15 July 2013 – Mr Sherap arrived late with the Royal Enfield and then told us the speedometer had broken which he would go and get repaired nearby, he returned but with the speedometer still broken, it needed a new one and the garage didn’t have any so we’d have to take it and just guess at the speed we were doing.
A little bit later than planned we set-off with no clue how to get out of the city…Mr Sherap had informed us there was no easy way. It was dis-organised sign less chaos, and we went out of our way for half an hour before turning back around. We weren’t even out of the city when we broke down. It completely died on a hill and wouldn’t restart. Luckily there seems to be a mechanic on every street so we only had to roll back a few hundred metres and the bike was being looked at. Enfields look cool but there is not much to them and almost every component can be undone with the key.
At first he looked at the battery, but that was fine, looked at the petrol pipe, that was fine too, then looked at the electrics and ignition. This was where the problem lay, the wires had looked to have split. He repaired temporarily but it meant the bike could now be turned on without a key so we’d have to get it fixed properly in Pokhara. He spent an hour working on the bike all for the measly sum of 250 Rupees – around £1.80. After the late start this breakdown set us further behind and it was 13.00 before we eventually got out of Kathmandu.
Once we were on the ‘main highway’ the road was pretty daunting. It was basically the size of one lane, but with buses and large trucks trying to pass each other. It makes it scary being the smallest vehicle on the road, as even when the buses peak out to view if anything is coming motorbikes seemingly don’t count, and they without hesitation, run you off the road. Fine if there is some land to pull onto but not when it’s a cliff side, there have already been more than a few close encounters with the bright front grills of large buses.
Most of the road was tarmac but poor standard, with potholes and lots of mud, sand and random rocks. It was slow riding, so no need for speedometer after all as there is no way we could breaking speed records on these roads. As soon as we were out of Kathmandu the views around every bend were beautiful. Lush green valleys, little rural villages with brightly coloured houses and mile after mile of rice terraces being ploughed with water buffalos.
We didn’t make it to Pokhara as planned and in the end we decided to call it a day when our arses were suitably numb. The difference on this bike is that that you feel every bump on the road and the seat is not as comfortable. We only managed 160 km and it took us 3 hours. Gone are the days of 600km rides, it’s simply not possibly on these winding little roads. The hotel we stayed at was in the middle of nowhere and seemed to be for tired lorry drivers, though the views outside the back were just as good as the road there, and we caught a glimpse of one of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, though at this time of year it is monsoon season and clouds quickly cover the high mountains. We ate yet another delicious meal alone as it seems we are the only guests – I had Thukpa again which is a Tibetan spicy noodle soup and Paul had vegetable curry. With nothing but the hotel for a few miles we headed to our room and watched one of the pirated dvds we had bought for 50p each in Kathmandu, this time it was Hangover 3 which had been filmed in the cinema, so silhouettes going to the toilet interrupted once in a while.
With only a small fan and the constant powercuts that Nepal incurs, we found it hard to sleep in the heat. So come morning time we were up and ready for the short 70km or so to Pokhara. The amazing scenery continues over rice fields and past numerous waterfalls, whilst the colourfully dressed locals at the roadside wash in the streams, carry mass bunches of grass and work in the fields. At every turn there is something new to see.
Pokhara is an instant hit. The location is picturesque even though we couldn’t see the Annapurna snow capped mountains, it has a huge lake and has a really laid back vibe.
We only originally planned to stay in Pokhara a few days before heading south but the place we stayed in [Hotel Peace Plaza] was run by a friendly Nepali family, our room looked out over the lake and cost just £7 so it was hard to leave and we ended up staying a week. On the first day we did the longer ‘three hour’ trek to the peace pagoda through local villages, rice fields and then up a steep hill. It was hot and sweaty but worth it for the views. Unfortunately we were spotted by a young guy along the way who insisted on following us, despite telling him we wanted to walk alone. We knew what was coming and sure enough he asked for money and had the nerve to ask for more when we handed over 100 rupees. Cheeky nit, he didn’t get anymore.
