Real life Wacky Races

Many of my friends have been worrying for a long time about me travelling to my next destination: Colombia. I suspect that nothing I face could be as hair-raising as last week’s adventure in Nepal; I hired a motorbike for the week.

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Hiring a bike is easy, with plenty of hire shops in Kathmandu. The quality of the bike I hired, a 200 cc road bike, was excellent. The big catch is that you don’t have any vehicle insurance, so any damage to the bike is on you. Given the state of the roads, combined with the crazy driving, that’s a big catch. I’m pleased to report that the bike and I returned undamaged. The reward is that you get to ride through some spectacular scenery.

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First stop was Bandipur, a stunningly well preserved Newari town which has no traffic allowed through its main streets. This makes it peaceful as well as beautiful.

Next stop was Pokhara, a staging town for the Annapurna range of mountains, and somewhere my mother had visited often. I opted not to stay in the town, but used a hotel up in the hills. Good rest was important, given the craziness of what you experience on the roads. It’s perfectly normal for brightly coloured lorries and buses (with or without people on the roof) to overtake each other even when you’re in plain sight, as well as on blind bends.

The crazy driving is perhaps explained by the quality of the instruction received when learning to drive. This clip is what I observed at a driver training center in Kathmandu.

Chitwan was the next destination. It’s in the Terai; the flatlands. Thankfully one of the major pieces of road I had to use was still partly under construction, which meant that it was blocked for anything but motorbikes. The combination of stunning scenery and new road (but without crazy traffic) made for a perfect biking day!

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My hotel in Chitwan, the Sapana Lodge was incredible. Its owner is genuinely committed to socially responsible and sustainable tourism, as well as empowering the local community. This makes for a glorious atmosphere as the staff are very special, even by awesome Nepali hospitality and friendliness standards. Not only is the hotel very well run (you relax the minute you enter) but it also has ‘house elephants’. I had the time of my life taking part in the washing of one of these beautiful creatures. Question is, who was washing who?

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I took a day off the motorbike, and swapped it for another two wheels to have a ride around the villages in the area. It was fascinating to see local life, and as ever I was met with nothing but friendliness.

From Chitwan to Kathmandu should have been a 7 hour ride along a largely disused road, the Tribhuvan Rajpath (the King’s Road). It started off perfectly, with switchback after switchback as I quickly gained altitude.

The road conditions were mixed, at times being mere rocky tracks, and passing through some tiny hamlets.

Unfortunately, as I got to 30 km from Kathmandu, I came to an unpassable obstruction through building work. There had been no warning of it, and no-one had mentioned it when I’d asked for directions. There was no way of getting through.

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The only way round was a detour of over four hours, back-tracking on myself for about 90 mins, then taking a different, more circuitous route. This is a fact of life for many in Nepal, and they deal with it stoically. For me, it just meant another few hours in the saddle. It did make me very grateful indeed to get back to Kathmandu in one piece, grinning from ear to ear at the awesome week I’d had.

34 thoughts on “Real life Wacky Races

  1. Looking good Stu. The quality of roads look the same as London😜😜. You meeting lots of people ?? I’m ok. Thanks for your message. I lost it when I changed phones. X

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    1. Hi Fi, the roads might be bad, but it’s a helluva ride! Yes, meeting loads of people Update from Medellin is on the way soon, but you can all stop worrying – this city rocks! Loads of love to you, S x

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    1. Don’t worry yourself – it will return in South America, of that there’s little doubt! Hoffe bei Euch auch alles gut – freu mich auf die zukuenftigen Treffen in Berlin, wann auch immer! LG, Stuart

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  2. As ever, beautiful photos and an inspirational journal! Both bringing smiles at the end of a long day. You really are living the dream x

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  3. As before your picture’s are amazing. Charles absolutely fascinated with you on the elephant. “It’s a good job he’s tall”.😂.
    Your driving video looked normal, must of had lesson from me. It’s amazing how we all live on this planet so differently.
    Please do take care.
    Karen P. Xxx

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    1. Hehe, the driving here is something that really has to be seen to be believed. Even you would qualify as a good driver here 😉 Promise I’ll take care, worry not. You look after yourselves over there, and try to get Charles to work on that dancing….. x

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  4. Terrific post, Stuart. Hope that darling elephant pic ends up in your living room!
    I suspect your reaction to a four-year detour in the UK woulda been different 😉 What road maps for you use? Combination of Google and local ones?
    Onward and upward!

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    1. Hi J. The elephant has certainly been one of the highlights. Incredible animals. I’ve been using a combination of Google maps, maps.me (an awesome resource, if you don’t have already) and asking the locals. The last one has been least effective, but has led to many nice interactions! Hope all good your end, S

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  5. Beautiful images of a ‘once in a lifetime ‘ road trip. You are very courageous (or reckless)!
    Why was your mother visiting Pokhara on so many occasions?
    Sharon x

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    1. Maybe courageous and reckless?! My mother absolutely loved Nepal, having been introduced to it by my Step-father, who had worked here whilst in the military. She trecked Annapurna several times, including in senior years. Hope all well at your end, X

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  6. Hi Stuart
    Just caught up with this blog, sounds fantastic. I love the idea of house elephants too! Pls keep the missives coming, they brighten the day to day. Cheers… Ian

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  7. Loving your blog. Photos are awesome, views stunning! Elephants majestic. What a wonderful world. Good to see you having such a great time Stuart…

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    1. Hi Deb, thank you! The elephants were an absolute highlight, that’s for sure. The world remains wonderful now that I’m here in Colombia. Updates to follow soon! Hope all good your end, x

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  8. Loving the blogs which – as others have said – leaves us feeling our lives are all the more humdrum.

    We have some good news for your eventual return.

    Take (special) care

    Nick

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  9. Hi Stuart. What a brilliant blog & as everyone says your pics are fantastic! Your sense of adventure leaves me very envious . Trevor & I currently in Nuremburg on route to Czech to meet his new grandchild Loretta. Keep safe & keep up the fab blogs. Luv Sue

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    1. Hi Sue, glad you’re enjoying. It’s not as though you two are without a sense of adventure! Congratulations to Trevor on the new arrival, and to you too of course. Lots of love, Stuart x

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