Two Aussie blokes riding their BMW R1150GSs from Australia to Europe

Tag: himalayas

A sheila joins the party – guest post by Monica

When I’m sitting on the back of James’ bike I think of all sorts of things. I think about that corner in front of us and how it would feel if we were to slide off and scrape across the concrete. I see that car pulling out of a garage and imagine how it would have been if we had put the brakes on too late and flew over its boot. I observe the trucks rushing past and picture how it would be to fall under its chunky wheels.

This is what crosses my mind on a casual motorbike trip in Australia. Where roads are beautifully smooth, trucks stick to the street markings, traffic splits away to let ambulances pass and hospitals adhering to the best hygienic and medical standards.

What the hell was I thinking to join the Blokes on Spokes on their trip through Nepal and India? Who knows. But here I am and ‘namaste’ to you all.

Reunion with the Blokes in Kathmandu

Reunion with the Blokes in Kathmandu

I'm also a rock star!

I’m also a rock star!

I arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal; the home of the Himalayas, well, at least one of its homes. Given its enormous stretch over 2400kms the Himalayas are spread across Nepal, India , Tibet (or politically correct/incorrect China), Pakistan and Bhutan. The Himalayas are also home to 9 of the highest peaks in the world. One of them is my new obsession after reading Into Thin Air and travelling to the birth country of sir Edmund Hillary; Mt Everest. Before you get too excited let me tell you though that I haven’t seen its majestic peak, but I bought a T-shirt which says “Mt Everest” instead. It was almost as good as seeing it with your own eyes. Almost. Anyway, that doesn’t matter because I got to see my husband instead and that was as good as Christmas, my birthday and seeing Mt Everest together.

The Annapurna range - don't trust the t-shirt

The Annapurna range – don’t trust the t-shirt

Both James and Drew seemed to be well, very hairy but in good spirits. You’d think after 2 months on the road they would have got sick of the road or each other but let me tell you, these blokes are living their life long dream and nothing can tear them apart. And for 2 weeks I feel very excited and privileged to be part of the adventure and look behind the scenes of Blokes on Spokes, so bring it on!

After a couple of rest days in Kathmandu it was finally time to jump on the bike. I quickly ripped off the tags of my new Dainese gear (clearly I’m the outsider here with not a single piece made by BMW) and off we went to Pokhara, 200kms away. Sounds like a short trip? Not in Nepal where streets are bumpy, roads are windy, Tata trucks are using the wrong lanes and of course there is the occasional goat popping against the pannier. But we made it, 6 hours later and most importantly in one piece.

A happy pillion

A happy pillion

Now you must be thinking I quickly soiled my new gear given my introduction to this post, but guess what, I wasn’t even scared! Don’t ask me what happened, I’m still trying to figure it out myself, but I was sitting on the back of that bike as relaxed as a sack of potatoes. James said that there is so much going on here but there seems to be logic in the madness. And somehow it is true. There is only one rule it seems; just make sure to toot your horn (preferably all the time) and you’ll be fine

So, without the anticipated panic attack we spent some relaxed days in the Himalayas. Drew went off on his own and tortured his beloved BMW whilst ascending to 4000 meters ASL (looking forward to that blog post guys!) while James and I left the beamer behind and went trekking to Poon Hill mountain, 3200 meters ASL (just 5650 meters below Everest).

On top of Poon Hill, very cold and very early

On top of Poon Hill, very cold and very early

Trekking to Poon Hill

Trekking to Poon Hill

Mega flower whilst mega trekking

Mega flower whilst mega trekking

But what goes up must come down, and we had to descend to Delhi: 1000kms in 4 days and I was still a happy pillion. Watching the landscape rushing past, smiling at the goats and Brahmans munching happily at the road side and waving at excited school children. And after a day on the bike we enjoy a cold Everest beer, some Dal bhat, momos and the most delicious chicken tikka. Life is good.

Watch out for the panniers goats!

Watch out for the panniers goats!

Dal Bhat, a Nepalese staple. Literally dal and rice

Dal Bhat, a Nepalese staple. Literally dal and rice

 

I made Momos!

I made Momos!

But then came India!

As soon as we crossed the Nepali immigration office the road literally ended. We continued onto the gravel with 1000 other people, cows, scooters, bikes and what not. Did I say Nepali roads were bumpy? I take it all back after being confronted with holes that sent me flying into the air. Did I say anything about the Tata trucks in Nepal? What Tatas? Oh they are all here in India in abundance, all painted like the Mexican day of the dead festival.

