The first time I visited Nepal was in 1982, as part of my journey round the world. I stayed 10 days in Kathmandu, waiting for 3 Danish friends I had met in Sri Lanka. After celebrating the Holi festival with my Danish friends I went alone to Pokhara from where I hiked into the Himalayas, where I joined a small group of hikers. The original plan was to go to Annapurna Basecamp, but hikers coming back from that camp told us that the weather and trail conditions were very bad, so instead we did the Jomsom trek.

We did not have enough time to visit the pilgrimage village Muktinath, the end of the trail. So Jomsom was the end of our trail. And at that time it was also not allowed to go any further into the Mustang district, as it borders Tibet (China).

 

Last year Travel2Explore organized a pilot tour into Upper Mustang and this tour is the second tour for groups. I always wanted to visit Nepal again and why not on motorbike! I already had riding experience in the Indian Himalayas. This tour is called the Nepal Upper Mustang and took place from 7 April to 22 April.

 

Click on a day image to go to the photo album of that day (not for day 1 and 16).

 

On Saturday afternoon April 7th I met my 4 fellow travellers Robert, Alex, Peter and Maria at Schiphol Airport.

After a flight of 1 hour we landed around 16:00 at the airport in Frankfurt, where we had to wait 5 hours for the flight to New Delhi, India.

 

We arrived around 8:30 in the morning in New Delhi, where we again had to wait. This time only 4,5 hours, but finally we boarded the plane to our final destiny: Kathmandu, Nepal, where we arrived around 14:30. We had no problems with the Nepalese customs and after getting our luggage we finally met our guide Konchok outside the airport. Konchok is from Ladahk and works already many years for Travel2Explore. He is a very experienced motorrider and leads tours in the Indian Himalayas, South India and now also in the Nepalese Himalayas.

We stepped into the bus, that brought us to our hotel: Holy Himalaya , situated in Thamel, the tourist’s quarter of Kathmandu. Here we met Gert-Jan, the sixth member of the group. He had left a few weeks earlier and had already visited a few places in India, like New Delhi and Varanasi.

After a quick shower we went outside and explored Thamel, walking through narrow streets with souvenir shops, restaurants and pubs on both sides of the streets and small temples where there was more space to build. It was bustling with tourists and local people.

 

 
 
 
 

It was heavily raining when we got up for breakfast, but luckily it stopped raining when we left the hotel to explore Patan and Bhaktapur, 2 ancient cities in Kathmandu Valley.

By bus we drove first to Patan, the oldest city in Kathmandu Valley, just south of Kathmandu and one of the the 3 royal cities in the valley. On foot we explored this royal city under guidance of Anish, our guide for today and telling us everything about Patan.

The first stop was at the house of the Kumari, a living goddess, who gave us her blessings for our motortrip.

After thanking and saying goodbye to the Kumari, we walked through small streets, passed squares with small shrines to finally arrive at Durbar Square. Lots of ancient buildings were damaged in the 2015 earthquake, but with the help from a number of foreign countries and organisations, the buildings are slowly being restored. It will take years before it is all restored, but the local people have enough jobs for the coming years and slowy the tourists are returning to visit Nepal.

After lunch we explored the Patan museum, originally a Malla palace, which houses many nice bronze statues and religious objects.

 

Then it was time to go back to the bus and drive to Bhaktapur, another royal city, east of Kathmandu. From the parking lot we walked uphill and passed a gate before entering Durbar Square. We walked around for a few hours to see more temples and ancient buildings, a few also under construction, and a lot more tourists.

 

Due to the bad traffic we arrived quite late at our hotel, but luckily I had enough time to go by taxi to visit the Boudha stupa at Boudhanath and one of the largest stupa’s in the world. I was accompanied by Jitay Tamang, a Nepalese guide for Travel2Explore. Together with other people we walked clockwise around the stupa. Every evening people come here to join the Tibetan monks in their walk around the stupa. Around the stupa were little shops, selling all sorts of religious objects. In one of the shops I bought 5 prayer flags to place on the highest places we would pass during our trip in memory of my deceased wife Sisi.

 

Check this very nice blog by Anicca with much information on Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Patan and other places in Nepal.

 

 
 
 
 

After an early breakfast we waited outside the hotel for the motorbikes to be driven out from the underground parking lot across the street. We had seen the Royal Enfields Bullet already last night when we came back from dinner, but from today on they were ours for the next 11 days.

Finally it was time to depart and we set off with Konchok leading us through heavy Kathmandu traffic and the backup car as the last one. The first junction already split up the group and after 5 minutes of following all sorts of black helmets I knew I had lost my group. Great job and a nice way to start the trip, Willem-Jan! I had no idea where I was and which direction to go, so I drove the same way against the traffic back. After 500 meters I parked my bike and waited. After 10 minutes Konchok showed up and told me that they were waiting just 500 meters further down the road. I followed Konchok back to the group and together again we made a second attempt to leave Kathmandu without losing a team member.

