Sandwiched between two giant neighbours - China and India – Nepal is a small country with a big reputation. The land of Everest surprises with its diversity of landscapes, from tropical jungles to snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Travelers come mainly for trekking but motorcycling is another great option to discover this blessed country; to witness the indescribable wonder of the highest peaks in the world and to encounter a warm and endearing people.
Recently, I spent twelve days exploring this mythical Himalayan land on my own very trusted steed – a Royal Enfield Bullet 350cc. Knowing that each day would be full of new experiences, I left Kathmandu, the vibrant capital, glad to get away from the infernal traffic. Soon I began to enjoy the countryside where the landscapes kept changing, one valley to another. The winding roads crossed traditional villages and terraced crops until I reached the subtropical region of Terai and the famous Chitwan National Park, renowned for its one-horned rhinoceros, the royal Bengal tiger and the gharial – a fish-eating crocodile. I left the jungle for the mountain roads towards Tansen in the northwest. The Royal Enfield flourished on its favorite playground and we were both happy to find a bit of freshness! Tansen is a charming market town on the former Silk Road. Time has stood still here for many merchants and artisans. To reach Pokhara, I took a lonely and endlessly winding 130km mountain road along the Siddhartha Highway, named after Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha. Like me, you will certainly feel a step closer to enlightenment on this road. Before reaching Pokhara I visited the World Peace Pagoda with its spectacular panoramic views. Now, I understand why Nepal’s second largest city is called the “Mirror of the Himalayas”.
”A blessed country, with indescribable mountains and a warm endearing people”
I came to Nepal for the Himalayas and the next day, I saw them, or rather experienced them. It required quite a bit of an effort since I had to climb the Sarangkot Peak at night to get there for a view of the sunrise. I feasted my eyes on the spellbinding Dhaulagiri (8167m) in the west; the perfect pyramid of Machapuchare (6997m); the tent-like peak of Annapurna II (7937m); and Lamjung (6983m) in the east. I don’t have words to describe what I saw, or felt. Then it was onwards to the mythical Mustang Valley. Formerly the independent Kingdom of Lo, today Mustang is the kingdom of adventure bikers. From Tatopani it was a scenic dirt road following the Kali Gandaki River on the ancient salt trading route between Nepal and Tibet all the way to Muktinath. Mountain views here are jaw dropping and the landscape and houses make you feel like you are in Tibet. There are few places left in the world so breathtakingly fascinating. You will see dramatic changes in vegetation; from green forests, to dry arid desert with the rugged peaks of the Annapurna, Nilgiri and Dhaulagari in the background. After five days on the dirt roads of Mustang I came back on a macadamized road to reach Bandipur. A very nice stop in this live museum of Newari culture. While other trading posts in the Nepali hills have modernised, Bandipur retains its age-old cultural activities. It still has temples, shrines, holy caves, innumerable festivals and a Newari architecture that
harks back to the Kathmandu Valley of old. Another great stop before returning to Kathmandu was definitely Bhaktapur. Known as the “City of Devotees”, it is one of the three royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley. The city is filled with monuments made mostly from terracotta with carved wood columns; and palaces and temples with elaborate carvings; gilded roofs and open courtyards. Definitely a must see. Before returning to bustling Kathmandu, I stopped at another hill station; Nagarkot with its reputation as a top spot for sweeping views of the Himalayas. For motorbike adventurers, Nepal should top the list of countries to visit; for its incredible Himalayan vistas; its twisting and timeless mountain roads; rare wildlife, delicious food and last, but not least, its down-to-earth and welcoming people.
To enjoy this unique adventure the best way is to join a group tour in Kathmandu. However, if you’re like me and prefer freewheeling on your own then rent a motorbike. I’d recommend tour operator and rental service: www.bikemandu.com
The best way to Kathmandu from Vientiane is via Kuala Lumpur.