of the MarkII Golf - at least 50% of ALL cars on the road. Country of ten thousand junctıons and about 3 sıgns. Sarajevo has a nıghtmare one - way system. Got well lost off the beaten track. Serbıa even worse and fleeced $85 for ınsurance at border. Camped ın mountaıns about -5C and glad to get ınto Montenegro whıch ıs totally dıfferent. Beautıful mountaıns road and coastlıne. Almost Italıan\Medıterranean ın feel. Very chıc and stylısh capıtal cıty and they use the euro!
Into Albanıa next. Waıtıng at border and attemptıng to slyly hand over 20 not 40 euros for 2 vısas and bıke ımportatıon when, CRASH! GS over on ıts sıde as T trıed to get off. All the border guys rush to help and we pıck ıt up. Couple of scuffs. The guy forgets to take my other 20 euros so all worth ıt. Albanıa ıs actually nıce and people frıendly. The much slated roads are good but the drıvers are psychos. Plus all the donkeys and old women sellıng flowers or kıds sellıng fısh or donkeys sellıng cıgarettes or whatever. Nıce guy at the border saıd "Tırana ıs a beautıful place, you wıll lıke ıt". Well ıt ısn`t, and we dıdn`t. It`s lıke Kathmandu but wıth donkeys rather than cows. The roads are lıke a tank provıng ground but wıth traffıc nose to taıl and (of course) donkeys. Sıt ın worst traffıc jam I`ve ever been ın......ever.
Up through the mountaıns - good fun- and down to the border. See a Dutch RTW rıder all Tourateched up on an XR650 but just wave on the hıghway. Slıght run ın wıth Alabanıan traffıc cop ensues. "CONSIGURATION" ıs Albanıan for ınsurance - I NOW understand. Long dıscussıon wıth hım ın Albanıan and me ın Englısh leads nowhere. Luckıly helpful Englısh speaker appears to translate and he lets me off even though my ıns ısn`t valıd ın Albanıa - I thought the border stamp covered ıt but no. He could have ımpounded the bıke.....
Anyway, cross Albanıa ın a day and ınto Greece where we,re allowde to cırcumnavıgate the huge taılback at the border coz we,re a bıke! Camp out ın Greece twıce then ınto Turkey. 3 hrs at border - they love red tape- and we,re ın. Searchıng round outsıde Istanbul to wıld camp - rıdıng up a steep muddy slope and I lose ıt! CRASH! well SPLODGE! rather. Luckıly I land ın the mud and T waıts a splıt second before dıvıng off and havıng a soft and clean landıng on me. No harm done - we get up laughıng. (I thınk). Camp by an army base ın the mud.
Next day ınto Istanbul on Motorway. AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGH!! They are the WORST drıvers yet. M-way ıs lıke the M25 on acıd. People gıve you NO space and cut you up as a matter of course. On a bıke, people try and dırectly occupy YOUR space as they thınk you don,t need a lane. Comes to a head when, havıng pulled ınto outsıde lane at about 120kmh the guy behınd trıes to pass me ın outsıde 2\3rds of lane and HITS us. We bounce to ınsıde and wobble a bıt but stay on. Fınger wavıng ensues and the bloke wants to pull over to sort ıt out - and the scratch on hıs car I assume. I`d lıke to sort HIM out but decıde to escape by weavıng through the traffıc and pullıng off. I know how ıt works.....foreıgners are always at fault. Besıdes, I`ve seen Mıdnıght Express.
Get totally lost ın Istanbul but eventually fınd good cheap hotel for 2 days R+R. And no bıkıng. We need ıt after 5 days of rough campıng ın a row.
Froze our asses in Turkey. Several nights wild canping in freezing temperatures. For the last leg, relented and took the train over the mountains from Malatya to Tabriz in Iran.
Tasha says "Thought you said it'd be warm in Turkey?"
"It is, just not here at this time of year. My hands are warm though."
"You have heated grips" she points out. Women - it's always detail with them. We marvelled at our tiny new down sleeping bags whem they arrived. Now T marvells at my stupidity in buying 2 season bags for winter in Turkey.