 

The roads were not too bad and the traffic was getting less, the further we were away from Kathmandu. But still we had to be careful and watchful with the traffic. There is only one rule here and that is that there are no rules. The bigger the vehicle, the more space he claims on the road. But we are small, fast and viable and all of us have driven a bike in third world countries before, so we can manage. And you have to adjust the speed to the road conditions and traffic. This meant that we had an average speed of 30-40 km an hour.

The road took us through the lower ranges of the Himalayas and we passed small villages like Dashinkali and Fakhel, green pastures and forests. We stopped for a cup of tea in a small roadside restaurant.

And then the first fall with motorbike happened. Maria had to stop all of a sudden, and being a bit short for the bike, she could not put her feet easily on the ground and together with the bike she toppled sideways into a ditch. The bike landed on the side of the ditch and Maria made a beautiful jump into the ditch. No bad injuries to Maria and the bike, so we continued our way.

 

We had lunch in Bhimpedi Bazar, a small village with a nice shrine in the middle of the street. We watched some locals collecting rocks from the riverbed and placing them into the back of a truck.

In Hetauda we turned onto Highway H01, a two lane road with all sorts of slow and high speed traffic, and made sometimes good speed. In Ratnanagar I found out that Rob and I had lost the group again, because all of a sudden we were overtaken by Konchok, who told us to turn around and go back. Apparently I had missed them at a junction, but I had never seen them standing there, so I just continued with Rob following me. But anyway we were found again and together we headed for Chitwan National Park. Through the ricefields we entered Chitwan, a small village and the start for visiting the national park where you can spot animals like crocodiles, rhinos and tigers.

We stayed in hotel Travellers Jungle Camp. The owner managed to book us a short safari tour into the National Park, but all we got was just a jeep ride into the park and a look at the river where we, and dozens of other people, saw three crocodiles and a sleeping rhino near the path. But then everyone got excited, just across the river a more lively rhino came into sight. After some time he headed for the river and immediately the crocodiles on the other bank of the river came into action, but nothing much really happened after they also went into the river. It was near closing time, so we had no more time to explore the park and walked back to the hotel to have dinner.

 

 
 
 
 

We left early, but not before the owner took a picture from us, being the first motorgang to spend the night in his hotel.

The road from Bharatpur to Mugling was under construction and only a few hours open in each direction. So we had to hurry to be there on time, otherwise we would have to wait until the afternoon before we could continue. We took the same road back to Ratnanagar and on to Bharatpur where we turned right to follow Highway 5. Here it started to get real busy, with heavily loaded trucks, buses, cars and motorbikes fighting for each hole in the gigantic traffic jam. I stopped making a photo and continued my way, going as fast as possible, but due to all the bumps on and holes in the road I had lost my bag somewhere on the road. I rode back to see if I could find it again, but no luck. Someone in Nepal is now wearing my glasses and sunglasses and using my shaving gear. Hopefully he or she can look through the glasses, since they are on strength. Except for that and my flightickets, not much of value was in it.

Now I had the advantage of being small. Together with other Nepalese motorriders we zigzagged around the trucks and buses. Sometimes the road was quite narrow and with impatient taxis or buses overtaking the traffic jam it was waiting for oncoming traffic before everything came to a full stop again. Also bridges with only 1 lane was quite an obstacle to pass. But was this not an one-way traffic for a few hours in each direction? Clearly traffic from the other side was not aware of this or did not care.

It took me while to catch up with the others who were waiting in a small bar in Mugling.

 

After a rest and a fill up of our gas tanks we continued our way over a less crowded road to Pokhara. In Damauli or Byas as it is called today, we had a typical Nepalese meal which we would have many more times during our trip.

It is called Thali and contains rice (bhat), lentil soup (dhal) and accompanied with different sorts of vegetables and meat, served on big round metal plate. The vegetables and meat come in very small portions, but it is an all you can eat dish. So after some time they will come out of the kitchen with more rice, lentils and vegetables. Most of the times they only come with more rice and lentils and then you have to ask for more vegetables.

The town was on a crossroad where many people were waiting for (mini) buses to take them to their mountain villages.

 

The closer we came to Pokhara, the harder it started to rain. It took Konchok some time to locate our hotel, but finally he had found it and we could check in and change our wet motor clothes into dry clothes.

I went into town to buy a new backpack and shaving gear and had a haircut in a hairstudio, run by Indians.

 

Back at the hotel I joined the group for a walk over the Phewa lake’s promenade. All sorts of restaurants, bars and souvenirshops lined the lake side. Clouds covered the mountains that surrounded Pokhara, but we enjoyed a nice sunset.

Konchok brought us to a good restaurant with European dishes, while they went off to a Tibetan restaurant.

