Gasping for air in the pollution of India like a fish trying to find oxygen in New York's Hudson River, I reached the border of India and Nepal. It had taken me three days to thread my Enfield 500 Bullet through the road carnage and around the oncoming missiles in my driving lane of trucks, buses, cars, taxis, cows, dogs, people, and potholes, from Delhi to the border. In the USA I would have ridden the same distance in a day. The slowness was not due to my Enfield, but the roads and traffic. Leaving India I could hear a dark echo in my helmet that said, "I'll be back." The three-day adventure from Delhi had popped my cherry and I had been given a good taste of riding a motorcycle in India and the incredible India drivers. Previously I had heard stories about bikers who had given up crossing India and shipped their bikes the rest of the way by air to Thailand or on to Europe, other stories about crashes and death. I scoffed and thought, "It can't be that bad." I now believe if someone is not prepared to get hit, hurt or die, they should jump over India. I found the riding a challenge for my survival skills honed from years of motorcycling in some of the most hostile conditions on the globe and actually look forward to getting back into test of head banging when I return. My Last Will and Testament is current and my life insurance paid up through the end of this ride around the world, a small preparatory bit of work I always do before leaving on one of these long rides. A short rest in Nepal should replenish my depleted road warrior mentality.
At the border for Nepal I had to pay some small money for each day I would have the motorcycle in Nepal since I am not traveling on a Carnet de Passage. I was also able to purchase my visa in the same office. Strangely, they only accepted American dollars for the visa and Nepal rupees for the motorcycle charge. It was an easy "in and out" of about 10 minutes. The money I saved by not purchasing a Carnet will pay for the next month of travel.
I crossed into Nepal at Raxaul and finally got away from the maddening crush of India traffic a few miles into the country. The Enfield runs well at 40 miles per hour and is ideal for this part of the world. It "chugs" along like an old John Deere tractor. No "potato-potato," but rather a deep throated "chug-a-chug." It was a very satisfying sound as I rode into the mountains.
One of the little things I like about the Enfield is the "neutral finder" foot lever on the right side. If I am in fourth, third or second gear and want to find neutral quickly, a slight heel depression on the neutral finder automatically moves the transmission gears into neutral. It is a neat little invention and the only one I have found on the hundreds of motorcycles I have ridden. The one thing I do not like is the side stand. The base is so small every time I lean the bike onto it in dirt or gravel it wants to sink into the ground allowing the bike to lay on its side, fully loaded with my gear. Trying to lift it is like trying to hoist a greased legless and armless fat lady. The only satisfaction I have when performing this roadside excise is appreciating that my motorcycle is not a Honda Gold Wing. Somewhere up the road I will weld a larger base on the side stand, thereby halting this wallowing ugliness.
As I started to climb into the mountains I realized I was getting away from people and into a more rural life. It also meant I was getting closer to the home of Yeti, which I had come to this part of the world to hunt.
I could see "Yeti Land" marked on the map, just a few short kilometers off the main road. It was going to take a serious effort to ride those few kilometers, but I felt the Enfield was up to it. The motto for the Enfield Bullet in the Enfield advertising is "Simply Overpowering." We will overpower any obstacles, except money.
The Lonely Planet book made some passing mention of the fact that buses from Raxaul to Kathmandu went south and avoided the Tribhuwan Highway, which was described as a much shorter and more scenic route. Both routes were given up to 12 hours to do the 200 kilometers. "Crazy!" I thought, and concluded the reason for the long hours was because the buses were constantly stopping to pick up passengers on the southern route and slowed to a crawl on the more scenic route.
I now call the Tribhuwan Highway the "Road of 1,000 Curves." Switchback after switchback of this two-lane road for 100 kilometers was paradise after the road conditions and pollution of India.
