After making my escape from Srinagar I made my way south along the Jammu road, well parts of it anyway as large sections were blocked by flood water and debris forcing me to make huge diversions. I eventually made it over the mountains to Jammu and decided on bypassing the city with the idea of making camp somewhere on the other side before dark. However night drew in quickly and the chances of finding somewhere to camp were slim.
Perhaps it was the machoistic part of me or the idiotic part of me that made the decision to ride through the night and get to Rishikesh. It was a good idea in one respect as I was having to take one of the busiest roads in India, The Delhi road. Through the night the road was almost empty apart from the convoys of trucks coming the opposite way from Delhi all driving with their lights on full beam, which completely blinded me. Most of the way I had to try and guess where the road was and hope there were no life ending pot holes or sleeping cows in front of me!
The journey from Srinagar to Rishikesh was a gruelling 600 miles and that was not including the diversions and the times I got a little lost. Its hard to spot those all important road signs when your being dazzled by trucks headlights. When I eventually arrived in Rishikesh it was 9 am and I had been riding for a full 24 hours. I was physically and mentally fucked. My face was covered in dust and diesel soot making me look like a coal miner with a scouse brow! There was a sense of achievement though as I had just knocked 3 days off my journey in 1 day leaving me time to get stuff sorted for entering Nepal. I needed a guidebook a map and information on the visa. The bike also needed a service.
I stayed at Green Hills Cottage again and did some important laundry and took some much needed rest. I had unfortunately passed out on my bed semi naked and forgot to close the door to my balcony, when I woke up many hours later it was now dark and my room was full of swarming mosquitos that were buzzing for joy after dinning on the all you can eat buffet that was passed out beneath them. And they definitely got their fill I was absolutely covered in fucking bites!During my short time in Rishikesh I managed to get the things I needed and the bike looked over then it was time to hit the road again and make my way across the Nepali border.
The morning I set off the weather was perfect and the roads were nicely paved it still took me longer than I expected to make it to the border but I managed to reach it just before it was due to close. Crossing was no problem and the border officials were all very nice and chatty and even gave me a bunch of bananas. It was to dark to carry on now so I took a hotel in the border town of Mahendranagar that was a shit hole but all accommodation in border towns is crap. I didn’t really care as I just needed some a place to rest my head and fill my belly. I also had a night of free entertainment when a drunk local who spoke a little very bad english decided to join me for a couple of beers.
In the morning I packed up the bike and headed east in the direction of Pokhara. Again the weather was perfect but an hour into the ride a huge grey cloud came over head threatening to to piss it down and of course after a deafening rumble of thunder came the torrential downpour. I was on the open road with only trees that could offer me any kind of shelter, I tried sheltering under one but it was useless the rain was just to heavy. I pushed on through the downpour with the rain hitting my face like marbles. My clothes were saturated and my boots full squelching with every gear change.
I was forced to go much slower than I would of liked due to the road becoming slippery as hell. It was soon becoming dark and I was still miles away from Pokhara. I was still up in the mountains and the windy wet slippery roads were becoming increasingly dangerous. The stones mixed into the tarmac were small pebbles and the combination of the wet and these smooth stones were deadly! A great piece of Nepali engineering! It wasn’t soon before long that the inevitable happened. I took a tight right hand corner and on entering it noticed the familiar shimmering swirl of oil on the road. By the time I had seen it it was too late. The front wheel slid out from under me and the bike was now sliding on its side with my right knee also sliding along the road surface. My jeans were quickly worn through and I could feel my skin being left behind on the road. Then the tyres griped the road and the bike flipped over sending me flying in the air. When the bike flipped I heard a big smash and when I picked myself and the bike up I discovered the headlamp had hit the road hard and completely shattered. I looked over the bike and to my amazement the headlamp was the only real damage! My right foot peg rubber had taken a good scrapping but that was nothing. When I checked my knee expecting it to be bad, the adrenaline was still pumping and I could not yet feel it. With my pants around my ankles I took a look and amazingly I had only taken a few layers of skin off! It wasn’t the big boney fleshy mess that I was expecting. I think the combination of the wetness and smoothness of the road surface had saved me a hospital bill!
After several cigarettes I got back on the road and made my way very slowly in the direction of Pokhara. The rain was still coming strong and so was the darkness of the evening. I was soon forced to use my front light which miraculously still worked. However with it being a halogen bulb that gets as hot as the sun and now completely exposed to torrential rain I knew it would not be long before it would explode, and sure enough in total darkness it did, sending red hot glass flying into my face. This was not good! It was pitch black pissing it down with rain and I could not see a bloody thing. In the distance I could see the light of a roadside shop so I headed over and took some shelter. No one spoke english and my Nepali was nowhere near good enough to hold a conversation. I was going to have to sit this one out until the morning light and it was now only 7pm!