Our restaurant had a band playing Nepalese music with a nice female dancer, but it was not much to our liking, as were the Italian dishes on the menu. So after a drink we decided to look for a restaurant that served local dishes. We found one, the Rice Bowl. After placing our orders an Englishman warned us over the long cooking times. The cook came back to tell us that only chicken soup was available. Ok, no problem, then only chicken soup. But we did not have to wait long before the first dish was served, but somehow they had mixed up the sorting order. Alex was the first, but he got his main dish before the soup and so it continued all evening. We were served one by one, just as the cook saw it was the most convenient fit for him or so. We made fun of it, but the food was good and during the wait for the next dish we had enough time to talk.

On the way back to the hotel the weather cleared up and we were able to see the Machhapuchhre, meaning Fishtail in Nepali, because seen from one side the mountain top looks like the tail of a fish.

 

 
 
 
 
 

I got up early for a walk and this time the sky was pretty clear and I had a better view on the Machhapuchhre then last night.

With nice views on the mountains of the Annupurna range we left Pokhara. The road took us out of Pokhara Valley into the mountains. The rain from yesterday had made the road muddy, but we managed without problems. After 2 hours we stopped for a tea break in a small roadside restaurant. A woman was making a sort of chapaties on a woodfire, while another was cleaning dishes with water from the mountains led through a pipe.

As we climbed higher into the mountains, the roads with tarmac became less and less and after Baglung it was only dirt roads all the way up to Lo Manthang and the Chinese border. We were following the Kali Gandaki river now. The Kali Gandaki river is one of the major rivers of Nepal and is notable for its deep gorge through the Himalayas.

The road was carved out of the mountains and run sometimes high above the Kali Gandaki river but every now and then the road had to cross the river. Since there was only an occasional suspension bridge for pedestrians, the road went through the riverbed. There were several tracks through the riverbed, so it did not really matter which track you followed, they all ended up at the easiest stream crossing and at the same other side of the river where the road would ascend.

 

In Tatopani (alt. 1190m), meaning hot water in Nepali, we visited the checkpost to show the officials our permits for the Annupurna Conservation Area and had lunch in a big restaurant. Quite a few 4 wheel vehicles were parked outside, so we were not only ones being served a Thali.

The traffic was getting less, but since the road was not so wide anymore, it was a constant fight between cars, trucks, buses and mortorbikes. Where the road was pretty good, no potholes, loose rocks and so, the bikes were at a disadvantage, because the cars could ride at a higher speed. But when the road was bad, we could overtake them again, but still we had to be careful where we rode. But it was a bumpy ride with all those potholes and rocks. We zigzagged across the road, looking where the best place was to ride.

Then Maria hit a stone, which damaged a footstep, so she could only ride in first gear. Rob tried to help but instead of bending the footstep he broke it. Now we had to wait for the backup car to catch up with us. We parked the bikes as close to the mountainside as possible, so that the traffic could pass each other without running us over. Luckily there was a simple roadside restautant, where we had a few cups of tea and a toilet stop.

 

It was only another 13 kilometers to our guesthouse in Kalopani, so only one more hour or so to go. But after some kilometers we ran into a roadblock. We were able to pass it without problems. But only to run into a second roadblock. This time a few big rocks were placed on the road and cheeky as we were, we removed a rock and with a little pushing we managed to pass also this roadblock. It had rained a lot and the road had become very muddy with plenty of deep mud pools. So it was pretty slippery all the way and then we ran into another traffic jam. We managed to pass a wrongly parked car and rode to the beginning of the traffic jam. There we could not continue because an excavator was shoveling rocks from the mountain onto the road. There was no way for us to pass and it was also too dangerous. We simply had to wait for the roadworkers till they were finished for the day. It rained a little while we waited for more than 2 hours before the excavator finally descended and passed the waiting line of cars to shovel the rocks into the river.

 

The Chinese are building a new road from Tibet to India and it goes straight through this and the Upper Mustang area. Within a few years this will be another Nepalese highway with good roads, gas stations and shops and much more traffic. What will this do this unique environment with its beautiful and friendly people? It will bring more prosperity to this rather poor area, but do they know at what price this all comes? But that is called progress, I think.

 

Since we were the first in line after the excavator we hoped to have a clear road to Kalopani once we got past it. But the road ahead of us was completely broken down and turned into a huge mud pool. And with the oncoming traffic and traffic behind us that had no patience to give us room, it was each for himself to get through this part. But finally we all did and it was only a few more kilometers to the Kalopani Guest House where we arrived just before dark to have dinner and a good sleep.

 

 
 
 
 

I went for a walk before breakfast and although it was a bit cloudy I had a good view on the Dhaulagiri and other mountains of the Annapurna range.

