Motorcycle Diary: Adventures in Nepal

“You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it’s all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizz ing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime…”

Having read and re-read Robert Pysrig’s ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, the (non-existent) romantic in me had no greater aspiration than to pack my stuff into a bag, strap it onto a motorcycle and ride into the sunset. And what better place to do this than the home of arguably the World’s best motorcycleable roads, hidden between the slopes of the mighty Himalayas – Nepal.

Kathmandu to Bandipur (130kms, 6 hours)

Kathmandu to Bandipur

Teaching someone to ride a motorbike in Kathmandu would be as futile as teaching a monkey to juggle eggs. Once you’re out of Kathmandu, normalcy returns and you no longer need to fear for your life at every bend. The Kathmandu-Pokhara highway is one of busiest in the country but still makes for a pleasant ride. With the roads being quite windy and steep, the average speed is barely 30kmph. But then a motorbike trip is never about the destination.

A tiny nondescript road leaves the highway towards Bandipur. The air clears up and civilization makes way for the trees, valleys and mountains. You’ve now entered the surreal world of Bandipur, far removed from the chaos of modern day living. Old Newari buildings line the paved streets and the Himalayas serve as a backdrop betweent adjacent buildings. The town centre is off limits to all traffic (probably because of the steps on the streets) and so peace reigns supreme.

Bandipur to Pokhara (80kms, 6 hours)

Paddy fields

Leaving the perfect little town of Bandipur is difficult. But the fact that Pokhara is the next destination eases the pain. The bike ride to Pokhara is relatively easy provided you don’t puncture your tire in the middle of nowhere. Fixing a punctured tire in Nepal is a bigger ordeal than it should be but that’s all part of the game. Powerful gusts of wind over the last 5kms welcome you to Pokhara.

Pokhara’s location on the banks of a green lake with the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas in the background probably accounts for its popularity but nothing will prepare you for how picturesque this town is. If you’ve got your hiking boots, then this is the last chance to indulge in the little comforts of life before roughing it out in the mountains. If you don’t, then buy some wine, rent a tiny little boat, row to the middle of the lake and drink in this spectacular mountain town.

Pokhara to Tansen (120kms, 5hours)

Pokhara to Tansen

It’s all downhill from here. Literally. This stretch of road is virtually unused and the riding is easy. If a road trip around Nepal had to be compressed into a couple of hours, then this is the section you would use. Riding a motorcycle never felt this good.

After Pokhara and Bandipur, Tansen is a small let down. It’s caught in the grasp of a familiar and inevitable phenomenon called development. Since it’s in the process of growing beyond tiny, you’re surrounded by chaos with remnants of the old Newari culture still visible. The best thing to do is to run for the hills and search for the abandoned Palace of Ranighat. Why anyone would build a palace here, is still a mystery to me. Hiking to Ranghat takes 4 hours and biking there takes 2 hours (sounds fishy?…I thought so too). But this is no ordinary bike ride. Every turn is more hazardous than the next with steep precipices waiting for the tiniest error. If you survive this, then you definitely earn another serving of momos (delicious dumplings).

Tansen to Lumbini (100kms, 4 hours)

Tansen to Lumbini

The roads out of Tansen are as hilly as ever and then you make a turn and the mountains just disappear and the landscape gives no clue of the mountains ever having existed in the first place. The mercury rises and the air gets warm and heavy with humidity. It doesn’t take long to realize that this could very well be India.

Lumbini sits on the border and is definitely more India than Nepal. One of the most sacred sites in the World for Buddhists, Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha. The actual spot is marked by a carved stone showing Queen Maya Devi giving birth to the Buddha while holding the branch of a Sal tree. A monstrous building has been constructed around the ruins of older temples that date back at least 2000 years. The entire compound is a World Heritage site and religious institutions from all over the World have built monasteries surrounding the Maya Devi Temple. If you’re not big on the Buddha (how unfashionable!), monastery hopping under the blazing sun gets very old, very soon.

Lumbini to Chitwan (130kms, 4hours)

Lumbini to Chitwan

There comes a time when you just need to put your head down and get on with the job (twss). The ride from Lumbini to Chitwan feels that way. Straight flat roads flanked by dried brown fields on either side while the road reflects heat and the sun incessantly burns from above. Not so easy. The greenery of Chitwan is a well earned reprieve from the heat.

Sauraha is a tiny tourist town on the border of Chitwan National Park. This is now a world heritage site that was a popular hunting ground for the British Monarchy. On one memorable rampage in 1911, King George killed 39 tigers and 18 rhinos. There’s little to do here other than sit in the shade with a beer or man up and head into the wilderness. There’s a buffet of options when it comes to exploring the park – elephant, jeep, canoe or foot. Due to the Maoist insurgency tourism plummeted and that probably has done wonders for the animals. The park is well maintained, and although we didn’t see any, our guide claimed that tigers and rhinos were not uncommon, before reenacting an episode he had with a grumpy rhino.

