‘Respond to every call that excites your spirit’ - Rumi
Nepal is a land of geographic icons, historic adventurers, and landscapes that don’t seem possible. There are lush wildlife parks, vibrant cities full of art and culture, villages preserving an ancient way of life and an infinite amount of undiscovered gems. So what made my little trip to Pokhara, one of the most widely toured cities in the country, distinct?
Well, to put it simply, over the following five days I was going to learn to sit on a 50-year-old, two-wheeled hunk of metal and ride it across one of the most thrilling and dangerous roads in Nepal. There was more uncertainty lying ahead than I had ever faced in my life, but I stalled those fears in their tracks in order to honour my road trip dreams.
As my bus hurtled west toward Pokhara from an unusually quiet Kathmandu, I couldn’t help but gasp in awe of the monumental landscapes offered by the Prithvi Highway, the sun high in the sky, the heavy mist lifting to make way for the dramatic mountains. Cut to six hours and three breaks later, I found myself crashing in my Lakeside hotel in anticipation for the following day.
As Murphy’s Law would have it however, the morning of my first time on a motorbike was to coincide with the first rainfall of the season. Shaking my head with disbelief I made my way to the training ground where I was to meet Matt, owner of Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club and Naresh aka Motte who would be teaching me how to ride.
“So what’s your experience with motorbikes been like?” was the first question Matt asked me to which I replied, “well, I’ve never sat on a bike and I’ve fallen off a scooter”. He threw me a helmet and smiled, “That’s what we like to hear,” before riding away.
The next seven hours involved the basic principles of riding, and after stalling several times, falling off twice, skidding periodically, frequent course language and unimaginable patience on the part of Motte, I began to get the hang of riding and the tricks that went with it. By 4pm, exhausted and drenched to the bone with icy rain, we decided to call it a day.
Day 3 of the trip had to be the most nerve wracking of my entire stay in Nepal. Even New Year’s night in Thamel’s narrow alleys had nothing on me taking to the busy roads on a vintage motorbike with a day’s experience. The day trip involved Motte and I riding from Pokhara to the exquisite Indreni Cottages in Kande and Sarangkot just in time to watch the para-gliders during sunset. Feeling infinitely more confident on the way back to the clubhouse at the end of the day, we went through last minute bike and gear checks in preparation for the ride to Tansen the following morning.
As Matt and I navigated our way out of Pokhara and through the winding roads of Tansen, it became exceedingly obvious that there was no better way to explore the country than on a motorbike. Be prepared of course for the massive buses blaring past, inches from your face, long stretches that make your backside extremely unhappy and probably the biggest potholes on this side of the hemisphere.
But it's the way the locals get around, and when riding, you feel part of the environment. You can smell the wood-fire stoves, see women wash their hair, and feel the air drop in temperature all as you ride on by. What made the experience even better was the history of the bikes, the feel, and the sound that create a brilliant sense of adventure and freedom.
This sense soon turned into fear and focus as the roads begun to get steeper with dangerously acute turns as we got closer to our destination. Technically 13km west of Tansen, Srijana Farms couldn’t have been a more natural break from Kathmandu.
Smiling with fatigue we took in the fresh mountain air and saw open land filled with fruits and vegetables, cheeses and the occasional goat. In true Nepali style, we were treated to a glass (or three) of home distilled roxy and then to a traditional feast prepared by the wives of one of the farmers. This gracious hospitality continued through a night of stories and laughter and into the morning as we prepared for our journey back to Pokhara.
It's been a viscerally memorable three months of travel, but the sense of accomplishment achieved after this five days experience stands alone. If you thrive on adrenaline and crave more than you average zip line, this is for you. But don't take my word for it. Pack a bag, learn to ride, and explore the labyrinth that is Nepal.
The bikes less taken
Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club is run by expats Matt Gardner and Chantal Perera who aim to provide locals and tourists the opportunity to rent and learn to ride a vintage motorcycle. The clubs offers a range of pre-organised and custom courses designed to suit individual needs from absolute beginners to seasoned pros with an emphasis on safety.
You can choose from a variety of customised Royal Enfields or Yamaha RXs in a range of retro designs and rent from Rs 600 and get lessons from Rs 3,500 per day from experienced professionals.
If you're looking for a pure heart sinking adventure that doesn't leave your wallet empty and lasts for longer than 15 minutes, this is undoubtedly the place for you.
Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club, Pokhara (inside Busy Bee)
Vroom, vroom, Naresh Newar