Luckily as time passed a nepali guy called Hridayash came to my rescue. He spoke perfect english and kindly offered me the shelter of his home for the night. I parked my bike in a local hindu temple for the night and with the help of Hirdayash and his friends carried my luggage down through the jungle to his family home. He lived in a modest house with his parents, grandmother and sister, his father was a social worker and was away working in Kathmandu. His brother was off studying in Tokyo, Japan. I was so thankful for their help. Hirdayash’s mother made me a huge delicious meal of the traditional nepali staple, Dal Bhat. In the morning I met his grandmother who was 91 and still going strong, she lived independently and was up and about performing hindi puja at sunrise. She was probably wondering what the hell my motorbike was doing parked in her temple!
Hiradayash needed a ride to the next town going in my direction so I dropped him the 10-15 kilometres and we said our goodbyes. I pushed on to Pokhara and sure enough the rain came again, my clothes were still wet from the day before so it didn’t really bother me that much. I eventually arrived in Pokhara just in time as darkness was drawing in. I headed to the Palm Garden Lodge where I had stayed at previously in 2011 for 3 months! I saw Manju who instantly recognised me and was soon greated by her husband Ralf. It was nice to be back at my home away from home with familiar faces again.
The next few days were spent taking some serious chill out time and catching up with my old friends. Pokhara is the perfect place to unwind with the beautiful serene lake surrounded by jungle and mountains and great restaurants. There are of course your typical tourist bars with ‘live music’ which is the same guy playing awful renditions of pink floyd every night! But I just stay away from them. You would think he would improve with all the practice he was getting, but no he was still shite. When I was done with chilling out I thought it would be a good idea to go and explore mustang high up in the himalaya’s. I stupidly decided to do this on my Enfield. I have never experienced a road as bad as the road up to Muktinath. It was a horrendous journey with the road being made up of jagged bedrock, huge loose stones, countless landslides and deep water crossings and mud. Lots and lots of mud. I never got higher than second gear. If I ever made it in to second it was only for a matter of seconds before I had to shift down again. I was constantly riding the clutch and trying my best not to fall off! I met many locals along the way and all of them stopped to ask me where my friend was. When I told them I was riding alone they were all shocked telling me how brave I was. I wasn’t brave I was just stupid for not researching the road conditions before I set off on this insane journey to one of Nepals remotest regions!
The road was so insane that I was physically and mentally drained it just got worse and worse. At about 4:30pm I passed a plateau with a river running through it right next to the road that was possible to ride to. Not knowing what lay ahead I decided that this will be my home for the night. I threw my tent up took my wet jeans and boots off, not wet because of rain but the scarily deep river crossings I had to make. I lay down on the grass and for the first time took in the incredible landscape I had been riding through. I had not looked at it before as you could not take your eyes off the road for a second! This was by far the nicest place I had ever set up camp. Content with my new home I got the stove fired up and made some instant noodles. From the road my tent was still visible and every bus that passed by made a point of stopping and taking a good look. You’d think they had never seen a tent before! I have to give my respect to these bus drivers though how they manage to make this journey along that awful road every day I just don’t know! The passengers clearly have a horrendous time of it as they are constantly being bounced around the carriage and there is always at least one head leaning out the window projectile vomiting. Which makes overtaking fun!
I slept like a log and didn’t wake until 10am I knew I was not to far away from Muktinath now, however it would take a painfully slow ride to get there. I loaded the bike and made my way back to the road from hell. I was instantly greated by a huge muddy pool about 20 meters long that completely covered the road. I could not see what the hell was in it or how deep it was. There was no other vehicles around to watch go through it so I had to just go for it. As it turned out it was very fucking deep water with thick mud at the bottom. All was going well until I reached the middle and hit what must of been a huge rock with my front wheel. I bounced off the rock and the back wheel slipped in the mud, the bike tried to fall on its side in this deep shitty filth. I used all my strength to pull it back, there was no way I was going to let it go under. I managed to keep her up and then had to kick start her back into life in the middle of sludge. I carefully edged the bike along and we were out again.
I am not going to go massively into detail about all the similar experiences as this blog entry would take you all day to read as the journey was literally a sequence of these events all the fucking way! I did eventually make it to Muktinath. Thank god! When I arrived I thought I should make sure the bike was OK as it had taken some serious beats along the way. I discovered my rear wheel was loose, so loose in fact that I could turn the axle nut with my fingers! I tightened it up but I knew my bearings would be totally fucked I must of ridden the last 3-4 hours with it like this. My wiring loom that goes to my rear light assembly was also damaged where the rear wheel had been rubbing on the wires and wearing through several of them. The lights were no big deal but the bearings were, there was no one here who could replace them and the wheel could easily collapse!