Chitwan to Kathmandu (180kms, 8hours)

Chitwan to Kathmandu

The never ending cable car at Manakamana is a great break from the motorcycle monotony on this final and possibly most difficult leg of the trip. Traffic into Kathmandu is stressful and dangerous, especially once the sun has set. 8 hours on a (by now) rickety motorbike is no joke. Kathmandu feels like a different place at the end of a 1000km trip around Nepal.


If you think of hopping on a 5$ peer day motorcycle and hitting up the slopes of Nepal (or anywhere else in the World), keep this simple fact in mind – your bike WILL break down. It’s just a question of when. All you need to do is take it in your stride and get the bike fixed. Nothing to it. Without the uncertainty, there wouldn’t be any adventure.

You’ll see new highs, experience a few lows, learn to strap a bag onto the guard rail with your eyes closed, and at the end of it all, you’ll walk away with some amazing memories.

So…what are you waiting for?

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27 Comments on “Motorcycle Diary: Adventures in Nepal

  1. Hey Jason
    Great write up. I miss riding my motorcycle because your senses react so much more differently than inside a vehicle. My fondest memory of riding are the scents you smell along the way; some so very nice and then some that you wish you could role your window up and closeout. πŸ™‚ Then, you can see so much more and the feel of the wind. Just love it. Would love to take a long ride all across Asia. So much to see and experience.
    Thanks for sharing your journey with all of us.

    Be safe

    • Thanks Tim. There’s something about a motorbike. Plan to do a trip across India at some stage…can’t wait!

  2. Hello there, I am so excited I found your site, I really found you by error, while I was researching on google for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a fantastic post and a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the moment but I have saved it and also included your RSS feeds.

  3. I m impressed by your trip and the way you have jotted down your experiences.

  4. Hi, I was just wondering how you went about getting your motorcycle? And how frequent are towns where you can get repairs done? I am planning a trip next spring and am debating buying and selling a bike or just renting one.

    You trip looks awesome! It got me pumped up for mine!

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi. Nice site. That’s a CBZ, right? How much? I’m trying to decide what I want. Would you have preferred another model? In your mind, what do you like/dislike about the different models? I’ll be doing a 10-day motorcycle trip in February and would appreciate any tips. I’m 6’2″ and not partial to the Enfield.

    • Hi Scott,

      Ill be in in Nepal from 8 – 20 February. Im 6 ft 5 and not sure about the Enfield rental. If you know a good place to rent a bigger bike let me know. When exactly are you going?

      Manuel Rauch / Bonn on Facebook

      Thx
      Manu

      • Manuel Rauch,

        I’ll be there February 13th to the 25th. But motorbiking from the 16th to the 24th. I’m leaning away from the Enfield as I hope to visit some rougher places (not sure how rough or where, still planning). I’d love to do a VR or YZ, but they’re so expensive. Who knows, I’ll decide when I see the bikes.

        If you want to chat about the trip, email me at shlinder@gmail.com.

        Best,
        Scott

  6. By the way, I meant how much did you rent it for per day, not how much did it cost to buy. πŸ™‚

  7. Hi Scott & Manuel,

    We are a group of 6 (3 couples) from India and will be visiting Nepal at the same time as you guys are, 12th-24th Feb, We are planning to hire 3 REs but haven’t decided the itinerary yet. Do you guys have anything pre planned regarding the itinerary or you will be deciding it on the spot.

    Fyi, RE will cost about 25 $ per day on rent.

    Abhinaw

  8. Hi Abhinaw,

    I will head from KTM to Pokhara on the 9th of February and then decide wether I do the Road to Mustang tour ( up to Muktinath) which seems to be the most adventurous trip or do the easier one to Tansen, Chitwan, ….

    Where will you hire the bikes? I was in contact with BikeMandu, he wanted a deposit, cannot transfer internatinal funds as Im not at home right now.

    Did you plan a tour yet? Would make sense to ride in a group for safety in case someone crashes. Some places are quite isolated I read.
    Manuel

  9. Hi Manuel,

    We are reaching KTM on 12th Feb and will start the journey on 13th towards Pokhara. The itinerary is almost same as yours and we are very much interested in doing the Mustang trip.

    We are in touch with 2-3 bike rental companies and seems that no advance booking is required and we can just block it and give the money once we reach KTM.

