Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Everest Expedition

After 5 months on the road I was due for a break and Kathmandu was a interesting place to hang out for a while. It just so happened to be the ideal time to be in Nepal and explore the Himalaya's, the weather being crisp and clear in the hills following the monsoon season. So the plan was to ditch the bike and go for a hike.

The only downside to this was my travel buddies for the last 2 months would be continuing and leaving me behind. It was sad to see them off as we had had a terrific time together since we joined forces in Kyrgyzstan. The other not so good thing with this plan was that a later crossing of Thailand could be a risky proposition as the government are proposing to make changes to the policy regarding foreign vehicle entry which means a compulsory guide will be required, likely with a very high price tag and no freedom of movement. Not good news at all. But I knew I would regret not having a peak up close at the biggest mountains on earth, it had to be done.

I had done no research or preparation for a hike in Nepal, I was unsure of where I should spend some time, until I just happened to bump into a work colleague from NZ on the busy streets of Kathmandu. Mark who had just finished a trek gave me some useful pointers and the decision was made to head for the Three Passes Route and Everest base camp, roughly a three week hike taking in the best of the Everest region.

I had three options to get to the trail, most people fly into the mountain air strip at Lukla and go from there, It's a busy place with many hundreds of people coming in mainly in guided groups. A few hardy individuals hike an extra 5 days to get to Lukla after being dropped off at the trail head in Jiri by jeep. Mark had mention that they had seen jeeps part way into Lukla so with that info and with a motorbike at my disposal I took a rather unconventional approach to base camp and rode as far as possible on jeep trails.

With the weather being perfect I was rewarded with incredible views of the big peaks

Last day with the lads in our roof top "penthouse" room in Kathmandu

there's lots of temples and stuff like that in Kathmandu....I found this bike wreckers more interesting!!

Monkey's watching us have lunch

About 2 days of riding from Kathmandu to the hiking trail, this is when I love the to see some beautiful  places a bit off the beaten path that not many foreigners see

The kids love the bike

I stayed here the night in a very small village with Grandma, and her extended family. They run a small goods store, the hospitality was incredible. The people give so much and they have very little.

Puncture number 1 on the route to base camp

Puncture number 2 on the way to base camp
At the time of the second puncture and I was also told that the route was not possible....this time the GPS was right and it delivered a full day of very remote and interesting roads

the further in and things were getting rough, and......

Eventually I found the point where only four legged transporters could continue

The Friendly owners at the Taksindu  lodge who allowed me to store the bike on there property while out hiking, don't think they had seen to many foreign bikers in here!

Part way in and a acclimatisation walk up to the Hillary memorials above Namche. Reaching heights of 5500 meters you have to go up slow or risk altitude sickness.

Everest base camp is a very popular hike, Yaks are used to get products in to meet the consumer demands

On the Three Passes hike with Virgine from Belgium

At one point we had to cross a glacier, no crampons and a slight incline made for slow going....socks over the boots added a surprising amount of traction to get us up and over the small rise!!

A shit shed!!! with no wood dried Yak crap is burnt for heating

There used to be a massive glacier here not too long ago! Now it looks a bit like a mine site!!

Incredible weather every day and incredible views

I was lucky to have the company of a couple of lovely ladies, Virgine and Silke

A very humble man, our host for a night Phurba Sherpa has summited Everest 10 times!!!!

The BIG one, Everest in the centre, Lhotse to the right

Thursday, November 3, 2016

High roads on the Himilaya

With the bike back up and running after repairing the spark plug threads I was stoked to be heading for Tajikistan and the fabled Pamir Highway and Bartang valleys. These are the places that have been on the to do list ever since researching a trip through central Asia. To keep it short it did not disappoint, this area contained some of the best riding I've ever done.

With the loop through Tajikistan complete it was time to head east in Kyrgyzstan to meet up with fellow riders Toon, Will, and Los whom I'd organized through horizons unlimited to meet and share the high cost of the compulsory tour through China. We had a 4 day tour that would basically just transit us through to Pakistan as cheaply as possible.