Anyway, book on the train. 55quid is about the same as the turkish petrol at 1.10 sterling per litre would take us anyway. Man at window - come back and get ticket at 6. At 6 - back at 730. At 730 - back at 9. Get tickets at 1030. Train at 0045. Station manager has us in his office for tea all night. Train is late - due at 7am! He lets us kip down in a cupboard. It arrives bang on time - one and a half hrs late!
Now to load 250kg of BMW onto a wagon 3'6" off the floor. We establish that turkish for ramp is "rampa". There is no rampa. Get about 8 blokes organised to heave it on. Little fat man appears and starts being all angry and pointing at the bike shouting "benzene! motoil!". It's clear he wants all fluids drained off the bike before loading. Although I've just ridden it down the platform I mime that it's empty. My Italian friend, Francesco backs me up in excited Italian. Guy wants to look in the tank - I point to the key slot in the filler and shrug. I then placate him by showing him the sightglass which looks empty - coz on a bmw you have to lean it 1st to get a reading. He relents and we lug it on.
30hr trip to Tabriz but bike now impounded by customs...... more to follow.
Got the bike out of customs eventually - nearly 3 days. Bad luck they impounded it just before the weekend! The carnet should've been stamped on the border, as I asked them to, but they said "make stamp in Tabriz". So in Tabriz they said "You must make stamp at border, not possible here". So they impounded the bike and went home for the weekend!
Gave me a good chance to check out the Iranian traffic 1st hand - from the (relative) safety of a taxi. It's suicidal. Iran has the worst accident rate in the world apparently. It's like 1 death per person per kilometre travelled or suchlike..... Over 30,000 people die on the roads each year. They all drive these Paykans - copies of the Hillman Hunter. The govt has just stopped making them in 2004 but they'll be on the roads here for the next 20yrs. They're gas guzzling dinosaurs but petrol here is about 5p a litre - diesel is just over 1p!
Most roads might have 2 or 3 marked lanes. To your average Iranian this means you create "extra" lanes between the marked ones. On the 3 lane highways there are 2 extra lanes located between the regular lanes. These appear to be used for over/undertaking or simply meandering between lanes. The Islamic Revolution appears not to have embraced the idea of safe stopping distances either. If you are more than say, 2 feet behind the vehicle in front, then whoever is behind will be tooting loudly and flashing to get by. This is despite the fact that our bike is generally the quickest thing on an Iranian highway. Defensive driving is very much the order of the day.
Crossing the street is a nightmare - in theory if a driver hits a pedestrian he is at fault and has to pay "blood money". In practice - drivers pay no heed to peds at all. The only way to cross is to cross with an Iranian person but keep them on the oncoming traffic side as a shield.
Despite all this, the welcome from all Iranians has been superb. Even the customs guys were nice and really apologetic about having to take the bike. People come up all the time to talk, invite us for tea or food. People have paid for fruit we were buying and invited us out for everything. 2 guys we met in a restaurant took us out for the day in Tabriz, taxied us around, took us for a meal and refused any offers of money. We stayed near Tehran with a guy called Mehdi that I met through www.horizonsunlimited.com and he showed us around the city and discussed all manner of things about Iran. Really good guy.
While the cities are a nightmare the new motorways are pretty good. Tabriz to Tehran was really quick - sat at 100-110mph all the way. The roads are tolled and motorcycles are banned so they let us through each booth for nothing except a smile and a "Welcome to Iran!". Bikes in Iran are limited to 200cc so the GS is technically illegal but it's ok if you're in transit.
Tasha has to wear a hejab and isn't meant to make eye contact with men so she walks along demurely, looking down and only speaks when spoken to. If only it were always so........
The bike attracts a lot of attention and people come up to inspect it and ask questions. It also buys us a bit of space in the traffic as drivers gawp and momentarily forget that they should be cutting us up.
Went from Tehran down to Esfahan yesterday on the new highway. Filled up on the the way but my Touratech Rallye Computer Gizmo developed a glitch so I couldn't reset the tacho or fuel computer or see the speedo. Headed off and sat with the throttle wound to the stop in top gear. The one time that the speedo cut back in we got up to 194kmh! Unfortunately, we had no idea of distance or fuel usage and didn't see any fuel stations for ages in the mountainous desert landscape. Backed off the throttle a bit but 10k before Esfahan - you've guessed it - we ran out. Despite the 31ltr fuel tank I'd fitted. What an idiot - I know. Anyway, place was bleak with small sandy hillocks either side of the road. I spied a crew working with a dump truck about half a mile away so headed off to see what I could rustle up, leaving T with the bike. Managed to communicate with the foreman my predicament and he led me off to his car where he produced a siphon tube and a 2ltr plastic bottle. 2 minutes and a mouthful of petrol later I was heading back to the bike when a lad on a dirt bike appears and takes me back. T is surrounded by helpful locals who are putting 4ltrs into the bike and berating me for being a "crazy man". Smiles and handshakes all round and they refuse any money for the gas and we're off.
