Total Pageviews

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Pokhara - Ride on the Bullet

Five of us with a company of four Royal Enfield 350CC bagpacked and rode more than 700 kms one way to Pokhara in Oct 2013

Riders : Dipankar Lama, Dilip Kumar Yonzon, Anil Ramtel, Pasang Yonzon and Lakpa Sherpa
Royal Enfield 350 CC, Model : 2 Nos Classic, 1 No Electra and 1 No Standard.

Road Map to Pokhara from Eastern Side

Day 1: 15th Oct 13
Siliguiri to Birtamod

KM noted on recently bought Classic 350.
Start 4636 Kms noted at Naxalbari ; End kms 4674; End Location Birtmod

As was required to consider the “group dynamics” and also the wrath of Cyclone Phailin in the form of consistent rain, the scheduled journey was delayed by 5 days and we could begin our ride, with team of four bullets and five riders, only at 5.30 PM on 15th Oct 13 still under the cloudy sky. Our objective to cross the Indo-Nepal border and halt inside Nepal at Birtamod worked out as planned on Day 1.

Birtamod is appx 30 kms from the border check post, Kakarvitta in Nepal. As we crossed the Mechi Bridge after Panitanki at appx 7 pm, dark street welcomed us. Most of the shops were closed and others were in the process to call it a day. At the check post in Kakarvitta, for two wheeler, we had to show our Blue Book/Regn Card and driving licence. No photocopy required. Payment required at INR 80 x no of stay days in Nepal. This check post opens at 5.45 AM till 9.45 PM IST.

As we approached towards Birtamod at around 8 PM, the town was completely shut down with few people in the street who guided us to our destined lodge.

Accomodation cost at Birtamod is reasonable and avl at all budget range. We had a home cooked food as dinner and had a good night sleep to prepare ourselves for the long ride the next day.

Day 2 : 16th Oct 13
Birtamod to Chitwan National Park
Start Km : 4674, 6.30 am ; End Km : 5156, 8 pm

The clear sky greeted us giving us hope for a rain-free ride. We followed the East West Highway of Nepal, 2 Lane road good enough for the bike riders. We had to be careful about the cattles and goats crossing across the highway. Sad but true incidents of quite a number dog and cat dead bodies on the road are testimony to the human settlements along the road. Even we had to be extra careful about the villagers, especially children suddenly crossing the road from one end to the other. Even with extra care, one of our colleague had a narrow escape from colliding with a kid running across the road. Only thing that saved was the relative speed of the bike with respect to the kid which led the bike cross faster avoiding collision on the intersecting path.

Enroute--between Koshi Dam and Hetauda
Dhalkebar crossroad- towards Left is Janakpur

The kind of village livelihood, wet jute being dried on the road, road crossing cattles and villagers, green paddy field, assortment of Indian vehicles right from two wheelers to four wheelers to trucks and buses make you feel that your are still in India. But the very next moment once the Japanese SUVs, Cars and Chinese bikes are sighted and with registration no plate being written in Devnagri script with red colour as base make you realise that you are in a different country.
After a 2.5 hrs ride of 130Kms, we reached Sapta Koshi Barrage. The Koshi Barrage is a flood control sluice across the Koshi River in Nepal near the Indo-Nepal border. It was built between 1958 and 1962. It has 52 gates which are controlled by Indian officers although it is in Nepal
After a delicious snacks of fresh fish (small) and prawns, we headed onwards. The small bits of snacks we had in Koshi Barrage in a roadside stall turned out to be very expensive than expected and hence it was a learning for us to enquire about the price at first, negotiate and then place the order.

After nearly 2 hrs of 120kms ride, we reached Dhalkebar crossing, the road on the left direction would lead to Janakpur.  The road to Kathmandu is also thru Janakpur incase if you wish to escape the dense Sarlahi forest between Bardibas and Hetauda. Further ride of around 15 mins, we stopped for Lunch at Bardibas. The dense Sarlahi forest area was once notorious for looting and hijacking. Not many four wheelers are seen on this road but it seemed to be majorly used by two wheelers and mostly a family travel with kid and spouse. The first sight of this forest from the road is actually a beauty due to deep and rich green trees, apparently trimmed, along both sides of the road as if it is made to stand to welcome us.

Sarlahi forest : left and right were dense forest with 
the history of looting and hijacking

Fuel Filled at Raniganj, Sarlahi between 8.65L, NPR 1124 (NPR 130 per litre) at 4970Km Odo reading and mileage of 38.6 KMPL

Every now and then, we get to cross bridges built over streams or rivers that flow from the hills on the northern side. Such many bridges have been constructed with the Nepal-USSR co-operation in 1962 as was evident from the board displayed. As we rode deeper into the country, the Indian (Hindu)name of the bridges like Saraswati Bridge, Kamala bridge etc in Nepal changes to names like Saipatri Bridge (Nepali name of a flower), Dhungey Bridge (means Stony Bridge), Balwa Bridge(means Sand Bridge) etc . After certain stretch the Bridges name appear as Bridge no 1, 2, 3 and so on as if the name giver of the bridges was exhausted of naming words.
The beauty alongside the bridges was vying for our attention all the way. One of the wonderful sight is on the Bagmati River at the end of Sarlahi Forest. The wonder is due to the small dam constructed before the bridge with a backdrop of a hill densely packed with trees and above it the hill kissing the sky.