After breakfast in the garden we left Kalopani and went deeper into the mountains, still following the Kali Gandaki river, sometimes riding through its mostly empty riverbed, with a few little streams to cross. It was every time exciting to go through and reach the other side of the stream, without stopping or falling over. There were plenty of rocks below the surface you could not see, so it was riding slowly and hoping the rocks would steer you the correct way.

With tea stops in Tukuche and Marpha we reached Jomsom (alt. 2720m), where we again had to show our permits. This time they were checked for Upper Mustang. The villages started to look more and more Tibetan. Some of the villages had red and white colored monasteries and chortens, small white stupas that looked like an upside down bell, placed on cascaded substructure. The clothes the inhabitants wore were in traditional Tibetan style

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In 1982 Jomsom was the end of my trek and again, just like Pokhara, there was nothing I could remember from this town.

 

In places the road to Kagbeni became very sandy and with the upcoming strong wind you sometimes rode in your own dust cloud, completely obstructing your view on the road. You had no idea which path you could follow, because if you hit the side of a ground out path, you could easily fall. Even with a clear view it was difficult enough to stay on your bike.

We stopped for lunch in Kagbeni (alt. 2810m), a beautiful medieval village with its Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Monastery, white mudbrick houses and small alleys and the gateway to Upper Mustang. We walked through the village where Konchok dropped us off at a small restaurant, while they went for a Tibetan meal. Although we had to wait a long time before lunch was served, it sure was worth the long wait.

 

When we left Kagbeni, Gert-Jan was held up by a girl who wanted to practise her English with him. In the mean time we had crossed the river, but Gert-Jan was not aware of this and kept following the road. We all honked, but we were not heard by him. When he ran into a road construction, he stopped and looked back to see us waiting at the other side of the river. I was not the only one anymore to loose the group.

The road went steep up and was covered with small rocks, so it was hard to maintain your balance, as the rocks pushed you into all directions, except the one you had planned. Sometimes it was better to let the motorbike finds its own way through and over the rocks. Mostly I rode the steep up and down passages in first or second gear and the bike never let me down, one way or the other. The road followed the Kali Gadanki river again and we had magnificent views on the river and surrounding mountains. We were now almost 3000 meters above sea level and getting deeper into Tibetan territory, getting more and more arid.

 

Just after Thangbe the upper road to Chhusang was closed, so we had to take the lower road that descended into the river bed of the Kali Gandaki river. But first we had to find that road! After a while we saw a meandering path smoothed out between the stones and rocks and slowly we descended, some with and some without falls. We were riding again in the riverbed, with steep sand stone cliffs in all sort of colors rising steep up. Long time ago this was the bottom of a sea!

Our guesthouse in Chhusang (alt. 2980) could only be reached by a small footpath along a few chortens, painted white with red stripes, and a small stone stairs of only two steps, but we all managed to reach the guesthouse without problems.

 

It was the evening before the Nepalese New Year and on a small patch a volleyball field was laid out. Road workers from different places had come here for a volley-ball tournament.

After dinner Konchok told us about the winters in which he could go skiing on 60-90 centimeters of snow around his village in Ladahk. Now there is no more snow in wintertime, not even much higher into the mountains. Mr. Sonam Wangchuk from Ladakh has come up with a way to hold the water for irrigating the fields in springtime. In the winter he creates ice stupa’s with water from the glaciers that in springtime will slowly melt and so can be used to irrigate the rice and vegetable fields and orchards.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

In the morning I went for a walk through the little village. The roadworkers were again or maybe still playing volley-ball. It was now the Nepalese year 2075. Although this was a very arid area, it had quite a few ricefields and apple orchards. And there were always the nice views on the ever changing coloured steep cliffs at the other side of the Kali Gandaki river.

We took the road through the riverbed and after a short time we reached our first obstacle of the day. A suspension bridge, only to be reached by a small path, right along the mountain side and then a short steep left turn up to the narrow bridge. We all reached the other side and across the river without any problems.

 

Just after Chele the road went steep up and down and was full with sand and rocks, making it very difficult to ride. On one particular stretch we went one by one, very slowly and following the instructions of Konchok and Wangail. On the way down I bounced over numerous rocks until I finally fell off my bike. I got on the bike again, crossed a small stream and turned sharp to the right. On the way up my leg got stuck between the brake pedal, which was slighty crooked by an earlier fall, and some rocks, causing me to fall again. I gave Wangail my motorbike and he rode the last part up to the pass (altitude 4050m). Here we recovered from the efforts and enjoyed the beautiful views on the Annapurna mountain range.

 

It was steep down again and somehow I fell down again and got underneath the bike. Alex came around the corner and helped me to get up. He would do that quite a few more times in the next coming days, thanks again for your help, Alex.

We crossed the Taklam La (pass, alt. 3624m) and the Dajori La (pass, alt. 3600m) and descended to Syanboche where we had a nice Thali lunch in hotel Dhaulagiri. The last part of the road to Ghiling and Syanboche was steep up and down again and with lots of sandy stretches, but always with beautiful mountain views. On the Nyi La (pass, alt. 3932m), Konchok and Wangail hung up a prayer flag in memory of my late wife Sisi.