Putting the bike at the back of my mind I found somewhere to stay and got myself a much needed incredibly overpriced beer. I had not really drank enough water along the ride as I was to busy trying not to die from the road conditions. This was a bad move as I had come up to high altitude where you should drink at least 2 litres a day, I was lucky if I even managed 1 litre a day. As a result I got myself a nice dose of altitude sickness. Maybe beer should not of been my first drink of choice, but you know how it is! So that night and the whole of the next morning and pretty much most of the afternoon was spent in a breathless headachy sloth like state consuming as much water as possible. Once I started to feel human again I decided to take a look around this place called Muktinath I had stupidly decided to visit.
Mustang is very similar to Ladakh. Its a high altitude dessert like landscape scattered with small villages that look like something straight out of Star Wars. On my second day I was lucky to be able to witness a visit from a holy Lama and the ceremonies that went with it at the local monastery. Everyone was in their traditional clothing waiting in anticipation of the Lama. His helicopter flew over head and landed somewhere in the distance, moments later a convoy of jeeps and bikes arrived outside the monastery and the Lama stepped out to a fanfare of trumpets and drums. He was an old guy well into his seventies, he entered the monastery followed by the awaiting crowd where he gave a speech and declared this was the last time he would be visiting Mustang for heath reasons. I obviously learned this from some locals as I did not understand a single word he actually said.
After the Lama left everybody came together to drink tea and eat some food, this is when all the other tourists left after getting their photos. Most of them were tour groups and followed the flag out of the monastery like the herd of sheep they are, but for me this was the most interesting part with everyone chatting, relaxing and helping out with the banquet. Someone handed me a big cup of traditional butter tea and I was soon dragged to the line of people waiting for some food. I felt pretty special sat in the grounds of this beautiful monastery eating my Dal Baht. I was the only foreigner there and I felt completely integrated into the event. Afterwards I helped with some of the washing up until I was forced to stop by one of the women. I noticed only the women were cooking and washing. Maybe I wasn’t allowed to do it because I was a man. I put it down to cultural differences and not because I was crap at washing up.
Finally the day I was dreading was upon me and I had to take the road from hell back down the mountains to Pokhara. One relief was I already knew the conditions so there wouldn’t be any shitty surprises the thing that worried me was the fact I had no idea if my rear wheel would last the journey! I got up early and before I set off I headed over the valley to take some photographs of a monastery before the clouds started to form around the snow capped peaks of the Anapuna mountain range that sat right behind it. Once back I gave the bike a one last check and nervously gave the rear wheel a wiggle to see how bad it was and it wasn’t good. So very carefully I made my way along my worst nightmare!
Things were going well I had made it through all the water crossings and mud and over the bike destroying rocks without any serious problems. My rear wheel sounded like a box of loose change rattling about but it was still holding together. The road began to reach the more tolerable section that would eventually become a ramshackle attempt at tarmac. It was at this moment my clutch cable snapped. Fucking great. I knew there was a spare in my bag so went to change it myself only to find I needed some bloody allen keys which I didn’t have! I had to ride the bike back the way I came 10 Km to find a mechanic. I had to stomp it into gear with no clutch which wasn’t ideal. I was only brave enough to put into second fearing I would kill my gearbox if I changed it anymore.
The cable was changed in 10 minutes for 100 rupees which is like 65 pence. It was nearly dark now and I just wanted to get back to Pokhara for a hot shower and a beer! I had one more mountain to go over that would then descend into Pokhara. It was whilst descending down the mountain that my fuel completely ran out, luckily gravity was on my side but the light on the enfield runs by dynamo from the running engine! So I had to wire up the headlamp straight to the battery and managed to get it right. I spotted a garage and quietly coasted over to the pump. A guy then comes out and shouts no petrol! FUCK! looking like a right prat I then pushed the bike back out to the inclining road and continued my stealthy decent until thank god there was another fuel station. I could see a car filling up so pulled up next in line.
I made it to Pokhara around 9pm got myself a good feed and polished off several beers. The next morning the bike had to be serviced, I knew it was fucked. My fork seals were blown my bearings were completely destroyed on both wheels and my front wheel hub had cracked! It turned out to be one expensive ride and a whole day spent in another mechanics. They work slow in Nepal. Happy with the bike I treated it to a luxury wash wax and polish, it looked in showroom condition. It was beautiful again. My time in Pokhara was now at an end as my Nepali visa was soon to expire and I needed to sort my new Indian visa to take the bike back home. This meant riding to Kathmandu. I fucking hate Kathmandu it is overpriced, congested, polluted and full of pissheads, dreadlocked white pricks, chinese tour groups and mountaineering snobs. The only thing I like about Kathmandu is my Nepali friends who live there. See you soon Mingma & Prakash!