I erred again. The reason there were no buses on the scenic road (particularly between Hetauda and Naubise) was because the road went from nice two-lane pavement to one and one-half lane gravel to one-lane gravel with mud and numerous potholes. Added were hundreds of 180-degree curves. As I rode from 980 meters above sea level to nearly 2,500 meters above sea level my average speed was about 25 kilometers per hour. Most of the time I was in first or second gear. After a couple of hours of slow riding I figured out it was going to take me most of the day to get to Kathmandu. I think a one-legged man could hop the route as fast as I was able to ride it in places.
People use motorcycles to go around the world for different reasons. Some use them because they are attracted to the mystic of traveling on two wheels. Others use them as a marketing tool for them to sell sponsorships (and therefore support their ride) or a book at the end. Others read a book by some motorcycle traveler, get inspired, and try to follow in their footsteps or live a similar adventure. A foolish few use a motorcycle to travel because they believe bike travel will be cheap.
One of the reasons I use motorcycles to wander the globe is because my wanderlust is based in part on wanting to hunt and ride exceptional roads or paths. For me the challenge is to find a road or trail I like and ride it, sometimes numerous times. Part of that desire comes from years of road racing and off-road riding, appreciating perfect curves and the solitude of a riding alone, away from people. Some of the desire is also to experience the relationship between my motorcycle and me as we glide over an exceptional road through scenery and fresh air, becoming "at one" with the machine, road and environment. It is a mystical or cosmic coming together, an emotional experience I may someday write about at length, but one of the main reasons I go around the world on two wheels.
My ride into Kathmandu over the Tribhuwan Highway was one of those cosmic experiences incorporating a challenging road of seemingly 1,000's of curves rising into the mountains on a clear, crisp morning. No other motorized vehicles were present. I rode through some small villages where people quietly stared at me as I passed by. I came upon women carrying loads of firewood on their backs so large that from behind all I could see were the lower parts of their legs. Fresh water streams cascaded down pine tree covered mountainsides and some goats and cows wandered along the edges of the road. Cresting the summit the entire snow covered Himalayan Mountain Range filled the blue horizon in front of me, a 200-kilometer wide panoramic view of blue sky, white snow, gray rocks and green forests of the highest mountains in the world.
The ride that morning will be with me for the rest of my life. I was the lone motorcyclist on an exceptional road. Thinking back I noted that I had not seen another motorcycle traveler since I left Delhi four mornings before. It was as if the road was mine, not to be shared with anyone, and the previous four days of Hell had been the prelude to the experience so I could more appreciate Heaven.
At the "Lover's Chair" I stopped and added some USA graffiti, "HARLEY-DAVIDSON, American Iron, Made in the USA, Italy, Japan, Taiwan, etc."
Entering Kathmandu I was confronted with the shock of going from the solitude of a pristine, clear high mountain morning to the hustle-bustle of a hustling tourist town. Street touts stopped me at the entrance to Kathmandu trying to sell me everything from a "good hotel" to drugs. One tout nearly pulled me from the bike when he discovered I did not have a room booked, trying to get me to book one in his hotel. Another hustler was shoving papers at me for a guided tour into Tibet over Christmas that he swore was the only one safe for tourists.
Arriving in the tourist section of Kathmandu, Thamel, I was again overwhelmed with the commercialism; hundreds of storefront shops selling souvenirs, film, Asian copied CDs, cameras and jewelry. I half expected to see a Yeti riding a Harley offering guided tours to the top of Mount Everest.
My schedule has me in Nepal for some weeks researching what it will take to get an expedition organized for a Yeti hunt. Afterwards I hope to continue eastward into Sikkim, possibly on to Bangladesh, then head south and back into India. Travel to the far south of India and a tour of the Enfield Motorcycle factory is slated for February.
To get to the location of numerous Yeti sightings I may have to ride my motorcycle as high as the base of Mount Everest, near the 16,000-foot level. I have thought about pushing the bike on to the top of Everest, but the $50,000.00 fee for my climbing permit and the $20,000.00 for the porters to carry my gear is a major deterrent, the only one keeping me from succeeding. This photo of Mount Everest shows the location of my motorcycle base camp for both my Yeti and Enfield Motorcycle Sexpeditions.