 

Around 16:00 we arrived worn-out in guesthouse Lo-Ghami in Ghami (alt. 3520m). But a nice hot cup of tea and a warm shower can do wonders. The pretty daughter of the owner of the guesthouse spoke good English and together with her mother she was preparing tasty momo’s, steamed Tibetan buns or dumplings.

Gonchock told us that nowadays many children go to the city to get a good education and then return to their village to live and work.

 

 
 
 
 

Before breakfast I made a walk through the village. Local herders were already busy driving the goats and horses to their mountains pastures.

The road to Charang was spectacular with sandstone cliffs in different colors. The road was sometimes very sandy, causing Maria, Peter and me to fall occasionally. Due to the slow speed it was never painful or much damage was done to the bikes, but it was always a heavy job to get the bike upright at these altitudes.

 

At the Dye La (pass, alt. 3950m) another prayer flag for Sisi was hung up by Konchok and Shekhar.

Before and after Charang (alt. 3560m) we passed two big chortens. We stopped at the second one to perform the ritual circular walk clockwise 3 times.

 

We arrived at 13:00 in Lo Manthang (alt. 3809m), the former capital of the former kingdom of Lo. It was only a short ride this day, but it was so dusty on the road, that Konchok had to beat the dust off our clothes, before we could enter guesthouse Lo-Manthang, where we would stay two nights.

We spent the afternoon exploring the village, visiting the palace square, a clinic/school and three monasteries.

The first one was the Chode Gompa, with nearby the Monastic Museum, housing all sorts of Tibetan artifacts, like masks, Buddhist scripts, praying bells and much more. The second one was the Thupchen Gompa with colorful images of the buddhas and bohdisattvas painted on the ceiling and walls and an huge image of the Great Buddha (Thupchen), made in copper. The third one was the Jampa Gompa. This one contains 3 different floors, with on each floor different mandalas painted in gold and silver. The ground floor contains mandalas describing stories from the life of Buddha Shakyamuni and of lesser gods. The first floor contains mandalas of bodhisattvas and themes from the Mahayana tradition. The second floor, closed to the public, contains mandalas of the most secret Vajrayana tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

All three temples were dark and cold and just with the lights of our mobiles it was hard to see the interior, the buddha statues and the wall paintings. The monks inside the monasteries gave us a lot of information about the temples.

Some streets had a row of chortens and praying wheels and in different streets villagers were sitting together in front of their houses, talking together, spinning wool and watching tourists.

 

Click here visit an interesting blog on Upper Mustang

 

 
 
 
 

I made a quick tour through the village before breakfast. Most days I had Tibetan porridge while the others had Tibetan bread with omelet. Also in 1982 I always had Tibetan porridge for breakfast and I was surprised that 36 years later this was still being served. It was tasty, nourishing and a good start for another strenuous day.

Villagers were already up and busy doing their household tasks, like sweeping the street and collecting water from the water taps.

 

This day was the ride to the Tibetan or Chinese border. The first part of the road was steep down, but further along the road it was reasonably well passable.

In Chhoser we visited the Jhong caves. We left our bikes at a guesthouse and walked to the entrance of the cave. It was all going up and to get into the caves we climbed the stairs. It was not that long, but at an altitude of over 4000 meters, it was quite a climb. Once inside it was cool and dark, but with flashlights and light coming in from the open windows, we got a good view about how people had spent their lives in these caves. All 85 rooms were carved out of the mountain and it was five stories high. Passages and wooden stairs connected the rooms and floors. Up to a few hundred people had lived in this place until some 80 years ago. After that they moved to houses nearby.

 

After visiting the caves we rode the last part to the border, crossing the Kora La, the highest pass (alt. 4660m) of our journey. The high plains of Tibet (China) lay before us. At the border a customs office was being built and also fences and camera installations had been erected, so Konchok did not dare to ride all the way to the border and enter Tibet/China illegally. But the backup car did go all the way to the border.

From here it was all the same way back to Pokhara and downhill, well more or less so to say, with a side trip to Muktinath.

 

 

After buying some souvenirs from a pretty woman, who also worked in the kitchen of our guesthouse, it was time to leave. The bikes were parked in a compound, but to get them back on the road they had to cross over a high threshold and a narrow wooden shelf that laid over a sort of stone aquaduct system that ran through the village. Only Gert-Jan, the most experienced rider of the group, rode the bike himself out of the compound.

 

After a few hours ride we stopped in Charang where we helped the villagers to catch the goats and to steer them into the right street. Great fun!

We struggled again with the sandy patches in the road, but we managed without too many problems. We had gained enough off road experience the last week to battle these roads.