    If by any chance , you can postpone the trip till 12th Feb, we can block a bike for you as well.
    In any case, you can leave your email ID and contact number where we can reach you in case something works out as it completely makes sense to travel in group as you said.

    Looking forward to hear from you.

    Abhinaw

  10. Hi guys. I haven’t locked in my itinerary yet because I’ve been looking at a couple homestays. But the Mustang area sounds great. As for bikes, what kind of deposit do they usually require? By cash or credit card?

  11. Hi guys, it won’t be a problem. I will head to Pokhara on the 9th and then do some paragliding. We can meet there? I will most likely stay at the North Face Inn.
    Mustang would be a thrill! In a group it would be possible. If I do Mustang and not the midlands tour Ill start around 12th or so. Maybe just a bit late. My email is manuelrauch88@gmail.com and im getting the NCELL sim card as soon as i touch down on Sunday.

    Excited. First time in Nepal! Ill bring all my motorcycle gear from Germany. Should be some great riding!!
    Manu

  12. Hi Scott and Manuel,

    Scott : they will take deposit in cash but it is not very big amount as I here.

    Manuel : sounds awesome. We can meet in Pokhara and can plan Ride to Mustang. Give me a call on +917715063506 once you buy a sim there or just leave a text and We will get in touch with you once we reach Pokhara.

    Cheers

    Abhinaw

  13. It will be a blast! Do you guys know if we need to pay the trekking fee of 500$ to get into Mustang. I’m not going to do any trekking so not sure if we have to pay. Otherwise that would be quite a lot…..haha! Not sure about gas stations in Mustang but worst case we could fill some Cola bottles up and carry them with us. The bikes shouldnt burn that much with the 20-30 HP.

  14. Hi Manuel,

    No idea about the trekking fee and we are also on a bike trip and won’t be interested in trekking. I hope that we can go upto mustang.

    Let’s make it happen.

    Cheers
    Abhinaw

  15. I called and the $500 USD permit fee is for Upper Mustang. But you can motorcycle up to Muktinath with the basic $25 fee. That’s my plan.

    I’ll do my ride on a Honda Tornado KR 250cc starting from Kathmandu on the 15th until the 24th. I’ve been looking around YouTube and it seems to have quite a bit more juice than the Enfields, more suited for the rough roads and reports say it doesn’t break down as much. It is, of course, more expensive at $50 USD per day, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And besides, I’m looking forward to being on a “dirt bike” again – I had a couple when I was young.

    They’ll take any form of ID as deposit. Most likely my passport. That’s fine.

    Now I’m wondering about gear. I have nothing. Is anyone thinking about gear or renting something other than Manu? Right now I am just planning on cargo pants and a mid-thickness jacket.

  16. Such a wonderful trip you have in Nepal, wish you make another trip again and travel all the place in Nepal πŸ™‚

    Good luck.
    Ps, all the photos taken perfectly!! Cheers mate

  17. Anyone else that reads this blog planning to ride in Nepal? I will arrive in Kathmandu on November 9th and will be there until 22.

  18. Hi,
    I’m planing to enjoy Nepal 1-12 May 2017. I used to ride motorbike 400kms in Vietnam (solo trip).
    I concern is it safe to be solo traveler on road ?
    License required?
    I might do short trekking in Pokara, any motor rents there?

    • Hi Paula,

      Yes it is safe to ride here. You need valid driving license from your country or International driving license.

      Hope this information is helpful to you.

      Cheers mate and welcome to Nepal.

  19. this article really helpful for my itinerary in Nepal.. will ride solo from 25-30 April 2017..still planning the route.. anyone?

  20. Hey everyone,

    I’m heading to Nepal on Tuesday. Have some work in Lukla that should be done by the 28th, all being well, and then I want to take a bike from Kathmandu to do some exploring.

    I’m an experienced rider, and don’t mind rough, dangerous roads, in fact it’s all part of the fun. I’ve just read here about the Mustang region, which sounds super exciting. Unfortunately, I have to be on a flight out of Kathmandu on the 3rd. Hopefully work will be done earlier, but if not, do you think it’s possible to do the trip up to Mustang and back to Kathmandu between the 29th and the 3rd? I don’t mind long days in the saddle.

    Does anyone know if the fee is only when trekking, or a general entry fee for the region?

    I’ve ridden an Enfiled 500 in India, and loved it, but I’m thinking of maybe an Xr250 for this trip. Any thoughts?

    Thanks

    Charlie

    • Namaste Charlie,

      Yes you can ride up to Mustang region! Its one of the best destination to drive with motorbike. Royal en-field will be also good choice to ride up there!

      You need to get TIMS card and ACAP permit card for both motorbiking and trekking.

      Welcome to Nepal!

      Thank you,
      Sujan

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