Motorcycle to Lumbini-Two Headed Goats and Bulldust
The people of Nepal are wonderful. They seem very friendly and will always ask if you need help or if you are ok (or maybe they considered me a simpleton and were just showing empathy for the retarded, sunburnt westerner) Oh well, it’s the thought that counts I guess.
My first weeks in Pokhara were spent drinking beer and fixing up the Enfield from what looked to be several years of neglect. After a complete engine overhaul, new carburettor and knobbly off-road tyres, the bike now resembled something from a World War 2 dispatch unit. I immediately named him ‘The Captain.’ (I assumed the bike was male)
The Captain and I bonded immediately and I grew to respect him greatly for all the torture I put the poor bastard through. I gotta admit, these Royal Enfield’s take a bloody great punishing, to be fair.
We had decided (well actually I did, the captain had no say in the matter) to tackle the great Annapurna circuit to the north-west of Pokhara. There are two ways to do this, either clockwise heading through Tatopani ending in Muktinath (the easy way) or the other way through Besihahar onto Manang (with random landslides, death roads, and Nepalese Bus Drivers) I declared we would attempt both. The Captain sat there quietly, as I spoke of gallant crossings through swollen fjords and of brave-yet-terrifying passes that curled insanely around the mountains. I took the Captain’s silence as a firm nod of agreement.
But before the great journey into The Annapurna, we first headed south to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. I have a great interest in the Buddhist philosophy and out of all the worldly religions, I feel that this is the only one that will lead the human race to a somewhat better way of living with one another in peace.
As the monsoonal rains began to clear (it had been non-stop for 2 days) I loaded up The Captain with prayer flags, incense and good vibes and we set off into the cool, misty mountains down the Siddhartha highway.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the road in fairly decent condition. The Captain was humming along nicely and the loud bark of the Enfield’s exhaust echoed throughout the valleys, scattering animals and humans alike.
The scenery was absolutely stunning- lush green mountains juxtaposed against seemingly bottomless ravines. Torrents of water cascaded down into numerous rivulets and in these, the locals would gather to fill up their water containers, bath, and wash their rusting motorbikes in the sun, with a lazy and somewhat mild content.
The people appeared to be very laid back in this part of Nepal. (Apart from those fucking bus drivers-they were still as insane as ever.)
I pulled into the mountain village of Tansen and immediately noticed the cosy feel of the place. Surrounded by misty mountains and full of bustling cobblestone streets, it reminded me somewhat of Cusco in Peru.
Taking a walk through the narrow streets, I received the usual stares of astonishment and bewilderment. I must certainly be a strange-looking fellow because I seem to get this everywhere I go (or because I’m so incredibly handsome) Whatever the reason, I felt at home in this place and was reluctant to leave and head on towards Lumbini.
I set off early in the morning, but not before witnessing the famous ‘White Lake’ of Tansen. This is a natural phenomenon that occurs daily as thick fog pools around the base of the mountains, giving an eerie image of an enormous white body of water. (It looked just like a bunch of mist to me…) Then the ‘lake’ lifts all at once and appears to devour++ the village with a dense, ethereal mist. This continues for a number of hours and then finally clears, leaving an incredible 360 view of the mountains and the town itself, that sprawls up and over the hillside. It’s wonderfully picturesque.
Blasting off down the road, I encountered my first police checkpoint and was surprised by the rigidity of the officers. They demanded my passport, license, international driving license, asked where I was going and where had I been. It was a full-blown interrogation. I mentioned I had no documentation as it was all locked up in my hostel room in Pokhara for safekeeping.
Oh, the tyranny! Holy fucking shit! They acted like I had just robbed the local fish market. I was surrounded by a legion of police officers and they demanded to hold my bike until said documents were surrendered. (I also noticed these guys had meticulously ironed uniforms-they definitely meant business)
“Sure,” I said casually “I will just turn the bike around and park over there” pointing to a small patch of dirt outside a shop. As the officers released me, I gunned it and left them in the wake of The Captain’s thundering exhaust.
All I could see in my rear-view mirrors were a bunch of Nepalese police, looking totally dumbfounded as to what to do.
“Did that sister-fucker just ride off from us?!” I imagined them yelling to each other
I had enough altercations with police around the world to know when I can try something crazy or not. But we were on a mission from God! I was damn well going to Lumbini the birthplace of the goddamn Buddha and no fucker was going to stop me, not even a bunch of corrupt, yet impeccably well-dressed, law enforcers.