At one place we met an Australian group of motorriders on Royal Enfields Himalaya. Some of them had their wives or girlfriends with them and they would sit on the back on the bike or ride in one of backup cars. They were not very happy with their bikes, because they lacked enough power to ride uphill. And they were not allowed to ride difficult parts. Were there any easy parts on this tour then? But anyway, they were very impressed that Maria had conquered so many difficult stretches on her own.

 

We had lunch in guesthouse Lo-Ghami, where we had stayed a few days earlier. In one of the rooms a group of 4 Tibetan monks was performing Buddhist rituals. Candles were burning on a table, while they were playing a drum and cymbals in a monotonous way and reciting prayers from a thick book. It would take a few hours before they would finish their prayers, so after 15 minutes of watching we left and continued our way to Syanboche (alt. 3800m), where we arrived at around 16:00.

Our rooms in hotel Dhaulagiri came with a shower, but for some reason the hotel had run out off hot water. Although you would sweat a lot when riding these difficult roads and in the hot sun, you and your clothes never really started to smell badly, like when you were travelling in the tropics. So no shower for me tonight.

When the sun disappeared behind the mountans, it became quite cold in the dining room and it took some time before the staff had the stove fired up enough to drive away the cold.

 

Due to roadconstructions further down the way we would leave after 9:00, so we had time enough to watch the road workers working on a stretch of road across the street. All the work, digging, removing stones, rocks and sand, was done manually by a group of youngsters. We would use machines for this hard labour, but here workers are cheap and they have a paid job. In trailers of two tractors more road workers were also waiting for departure.

 

We crossed the Dajori La and the La Taklam La without problems and then we came to that part of the road where we had so many problems a few days ago. This was the part where I had fallen twice and again I decided to get off the bike and let Wangail do this rocky stretch of road. But first we watched how a tractor struggled to get over the rocks. Every time he gained a few meters, he slipped back a few meters. Two guys were placing rocks behind the rear wheels to prevent the tractor from sliding even more back down the road. After more than twenty minutes the tractor finally managed to continue his way up the mountain road. Now it was our turn to go down this mountain road. One by one we descended, while Wangail and Konchok were hanging at the rear of the motorbike to keep the speed low. For me it was a nice walk down and up the other side. It took us an hour to get everyone, including the backup car, past this point.

In the next village we stopped for a cup of tea in a small roadside restaurant, but nobody was home, except a few children. Too bad no tea for us and the next village was a few hours ride further.

 

There was more traffic now and together with the sand and the dust we had to be more careful and watchful where we rode. Peter had bad luck when he decided to make place for two oncoming motorriders. He fell and broke the footstep of the bike. He could continue riding, but had to rest his foot on the gear stick, making riding not very comfortable.

Again we had to cross that weird suspension bridge, but we all took the bridge without problems. The road continued through the riverbed of the Gandaki Kali River and we crossed a few small streams.

We had a late lunch in Kagbeni, this time together with the crew in a small restaurant. During the cooking of the lunch the crew was playing a game under much laughter. A table contained a smooth surface on which you had to push flat pucks with your finger into one of the side holes.

 

From Kagbeni we took a turnoff for the road to Muktinath and to our full surprise this road was freshly paved. No more rocks and potholes, so we could finally reach a decent speed on the bikes. But still we had to go into full brake sometimes for a water drainage that ran across the road.

Around 16:00 we arrived in the touristic town of Muktinath, or to be more precise the town of Ranipauwa. Muktinath (alt. 3760m) is a sacred site for both Buddhists and Hindus and is located in the Muktinath Valley and a few kilometers north of Ranipauwa, where all the hotels, restaurants and souvenirshops are.

I left my gear in my hotelroom and went for a walk through the village. I visited a monument dedicated to Padmasabhava (Guru Rinpoche) with nice views on the Black Buddha, the Annapurna Range with the Dhaulagiri, the monastery Tsechen Kunga Choeling Gompa and the town.

Later in the hotel everyone but me had yak burgers for dinner which was a welcome change after all the rice and dhal of the last week.

 

 
 
 
 

Around 7:00 we visited the temple of Muktinath where we saw a few saddhu’s or holy men from India and many other Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.

The main temple is dedicated to the Lord of Salvation (to Mukti Nath) and is a name of Lord Vishnu. Behind this temple are 108 water spouts, called Muktidhara, pouring forth sacred water. Devotees run underneath them or take a bath in one of the two watertanks, even in freezing temperatures. We also visited the Jwala Mai Temple (goddess of fire) or the Temple of the Eternal Flame to see the eternal flame.

 

After breakfast we rode the same paved road back to Kagbeni. Peter fell where the road changed from tarmac into a dirt road and broke the just fixed footstep again. We continued and there was Rob, who normally was way behind us every day, overtaking us at high speed. His motor was leaking oil and he wanted Konchok to stop and wait for the backup car. After replacing the leaking seal we continued again.