The ominous Tata truck. Best to know your place on the road

The ominous Tata truck. Best to know your place on the road

How ironic given that we almost got sandwiched between them. Is there logic in the madness? Yes, but the madness prevails. And just wait until you get into Delhi and you drive at 10km/h on average, in 32C, in your new waterproof and not so breathable Dainese gear. The food is good but!

Let’s go back to my first question; why am I here despite the obvious concerns I have when traveling on the motorbike? Well, mainly to see my husband again who I missed dearly, but I was also very curious and wanted to be part of this adventure. Maybe there was a bit of FOMO too. I wanted to challenge myself and face my fear, instead of running away from it. And I have been rewarded; I could cuddle James for hours, I met wonderful people, saw breathtaking vistas and baby goats, indulged on delicious food and learnt that life is much more fun outside of your comfort zone.

Come here dinner

Come here dinner

Escaping from India: Nepal – 9,491kms

You realise what a sheltered and privileged life you’ve lived when you take a walk through a town and can feel every single eye upon you. We arrived in Phidim, a long way from the well trodden path, and Drew took an afternoon nap whilst I strolled alone through the small, remote township. Whilst I walked, there was not a single pair of eyes that didn’t stop to look at me. Young children ran and hid, whilst some not so young children called “What’s your name?” after I’d walked passed them, followed by childish giggles. Young men stared coldly and young women tried to hide their intrigue. It was only the older men and women who didn’t seem to show much interest at all. You can’t help but feel uncomfortable at the way people react in a place like this; not unsafe, but certainly not at ease.

The streets of Phidim

The streets of Phidim

And it’s this feeling that makes me appreciate how lucky we are. Lucky that we live in a country where the hourly rate of pay is more than people here earn in a week, and lucky that I live in a country amongst people whose skin is the same colour as mine so as not to turn heads. You can only begin to appreciate what immigrants, refugees and people from ethnic minorities living Australia must feel everyday after taking a walk in a place like this.

10km/h is the limit in Phidim

10km/h is the limit in Phidim

We came to Nepal perhaps a little earlier than anticipated – after less than one week in India both Drew and I felt the need to move on from the crowds, horns, traffic and pollution that India presented us. As motorcyclists we love the mountain roads, and we’d headed to Darjeeling not just for the roads enroute, but to try and escape the heat and humanity of India’s lowlands. It was bitter sweet however; the roads were fantastic, but our time in the hills was shrouded in cloud so we couldn’t appreciate the vistas that Darjeeling is renowned for.

Riding through the clouds in the Himalayas. Drew is not more than 50 metres in front

Riding through the clouds in the Himalayas. Drew is not more than 50 metres in front

And there were the people. Everywhere people. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an older Indian man getting on Drew’s bike (without first seeking our permission) for a selfie whilst we were stopped at the roadside. This in itself wouldn’t have been an issue – but that fact the he didn’t appreciate how heavy the bike was, losing his balance and falling over, taking 250kgs of motorcycle with him certainly was. After I spat some very choice words at the man, Drew and decided it best to get as quickly to Nepal as we could to try and find some respite.

Breathtaking valleys in the Himilayan foothills

Breathtaking valleys in the Himalayan foothills

Nepal is statistically one of the poorest countries in the world – it rates in the lowest quarter of the Human Development Index. Thankfully we’ve not seen anything yet in Nepal that epitomises these statistics. Even here in Phidim young children speak to me in English, which I find truly impressive. There seems to be a better equality between men and women than in India, and people seem far more liberal in general. There is noticeably less rubbish on the roadsides, and the roads themselves are in much better condition. When we stop the bikes we still draw a crowd, but people don’t touch and prod them, or worse, sit on them for selfies. Of course it’s not possible for me to judge these things properly after riding through villages for two days off the beaten track, but if I had to make a call today I’d pick Nepal over India any day of the week.

This photo doesn't even begin to capture what these roads are like

This photo doesn’t even begin to capture what these roads are like

Being the mountain loving motorcyclists that we are, after crossing the border we headed straight back for the hills. And my how spectacular they are – we’ve ridden up and down valleys and ridges countless time, dropping as low as 200 metres ASL before zigzagging back as high as 2,500 metres – you get an overwhelming sense of vertigo when you look over the edge of the road as you’re riding. One wrong corner here and you’d literally launch yourself to your end. It is simply breathtaking. I just hope that Nepal and it’s people continue to take my breath away for all of the right reasons

Hacking through the Himalayas

Hacking through the Himalayas

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