Wild Wild West

I always look for places that are off the beaten track, away from commercial tourist destinations, the places- I could call truly exotic. This search took an obsessive form for me. I don’t know, maybe because the fact that I have a lot of friends in the world who every now and then throw me photos of some places completely cut off from the world, persuading me to discover them, while pointing out that “man, we have to go there and we will be the first there, that is only exotic! “.

It has come to the point that the places I am going to, this year also seem commercial and not very exotic to me, although 99% of people would never go there. And I continue in this search and my head is cracking. Today, however, I have had quite an interesting observation. 

Well, what is the “exotic” really? How can you tell if something is exotic or not? After all, for some it will be exotic, for example, a two-week stay in a hotel filled to the brim with Polish tourists in Zanzibar, or a holiday in crowded Croatia, and for others a lonely ride on a motorcycle through the Shimshal Valley in Pakistan. Is one worse than the other? Man, I think whether something is exotic or not depends on the person involved in the journey. 

I realized this after another walk with my dog ​​in the Dobrzynka Valley. This is exotic! Those fallen trees, these beaver lodges, these river meanders. Simply wonderful! I have never seen anything like this anywhere, and yet it is a few kilometers from my home!

As for the exotic as understood in my way … There is a region in Nepal where this exotic is simply banging on the head. A region that still remains a huge secret for both tourists and local Nepalese vagabonds. A place that looks like it was a hundred or two hundred years ago, where time has stopped and won’t go any further. 

Humla, because it is what we are talking about, is part of the Great Himalayan Trail and, more precisely, the salt trail leading from Nepal to Tibet. Contrary to the crowded, commercial Ladhak in India, or the Karakorum Highway full of locals (, without taking anything away from these places because they are extremely beautiful!), Humla remains a place completely unknown to tourists to this day. Suffice it to say that even my good buddies from Ride and Dare go there sporadically, and the only guy who organizes motorcycle trips there is their friend from the States.

There is simply no tourist infrastructure of any kind. No hotels, no normal roads, no restaurants. Sometimes the so-called tea rooms where you can eat a modest meal or refreshment on a primitive bed. So you ask – why go there at all? Well, there are few places in the world where you can literally move back in time by several hundred years, and Humla belongs to such places! 

The people who live in it, called Thakuri, are extremely friendly and welcoming, despite the poverty that prevails there. Everywhere you can find wonderful stone villages from several hundred years ago, fantastically contrasting with the rock passes of which there are countless, ancient temples located along the Karnala River, which flows through this land further towards the Ganges, joining with it somewhere in another world, shepherds leading their goats to mountain pastures, women dressed in traditional colorful clothes, covered with gold jewelry … Ehh … I am cruelly attracted to this Humla. The world is opening up slowly, so who knows? After all, I have no plans for September..

– Wojtek Hankeiewicz from Poland.

Full Throttle

Throttle: a device controlling the flow of fuel or power to an engine.For us twisting the grip and opening the throttle is much more than controlling the flow of fuel, it’s more than just a few days or weeks off work and so much more than a ride with mates. “Travelling in a car is like watching a movie, riding a bike is like staring in it.”Riding is not just about new experiences, it’s not even about a passion. It’s not about a display of rebellion, nor is it about freedom. Riding is not about indulging in a sense of wonder, or finding a destined path, Riding is ALL that and so much more! It’s about the mind being able to control the machine, the power to charge through bends and over bumps on one wheel while still being in charge, in control. Riding a motorcycle with good friends on a tour through an amazing country is about opening up to the unseen, and merging with the unknown, riding may not be your way of life, but to ride freely should be a part of your life. During my years of working, play was getting a spreadsheet to function successfully, now my play is varied, from thrashing along a dirt path scattering dust, kids and chickens to splashing through a water crossing and trying not to fill my riding boots with water, the spray of a crashing waterfall in my eyes or blasting up a steep rocky climb hanging on as my life truly does depend on remaining upright, as the incredible drop off is totally unforgiving, all with the backdrop of the mighty Himalayas, towering snow covered monoliths, that take your breath away, literally! 

We don’t carry oxygen, we aren’t going to those altitudes, but this Nepal is the roof of the world, you can’t get any higher than Everest! Some areas need special permits, and fair enough too, places like Upper Mustang and the Forbidden Kingdom deserve that level of respect. 
I make time now to put play back in my life, do you remember school days and you had recess? You got to go out and play, play with friends, kicking a ball around in the dust, now I am playing in the dust of the Mighty Himalayas, writing the next chapter of my story from the seat of a Royal Enfield Bullet and remembering how to play again. I don’t feel guilty when I go on a ride, when I probably should be cleaning the house. Play becomes a way of life instead of a hobby for weekends.

Do you want to recapture the adventurous spirit we had as kids, the journey of discovery we felt, I want you to find the person you were before you got lost in a career, chasing material things and dealing with a stressful life that robbed you of that youthful exuberance. These days I make good friends in remote villages over a cup of local chia (tea) or mug of local raksi around an open fire at night, I may not speak the language fluently, but they always remember us, we become part of their extended family, asking about our loved ones or advising us of new routes or dangerous changes to our old ones after the monsoon season, sharing their tales of family and farming and their new born babies.
Just the word monsoon piques my interest in the latest and greatest ‘Knobby’ tyres, it gets real deep and muddy, so for a little more than $50 throwing at least a new rear on is well worth the investment. 
Even in the long dry season, the depth of the bulldust can make a deeply toothed knobby worth it, braaping up a steep jeep track with loose mini boulders hiding in the deep dust, and the ensuing jolt and sideways slewing as you careen towards the 200 metre sheer drop sure gets your attention, and you appreciate the extra grip of new shoes to get you back on course.

