Bhutan and Nepal

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Hill Billy, Nov 17, 2011.

  1. Hill Billy

    Hill Billy Part-time Adventurer

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    When my friend Colin rang me up and asked if I was interested in going for a ride in Bhutan, my first response was "where the f#*k is Bhutan."<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    It turns out that Bhutan is a small country to the North East of India on the Southern side of the Himalayas, just to the East of Nepal.<o:p></o:p>
    I had never even considered going anywhere like that before, but after a bit of thought I decided why not.<o:p></o:p>
    Colin had heard about this trip through a guy he knows, Garry, who knows a bloke called Steve, who is organising it all. So all i had to do was put my name on the email list and pay some money. Steve did the rest.<o:p></o:p>
    The Bhutan ride consisted of a week riding KTM640's and then it was decided to do a few days in Nepal on Enfields as well.<o:p></o:p>
    Steve, and Chris from http://www.himalayanadventures.co.uk/ organised the whole thing so all we had to do was find our way to Delhi.<o:p></o:p>
    There ended up being 6 of us on the ride. Steve, Garry, Revel, and Peter arrived in Delhi the previous day and took a hotel for the night. Colin and I arrived shortly after midnight, and we had an early flight out that morning, so our accommodation was under the escalator in the airport.
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    After a bit of sleep we met the others and boarded a plane to Gawahati, where we would be picked up and driven for a couple of hours to the Bhutan border.<o:p></o:p>
    It was in the Gawahati airport carpark where my education would begin. That is my education of driving with one hand on the horn and completely disregarding anything that might resemble a road rule.<o:p></o:p>
    After a while on the road we stopped for some lunch and it was here that I began to figure out that this trip would be as much about drinking beer as it was about riding motorcycles. No problem, I enjoy both.<o:p></o:p>
    It was also here that we learnt that they like to drink their beer hot in this part of the world.
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    A bit further down the road one of the vehicles had a flat tyre. There was no shortage of helpers to change it.
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    Near the border, there was a little hut on the side of the road where we had stop and do some immigration paperwork.
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    Then it was off to the border. A bit more paperwork and we were in Bhutan.
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    We were now in a town called Samdrup Jongkar. This is where we would stay the night and begin the ride tomorrow.<o:p></o:p>
    We met the rest of the Himalayan Adventure crew, which consisted of <o:p></o:p>
    Karma - the road captain/mechanic who would ride with us<o:p></o:p>
    Nima – the cultural guide and general organiser and fixer.<o:p></o:p>
    Beatle juice – the driver of the backup vehicle carrying all our gear and spares etc.<o:p></o:p>
    We checked into the hotel and had some more beers, chose our steeds for the next week, relaxed, had a bit of a look around and had some more beers.<o:p></o:p>
    At tea Karma was trying to explain the local road rules for us but we were all fairly happy by then and I don’t think any of us were taking much notice. After tea we went for a walk and met some of the locals and were duly impressed with the way they dress up their trucks.
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    #1
  2. Hill Billy

    Hill Billy Part-time Adventurer

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    We woke to a wet morning and got all ready to go.
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    Unfortunately I think only 2 of the 7 bikes would start. So after a frantic half hour or so for Karma, we were on our way.
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    It wasn’t long before we were up in the clouds and the scenery was breathtaking.
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    This is the main highway that pretty much goes from one side of Bhutan to the other.
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    We arrived at some roadworks. There weren’t any signs, just machines in the middle of the road. These people were walking through while this excavator was working and the one up the top was sending rocks flying down among the people.
    The worksafe people in Australia would suffer heart failure if they saw that.
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    After some more spectacular scenery and awesome roads, we arrived at Trashigang, our destination for the night.
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    #2
  3. ata

    ata expat in the jungle

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    in
    :lurk
    #3
  4. Hill Billy

    Hill Billy Part-time Adventurer

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    Bhutan is known as the happy kingdom.
    This might be the reason why
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    This was harvested out the front of the hotel and it grows wild everywhere.
    The local beer is called "Druk 11000" and is 8% and only comes in big bottles, so 1 bottle is the equivelant of 4 or 5 stubbies of midstrength,which is what I normally drink.
    Garry had a couple of beers and sensibly called that enough.
    The rest of us settled in for a big night.
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    We slowly woke to another wet morning and were pleased that we only had to do about 70 km that day
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    We paid for 46 bottles then hit the road.
    First stop was a temple just out of town
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    Bhutan is a Buddhist country and there are temples of all shapes and sizes everywhere.