In Jomsom we had a tea stop at a garage where Peter’s footstep was welded again to his bike.

We descended to the Kali Gandaki River and rode again in its bed. After a few minor stream crossings we arrived at one that was much bigger then we had on the way up. At the other side two other motor bikers were discussing and looking how to cross the stream. Konchok started as first and got stuck in 50 cm of water. He got help from the guy at the other side and with the help of Konchok we all got across the stream, some of us wetter than others.

Maria became quite happy when we found that one of the Australian bikers was a woman. She was making an article for a magazine.

Finally we left the river bed, but now Konchok had problems with his bike, not enough power to ride uphill. He waved us to keep going and after replacing a spark plug it took him some time to overtake us again.

Then Peter got the same problem with his bike, also lack of power. Rob and Alex decided to give some help and they managed to get it riding again, but only for a little while. Rob and Alex left Peter behind to inform us of the problems. Peter kept on riding bit by bit and much to his surprise he found himself driving behind the backup car. They had had problems with the car’s suspension and had taken another route around the village than Peter had and so had passed him without knowing. So there was plenty to tell during lunch.

 

About 15 kilometers before Tatopani we ran again into roadconstructions. We managed to pass a excavator, working uphill, during a brief stop, only to run into another roadconstruction.

After waiting for one hour the road was cleared, but first we had to cross a pool of muddy water. The rain had turned the road muddy, making it us difficult to stay ahead of cars and buses. At the next roadconstruction two excavators were working on the road and there was no way to pass. One is drilling the rocks into smaller pieces and the other one shovels the pieces into the Kali Gandaki River. I wondered what would happen if it started to rain or the snow started to melt in the spring next year or when the monsoon would come. They had shovelled already tons of rocks into the river and thus maybe blocked the transit of water coming down from the mountains.

But it was nice to watch those machines working. You could get very near to them or even pass them without being stopped by some official, dangerous as it is.

90 minutes later the excavators made little room so that we could pass them. It was another ten kilometers to Tatopani and getting dark. I did not dare to ride so fast as the others as the road was full with rocks, potholes and mud. I was also wearing my sunglasses making it even more difficult. At a junction just before Tatopani (alt. 1190m) I luckily choose the right turn and a little while later Konchok flagged me down, around the corner was our hotel and it was now dark. We congratulated each other with the safe arival after such an enervating day.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Rob and I explored Tatopani as we were looking for the hot springs. It was a nice and green little village. Tatopani is situated at an altitude of 1200 meters and this early in the morning it was already warm and humid.

We followed some Nepalese men, hoping they would lead us to the hot springs. As we climbed higher we found out that they were just going to work on some water project. We descended and walked back to the hotel where Konchok showed us the right way to the springs. It was next to the river and not in the mountains as we had thought. It was just some sort of pool with fences around it and a few buildings with dressrooms, not very spectacular. Some people were already taking a bath.

 

Yesterday’s rain had made the road very muddy and we went through a lot of muddy pools, not knowing how deep they were. We still followed the Kali Gandaki River and the dry and arid landscape of Upper Mustang had made place for green forests.

After an hour riding over the muddy road we ran again into a road construction. Well, not on the road itself, but high up the mountain. We did not see anything happening, but occasionally a boulder or treetrunk fell down the mountain. We were not allowed to pass, so we parked the bikes and found a place in the shade to wait it out.

Just after 11:00 we were allowed to pass and we raced through the mudpools to stay ahead of the cars who did not have the patience to wait and let us go through the more difficult parts alone.

The further we rode towards Baglung, the better the road became. More and more parts were paved, but still we had to be careful for sandy patches.

We stopped for tea in a small roadside restaurant in Baglung , but then we heard that the backup car had again problems. So tea became lunch and we had Thali once more. The backup car had still not arrived, so we decided not to wait any longer, but to ride further to Pokhara.

 

In a corner of the road we ran into a police checkpost, where our Dutch driver licences where checked without problems. We did not have to show our international licences, so what is now the use for this. Over the years I had bought many international driver licences, they are only valid for just one year, and I never had to show them.

Then Alex found out by that by the noise his motorbike was making, he had lost his exhaust pipe. He rode back to see that Rob and Gert-Jan were waiting with his lost exhaust pipe. Luckily a bus had stopped and not overrun it, so it was still intact. Rob tied the exhaust pipe to the rear of his bike, pointing skywards, and continued, making a lot of noise.

Maria had already lost both her mirrors in crashes, I had lost my left mirror in a crash, Peter had damaged his footstep a few times in crashes. But to loose an exhaust pipe without crashing is a totally different story.

I wondered if the owners of the motorbikes from whom we had rented them, were still so keen to rent them out again to a bunch of foreign tourists.