Nepal is fascinating and a giant change from its neighbor India. The colors and cultures incorporate India, China and a mix of the west. I enjoy the tastes here. But most of all I am savoring my ride out of Nepal. To get where I am going I have to ride the Road of 1,000 Curves, one more time.
Gregory, from Kathmandu, Nepal
July 27, 2000, Going Out Again - 'Round The World
October 4, 2000, Why Another Long Ride, The Plan, and Mr. Fish
October 10, 2000, the beginning, in America on an Indian
November 6, 2000, AMAZONAS-Tamed By Beasts in Brazil
November 22, 2000, Monster Cow, Wolpertinger and Autobahn Crawling Across Europe
December 22, 2000, Enfield 500 Bullet, India Motorcycle Dementia, Ozoned Harley-Davidsons and Gold Wings
December 25, 2000, Yeti on a Harley-Davidson, Nepal By Enfield, No Carnet Sexpedition
January 1, 2001, Haunting Yeti
January 25, 2001, Monkey Soccer, Asian Feet, Air 'em Up: Bhutan and Sikkim
February 12, 2001, Midgets, Carnetless, Steve McQueen on Enfield, Bangladesh
February 20, 2001, Higgledypiggledy, Salacity, and Zymurgy - India
March 20, 2001, Road warriors, sand, oil leaks - meditating out of India
April 8, 2001, Bike Cops, Elephants, and Same-Same - Thailand
May 1, 2001, Little Bikes, Millions of Bikes, Island Riding - Taiwan
May 15, 2001, Harley-Davidson, Mother Road and Super Slabs - America
June 8 , 2001, Crossing The Crazy Woman With A Harley-Davidson, Indian, BMW, Amazonas, Enfield, Hartford, SYM, Honda
January 1, 2002, Donged, Bonged, and Gonged - Burma
January 20, 2002, Secrets of The Golden Triangle - Thailand
March 31, 2002, Bear Wakes, Aims Green Machine Around The World
April 10, 2002, Moto Cuba - Crashes, Customs and El Jefe (Fidel)
May 20, 2002, Europe and The Roads South to Africa
June 10, 2002, Morocco Motorcycling, Thieves and Good Roads
July 30, 2002, Russia – Hard and Soft, By Motorcycle
August 30, 2002, USA – American Roadkill, Shipping Bikes and BIG DOGS
September 30, 2002, Good Times Roll Home, Riding With Clothes On, Team Green - USA
November, 2002, Mexico By Motorcycle - Gringos, Little Norman Bad Cock, and Bandits
March 2003, Laos by motorcycle - Guerrillas, Mekong Beering, and Plain of Coffins
July, 2003, Alaska by motorcycle – Deadhorse, Fish Story and Alaskan Bush
January 2004, Angkor, Bombed Out Roads and Dog Eaters - Cambodia
April, 2004, Minsking, Uncle Ho and Snake Wine
August 2004, Around The World Again, 1st Tag Deadhorse
February 2005, Colombia To The End Of The Earth - South America
January 2006, My Marriage, Long Strange Ride, Montana Nights
May 2006, Cherry Girls, Rebels, Crash and Volcano - Philippines
September 2006, Break Bike Mountain Ride – United States
March 2007, Kawasaki Cult Bike “No Stranger To Danger Expedition” - Thailand and Cambodia
November 2007, Lone Wolf Wanders: Bears, Moose, Buffalo, Fish
April 2009, Global Adventure Roaming: Burma through the USA to headhunters on Borneo
February 2010, Adventure Motorcycle Travel: Expedition to Alaska, then Java
Copyright © Dr. Gregory W. Frazier. 1999- All Rights Reserved.
Thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author,
and not necessarily Horizons Unlimited