Western Nepal

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Quitou, Feb 3, 2020.

  1. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    It's been a while since we completed this ride, but it's about time we head back to do it again, or at least a variation of this route. Actually, this is a bit of a mash-up of three trips we did last spring. We also have four more trips planned in 2020, most covering roads I know for a fact have never been explored by Western travelers.

    As we do for every ride, we started in Kathmandu. Visiting the 2,000 year old city is a great introduction into Nepal's amazing culture. Not enough people know it, but Nepal is home to the most diverse cultures in the world. There are so many different groups, we lack the full range of words to describe them. There are more than 100 ethnic groups, tribes, social castes, religious factions in the country, speaking 113 unique languages. Not dialects, but unique languages. It's an amazing country. This on top of Mount Everest and incredible wildlife like elephants, rhinos, and Bengal tigers.

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    THIS IS NOT THE MUSTANG VALLEY - The path less traveled
    If you search for motorcycle trips in Nepal, you invariably arrive on trips into the Mustang Valley. I will be the first to admit, the Mustang is amazing, but it's also choked with tourists, stripped of much of Nepal's ancient culture, and it only visits a tiny slice of a rich and diverse country. Plus, the riding kinda sucks due to mass numbers of buses and rental jeeps. For our romps, we head....far west. Our first leg of travel includes a domestic flight to the Karnali Provence, not far from the western border with India.
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    Our first ride always takes us along the edge of the Bardiya National Park, where one of the world's healthiest populations of Bengal Tigers still roam free. It's a gorgeous area with the best roads of the trip. The first day is always amazing as we ride along two of Nepal's most iconic rivers, the untamed Karnali, and massive Bheri River. We met our expedition team at Camp 1 along the banks of the Bheri. This is the start of our expedition into remote Nepal. For the next 12 days we would not see a single tourists, or Western face.
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    ROUGH ROADS and ANCIENT VILLAGES
    Having spent more than 300 days exploring remote Nepal by motorcycle, I doubt there is another westerner with more in-depth experience of the country's hidden gems. On this trip our target destination was a village far off the main roads, high in the hills of the Karnali Sivalik. The roads are often extremely rugged, which makes them all the more fun.

    While the thousands of motorcycle tourists ride in their own self-created traffic jams in the Mustang, we tackled roads so new or remote they don't appear on any maps. Some roads are so new even locals two hills over have no knowledge of where they go. This - is proper adventure riding.


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    More to come!!!
    #1
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  2. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    ROUGH ROADS and ANCIENT VILLAGES

    After a solid 7 hours of riding on extremely rough roads, our group arrived at a hidden village we will just call Jajarkhot Village. This was to be our first deep-dive into Nepal's culture. We had made arrangements with the locals to create a cultural festival for our travelers, and the community at large. Rural peoples in Nepal love any excuse to break out the drums, costumes, and dances. It helps them keep their culture alive and thriving.

    On this day we learned that more than 2,000 people had walked for 3 days to greet us. Just the greeting ceremony alone took an hour! For the next 4 hours our team was treated to dances and ceremonies no other western travelers had ever experienced. This, lucky for me, has become a rather regular occurrence.

    In an interesting twist, two of our team members, who had been dating for a long time, may have been married in a rare and never before documented Pun-Magar wedding ritual. It was quite a show.

    I have to say, if you go on an organized trip in the Mustang, you're likely to spend the entire time elbow-to-elbow with other tourists. Come with me on a trip, and there is no telling what will happen. No, we did not plan for 2,000 people to witness our friends getting married.

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    In our quest to find the real Nepal, our teams always make amazing discoveries. Below this group of Pun-Magar warriors walked for three days to attend this day with their western guests. This culture, once made up of warrior tribes, now retains their old battle skills through dance. Each of these battle shields are over 200 years old, most of them made from Rhino skin harvested from animals killed 200 miles away near India.