The actual Peace Pagoda is not that spectacular, but the views are and I guess that’s the real reason people hike up. I call it a ‘Hike’ but I bet those going on to do one of the many ‘real’ hikes up the Annapurna range wouldn’t classify it as so. We took the cheats way on the way down on the opposite side of the hill through the jungle and then hired a boat to take us back. After paying and jumping in the wooden canoe, the boatman chucks Paul a paddle and in Nepalese probably says “get rowing”
That evening we visited the Bullet Base Camp [a Royal Enfield themed bar] which Paul had heard about from videos and a must do stop if you’re riding an Enfield. Whilst there we met a guy called Paul from Bristol who was working there, he told us about Raj next door who was the don at repairing Enfields so we made a plan to return the next day to sort out the issue with the ignition. The bar itself was really cool and almost every part is constructed from so sort of motorbike part from the stools to mirror in the bathroom.
Before heading to Raj on the next day, we drove out of town up into the mountains on a quest to try and get above the clouds in an attempt to see the snow capped Himalayas. We didn’t manage to get high enough to go through the clouds, to really do this we would have to get all the way to Jomsom/Mulkinath which sits at over 3800 metres, but this requires a permit and from what we hear is a tough ride on unpaved roads that will take around 12 hours at least. So we plan to do this another day. However the ride we went on was spectacular and included some small river crossings, we were almost alone on the roads and the views were incredible.
On the way back to Pokhara we stop at a small town which is a Tibetan Refugee camp, decorated with the colourful prayer flags and an impressive temple, the place feels very relaxed. We decided to look at their stalls of handmade goods as this is their only real income. The women that sit at the stalls all compete with each other for attention but very softly in a way that makes you feel guilty for buying off one rather than another. As we cannot carry anything (which has been a pain throughout the trip as we have seen so many amazing things) we just bought some small bracelets, Paul chose one made up of miniature skulls though in a questionable turquoise blue that makes him look a bit gay.
The next couple of days the weather took a turn for the worse and rained almost constantly, on one little break in the weather we decided to take the bike out around the lake, though a quarter way round it absolutely hammered down and the road that was already mud turned into a river. So most of our time was spent bumming around and eating in many of the restaurants, all of them were good and really cheap, but the best by far was ‘Once Upon a Time’ so good we ate there twice in a row and would have gone back if we weren’t leaving. One dish that’s served in a lot of the restaurants which I mentioned before is Thukpa. I just want to re-iterate how good this soup is. Its sooooo good.
During our bumming days we debated whether we would get a permit to go to Jomsom or spend the money instead on paragliding, both were about £30 though with the probable landslides from the days rain we decided to better spend it on the one off chance of going paragliding. We booked it on the first day it was raining non-stop but convinced it would clear the following day we booked it, but the rain didn’t stop. So again we spent our time eating and watching Game of Thrones series one incase anyone was interested. We decided we would move on the following day should the weather not clear, though when we woke up the weather was perfect, so the paragliding is back on.
The journey up to the take off point was a lot more nerve racking than the actual paragliding. Team 5 were the company we went with, all young laid back Nepalese lads, though their vehicles were not having much luck. Within 5 minutes of leaving we had a flat tyre so quickly swapped to another jeep, though this one seemed to lack in power and up one of the steepest hills decided to give up and wouldn’t restart. After trying a few times to bump start by pushing up the very narrow steep hill, they gave up and waited around until a chap from another company to give up a lift to the top, abandoning the driver to fend for himself.
Once at the top everything happens very quickly, they unpack the thermals and get you attached in. No safety brief or instructions or chance to change your mind. Once harnessed in you stand there until the instructor that flies tandem with you waits for the wind to be right, whilst you contemplate nervously with legs shaking running off the edge. Could be seconds, could be 10 minutes, out from nowhere they tell you to “run”. It’s quite a struggle, like pulling something very heavy, but once you’re off its very relaxing and peaceful just gliding over amazing scenery. When you get closer to the ground they start to pull a few stunts and joke about the landing spot being the lake, though it’s right on the edge.
We were in Pokhara for just over 6 days and it is definitely an easy and enjoyable place to linger with all the backpacker comforts we have not yet experienced elsewhere. It was tough leaving, having gotten used to doing not much and eating chocolate and good food every day, that the thought of not doing that was really hard to bear!