I rode at full speed through the mountain twistys, passing busses through the thick dust, over meandering streams and under lazy waterfalls that ran across the road. I was history. Those fellas were never going to catch me.
The sun disappeared behind a massive cloud, which was in the shape of an enormous fluffy Buddha, complete with intense yellow sunbeams filtering out from behind.
It was official then. The big man had my back.
The ride from Tansen to Butwal was intense. The mountains are enormous and appear to climb vertically straight into the air. The ravine below is equally deep and treacherous and if one peers over the edge whilst leaning through a curve, you will most definitely shit your pants with terror and excitement.
Nepalese bus drivers do their best to run you off the edge, all with a silly grin smeared upon their faces. Sometimes they even happily wave and toot the horn just before they inexplicably swerve into your lane, perform a number of erratic manoeuvres, then slip back into the correct lane (which for them is generally the middle of the fucking road)
For some reason, I was expecting the ‘Birth Place of the Buddha’ to be some kind of magical haven for the downtrodden and the needy, a place without suffering or sin and eternal goodness n’ stuff n’ things. It would appear the downtrodden and the needy’ had the same idea and descended en-masse over a millennia and never left.
Entering the actual spiritual grounds of Lumbini, I encountered a totally different scene of a wonderfully vast garden filled with ponds, monks and pagodas. It was a wonderfully chilled place to be. The temple area is spread over about 5km so it’s a real mission to explore. Beggars line the outside of the premises and follow hapless tourists around until they cough up either money or chocolate.
One kid followed me around the for an hour pleading,
“Money?….Chocolate?…..Money?” I had neither so I gave him my red bull instead. I regretted this decision instantly as he then continued to follow me with even more conviction whilst stammering frenetically,
The heat was also intense, somewhere around 40 degrees (Celsius) and at times it felt like an open-air sauna or some kind of new-age Buddhist weight-loss centre for well-meaning hipster monks.
In the morning and found myself hammering along on a fairly decent sealed highway towards Bharatpur. Then shit went downhill. Really fucking fast. It all seemed to happen after I nearly crashed into the two-headed goat. Yes, that’s right. A two-headed fucking goat, sitting right in the middle of the road staring at me with 2 sets of eyes and farting with just the one asshole.
Then came The Road.
It was probably the worst fucking road that has ever existed in the quantum plane of road fabrication. This road was so totally fucked, it was basically a one hundred kilometre section of highway that been hammered by Shiva’s massive phallus since the dawn of time. By way of an equation it would surmount to;
[Totally fucking Rooted] x [What a Load of Fucking Bullshit] squared, times the power of [You Have Got to be Fucking Kidding me Mate]
Imagine bulldust so thick you can barely see your ballsack with your pants down. Then imagine a meteor shower had just pummeled the road for a millennia then for some reason you then attempt to drive over said meteor pummelation. Oh and then add to that dozens of landslides, sheer drop offs, insane Nepalese bus drivers, motorbikes, water trucks, llamas, dogs, goats, cats, yetis, monks, instant hemorrhoids and a broken back all at the one time and all under the fucking-hot-blazing-fucking sun. I must add that I may have lost my temper just a teeny bit, and the words “Watch out you sister fucker!” may have slipped out of my mouth just a few times.
And then my throttle cable snapped.
Ignoring the blaring horn of the crazy bus driver behind me, I rolled to a stop amidst the blizzard of bulldust and debilitating heat. Sweating profusely, I set to work pulling apart the throttle assembly. Halfway through the repairs I suddenly noticed how close I was to the edge of the ravine. Peering over I saw (and smelt) the bloated, decaying carcass of a buffalo that had strayed too near the abyss.
“Well that’s just fucking brilliant” I sighed to myself.
Six hours later I finally arrived back in Pokhara, totally covered in dust, grease and diesel soot. The Captain was encrusted in two inches of mud and the fact he hadn’t uttered a word since we encountered The Road, I assumed that this was the equivalent of a bad mood for a motorbike. I left him in silence and with total exhaustion, stumbled upstairs to my room.
I understood just how he felt.
- Flat tyres-13 and a 1/2
- Incarcerations-0 (It won’t be not long now………)
- Chances of Getting Run Over by a Nepalese Bus Driver– about 200 percent