Guest post from Sideburn poet and tour representative, Travis Newbold. Photos by Samson Hatae
When I stepped out of the Kathmandu airport I was pretty confident that I was ready for the job at hand. It soon turned out I was not exactly correct in my figuring. My first cue was when I apparently walked right by a man holding a Sideburn sign while I looked for a taxi to get me to the hotel. But when 1.5 days of traveling turns into a 2.5 days of traveling thanks to good old United Airlines' delayed flights, what can one expect? Traveling the friendly skies is not always what the airline’s brochure makes it out to be. But once at the hotel, all was well, I saw Vir and Harsh, like two beloved brothers I have not seen for far too long, and the rest of the Sideburn collective group of old and new friends. Let the journey begin.
I first knew I was in good company when one of the Jerkyls from the Land Down Under said; ‘I don’t want to be a miserable c*nt, but if we are touring the temples you can just drop me off right here, I already saw them yesterday.’ That is the kind of honest and transparent kind of respect that tends to lead to a quality adventure.
Once we got on our bikes, Royal Enfield Himalayans, and started to make our way out of the city, the madness of the traffic and the good old sensation of manipulating a motorbike made everything all the more clear about what the days to come would truly be about. There are no traffic lights or really any traffic laws, just good old common sense. One bike muffler scraping a bumper and plenty of friendly horn tooting and we were out of the city free and clean. Just as we hit the first dirt road bumps we had a man down. The rough road, low-riding footpegs, and a big Jerkyl foot of the Dark Prince met in a manner that left a spiral break of tib and fib leg bones. Ouch!
With the victim packed off to a local hospital, the rest of us carried on and made sure to keep our toes tucked in. After our first lunch stop we made it to a country road that was a flowing ride through little villages, farm fields and the occasional stream crossing. The twisty tarmac was a total dream and I found myself in total ecstasy taking in the sights and finding harmony with the steady spinning Royal Enfield wheels beneath me.
That night we stayed in a magnificent hotel and enjoyed some really special local food in a BBQ joint on the main strip. It was getting late and the local youth were doing motorbike fly-bys down main street. It was getting rowdy when our restaurant shut its door. A small scuffle broke out on the street and it was like a scene out of street fighter. It was said that the cops were coming so when we walked back to our hotel the main street was completely quiet and deserted. The next morning when we rode out of town it was the most busy main street I have ever seen. We made our way up into the mountains, full of waterfalls and postcard views.
Night two we stayed in a cosy place called the ‘Peace Motel’. It was all that and more. Every day we rode higher and higher into mountains that grew so big I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Once at the end of the Manang road we spent a few days up near tree line in the thin air just taking it all in. One of the group rode his bike right off the side of the road and gave us all a good scare but he was fine other than a scratch or two. We got to know each other well, drinking our chai and gathering around the warm fireplace at supper time. I got to scratch Yak Pizza off my list and if I ever get a chance to go back I will make it happen, if just for the food!
This Sideburn Tour differs from the others, in that the majority of the route is out on one road, and back on the same route, until it splits, but you wouldn’t believe it. The view seems completely different. On our ride back down out of the mountains we rode the best of the best high country two track road and stayed at a most classy and cosy apple orchard complete with its own winery. They had a pool table, a ukulele, and I am now a fan of apple brandy. As we rode back down into civilisation it was like being shot out of a cannon from the peaceful mountains into the busy traffic. I have never cared for traffic riding but in Nepal it is an experience that will tickle the fancy of even the most wicked adrenaline junky. Overtaking is constant and is a responsibility balancing your life inches between oncoming metal and the beep beep of your horn. I f*cking loved it. Our last hotel before getting back into Kathmandu was like a luxury resort with a huge spring fed swimming pool complete with a bar. I felt like dirty turd in a beautiful punch bowl. Even more so than usual.
When we all made it back to our starting destination I knew I would never be the same. But then the man at the front desk said my laundry I had left was ready and he gave me back my old oil stained denim bib overalls so I knew I could still be the same old gear jammin’ hillbilly I was before. But now with a much stronger appreciation for momos, new friends, and whatever you can find on the other side of the world.
Click to find out more the about Sideburn Adventure Trips. We have a beauty coming up in Rajasthan, India. Trails, amazing hotels and cities and a night in the Thar desert.