Couple of days in the beautiful former Persian capital and we're off next into the proper desert. The weather is warmer down here so it's much more fun. Gonna make damn sure we fill up at every opportunity......
Riding accross the desert ain't that exciting - as my pillion kept pointing out. The view is pretty dull, broken only by the odd camel or burnt out wrecked bus. Met the first biker so far - Boegard, an affable, bearded South African on a KTM 640 riding from India to SA. Unfortunately he was arriving at our hotel in Esfahan just as we were leaving. We hurriedly swopped tips and info in the lobby before departure.
Uneventful trip down to Kerman and then to Bam - sight of the massive 2003 'quake. Between 65-70,000 of the 100,000 population of the town died in the 'quake which happened at 5am on a winter morning. We stay in the Akbar Guest House - well, portacabins til it's rebuilt. A warmer welcome from Akbar and his family one couldn't imagine. The GS has been leaking from the oil cooler but an hour with the tools and it's sorted, while Tasha does the washing like a good Islamic wife!
Akbar's son, Mohammed, tells us how he was trapped under the rubble for 5 hours as his best friend, a beam on his chest, expired next to him. He then discovered that his girlfriend and her entire family had been killed. An English guest also perished in the rubble. The Enfield 500, on which he was riding back to the UK, still stands rusting in the yard as a grisly testament to his passing.
Amazingly - none of Akbar's family died although he told us of a family of 50 where only one person survived. Mohammed took us to the cemetary where the sheer scale of the disaster really hit home. The town will rebuild but it'll be a slow process.
Met some French guys in a VW Camper with a cautionary tale about road accidents in Iran. Seems like you shouldn't wait about for an ambulance - coz there aren't any! Luckily they had insurance - which we don't - so it worked out ok.
Decide to bypass Zahedan and head for the Pakistani border in one go - 420km. The road down is good but we come up behind some traffic cops in a Merc 240. A car overtakes them and hares off so we do the same but more gradually - they pull us for speeding. Seems they only want a look at the bike and after smiles and handshakes we're off.
Last 100k to border is crazy. We play chicken with oncoming trucks as they overtake eachother on the single track road. Some trucks start to overtake, see us and pull in. Some see us, hesitate, then CARRY ON! Some just go anyway. At 120-140kmh facing 2 oncoming HGVs you have to hit the brakes and then dive onto the hard shoulder (a 3ft wide strip of either tarmac, gravel or just dirt). Sometimes there's enough space to stay on the road itself and squeeze by but it requires a bit of nerve. The first few encounters are terrifying but it all seems old hat after a few dozen and you wonder what all the fuss was about.
Reach Mirjave - a dusty, dirty border shithole. We go to the gas station to fill up with 5p litre Iranian petrol for the last time. There's a huge queue of Pakistani reg pick-ups filled with all manner of drums for taking back over the border where petrol is 55p ltr. We're directed to the bike pump whwere hundreds of excited peopole are gathered along with dozens of bikes queueing up. We're ushered through the throng and get to jump the Q (easier to spell) and fill to the gunwhales with the last cheap petrol (sob!).
The border crossing is ok on both sides. Bit time consuming but smooth enough. The Pakistanis are really friendly and give us tea and biscuits. On to Taftan, another dusty, dirty border shithole. The motel lives up to the same standard.
