Published: April 25th 2012April 15th 2012
April 2, 2012
After a fun and rewarding winter season in Florida, I'm off on another adventure trip. This time a motorcycle trip through Nepal and Tibet.
Before leaving Toronto, I had spent some very enjoyable time with my kids and grandkids. Michelle and Travis gave birth to their second child, Lily Naomi, on March 31. She is absolutely beautiful and healthy and is being taken good care of by her big 2 year old sister Maya Sophia. Robbie is busy working full time with Interactive Sports Technologies. He is doing very well, traveling all over the world, most recently a trip to China for the Asian Golf Association trade show. Johnny graduates this month in Business from Georgian College (Way to go Johnny!) There are 2 rumors going around about Johnny, one is that he is getting a haircut (I'll believe it when I see it) and the second is that he is getting into the Irish pub business.
April 9 - Toronto -==> Nanaimo, BC
My first stop after leaving Toronto is Nanaimo, BC. to visit my son, Jeff, his wife Heather, and my grandson, Ryder. I don't get to see them very
often as they live so far away. Jeff has been very busy with his Audio/Visual company, and Heather with her job at the large animal vet in Nanaimo. Ryder is a very busy 3 and a half year old. Growing up on a rural property, he spends most of his time outdoors. Following after his dad, he loves cycling, and thanks to his mom, he has grown up with horses. He has his own pony now, Sammy who was trained to jump, pull a cart, and ride. Next, we have to train him to play polo!
April 12, Nanaimo to Hong Kong
The quickest way to get from Vancouver to Kathmandu, Nepal is to go through Hong Kong. The connections weren't very good in Hong Kong, so I decided to stay over a night there, since I had never been. Good Decision! Hong Kong is an amazing city (Territory of China) of 7 million people with a density of 6800 people per square KM, one on the most dense in the world. I was only there for one night and 2 days, but I made the most of it. The highlights being: a visit to the Big
Buddha; the cable car at Lammai mountain, an Oriental Essence massage at the Mandarin Oriental; a ferry ride to the mainland (Kowloon) to watch an evening light show of the city; a tour of Hong Kong Island, including, Victoria Peak, Aberdeen Bay, Repulse Bay, and Stanley Market. To top it off I had a Dim Sum lunch at the famous Maxim's in the City Hall - very special!
April 14 Hong Kong ==> Kathmandu, Nepal
I took the evening flight to Nepal, arriving at 10:00 pm to be greeted at the airport by my old friend, Ashim. I met Ashim on my last trip to Nepal 18 months ago. He is one of the organizers of our tour. On route to our guest house - Cafe Mitra (owned by Kunal) - he broke the news that our Visa applications were not accepted in Tibet. You may have read or heard in the news about the suicides by the Tibetans opposing the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Well, I guess with the instability of the political situation in the country, they decided it was not a good place for visitors. Our organizers, Phillipa, Rabi, and Ashim, have been working
busy developing a plan B. It's not all bad, It takes us from Nepal through India the Bhutan - a place I have always wanted to go to. Bhutan is famous for measuring its success by Gross National Happiness, something more countries should do.
In general, things have not been going so well. Mike Dean left Denver on Saturday morning and didn't arrive in Nepal until Tuesday evening. Similarly, Stefan left San Francisco Sunday morning and didn't get here until Tuesday Afternoon. Both were delayed due to Airline problems in the States.
So far almost everyone has been sick. I was the first one, out of commission for the better part of 3 days, followed by David, then Phillipa, then Mick and Lorraine, and now Martin's getting it.
My apologies for the quality of this blog. We have had very little access to technology, combined with very long days. It's late and I have to get up at 5:45am for a very long day of riding tomorrow. April 18 - Kathmandu to Pokhara
This is the first official day of the trip. We did a little sightseeing in the morning, then picked up our bikes
in the afternoon (those that were healthy enough). We did an hour ride just to get used to the bikes. This year, most of us are riding the new Royal Enfield 500 Desert Storm motorcycles. The old Royal Enfield Classic, which I rode the last time here, has the gear shift on the right side and the brake on the left side - the opposite of the bikes back home. The new model has the brakes and gears on the proper side, and also has electric ignition. Bonus!
It feels like we've been in Kathmandu forever.
It's good to finally get underway. After a rough start with late arrivals, sickness, mechanical problems, etc. we are all ready to leave. We are leaving town probably at the worst time. It's rush hour, and most of us are not accustomed to driving on the left side of the road. There are very few road rules here.
