Nepal. I’ve always wanted to visit Nepal. China to Nepal is like going from one extream to the other. Within 100m of leaving China you’re into a mob of people.. hands going everywhere.. little blokes diving into my panniers .. someone has taken my passport and just dissappeared.. and I’ve not got off my bike yet. It’s roasting hot and the smell of humanity is all around. I think I’m responsible for at least 50% of it ..
At most checkpoints the luggage searches are just cursory but this lot are doing a proper job going through everything. Good job I secreted my drone before I got here .. that wouldd have gone for sure .. The passport reappears and the officials wander off leaving my bike looking like I’ve ridden over a speed bump at 50mph with my pannier lids open. No passport stamps though, so off we go to hunt down the man with the stamp. Easier said than done. I think this border was closed for quite a while after the big 2015 earthquake. I can imagine there was a proper shitfest round here at that time. Nepal is on it’s knees anyway even before Mother Nature gave it a big slap. You can get visas on arrival here but we got ours in London so it’s a simple stamp and go. Customs though.. not so straight forward. The building is easy enough to identify but you walk in and you’re invisible. Nobody wants to know. It’s like a doctors waiting room with loads of sweaty truck driver sitting in shadows with hands full of paperwork needing attention. There is a long line of old Indian trucks lined up in the mud outside.. sighing and ticking with the effort of driving the Frendship highway. We’ve been warned about this road. We meet a motorcyclist coming in the other direction.. he left at stupid oclock this morning and it’s taken him 10 hours to do 150km, and he’s on a nice light bike. He says it’s unbelievably bad. Good to know ..
As we stand there in the customs office, a fixer suddenly appears and says he’ll sort it out. He wants our carnets then he’ll run round to the appropriate sheds and get the stamps. I must be honest, I didn’t know you needed a carnet for Nepal.. good job I’ve got one.. It would be perfectly possible to enter without one though .. just drive straight past the customs shed … nobody would give a fuck either on entry or exit. ..
The first few miles .. if it’s like this all the way it’s going to take 10 days not 10 hours. It’s an absolute quagmire .. deep sloppy mud just like a pig sty.. like riding through a sticky brown smoothy. Then as soon as the ground gets harder all the mud turns to ruts. They’re so deep you can’t ride through with your feet on the pegs and the BMW is trying to walk on tiptoe.. but still dragging its tits along the tops.. it’s bloody hard work.. and slow. I’m not stopping on the shit bits for pictures.. I’m far too busy gassing my gusset and trying to stop the turtle sticking it’s head out. This is about as good as it gets ..
My riding buddy was telling me about Nepal. Quoting Factfulness by Hans Rosling. Part of the book apparantly grades countries from 1 to 4 by their general infrastructure and facilities amongst other things. So hospitals and health provision, time for ambulances to arrive, all sorts of things we take for granted living in a 4 rated country. There aren’t that many at grade 1.. but Nepal is. Not much of anything it seems, and certainly not the place to have an accident. This can be waiting round any corner ..
The road crosses a river and turns to hard packed gravel and we all enjoy getting out of 2nd gear for a change ..
We’re going down a hill.. I ride to the front .. go round a slight bend.. and there are a couple of bikes coming towards us, both 2 up. I’m towards the middle of the road, they’re towards the middle of the road .. everyone rides the easiest line.. we’ve been meeting trafic and passing on either side.. whatever works .. but there is an official side of the road.. and in Nepal it’s the left. So we do the dance .. the same one you do on a busy pavement .. you both go one way.. then you both go the other way .. then you crash head on into each other. Fuck. I stay upright but I took a big hit on the right front side. The crashed bike is down and the riders are on the floor. The riders on the other bike are already in my face .. “why were you riding on the wrong side of the road”.. the riders aren’t badly hurt but they have some cuts on their hands and legs. Hands up .. this was probaby 70% my fault .. I was in the middle of the road rather than the left .. but they didn’t go to their left either. There are 4 angry men and it’s getting heated fast. My riding buddy is an Indian by birth and can speak to them in their native tongue thank god.. but it’s not cooling down so he just says to get going up the road and off we go. We ride a few miles with my plastics flapping and light hanging off. Then pull over to try and fix the bike up. The riders have followed us the arguements start all over again. Fair enough.. two have hurt themselves and there is some damage to their bike. I patch up the bike while my buddy enters negotiations with the riders. Showing a willingness to accept some blame and pay some money seems to lower the temperature a little but they’re talking big sums of money, and they’re threatening to get the police from the next village involved. Not what I wanted to hear.. I take the broken bits off the bike and patch it up to ride. Nothing major, just snapped plastics, bent brackets and dented panniers.