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    A FAIR EXCHANGE - HOSPITALITY FOR SAFE DRINKING WATER
    As nice as it is to have our hosts spoil us with song, dance, and drums, we didn't travel this far just to be entertained by the locals. As beautiful and kind as these people are, they suffer horribly with waterborne disease. Only three weeks prior to our arrival, more than 4,000 people fell ill from bouts of severe diarrhea due to unsafe water.

    On every trip, our travelers help us raise funds and portage the gear needed to make a lasting improvement in the lives of our new Nepali friends. To date, we have helped more than 15,000 rural Nepalis acquire the tools to access safe water for the next 5 years. It's a fun exchange and one we are committed to year round in Nepal.

    Below - Our team delivered 48 portable chlorine makers to this remote corner of Nepal. Each destined to be used in a local school or village, and capable of providing safe water for up to 200-300 people. Our local ground team spent the next four months educating people on the operation of the devices.
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    TIME TO RIDE!
    It's always fun to spend a day with our local hosts, but it's equally fun to explore Nepal's secret roads. For the next two days our team traveled east under some of the biggest peaks in the world, and mountains very few western travelers ever see like Sisne Himal.

    More to come!




    #2
  3. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    On this trip, we had a pretty solid ride schedule including 9 full days in the saddle. The first day included nice pavement, at least by Nepal standards, but the days following were all off road. It's great riding.

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    Many people flock to Nepal to ride, and the Royal Enfield Himalayan is a common request. We don't fall into that trap. The Bullet has been the iconic steed of the Himalayas for half a century and was the first vehicle to widely explore the Himalayas. It's our weapon of choice. It's not the fastest. It's not the most comfortable. It doesn't carry much. But we wouldn't ride anything else.

    I just upped to the 500cc Bullet this season. It's far from perfect, but perfect for this country. 2019_1115_10044700.jpg
    That's Annapurna and Annapurna South behind my bike. This is one of our new camping spots for the spring and fall. No better way to wake up than with a cup of Nepali tea and that amazing view. We also saw a red panda near here the day before.

    Some days the riding is easy. Some days a busted bridge, landslide, or collapsed roadway changes the game. Here we spent a solid hour getting 8 bikes up what i would say was a goat path. Not a terribly uncommon situation when in the very remote parts of Nepal.

    Interestingly enough, this is an area of Nepal where the Maoist Rebels once hid out just a few years ago. Even today there are still images of Mao, Stalin, and Lenin painted on bridges and houses.

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    The prize at the end of the goat path...

    During one of our explorations in 2018 we found this amazing village. To keep the location secret, we'll just call it Rukum Village in the district of Rukum. The elders of the village say it's 300 years old with most of the small houses dating back to the original formation of the community. Our host said he is the sixth generation steward of his house. Here we camped in a cornfield, paying the owner and entire community for the use of their land.

    On our first visit my Nepali friend said a pair of snow leopards had been slinking around the perimeter of the village every night.

    Prior to that visit the elders spend long hours deciding when the last westerner had been to their village. Some said, before me, a Swiss man came to their village for a week. They couldn't decide if that was in the 1960s or 1970s. Amazing such places still exist. We're very luck to be able to take our travelers to these places. Some will not live for another generation. See them while you can.

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    This road below is technically - a highway. In many parts of Nepal the government has made deals with either the Chinese or Indians to build new networks of roads throughout the Sivalik hills. These are the "foothills" of the Himalayas. I use the word "foothill" loosely as most of these hills are larger in scale than the Rockies. This road climbed for a steady three hours, and it's just a blip compared to the white peaks behind them.

    This too, is a hidden road not on maps and not known to people outside of this region of Nepal. Even my contacts in the Nepali government were not completely aware of it. And yet....for some reason....the motorcycle tourists keep flocking to the Mustang when thousands of miles of undiscovered roads go un-used. Foolish.

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    More to come!
    #3
  4. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    DRUMS AND ROUGH ROADS

    By day 7 or 8, we started to get a bit closer to more modernized areas of Nepal. Anyone to visit Kathmandu or Pokhara knows these places are somewhat westernized with coffee shops, pizza restaurants, and burger shacks. Just to the west of those places, by only a few hours, the ancient areas of Nepal still survive.