 

In a village we stopped again, because Konchok had run out of petrol. He tapped some from the bike of Alex, so that we could continue. But we faced a problem. All day we saw that gas stations were closed. Shakher eventually found out that a driver of a petrol truck was beaten up and now all petrol truck drivers were on strike that day. In the evening or maybe tomorrow the gas stations would open again. Later we heard that the real cause of the strike was that the price of the imported petrol from India was too high.

Whatever the reason was, we had problems, because it was still a long way to Bandipur, where we wanted to spend the night.

We made it to Pokhara, filling one bike that ran out of petrol, with some petrol from another bike. We parked the bikes when we entered the town and decided to wait for Rob, whom we had not seen for quite some time. Finally he and the backup car showed up. Rob had had engine problems and the car again suspension problems.

 

We discussed what to do, stay in Pokhara and continue the next day, or wait till the evening when the gas stations would be open again or ride as far as possible and use the backup car to find petrol somewhere. We took the last option and just before we left Pokhara we found a gas station that had petrol. We took our place in the long queue of motorbikes, scooters and cars. Half an hour later we had our tanks filled up and were on our way to Bandipur.

It was getting dark now and with the bad road conditions and unlit traffic I decided that riding with sunglasses in the dark was not a very good idea. So Wangail once more took over my bike and I took place in the backup car.

It was an almost a two hour ride, the last part uphill with plenty of hairpin curves, before we finally arrived in Bandipur. Sonam did not know the way to the hotel, so we had to wait for Konchok to lead us to our hotel, where the others were already sitting in the dining room and had already ordered dinner, also for me. Good job.

 

 
 
 

Today was the last day of the trip. We descended the steep curving road back to Highway H04 towards Kathmandu. The road was good and so was our speed. But we still had to be on our guard for our fellow road users, such as 4 wheel drives, buses and overloaded trucks.

During lunchtime it was decided not to take the highway to Kathmandu, but to take a smaller road that would bring us north of Kathmandu and from a viewpoint we should have nice views over Kathmandu Valley, if the weather was clear enough. This road was fifty kilometers longer and as we soon found out also under construction. This meant again bad roads with potholes, loose sand and rocks. I preferred to take the highway to Kathmandu to do some more sightseeing as there was still a lot to see. But the group decided differently, because the road was on the t-shirts that we would receive, once we were back in Kathmandu.

 

We left the highway near Baireni and followed the road along the Trishuli river. The last part of the road to Bidur was steep again, with lots of curves and in many places the tarmac was completely gone. Together with the hot weather it was pretty strenuous. A military checkpost was set up at the junction where the road would take us down and back to Kathmandu. We had to stop to answer some questions from the soldiers and this gave us time to recover from the ride. Rob again had problems with his sparkplug and showed up fifteen minutes later. Together we descended the steep road. In a roadside bar we stopped for a juice and a hazy view over Kathmandu Valley.

The last part went fine, we stayed close together as we rode through Kathmandu and then there was our hotel. The doorman was happy to see us again and waved us inside.

We all had experienced an amazing trip on motorbike through a remote and desolate part of Nepal, seen some of the highest mountains on earth, met incredibly nice people, visited Tibetan religious monuments and enjoyed the Nepalese and Tibetan kitchen And this all under guidance of Konchok, the teamleader, Shakher, the Nepalese guide who took care of the red tape, Sonam, the young and incredible good driver of the backup car and Wangail, the mechanic, always ready to help you pick the bike or drive it and the youngest of the team.

 

After cleaning myself up Jitay Tamang and I took a taxi to visit the Swayambhunath Stupa before it was getting too dark, another amazing temple complex I really wanted to see again. We walked around the complex for some time and then it was back to the hotel.

In a nearby restaurant we all had a farewell dinner, enjoying the Nepalese food and drinks one more time. Peter, also on behalf of us, thanked Konchok and his team for all the hard work they had done for us these two weeks and gave them some presents.

 

 
 
 

After an early breakfast we said goodbye to Konchock, Wangail, Sonam, Shaker and Gert-Jan, who had still days left to continue his holiday in Nepal and India and by bus we drove to the airport.

With a delay of 25 minutes we left at 11:00 to fly to New Delhi. Due to more delay with the landing we were picked up at the airport by an official who escorted us in a high pace through the airport and several checks to get us in time to the connecting flight to Frankfurt. Once in the airplane we had enough time to calm down from our run through the airport, before the plane took off.

After a short stop in Frankfurt and a short flight we finally landed at 22:15 at Schiphol. We said goodbye to each other and drove to my room in Burgerveen.

 

It was a very nice but strenous holiday with amazing (mountain) views, very bad roads and a nice group of motorriders and a very good Indian/Nepalese support team. Thank you all!

 

 

Kathmandu - Lo Manthang, but not the whole road is displayed in Google maps.

 

 

Lo Manthang - Kathmandu, but not the whole road is displayed in Google maps.

 

 

On the map you can see all the places we have visited.

 

 

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