Some stretches were painful
at Hetauda

The 2 lane E-W Highway of Nepal is constructed along the foothill on the plain till Narayangarh, a town which is appx 500 kms from Kakarvitta, on the right of which is the lower hills of the Himalayan Range. The sight of these hills along the road which gives an unending skyline is a treat to the riders sight as such panorama cannot be seen and be appreciated while on other mode of transport.
Passing through inquisitive eyes and queries of the roadside and fellow bikers, we rode 430 kms since the beginning of the day and reached Hetauda at 5 pm, popularly known as the green city of Nepal as it is amidst the green forest on the foothill. After a short tea break, we persuaded ourselves to ride for further 55 kms to reach Sauraha, Chitwan where the famous Chitwan National Park is located.
Along the way, the rain played a spoilsport and flooded our way. It was an unfortunate combination of night, rain, pot holes and flowing water on the highway which almost made us to halt in a roadside lodge. A couple on the Bullet (Nepal regd Bullet) joined our group as they wanted company. Due to such distraction, one of our rider got his bullet in the deep pothole which created a bent on the front mudguard as was caused due to full length compression and travel of the front shock absorber.
At such a situation when some of our members had agreed on to stay by the roadside and not reach the destined Chitwan National Park, the pictorial motivational story flashed which I had probably seen in some presentation or facebook. Comparative story of two individuals who dig for gold, one person gives up after days of digging not realising that gold was just one feet dig away. The other person digs up one more feet and is rewarded for his toil of so many days.
It was just a matter of pushing ourselves for another 10kms only to Sauraha, famous tourist destination, from this site of demotivation. As we gathered energy, we rode further only to discover dusty and good road, rainless. Police barricade stopped us. The smart police officer visually checked our packed bikes, everybody in helmet and in the convoy let us pass through withour any harassment. Night riding is not recommended in Nepal especially with a vehicle or bikes registered in other countries as you would have to go thru many such police barricades set us to ensure safety. Harrassment is a price one might have to pay to ride safe at night.
Finally reached the lodge in Sauraha at 8 pm after a ride of 482 kms on Day II.

Day III: 17th Oct 13

Chitwan National Park beyond the river

After the bag packing was done, we had a short view of the National Park from the outside not as exciting for us as none of us were interested in seeing animals or taking an elephant ride.
As we exited Narayangarh and moved further uphill towards Muglin, one of bullet reported with a loose Saddle. While tighening the saddle, another bike was found with a front brake issue. With the requisite tools we managed to repair the damage. The major contributor in repairing the tight brake drums was the Almond hair Oil which we had carried in our waist bag. One colleague had to be the balancing weight in order to avoid the bike from nose diving as we had to remove the front wheel.

Balancing Weight....Breakdown in Narayangarh
The couple on the bullet we met previous night passed thru us as we were repairing. As we read their mind, they wanted to stop and move along with us, but could not understand why they chose to leave us behind and move ahead as loner Bullet.

Finally at 1pm, we began our uphill march towards Muglin, 30 kms away in the hills. This ride in the hills thru the narrow road was dusty and with unexpected craters almost creating a traffic jam. The bikers could maneuver the traffic leaving the queued convoy of trucks and buses behind. This march in the hill was an indication that we are climbing northwards. Beside the road at around 300-400ft below was river Trishuli, her silence interrupted by our noisy convoy of Bullets. This hilly track bears resemblance to the road to Gangtok from Siliguri. Similar to river Teesta, there lies river Trishuli, meandering along  with the road.

at Mughlin

After ride of 30 kms in 1 hr, we reached Mughlin, an intersection, the right of which will lead to Kathmandu, 100Kms away and left will lead to Pokhara, 90 kms away.
A short tea break and we turned left.
The road from here is wider than the 30kms stretch we had managed to cross in the previous hour. This road took us thru the hilly terrain for few initial kms and then thru the paddy fields and villages leaving the sight of the picturesque hills behind on both side of the road. Again the wonderful sight from the bridges definitely demanded all our attention and we had to slow down or stop at such locations just to capture a proper glimpse of the beauty.  

Somewher Between Muglin and Pokhara

The sun set as we entered the Welcome Gate of Pokhara city. Our search for the lodge was distracted due to sudden and heavy rain which even drenched our clothes packed in the bags. For others who had packed the clothes in the poly bag and then in the saddle bag didn’t have to worry.

A must for all the biker travellers to pack their clothes and utilities in a poly bag and then in the saddle/luggage bag so that you are protected from such unwelcome rain.