    One of our favorite places to visit is to the north of the former Magar kingdom of Tansen in the Palpa district. Here our friends are always eager to greet us with more celebrations. It's not uncommon for 500-1000 people to show up to welcome us to their village for a big impromptu festival. Below you see one of advrider's mods, Tricepilot (in blue) jamming away with a crowd of Magar tribe onlookers. These dances and drums have been used for 500 years to welcome visitors. This day, was the first day any western traveler had ever witnessed or participated in these celebrations. Ever.

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    We're also happy to report, thanks to our travel teams from this trip and subsequent trips since, more than 4,000 people in this community have access to safe drinking water.

    Below you can see advrider mod, Tricepilot, making friends with more locals. We love that guy. He dove right in and made friends quickly. He embodies the true spirit of adventure motorcycle travel.
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    TIME TO RIDE!
    At this point in the trip, there wasn't much left to do, but bring it home. After a long day on rough roads, our route brought us back to the tourist town of Pokhara. It's a great place to hole up in a nice hotel, take a hot shower, and eat western foods.

    The sad thing is, most people to come to Nepal to ride only ever see the touristy spots like Pokhara and the Mustang Valley. They don't get to bang on a 100 year old drum, witness a tribal wedding ceremony, or even be in it. They don't meet the descendants of ancient Pun Magar warriors, or get to scan the hillsides for snow leopards or red pandas.

    I understand why everyone wants to ride the Mustang. We do it it too quite often. But there is so much more of Nepal. I can't understand why, of all people, adventure riders chose to take the path everyone travels, by the thousands.

    I'm super excited to continue these trips. I'll be on the ground in Nepal in 30 days, for another full season of riding, exploring, and providing drinking water solutions to thousands of people. This time we even have a PBS film crew joining us to see what we do. We're also leading a team of former Special Forces medical personell to remote villages to set up treatment centers. I am also guiding a BBC crew and anthropologist into areas of Nepal few outsiders have ever explored.

    My message to you, my fellow riders is this - The world has not been fully discovered. There are places still beyond the margins of the map. You have choices. You can follow the wheels of thousands of other riders and ride the route everyone else rides, or you can cut a new path. Discover ancient cultures. Eat foods grown on hillsides as they have been for centuries. Sing songs and dance dances that warriors used 500 years ago to steady their nerves. The world awaits.

    I have 120 days of riding ahead of me this year in Nepal. We have more roads to travel that have never been ridden before. If you want to join me, let me know.

    Your's truly...
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    We're really excited for the spring and fall of this year. Our crew of Nepali guys gets better every year. These guys do so much to help us with our drinking water project.

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    If you travel with Royal Enfield bikes, ya gotta have a crack mechanic and a mess of tools! Fortunately, we have both.

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    Have any of you tried REV'IT!'s all new rural farm gear? Or have you ridden the all-new 5000cc water buffalo? :)
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    This is one of my favorite campsites. It's on the shores of a mountain lake with a big white Himalayan peak overhead. A Hindu temple nearby adds to the exotic feel of this spot. This too, is a hidden gem not known to any western travelers. And not all too easy to get to, I might add.
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    We like to put the adventure back in adventure riding. :)
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    More to come....
    #4
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  5. momi20

    momi20 Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Great pictures, but can you post a simple map of the path ?
    Thanks
    #5
  6. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    Sure. Although, this is basically a pencil on paper plot of where we go. After 300+ days of riding in this area, I have not once ever seen a non-Nepali rider, and maybe only one or two other Western travelers in places like Jumla in Karnali.

    Of the handful of western riders I know to go to the western part of Nepal, and I suspect it's probably fewer than 5 a year, if any, all of them stay low along the Indian border. I think the reason is simple. Higher in the foothills, the roads are unmarked, often not complete, and not listed on any maps. You have to navigate by asking locals directions, and this even for our Nepali guides from these areas. Fun travel.

    Yet, by contrast, every year 3,000 riders from all over the world flock to Nepal to ride the same 87 miles of road into the Mustang Valley.