Quetta, the only big town en route is 612km away. It's 12-13hrs by bike according to the customs men. We change some cash and decide to stop in Dahlbandin- half way. This is where one of those things that goes wrong, goes wrong. Stupidly, I didn't change enough cash to take into account fuel as well as lodgings. We don't leave til 12 midday and Tasha rides most of the 270k to Dahlbandin. It's another dirty, dusty shithole, the only difference being that everyone carries AK47s. We realise we can afford to fuel up but nothing else and chances of changing US$ doesn't look good. The road has been good so far but it's almost 4 and there's 340km to go. We decide to go for it but the road, on leaving Quetta, almost disappears. It's a 6-10ft wide strip of tarmac seemingly dropped onto some sand. The edges are high and the surface is mainly potholes or just missing totally. It's almost impossible to overtake trucks and oncoming vehicles usually force you onto the dirt. As the light is fading I decide to really go for it and ride as fast as possible over all the obstacles and taking every tiny overtaking opportunity. It's crazy riding. The GS however, is made for this and takes most of it in its stride. The suspension only bottoms out occasionally and the bash plate likewise. One bridge has a lip on it that looks benign but at 130kmh we crash into it and the metal pin supporting the dashboard breaks away. It's the kind of riding that people who ride a sportsbike fast, for fun, would understand. It's the first time that riding the GS has been exciting and in any remote way come close to the sports bike experience. Somehow we average 100km per hour and manage to dispense with the bad road after 150km as darkness falls.
The last 150km is ok but the road winds over 2 mountain passes and it's freezing. eventually we reach Quetta - a dirty, dusty, very cold shithole. The hotel is likewise but at 2 pounds 50 a night we're not arguing.
"Do you want a heater?" the guy asks.
"YES" we reply together.
By chance, my big sister, a doctor, is here volunteering for a week operating on earthquake victims. We went to see her and the family hosting her insisted that we stayed as well. They have a HUGE house, loads of servants, massive TV with satellite, at least 7 bedrooms all en suite and they insist on taking us out everywhere and feeding us round the clock. It's great!
Well, after 10 days of luxurious living in Rawalpindi we finally had our Indian visas so we headed back down to Lahore to cross the border. Firstly though, we were instructed to stay with Kitty and Faisal (a major in the Rangers – border patrol). We arrived at their luxurious flat to learn that we were being put up in the nearby officers’ mess – to be waited on hand and foot(again).
Faisal was very keen on shooting and showed us a picture of a whole lot of ducks. “My brother-in-law, my father and I shot 468 ducks on Sunday.” He announced.
Now I’ve done a spot of shooting and I like my foie gras and veal like the next man but this looked like overkill to me. I asked if they had any wild boar and were they difficult to hunt.
“Oh no” he replied, we chase them with a jeep. Last month I shot 21, all in one day!”
. He then shows me a picture of him standing grinning with a huge, recently deceased, bird. “This is a Giant Desert Bustard.” He explains, “They say that there are only about 200 of these birds left in the whole of the world.”
“And you SHOT one?” I asked incredulously.
“No, no, no!” he explained “ I shot TEN – all in the SAME DAY!”
Anyway, my opinion of him improved when he barked at his manservant who instantly reappeared with a tray laden with beer and whisky.
“I’m only half Muslim” he explained as he lit up.
The next day, with an air-conditioned 4WD and driver at our disposal along with an aide from the Rangers, a guide and a photographer we were treated to a fine tour of Lahore. We were also taken to the border for the daily closing ceremony which is an astonishing mix of pageantry, military drill, national pride and theatre. At night Major Faisal took us to a restaurant owned by his shooting buddies. All manner of hunted game was on the menu although I resisted enquiring as to whether any Great Desert Bustard was in season.
Back on the bike the next morning we were guided back to the border and treated like VIPs by the Border Rangers as we were whisked through. India at long last……
The roads in India are not too bad. It’s the traffic that’s crazy. On one morning we had to avoid: buses, cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, motor-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, handcarts, carts pulled by – camel, ox, horse, donkey, cow, buffalo. Along with elephants, sacred cows, dogs, sheep, goats, pigs and monkeys. It’s the difference in relative speed of all the traffic (coupled with some idiocy) that makes progress so difficult. Averaging 60kmh was really difficult and, on some days, even 50 was impossible. Riding for 7 hours to find you’ve done less than 330km was tough going.
Stopped at the Golden Temple at Amritsar then headed down to Agra to see the Taj Mahal – both well worth making time for. India just seemed too full of people. Anytime we stopped we were absolutely mobbed. All the towns we arrived in were huge and impossible to navigate around in the dark. They don’t seem to turn on their streetlights (saves on the leccy?) or use vehicle lights either. Tried one particularly stupid u-turn on a steep dusty slope and when I put my foot down… nothing there. Over we went but a soft landing awaited in the dirt. The hotel was a welcome sight that night.