China proved to be not that enjoyable for us, lots of time mucking about getting paper work and baggage checked and not much time riding. We had to contend with stupid rules such as not allowing motorbikes to enter gas stations to be refuelled, instead we had to transport the fuel to the bikes in large tea pots!! 

The reward was the Karakorum Highway in Pakistan which is simply surrounded by stunning mountains. However the road is now fairly well maintained and not as challenging as it once was. the mountains and people of Pakistan was a real enjoyable experience and it was a shame not to have had more time here.

Our first taste of congested city traffic came in Lahore and was a good warm up for the craziness of the Indian traffic.  The Wagah crossing from Pakistan to India went without incident, although the changing of the guard ceremonies were cancelled due to the recent increase in fighting between the two countries in the Kashmir region.

In India we headed for Leh and the worlds highest motorable road, the traffic and windy roads making our progress predictions no where near close, the ride took 3 times as long as we had thought. But it was well and truly worth it...another incredible ride here.

In Osh, Kyrgyzstan, I got some help to make a adapter to allow the standard M10 plug to Thread into the new M12 thread in the head. Used a cut down M12 plug to make the adapter, worked out pretty good.

The M10 plug with the M12 adapter

heading for the Pamir Highway, acclimatization camp at 2800 meters

The Pamir mountains and Tajikistan in the distance

Bumped into a couple of Kiwi bikers up on the Pamir, unfortunately some bike problems on the KLR 

Heading down the Wakan valley, over the river is Afghanistan.

One of my favourite rides....the Bartang valley in Tajikistan. 270 km of remote roads, great stuff.

The Bartang river is often over the road, I had an easy ride with the river being low

riding late into the evening, enjoying some beautiful sights

Spent the night here with some friendly locals, arrived in the dark and woke to some great views

It was a public holiday and early in the morning the evenings feast was being prepared

Climbing up out of the upper Bartang valley

Fast riding back up at 4000 meters in the Pamir mountains

In Kyrgyzstan I meet up with Toon, Los, and will for the trip through China

The band of 650's heading for Torugart Pass and China

The road between Kashgar and the Pakistan border

In Pakistan the trucks are like no others!!

Leaving China and Entering Pakistan  at Khunjerab Pass

Happy to be out of China!!!! Toon from the Netherlands on the left and Will and Los to the right from the UK

The Karakorum highway was a highlight, spectacular scenery. 

cruising on the Karakorum Highway

One of the coolest bridges I've ridden...the approach was through the tunnel seen in the back ground

Ferry Meadows Road in Pakistan. It features on the "dangerous roads dot org" website and is well worthy of being ranked near the fact it's the most scarcest road I've ridden yet with massive vertical drops off the side of a narrow, steep and rough carriage way. Bloody awesome!!

Almost as scary as the fairy Meadows ride was getting shaved!!

In Pakistan the people are friendly, the kids curious.

Sampling some roadside sugarcane , shortly after entering India

The First Royal Enfield shop we pass and we call in for a closer look at the bikes and the staff are very welcoming

Great landscapes on road to Leh, Kashmir

Pushing on to Pang and passing a 5000 meter pass in the dark, good fun on the rough road

A lot of time up at 4000 meters on the Manali to Leh road

We had to go here...the highest motorable road in the world, just up beyond Leh

Royal Enfield Bullet 500, like these bikes

The Far north of Kashmir, the Chinese border is just to the north and the disputed line of control with Pakistan a little way to the west....this is as far as you can go in Northern India

Incredible geography on the road to Leh

Playing about with our Indian friends on the Manali to Leh highway

The rough roads take there toll on the many trucks on the route, this one is slowly blending into the surroundings

We passed through many hill top villages in the mountainous Himachal Pradesh region of India, and were often the centre of attention

The staff at Aahana wilderness retreat near the Corbet National Park gave us an amazing send off. We spent two nights here after the owner decided to host us at no cost! The resort is high end, we ate like kings and we were treated like celebrities, we hung out and dined with the owner most of the time who was keen to hear about our travels.

Toon having some fun in the mud in Nepal

Checking out some of the many temples in the city of Kathmandu