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    #6
  7. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    This is a fun shot. Not many people know how to get to this bridge.
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    #7
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  8. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    I'm excited to head back to Nepal in just ten days. I'm looking forward to another three months of exploration in Nepal. This time to Upper Mustang and several other remote locations.
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    #8
  9. Essbee

    Essbee Been here awhile

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    Jul 10, 2009
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    Location:
    East Coast, South Africa
    Thanks for sharing, such an amazing place!
    #9
  10. MrBob

    MrBob Cisgendered Supporter

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    True adventure riding. Thanks for posting.
    #10
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  11. Comrade Arturo

    Comrade Arturo Veterinario

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    #11
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  12. MusicRider

    MusicRider Adventurer

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    Hey there. Great RR. Is the picture on the bridge going over the Karnali River? Just off of Karnali Hwy?
    #12
  13. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    Wow. I'm always surprised to hear people even know of the Karnali. I've spent tons of time riding in that area over a few years.

    The first bridge shot is of a small bridge just outside Baglung on route to the Mustang. The second, longer, bridge is just around the corner from the famous Kusma bridge, which is a mess now with a bunjee jump operation.
    #13
  14. itinerant wool stash

    itinerant wool stash Inveterate optimist Supporter

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    Upper Mustang you say?

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    :johntm

    Ever since I went there in 2019 I've been itching to go back, and I may have wiled away the odd hour or two looking at satellite images and wondering whether I can get a bike to various places, so I am more than curious what you'll drag in. :dukegirl
    #14
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  15. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    In a few weeks I'll take my 7th trip into the Mustang. We'll be back again in May for the very cool Buddhist Tiji Festival.

    I have to tell you, as much as I love the Mustang, there is much better riding in the west. That's where we travel with most of our organized groups. Since there are no hotels or food services in the entire western third of Nepal we travel with an elaborate basecamp crew. Most of the places we go have NEVER seen a foreign face. Pretty cool, and again, the best riding in Asia in my opinion. But, really difficult to travel there without local knowledge.

    Let me know when you're ready to explore the unexplored Nepal.
    #15
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  16. Hill Climber

    Hill Climber Long timer

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    The mountain in post #8 looks like it could be Machu Pichu (spelling?) translated to "fishtail peak".
    A few of us spent some time hiking around what was then called the "Anapurna Sanctuary" 1989 - 1990. Permits were required at that time too.
    #16
  17. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    You're close! Macchupuchare is the peak and it does mean Fish Tail. Never climbed as it is a sacred mountain as the home of Shiva. Permits are still required to get into that area. And $500 just to get into Upper Mustang.
    #17
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  18. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    It's probably worth mentioning, we use our tours and motorcycles as a means of distributing safe drinking water systems throughout the most rural corners of Nepal. I'm stoked to say our past travelers have delivered vital water equipment to more than 25,000 people. And not the typical fly-by random scattering of water filters. Our approach is long-term, multi-year. We install comprehensive water tanks, hand wash stations, and spend thousands of hours with rural schools teaching safe water habits.

    And we do it all on motorbikes! DSCF6571.jpg

    Our motorcycle tour clients delivered 156 of these portable chlorine makers to VERY remote parts of western Nepal. Each device can produce purified water for up to 200 people for 5 years. Our Nepali staff spent 45 days hiking them into the Himalayas. But our motorcycle riders got them where they needed to go!
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    Some of our past motorcycle riders from the USA helped us build a few of these water installations in rural schools. We have roughly 27 of these burly installations set up in remote Nepal. Most of them serve up to 500 people in the community with purified water.
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    Moto Hero!!

    This is Stuart, a fellow AdvRider member. He raised thousands of dollars for the safe water cause and he alone helped provide safe water for thousands of people in remote Nepal. Pretty rad to raise funds for water equipment, then deliver it to remote villages in the Himalayas BY MOTORCYCLE.

    You can learn more about what we do delivering safe water by motorcycle here: www.cleandrinkadventures.org

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    #18
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