    This is the village next to the temple
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    I was amused by the roof held on with the rocks, but this turned out to be a fairly common sight.
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    After a quick cultural lesson we were off again for some more fantastic scenery and great roads.
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    This temple was in the middle of the road
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    We had a bit of a wait here because Pete's bike had a bit of a problem that Karma had to rectify.
    I wasn't feeling so good.
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    The rest of the crew were looking a bit ordinary too.
    We carried on and soon we were at our next overnight stop in Mongar in time for a late lunch and more hot beer.
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    #4
  5. EnderTheX

    EnderTheX Dirt Rider

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    Amazing! Looking forward to this! :freaky
    #5
  6. Russ

    Russ Let's ride Super Moderator

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    Subscribed :thumb
    #6
  7. Hill Billy

    Hill Billy Part-time Adventurer

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    There was some building work happening at the hotel where we were staying. I’m sure this type of scaffold is the norm in a lot of places but coming from a highly regulated country like Australia it seemed very primitive to me.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    It obviously works alright though.
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    Actually, in many ways visiting Bhutan seemed like stepping back 50 years or more in time. There was quite a mix of modern and not so modern buildings and just the way the Bhutanese went about some things seemed very old school.<o:p></o:p>
    I guess this is what provided the charm and intrigue of the place.<o:p></o:p>
    It is only quite recently that Bhutan has allowed tourists into the country and as it becomes more popular to tourists, and there is no doubt that it will, it will lose some of what makes it so interesting. With the tourists will come the money which they will use to fix the roads and buy modern machinery to do the jobs that are now done the way we would have done them in the middle of last century.<o:p></o:p>
    Tourism is now their second largest export. The largest is Hydro electricity which is sold to India. Tourism is tightly regulated and you have to travel with a local tour operator. A levy of approx 200 US dollars per day applies to all tourists, except Indians, and is paid as part of the tour cost. So they are looking for quality rather than quantity of tourists. I think we may have been proof of the failure of that policy.<o:p></o:p>
    Less words and more pictures you say. OK<o:p></o:p>
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    We wandered around town and found a modern looking hospital.
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    These things are prayer wheels
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    They are full of paper with chants written on them.<o:p></o:p>
    People spin them as they walk past. They are only spun clockwise as that is the way that the chants are written on them. Prayer wheels come in all sizes from tiny hand held ones up to large ones that you walk around as you spin them.<o:p></o:p>
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    A view of the town
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    Some of the locals.
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    A game of soccer was going on while cows were grazing on the pitch.
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    The towns are full of all sorts of animals, especially dogs, and there’s plenty of live stock on the roads too, mainly cows. <o:p></o:p>
    #7
  8. Hill Billy

    Hill Billy Part-time Adventurer

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    Fuck it
    I just spent ages doing the next bit, clicked on submit, and lost it all
    #8
  9. Watercat

    Watercat . . . gravity sucks

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    . . . . . . but this RR is excellent.

    Waiting patiently for some more.
    #9
  10. Hill Billy

    Hill Billy Part-time Adventurer

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    After a quiet night in Mongar we woke to a dry morning feeling somewhat better than the previous morning.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    We saddled up for a day on the road that would see us travel along the spectacular Namling Cliffs and over the highest motorable pass in the country to finish up in Bumthang.
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    We had seen a few of these along the way. It is a common way for farmers and their families to get around.
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    Some more fantastic roads in varying states of repair. Remember this is the main highway that crosses the country.
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    The Namling Cliffs. Not a sheer drop but pretty close to it.
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    Just to the right of the above photo a bus full of monks fell off the road a few years back. They recovered the bodies, but I don’t think they bothered to recover the bus.<o:p></o:p>
    It’s easy to see how accidents happen here. The road is mostly wide enough for 2 vehicles, but they tend to drive in the middle and when approaching a corner (every couple of hundred metres) you sound your horn to alert oncoming traffic of your presence. This worked OK most of the time but there were still plenty of times when you would be half way around a bend and there would be a truck or bus using up all of the road. Good to test the reflexes, not so good for the heart. There wasn’t a great deal of railing or barrier to stop you from taking the plunge in some places either.
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    Just goofing around waiting for the others to catch up.
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    More road works
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    Unfortunately we arrived here just after they started digging so we were in for a bit of a wait<o:p></o:p>
    The 2 rocks on the road are apparently the equivalent of a road closed sign.
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    Their trucks continued to impress me.
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    As the roadworks progressed we all stood around offering plenty of advice in English which none of them understood. During our time in Bhutan we had managed to learn one word in Bhutanese and of course it was their word for F@#k. This came in handy because the pipe they were lowering into the trench slipped and nearly knocked a couple of guys over the edge, so of course we all shout out the only local word we know, which caused considerable laughter among the locals.
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    They shovelled all this out by hand and pushed it into the trench with the backhoe, and we were mobile again.
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    More in a couple of days.<o:p></o:p>
    #10
  11. philth

    philth www.motorbikin.com.au

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    good stuff!
    #11
  12. Vince_WA