We decided to head straight across towards Nepal. The main road deteriorated to an alarming extent. Huge potholes and slow trucks to try and overtake made progress a nightmare. Suddenly Tasha told me to stop. The mount for the BMW topbox had finally given up the ghost. I had often wondered why it had lasted so long, especially as not only was the box overloaded but we’d been strapping 2 large bags on top as well.
We pulled off the road and sized up the problem. It was as bad as any mechanical coz we couldn’t go anywhere without our luggage. As we attempted to fix the problem by taking washers off other parts of the bike and fitting them over the bolts in the cracked mount, a crowd steadily gathered even though we were 5k past the last town. A guy in a blue shirt poked his nose into the problem then disappeared. As we sweated in the heat and under the fierce glare of anticipation from the audience, the bloke returned brandishing some wire. We started trying to wire the mount back on. Then, the crowd parted and a guy on a bicycle was ushered through. Turns out he’s the local mechanic with his plastic bag full of tools. He deftly assesses the situation and rapidly wires the mount on, twirling his pliers as he goes. We then fit the box and he adjusts our bungees supertight before adding an old bicycle tube for good measure. It’s sturdier than before. He refuses any offer of payment and we’re off again.
Finally, we reach the border. Formalities completed in a few hours and we’re riding in Nepal. After the dirt and crowding in India it’s a welcome relief. Fresh air, open roads and green trees. Friendlier people who seem more relaxed. We make 120km or so towards Kathmandu before camping in a beautiful spot by a huge river. A strange animal comes sniffing round the tent in the night but we never establish what it was. I explain to T that it’s probably a mongoose or a giant shrew or something else cuddly – glossing over the leopard or tiger theories.
The atmosphere in Nepal is a lot lighter than before. The 4 month ceasefire with the Maoist rebels means all the soldiers at the checkpoints are more relaxed. The road to Kathmandu is vastly improved and we sweep along the last 180kms to our destination and a few days R&R before Christmas.
2 months, 14 countries, 14300kms, no breakdowns, punctures or accidents.
Time for a rest.
This mode of travel is neither sensible nor cheap. "Why didn't you just fly to Nepal and buy motorcycles when you got there?" another traveller asked. I still haven't come up with a coherent reply. No matter how cheaply you live it all costs a bundle.
Preparation is everything. Unfortunately I misread this as "nothing". Poring over the Touratech website for hours was all well and good but didn't help much when we were lost in Bosnia. What would've helped was a decent map of Bosnia. The Toytown map of Europe we had was ok for showing main routes but **** all good for much else. Some investigation into prevailing weather conditions at this time of year might have been a good idea. "It'll be warm when we get to Greece, Turkey and beyond." started to wear.
On the Technical side:
TT hardparts f&r
BMW hard luggage
Oxford Expander Tankbag
TT Rallye Computer
Hepco Becker Engine bars
Stebel Magnum Horn - MOST USEFUL addition!!
GSA 31ltr Tank - range up to 600km
Fuel consumption between 5.1 and 7.2 iltr per 100km. Usually nearer 5.
Best bit of kit taken - Leatherman Charge Ti
Leak from oil cooler pipes - at both ends. Easily sorted.
Clutch slip - adjusted slack. No problem.
Rear mudguard ripped off on rough road in Baluchistan.
Both front indicators damaged - bike dropped 5 times.
Rear carrier snapped.
As Mike P says, a great read, thanks.
Brightened up a dull day that did
Loved it. Thank you for sharing it with us. Just in passing, did you ever feel threatened whilst travelling?
I really enjoyed reading your journal, wow!
Fully lives up to:
Die with regrets - not with dreams!!!
Climate is what you hope for, weather is what you get!
Thanks for finding the time to post that, excellant stuff. Some pictures and a further update when you can would be great.
Its not like it used to be on here is it
No - didn't feel threatened ar all, at any point.
The Islamic countries have actually been the most friendly and welcoming.
However, big bomb/attack in Thangkot last night (about 10k west of Kathmandu). This is about 1.5km from my house and a few hundred yards from the orphanage I'm working with. 12 police killed and general confusion. The ceasefire with the Maoists is well and truly over.