It goes something like this. You are entitled to as much road space as the width of your vehicle, plus about 6 inches on each side. You are expected to honk your horn when you are ready to pass. It's ok to pass
around blind corners, just avoid the trucks coming the other way on your side of the road. Weave around pedestrians, cyclists, cows, dogs, etc. Besides that, it's all pretty basic.
Our ride today is about 200 kms and will take about 6 - 7 hours, which averages out to about 35 km per hour or 25 mph. The roads are good for this part of the world, meaning mostly ashfault, with occasional potholes.
We arrive in Pokhara about 5:30 pm to our first night's accommodation, a beautiful hotel called the Temple Tree. My first order of business is to book a massage. It's only been 1 day on the road, and I'm already exhausted! It was definitely a good idea, as it loosened me up for what was ahead of us. We walked into town to have dinner at the Boomerang restaurant on the outdoor patio by the lake side. We were entertained by local Nepali musicians and dancers. April 19 - Pokora to Tatopani
The route out of Pokhara was very busy. The first 70 kms were paved, however, so we made reasonable time. After that the roads became dirt and very dry, which created
a lot of dust. To the point that you couldn't see where you were going if you followed the rider too close. It was 35 kms to our destination, which took us about 3 hours. We had our first taste of mountain roads, and all of us found it very exhausting. We were, however, treated to a nice surprise when we reached the Trekkers Lodge in Tatopani. There was a natural hot spring to soak our weary bones. As soon as we settled in, we went to the hot springs. There was a sign at the entrance that read - Open Defecation Free. A little odd, but nice to know. What does this say about the rest of the country!
At dinner, we met 3 bikers from England that were on their way down the mountain. Their biggest concern was that they got altitude sickness when they reached Mutinado-our ultimate destination. Our current elevation was 1200 meters. The next day, we were going to Jomson at 1200 m , and the following day to Mutinardo at 3,700 m. They complained of washed out bridges, rocky barrow roads with a 500 foot drop into the gorge, and large vehicles coming
the other direction. It almost seemed like they were trying to talk us out of the trip.
At any rate, we were up early and prepared our bikes. A young local boy helped me and cleaned my bike. He then asked me if we could give him a ride up the mountain to the next village. I said we would. Little did we know he had another passenger, a chicken, that he wanted to take with him. So off we went. The Brits weren't too far off with their description of the route. This was some of the most dangerous, treacherous biking I have ever done. The washed out bridge was the worst. Check out the photo to see directions to our hotel for yourself. Also there was one particularly steep rocky section with a major drop off, that I almost lost control on, but pulled it out at the last minute.
We reached Jomson and asked directions to our hotel, the Jomson Resort Hotel. It was located about 500 meters above the town and the only way to get there was up a windy gravel and dirt driveway zig zagging up the hill. With all the rain
that afternoon, it was next to impossible to get traction. Two of the guides failed. Stefan the best rider in the group failed, and finally Mike Dean from Colorado persisted and with the help of a couple of locals, made it through the mud to the top.
The rest of us went into town and after much deliberation decided to walk up. That is everyone except Stefan. He found the footpath and decided he could ride up. And so he did it! Although he did say it was one of the toughest rides he has ever done. The rest of us walked. Meanwhile, our support vehicle had 2 flat tires on the way up and didn't arrive until about 10 pm. They hired local porters to carry our bags up to the hotel.
The next day was from Jomson to Muktinath. We left Jomson, only to find that the bridge out, and the only way to cross the river was to cross the suspension bridge, a very narrow route. Dean - known as Animal - decided to ride his bike down the steps. Not a good plan! He wiped out into the side of the bridge. Fortunately, only
his ego was hurt. The rest of us walked our bikes down.
We rode about an hour and a half to Muktinath at 3,700m. It was quite nice, about 20 degrees celsius, when we got there, but after lunch, just before we were about to leave, it started to snow! What the hell!? This made the drive down very treacherous. The road was very slick and treacherous. I slid out about 5 times! Our guide twice - so I didn't feel so bad. We eventually made it back to Jomson.
We had a 2 day ride back down the mountain to Pokhara. It was a little easier because we knew what to expect, but still very tiring. We had thunderstorms both afternoons, but what the hey?! We were used to just about anything at this point. We made it back to Pokhara in one piece to a well deserved day of rest!
There are more photos below