Stopping momentarily at the top to look back and check how your mates are handling it, one is spreadeagled flat on his back making snow angels in the dust, the other has both his hands cradling the family jewels, it’s moments like these that aren’t captured on the GoPro but lived and re-lived around the wood fired stove with a steaming hot dal bhat and a mug or two of the local raksi brew, which sometimes could be used to top up the fuel tank of your trusty and by this stage crusty ride, rocket fuel for the unwary!!
Handy tip from a seasoned traveller in Nepal: Always shower on arrival in the late afternoons, hopefully by that time the solar heated water has turned from Everest ‘cool’ to barely warm, the rookies insist they will be right in the morning for a shower, and you just smile knowingly as you pass by their room on your way to smashing a breakfast and hear the water running and the accompanying oh f#*$ that’s cold!! … sometimes it’s the little things that make your day! 
When we are in the upper regions, we try and start a little later in the mornings, depending on how much ground we have to cover. It can be real cold particularly December and January and of course the higher altitudes are cooler anyway, gives us time to check the bikes over, and indulge in the second cup of hot tea or coffee. With any luck the local buffalo or Yak has produced some milk and didi or aama has worked her magic over the wood stove and provides an amazing chia with the hint of herbs and spices far more tantalising than Colonel Sanders secret recipe.
Hopefully our socks and riding boots have dried overnight and we get on with the play for another thrill seeking day, perhaps a ride over one of the narrow steel suspension bridges, just wide enough for your handlebars and hope like hell that the wind doesn’t spring up and get the thing swaying too much, or a blast alongside a raging mountain river, twisting and turning, rising and falling, always with the Mighty Himalayas watching over us.

A deviation to power up another near vertical hill to a temple built on the top with yet another awesome view to take pictures, wondering how on earth they constructed it centuries ago, some are inhabited or tended to by monks, some by local villagers, a few are visited rarely, but they all make up the patchwork of religion here. The religious part for us riders is the getting to and from, challenging, rocky, often narrow, but usually incredibly steep climbs and descents, with the words ‘oh god’ forming in our throats!
Back on the main route to our next stop over point, be prepared for any road condition, loose gravelly surfaces, hard packed clay impregnated with rocks that give your suspension a real workout and regularly get you up off your seat and balancing on the footpegs, to rocky water crossings and the high possibility of slippery mud on the departure side, blasting by one of your riding partners while there is little dust, one of the side benefits of the pandemic is the readily available disposable face masks, great for renewing daily! 

Many ask us about Kathmandu, it’s a magical and mystical city, with breathtaking ancient buildings and temples, and highly recommended, many sites are world heritage listed so it’s not to be dismissed lightly, but Kathmandu is a result of the people coming there from the far flung reaches of Nepal, bringing their local culture, places like Gorkha and its Palace and Fort that successfully resisted the British Invasion of 1814, other places like the Upper Mustang area and the famous Silk Road during the 12th – 15th century, we are talking some serious history here. That’s were we do the serious riding, that’s were we open the throttle.
Some of this country is incredibly harsh, often likened to a moonscape, other parts are lush forests where rare and protected Tigers can sneak up and attack villagers caring for their goats. In certain parts night travel is restricted by the Army for fear of Tiger attacks, so perhaps Kathmandu is a safer option for some, but for me, after a few days of the chaos and bedlam of a big city teeming with humanity, its ancient alleys and tiny back streets, dimly lit cafe’s where the incredibly delicious momos are handmade and at each establishment they taste slightly different, I love to hit the open road, and get back to places like Chitwan National Park, where you can watch a wild Rhino wandering down the main street of Sauraha while drinking a Cappuccino, or the less frequented Bardiya National Park. 

Even the challenges of the open road are an adventure here, driving is by law ‘keep to the left’ but that is arbitrary, overtaking manoeuvres by some locals are a sight to behold, as in, hold your breath!
Arriving in Pokhara, arguably the adventure capital of Nepal, Paragliding, Zip lining, Bungee jumping, White water rafting and the starting point of many treks to the Base camps of various Himalayan mountains, overlooked by the majestic Annapurna Range and located beside the tranquil waters of Phewa Lake, it’s a stunning place and where we begin most of our Motorcycle tours from, riding a classic scrambler, a Royal Enfield Bullet, an adventurers Himalayan or a full on off road enduro style Motorcycle, it’s all available in Pokhara.
Challenge yourself to take an amazing motorcycle tour, try and stay upright, the rubber side down, you wont be disappointed, and after it’s done, remember that time sitting around an open fire, sharing stories of the days travel, It’s a moment in time where we can reflect on who we are and what it means to be a human, what it means to be alive and live a real life but most of all its a time to remember how to play again.

I’m an Australian living in a foreign land, Nepal, a magnificent land inhabited by great humans with an amazing mix of colourful cultures. Going outside the boundaries and testing my mettle has confirmed I can do anything I put my heart to, and you can too!An Australian by our meaning is someone who has a love for Country, someone who will fight for Country, someone who will make the world a better place, someone who will respect culture and someone who will go out of their way to protect freedom and liberty, but most of all, an Australian is just another human being like you, someone just having a go. Of course we make mistakes, that’s how we learn, that’s how we get better. So look after your mates, bring them to Nepal and help them to discover how to play again, let’s give everyone a fair go.

– Steve Roberts from Australia.