Negotiations aren’t going well and the noise is getting worse.. eyes are opening wider .. tension is in the air.. they want a sum that my buddy is absolutely not going to accept. They say”we’ll’ go to the police then” .. and my mate says “OK.. let’s go”. OOOOOkkkk…
So off we go. the next town is 30km away and the road is .. I’m struggling to describe this section of road .. it’s just fucking awful. A thin cutting into the side of a mountain with nothing to stop you going airborne.. all deep wet mud and steep rocky ups and downs. I remember one section.. a very very steep and very very rutted descent round some stupid tight bends.. if I’d had time to think about it I doubt I’d have got the nerve to ride it but by that time you’re in the middle of it and you just cannot stop. My buddy is a TRF member and he reckons this would be a difficult ride even on a smaller bike. After a tortourous climb we come to a village and a police station/blue tin hut manned by a young bloke with a gun. He’s not there to mediate or aportion blame.. just to make sure neither side gets physical. He just wants it sorted. The riders are lying about the amounts they asked for and now have bought their demands down to more reasonable levels.. I can understand their position, of course I can. In the end we reach an agreement and I hand over some USD.. we shake hands and we’re on our way. That could have been a lot LOT worse.. at least nobody was badly hurt and the bikes were still going..
I thought the road must get better at some point but no .. it just keeps on giving.. you see a picture like this and you think ‘oh.. that looks OK’ but you don’t see the fucking great sharp stone that started it ..
By this stage this is absolutely the worst road I’ve ever ridden, no doubt about it. A lot of this is in my mind .. millions of riders do this all the time with a smile on their faces.. my problem is the inconsistency. You get used to one shiity surface and it almost detects you starting to relax .. so it it offers you another item from it’s never ending road surface menu.. deep water with sandy muddly slippy slidy shit everywhere.. or sharp rocky and steep sections.. all loose with 50% of the power just spinnng the wheel and showing the rider behind with rocks and stones ..
We get to a village. At least there is a bit of tarmac there.. just to keep the dust down. Another group of humanity with the misfortune to appear from the womb halfway up a mountain in the middle of bum fuck nowhere in one of the poorest nations on earth. My buddy is speaking to a local about the best way to Katmandu from here.. I’m thinking maybe an airlift..
Word is there is a new road.. horah.. we’re saved. It starts about another 30km from here but apparantly it’s a good road right to Katmandu. I can’t help wondering why the rider we spoke to earlier didn’t mention it.. until we get there..
When he said new ‘road’, what he meant to say was new ‘roadworks’… it’s miles and mile of epic shitfest connected by short stretched of tarmac. It’s like a dashed line .. but with tarmac as the short bits. By now we’re well into auto pilot mode in the shit. A lot of the time it’s like trying to ride the bikesideways over a line of running machines .. one wheel heading in one direction and the other moving in another direction completely independently. I’m sure there are some substances on this road that are new to science. The muddly red send combo is my real favourite. The cars are trucks are crawling through and are about 1 foot in front of you.. and one foot behind you.. I flipped into massacist mode some time ago and I’ve really started to enjoy it now. Covered in shit from head to toe, boots full of water, glove stains on my hands .. tired and hungry, and we’re still a long way from our beds.
These are the days that make the trip for me. The Brrrrrummmmmmmmm… beer.. food… bed … breakfast … bruuuummmmmmmmmmm… beer .. food .. bed … breakfast .. repeat until done … that’s just not my thing .. I want shit and cold and discomfort .. I want to be tired.. to be scared .. to be kicked in all my senses .. I want worry .. I want adversity .. I want difficulty.. i want near misses and adrenaline on my tongue.. I want something for my brain to do .. I want plans to change and I want to work through it all and come out smiling .. I want Oh Fuck… and I want OHHHHH FUUUUCKKKK.. I want good and bad.. big highs and big lows.. and shit days like this .. I really do want shit days like this..