    Vince_WA Rides badly :)

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    Keep it coming Howard - this is a great report and the photos are excellent!
    #12
  13. NICHE

    NICHE EasyRider

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    Hill Billy, So frigging jealous. I rode across Bhutan 5 years ago with a couple of buddys on Royal Enfields. We were inducted into the local motorcycle gang, the Druks. I'll never forget that trip. Savor it.
    This is a short video of 1 night in Bumthang.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8XWlSWLwYY

    Can't wait to read the rest. Reliving it through you man.:thumbup
    #13
  14. Hill Billy

    Hill Billy Part-time Adventurer

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    This is the highest bit of road in the country.
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    Just under 4000 metres above sea level.
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    This is one of those times when it seemed like we were stepping back a few years. There were several of these asphalt plants along the way.<o:p></o:p>
    The fire on the left is amongst the drums of bitumen to heat it up ready for use. The hotmix is layed and spread by hand.
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    A group ADV salute.
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    Some local architecture.
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    A roundabout.
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    The Swiss Guest House. Our accommodation for the night in Bumthang.
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    By now we had educated our guide well enough to phone ahead to ensure a plentiful supply of cold beer. <o:p></o:p>
    This plan worked so were pleased to be able to settle in to one or two coldies.<o:p></o:p>
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    It was a bit chilly that night so I stoked up the fire in the room.<o:p></o:p>
    I’m not so sure about the wisdom of a wood fire in a completely wooden room with no hearth of any sort though.
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    The next morning I got up earlier than the rest so I went off for a bit of a walk. I found that I was having trouble walking up hills without puffing and panting like an old man and thought that all the good living was taking it’s toll on me. Then after a while I realised it was the altitude having an effect on me. I hadn’t noticed any effects until now, but this was the first time I had done anything that resembled exercise. <o:p></o:p>
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    After breakfast we went to the servo for some fuel. This is the fire control system. Buckets of sand! In the corner of the yard there was an enclosure painted red with “fire” painted on it. An inspection revealed it to be full of sand as well.
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    #14
  15. swamp

    swamp U lie&yo'breff stank

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    rock on brother.
    keep it flowing.


    :ear
    #15
  16. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Fantastic! :thumb Looks like a great adventure.
    #16
  17. Tail Gunner

    Tail Gunner Life is Good !!! Enjoy the Ride

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    Great RR . Thanks for sharing it with us. This is another place I need to add to my list of place to go. My mother went here a few years ago.
    Cheers
    Drew
    #17
  18. Hill Billy

    Hill Billy Part-time Adventurer

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    Today would be our longest day on the bikes in Bhutan. 270km to the capital, Thimphu.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    We hadn’t been going long when we came across more roadworks.
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    This time they had a real sign.
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    Being a roadsweeping contractor myself, this amused me more than a little.
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    Another roadside hotmix plant.
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    After about 70 km we arrived at a town called Trongsa.<o:p></o:p>
    Each district has a building called a Dzong. It is a fortress that is used for administrative and religious purposes. This is where the district is governed from. It also houses temples and monasteries.<o:p></o:p>
    This is the Trongsa Dzong. The largest in the country.
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    It was first built in the 1600’s and subsequently added onto until the late 1700’s.
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    There is extensive woodwork but no nails were used in it’s construction.
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    Looking down the valley from the Dzong.
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    The crew. Peter, Steve, Garry, Revel, Howard, & Colin.
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    Nima, our guide, trying to give us a cultural lesson.
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    After lunch it began to rain. Although we had had several wet mornings, they usually cleared up by the time we got moving. But that afternoon it pissed down. Some of the guys weren’t well prepared and got soaked, but I was dry and having a ball. <o:p></o:p>
    I’m not much of a road rider at the best of times, especially when it’s wet but on that day with hundreds of corners and trucks and cars still using all of the road, I was having a fat old time.
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    It soon dried up again and we cruised on to this village where we had a bit of a wait for our road captain to catch up so he could take us into town.
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    Once at our hotel in Thimphu, we got straight down to business.<o:p></o:p>
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    #18
  19. Hill Billy

    Hill Billy Part-time Adventurer

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    I've just realised, this ride report doesn't have many photos with motorcycles in them.
    #19
  20. Tail Gunner

    Tail Gunner Life is Good !!! Enjoy the Ride

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    Your pictures and writing are GREAT. You are exploring a place that not many people have heard of or seen. So keep doing what you are doing. I know I am enjoying it.
    Cheers
    Drew

    #20