Don't understand the pics - they worked when I posted them up but don't appear (to me) now. Any ideas? I'm using Fotki.
Without the photos it is a very good read.
Thanks for that.
I'm still seein' photos.
Climate is what you hope for, weather is what you get!
Originally Posted by Bin Ridin
I can't. Not even the little white boxes with red crosses in them. Strange....
Anyway, if anybody wants to ride an 1100GS back from India/Nepal to the UK in the next 6 months or so please let me know. It'll save me a bundle on shipping it.
Another go at posting pics......
Lost in Iran
Bigger seat height than a GS and not as comfy
On the train at last
Mountain top church in Slovenia
walnut grove in Greece
Albanian mountain road
Ancient city of Bam, Iran
camping in Serbia
Olive grove in Montenegro
Camping in Turkey
A pale shadow of our former selves
A nice cuppa tea and a sitdown in Esfahan
Well been a bit quiet of late but a few moderately interesting things been going on here.
Firstly, the bike always causes a stir. The Nepalis love bikes and they love talking about them. My Nepali is fluent enough to tell them all the pertinent details, engine size, price, weight, cylinders and (most importantly) number of km per litre.
Was startled one time by this little kid of about 10. He came up when I was doing some fettling on the bike outside my house in the village and had a jolly good look all around it. I was expecting a basic broken English or Nepali question when he piped up, in pitch-perfect English, "Tell me, is it absolutely neccessary for one to have disc brakes on a motorcycle?" I had to explain to him the weight and the dynamics of it all before he was satisfied that it WAS neccessary.
Got some service parts sent out and went to get some oil. 2 guys in a car stopped and asked me what I was doing. I told them and they said "Follow us, we work for Tata, you can use our workshop and mechanics." I went to this huge, modern Tata workshop where I was introduced to the foreman and he, along with his crew, were put at my disposal. They weren't bike mechanics but they were all good mechanics and very keen to help. I soon had 6 of them swarming all over the bike as I directed them and the oil and filters were changed in minutes, everything torq'd up according to the BM service manual on my USB drive.
They replaced a double opposite threaded bolt which had broken on my dashboard by MAKING a new one in the workshop while I had some tea with the foreman. After this, they took the bike to the washing bay, cleaned it, polished it, used special stuff on the seat etc etc. It looked new! Cleaner than I've ever had it.
Luckily it's halfway between my house and Kathmandu so it's easy to go back. I had a brake hose split and they found a Tata car one which was the right size but had the wrong fittings - so they made new fittings while they bought me lunch. Again, the bike was washed to perfection. The charge for all this so far - nil!
I've started getting a bit cocky with the traffic lately. Coming into KTM the other week we were overtaking a bus when another bus came the other way. Normally I play the "white person on a big german motorcycle" card and the oncoming vehicle gives me space. This time, the oncoming bus didn't pull over and "our" bus pulled out a bit. The narrow space between the buses closed uncomfortably into a long tunnel. I tried to hold the bike straight as possible but the space disappeared and we got sandwiched. The left hand bar-end got jammed in the wheel arch and so did my hand - luckily I was wearing gloves. Something spinning fast - probably the wheel rim - ground into the engine bars. After about 50yds we got disentangled but luckily stayed upright. Been a bit more circumspect since whilst jousting in traffic.
The Maoist bundhs (strikes) and civil unrest has been great for riding. There's no other traffic. During one bandh, I met Charles, an American ex-pat, on his R80GS. Turns out he has 5 old bikes, 2 60s BMWs, a Triumph and a 1946 Indian complete with left foot clutch, right hand gears, left hand throttle and right hand twistgrip for ignition advance.
Charles invited me to ride out with Shiva's Slaves, a motorcycle gang who rideout annually on Shiva Ratri. I met up with 30 odd expats, locals and assorted diplomats/tourists on a variety of vintage tackle or Enfields. I was offered a can of Tuborg on arrival - a welcome innovation - we should try that on the sunday runs! A bunch of Norwegians had ridden over from Goa on their dubiously customised Enfields (leopardskin seats anyone?). We visited a couple of shrines and had a picnic - some members of the group smoking unfeasably large joints. Next, visited Pashrupati - huge temple thronging with 10s of thousands of devotees. Then the fun started. We were heading back to Charles' house when the ring roads were all blocked by army/police. "Our King is coming." they said. We dispersed down the side streets and attempted to find ways back onto the Ringroad. Following Charles on the Indian we rode straight at some traffic cops blocking the road - they dived out the way at the last moment and we were on the ringroad - with no traffic! Most of the rest of the group managed the same and we had a great blast along the empty roads at maximum speed (and volume). A good BBQ and loads of beer rounded off an enjoyable day.
