Bhutan is out. I had little interest in going there, less when I was told it would cost me $200.00 per day and I would have to go with a guide. The idea of adventuring through Bhutan on a guided tour, being told when to stop, where to stay and eat, and when to pee, was about as interesting to me as would be a ride through downtown New York City sandwiched between two taxi cabs while being "guided" by a $200 dollar a day government employee, or having intercourse while in a space suit. "Thanks Bhutan, but I'll pass you by. You can catch the next American fish, who will probably be a lot fatter." Five days in Bhutan would have cost me what a month of good living in Sikkim would. "Hello Sikkim, here I come."
Money problems. Leaving Nepal I forgot to dump their money and change to Indian money. At the border I asked for a change place, and was told the only one was behind me, at the bank, which was closed. So into India I went with about $100.00 of useless Nepal money. This was stupid. I have probably crossed 200 borders in the last 3-4 years and know better. I must have still been thinking about the space suit intercourse adventure to Bhutan as I exited Nepal.
I rode into India and North to Darjeeling, where I needed to get a permit to enter Sikkim, a part of India, but different from the rest of India. To get the permit I had to ask for a form at one office, fill it out, walk uptown and get the police to sign it, and then come back to the first office. Darjeeling has a goodly supply of Indian bureaucrats but the process was free. The town is built on the side of a mountain and I spent several hours climbing up and going down the cement stairs built into the side of the hills. Ugly walking, really ugly walking.
Asian feet are smaller than American feet, so their stairs are narrower. It was impossible to get my size 10 ½ shoes to fit the stairs in Darjeeling, so I spent the time either walking like a duck or going up and down sideways. After two days my knees felt like they belonged to American football player Dick Butkus, blown-out. Chang (rice beer) did not make them feel any better. After a quick look at some gompas, Tenzing Norgay's resting place, some antique shops for dried Yeti heads/hands, and some black market money guys to dump the Nepali money, I'd had enough of playing Himalayan trekker on the stairs of Darjeeling and headed to Sikkim.
Riding along the road towards Sikkim I noticed several groups of monkeys. I had learned my lesson with these miniature crazyiods before in Gibraltar and Bali. In Bali one stole the sunglasses off my face and in Gibraltar one ripped into my tank bag when I left the motorcycle unattended. The ones on the road to Sikkim were colorful and seemed to run away from the motorcycle, so my plan to get their photograph was to roll to a stop, and stay on the motorcycle with the engine running while I took the camera from the tank bag and snapped a quick shot. This was another one of my poor plans in life.
The Enfield Bullet vibrates too much to take a photograph while seated on it while the engine idles, so I turned off the motorcycle, thereby killing the noise. Back came the monkeys, and before I could stuff the camera in the tank bag one of the little fugs grabbed hold of the camera strap and started to pull. I pulled back and we had a war started, his feet planted against my gas tank, and I was losing. I quickly put down the side stand and crawled off the bike, all the while pulling and shaking the monkey, but gaining nothing. He had a grip on the camera strap like the Republicans had on Bill Clinton. I could not shake it off.
With both feet on the ground I was able to get a better grab of the camera strap, actually lifting the monkey off the ground. The monkey now had become a snarling, gnashing crazed animal trying to bite me, especially my ungloved hands. Here is where Andy Goldfine and his Combat Touring Boots from Riderwearhouse came into the picture.
Several years ago Andy convinced me to try his boots on my second motorcycle ride around the world. They are still with me after 100,000 miles. Andy knows his touring gear and these boots are made for just about every imaginable adventure, including fugging monkeys. I worked the monkey into a tetherball position in front of me and gave him a size 10 ½ booted drop kick Pele would have been proud of. SCORE!!!!!
The monkey sailed about forty feet in the air, landing on the road. When it came down on its back there was a nice sounding thump. I am sure some animal rights group would have gone howling after him, but all I could do was yell, "Fug you, you little fug!" The monkey was stunned, unmoving. I walked over to give it a second goal shot but decided against it when I saw its eyes rolled back. Instead I toed it off the road, and then give it a gentle kick in the ass and into the ditch. As I rode by the place where I left it I noticed it was gone. My guess is Andy will get no orders from this experience, but I hope someone tells him of the monkey in India that has "Aerostitch" impressed in its butt.
Entering Sikkim was a painless border crossing. At the checkpoint the number of my permit was copied into a book by hand and the man said, "Welcome to our Kingdom of Sikkim. Please drive carefully. Aren't you the man who just kicked the monkey down the road?"
I stayed in Gangtok for several nights trying to figure out a way to ride further North and on into Tibet (China). On the permit I had signed I had agreed not to enter Tibet, but it was just a piece of paper and I thought possibly there might be a way to do a little off-road ride and end up lost, in Tibet.
Entering Tibet from Sikkim by motorcycle, unescorted and without paying big money is not possible. Beyond a certain point there are heavily guarded checkpoints. No amount of grease is going to get these guards to ease up. The good thing about my failed plan was it was cold, gravestone cold, in Tibet. I decided to let my Tibet plan fail, search for more Chang and then head south for some sun and warmth.
Cold is one of the reasons why I leave my home in the Big Horn Mountains of Montana each winter. I will leave the cold to the Yaks and Yetis. I did get close enough to Tibet at the 15,000-foot level to see it. The air smelled like Chinese yak.
The Enfield 500 Bullet motorcycle has been doing its job. For a $1,400.00 motorcycle it is not a bad ride. I added some spongy covers to the handgrips, which made riding much less tiring on the hands. The side stand problem of it sinking into soft earth/sand/gravel I made go away by welding a used front chain sprocket onto the base. For several days shifting, when hot, became more and more difficult. Adjusting the clutch cable did not solve the problem. Finally, after pulling the clutch apart, I discovered the big nut holding the clutch basket on was working itself loose. After it was tightened the clutch again worked.
The handling has been improved at bit by significantly increasing the tire pressure. The recommended pressure was 15 and 20 lbs. I aired the rear up to 30 lb., the front to 25 lbs., and things got better. I suspect someone will tell me I verge on the edge of disaster, but the trade-off in handling seems to outweigh the risk.
Whenever I stop a crowd gathers. They press around like ants. Sometimes it can be oppressive, like when I just want to stop and blow my nose, or tighten something on the bike. In the morning, when I do routine maintenance on the bike, I feel like I am in a fish bowl. What seems to fascinate the people is my size, skin color, tools and the fact that I know how to use the tools. They do not try to take things off the motorcycle, but sometimes they touch things, just being curious. I do not yell at them to go away as some other bike travelers do, but I am tempted when trying to do mechanical work. Along the side of the road when I stop and there is no one there, to make some water in the weeds, it is not unusual for 10 people to suddenly appear and surround my motorcycle. It is what a frog must feel like if it lands near an anthill.
A patch I got in Kathmandu said, "What A Long Strange Trip It Has Been." I changed "Trip" to "Ride." It seemed more fitting.
(Next: Bangladesh, where the Lonely Planet says I need a Carnet de Passage to enter. I do not have one.)
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