Day IV: 18th Oct 13
Fuelling done in Pokhara at 5324 Kms, 9.7 Lit, recorded mileage of 36.5KMPL

Pokhara, at an altitude of 827m, is the second largest city after Kathmandu in Nepal. This is an important tourist destination in Nepal. It is said that if you haven’t been to Pokhara, you haven’t seen Nepal. The name "Pokhara" meaning the valley of the lakes is itself derived from "Pokhari" which literally means a lake. There are eight lakes namely Phewa, Begnas, Rupa, Maidi, Khaste, Gunde, Dipang and Kamal Pokhari – inside the valley. Phewa, Begnas and Rupa are three lakes worth visiting. Three out of the ten highest mountains in the world — Dhaulagiri, Annapurna I and Manaslu — are situated within 50kms (linear distance) of the city, so that the northern skyline of the city offers a very close view of the Himalayas. Due to its proximity to the Annapurna mountain range, the city is also a base for trekkers undertaking the Annapurna Circuit

Fewa Tal (Lake)

We had lodged ourselves in a hotel near the lake Fewa Tal. We woke up at 5 am, as we were told about the amazing view of the Himalayas early morning against the sunrise. Unfortunate. Due to cloud, we couldn’t have the view.
October as we read and were told is a month of clear sky in Pokhara and delightful eye-treat to the tourists. Courtesy Phailin, we were not so lucky enough.

However we rode thru the city to a nearby viewpoint, Sarangkot at an altitude of 1500m and 16 kms from the city. As we slowly climbed the hill to reach the viewpoint, we could enjoy the majestic view of the lake Fewa Tal from this altitude and paragliders flying like flight of birds. From the viewpoint, we could manage to steal a sight of the famed and stunning Annapurna . The other mountains had hidden itself from us behind the Phailin cloud.

Fewa lake as seen from Sarangkot view point

At the Sarangkot viewpoint, one would be required to pay NPR 30.00 for the day which they charge for the maintenance. Also a 2 minute telescopic view of the Himalaya is charged NPR 20.00 separately.
Interestingly we found a beautiful camping site and we took the consent of the viewpoint caretaker who agreed to cook dinner for us, supply firewood and water. We returned to Pokhara city to collect our belongings and camping gears we had brought along. 


After lot of discussion, all of us finally came to a conclusion that we would have a unique experience of camping infront of the Annapurna range. We had high expectation of sighting the beckoning and majestic mountain range from so close a distance, the popular sunrise and sunset as well thru our tent window.
Bag packed, bought the utilities and food stuffs for cooking the breakfast for the next day, we rode to the camping site.

Three out of the ten highest mountains in the world — Dhaulagiri, Annapurna I and Manaslu, provides a spectalular breathtaking view on a clear sky..will be etched in your memory for long long time - view from Fewa Lake

Not an easy ride to reach the camp site as the Dozer had started to dig the road side and undulations to make it smooth which made it worse for us. The hilly road with loose mud can become dangerous as the bike looses friction. However we could manage to take only two Bullets to the camping site, other two bullets had to be parked in a nearby hotel, 150 mts away, who agreed on NPR 100 for the night as parking fee.
As the negotiation was on, the beautiful Mt Machapuchre was witness to it for around two minutes as it came towering out of the cloud with evening golden sunlight bathing its face. This was the last sight of this mountain I had in my tour.

By the time we could carry all the stuffs to the site, it was already dark. Our lights and invertors were very handy then. To add to our trouble fighting the darkness, the rain began not heavy though, but enough to drench us soon.
The rain god was displeased with us as the rain continued till the midnight making it difficult for us for everything, to light the campfire, to eat, to sleep, and to top it all there were hungry blood suckers- the leeches around which fed on two of our colleagues.

Day V : 19th Oct 13

As we woke up at 5 am, the next day, thick and wide clouds wished us good morning forbidding us of the view of the Himalayas. Nevertheless, we cooked our breakfast, bagpacked, helped by a kid named Ramesh who was sent from his home to sell us Tea.
Ramesh seemed to have handled lot of tourists and learnt photography thru experience proven by his way of handling our camera.

Campsite at 1500m altitude

The wonderful sight of two concentric rainbows on the western sky was amazing. The rainbows had wide diameter with Pokhara city at one end and Mt Annapurna at the other, measuring close to 50 kms. The villages of Nau Darha on the North-West hill, Yhemja on the valley down East side separated from Pokhara by river Seti Gandaki, all amidst the green hills, occasionally and partially lit by the sunlight is a treat for your eyes as seen from this view point.

After a yummy self cooked breakfast of egg, famed Wai Wai, bread and sugarless black tea and bagpacking done, we rode back bidding adieu to Ramesh and Sarangkot taking with us some adventurous memory of the previous night.

I had to reluctantly cut short my trip of 12 days to 6 days only due to other priorities at home. My friends stayed back as I returned home.

As I complete my blog today, my colleagues I left behind in Pokhara are on their way return home today (26th Oct 2013) from Kathmandu.
Had it been not for for the cloud at the backdrop, this picture would have been one of the best (The cloud has hidden the Mt Annapurna which is just about 40 Kms away linearly)