The Maoists decided to blockade the country a few weeks back - just when we wanted to take a break in Pohkara. We left the KTM valley only to find a huge tailback at the military checkpost. No-one was being allowed out of the valley. We rode around the queue and two soldiers flagged us down. We waved and rode past, doing the same to the policeman blowing his whistle. After that.... heaven. 200km of empty roads to Sunauli on the Indian border - where we went to renew visas. Only a few more checkpoints tried to stop us. Approaching Sunauli we came to a blockaded bridge. Tasha begun to remove some rocks when she noticed a sandbag with red and black wires going into it. The Maoists are known to boobytrap roadblocks. We stopped moving rocks. The locals pointed us to a river crossing. I took the bike down and guided it over the soft sand and gunned it accross the river - no problem. When I tried to get up the steep sandy bank - big problem. Got well stuck. The locals - who'd gathered into a sizeable crowd- came to help. They didn't seem to mind being pelted with sand and rocks from my back wheel as we got the behemoth unstuck. Smiles all round and got moving again - we had to ford one more river on the way. After Sunauli, we headed the 150km to Pohkara. A beautiful winding mountain road was great fun to ride. Endless hairpins and 3rd gear sweepers for mile after mile with great views of the approaching Himalayas.
Darkness fell and a colossal thunderstorm was whipped up. Huge cascades of lightening lit the sky. Now we were only 25km from Pohkara and getting wet. We hit the first Maoist roadblocks. We had seen no traffic at all on this road and now we understood why. We negotiated several stone walls before coming upon 3 burnt-out cars totally blocking the road. On the right was the sheer rock of a mountain, on the left a steep drop. We gingerly half rode/ half lifted the bike round. Next, was a huge tree. Felled accross the road. It was too big to move and extended over the edge so couldn't be circumnavigated. We had camping gear but after getting so close to a warm hotel bed we didn't want to give up. I started sawing branches off the tree with my Leatherman and Tasha began making a ramp with rocks and earth. I rode the BM up onto the narrow grass bank and attacked the ramp. Got halfway over then lifted the back wheel over. A Nepali guy turned up and helped us. He pointed to a light on the overlooking hilltop. "Maoist look-out. They are watching. They will come. You go - very fast!"
We went, very fast. Firstly we had to negotiate several more stone roadblocks. You could ride around the edge in the foot or so available. We had to ride over several logs too. Whilst riding round one block Tasha says " You're getting really good at this". At the next block I casually picked our way round and rode straight into the drainage ditch. "Hmmmn - maybe I spoke too soon" grunted Tasha as we heaved the bike out. We dispensed with the rest of the obstacles finally. Then, as we rounded a bend, we saw it. Loping across the road, long tail swinging behind. A real, live, wild LEOPARD! It turned and stopped, staring at us, its eyes illuminated in the sideways glare of the lights. Only about 10ft away. Then it was gone, into the night. Elated, we rode on, no longer caring if a pick-up full of AK-47 toting Maoists was around the next bend. We finally arrived in Pohkara, the only vehicle to traverse that road in a week.
Things a bit dodgy here now - constant riots and curfews but still smiling. There's a riot outside right now apparently
Great wright up Namastebuz, We have friends in Nepal who now say it is getting realy bad again after a few mounths respite, We lived for a few years the other side of Sunauli in India at a place called Gorakhpur, been through Sunauli loads of time on the way To Ktm but always by bus! and stayed in some very poor "hotels" on the border there, that road up to Pokra is fantastic but not in the back of a Napli bus with the runs!! the nearest I got to rideing a bike there was an old Jawa and a mates Baja 150 scoot, good memories brought back by your report, thanks and keep your head down, Nasmaska!!
Yeah, it's a bad situation here. have no info on the roads outside the valley. We need to leave within a month but have to sit tight for now until all the troubles are sorted.
Are your friends in KTM or elsewhere?
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