Most memorable Motorcycle Trip – Of Brotherhoods and Perils
- Johnson Shrestha
“It’s not the destination as much as the journey, they say” – Capt. Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean (On Stranger Tides)
While I do not know if the above line was a quote by an actual person; Capt. Jack Sparrow himself, but the sentiment behind it is definitely real and it is even more true in the case of motorcycle road trips as we mostly do it for the thrill of riding the path rather than reaching the destination.
Among countless (actually, pretty countable) motorcycle trips I’ve had, the most memorable one is my trip to Mustang with my friends. A pretty mainstream destination, but one with some of the toughest roads in Nepal.
I spent the journey as a pillion rider as I did not have my license then. While that did not make me much of a rider, I was able to enjoy everything else during my journey – the scenery, photos, videos and everything. Well, a perk being a pillion rider is that you get to travel along the mountain ranges while the guy at the handle focuses on the road. It is one of the few times you get to exclusively enjoy at the back seat!
Our first day was actually quite uneventful. Like all Mustang journeys, ours started from Pokhara too. Our next destination was Tatopani – or it was where we hoped to get that day. We did make it, as somewhere along the way, it started to rain quite heavy. To make matters worse, we had no rain covers and two DSLRs. The downpour went on for over 2 hours, during which we had to side stop at a local tea shop, which was as booked as a flea market.
There were over 100 people huddled close to the large stoves; drinking tea, or the local beverage. All of our destination – Mustang. Our vehicle- motorcycles. Everyone was skeptic of making it to Tatopani – or at least Beni Bazaar. But what was great about these riders, was that everyone wanted to make it and so we formed groups to share the journey together and mitigate the risks. It was a warm sense of brotherhood.
You’re probably familiar with the numerous waterfalls and streams along the way to Mustang, and during monsoon, they overflow, rendering the path unable to cross, even for large vehicles – let alone bikes. And who’d have anticipated such heavy rains during the Dashain Tihar season? But there we were, all of us, caught in a storm – saved by these string of small tea shops, for now.
We waited and waited but…the rain didn’t seem to stop, but it did slow down. Half of the crowd opted to stay huddled in the tea shop for the night as there was no point risking it. The other half of us headed out – at around 6 pm, uncertain about the way, but determined. The rough and slippery road challenged this forged “brotherhood” as eventually we weren’t travelling together as planned. Rather, the rain and the dark setting, made it each man for himself, situation. Very few of us had rain covers and nobody wanted to get wet.
The rough road was slippery and as the only one with a waterproof jacket, I was carrying every one of our mobile phones. I did not know if the jacket was enough protection, but that was not the greatest concern, at all. It was making it across.
After some 2 hours of slipping and sliding in the drizzling rain, we arrived at a spot where a small stream was overflowing like Trishuli itself. There was much hub-hub, and a large crowd of people trying to cross gathered there. I saw that our disbanded brotherhood had come together once again and we were connected with the spirit of helping one another cross the deadly river.
The water levels were up to our waists and so, the bikes had to be ferried across by four people – two on each side pulling. Else, it would not make it. A guy tried getting his XR through single handedly – he fell, but was picked up by others in time. Water got inside his bike’s headlights, and his journey had come to a halt for the night.
A taxi had been washed away downstream – the driver was safe, or so we heard. And a pickup truck was on the edge of the waterfall, stuck between a makeshift log bridge and a large rock – inches away from being washed. Bikers on both sides were helping each other cross, and once they made it across, they helped others. We had a scooter with us, which, 4 men carried above their heads and took it through.
After that deadly crossing, we inched our way along the slippery road. None of the bikers had the courage to speed up, and most of the pillion riders, like me, were walking instead. Around 11 pm we made it to Tatopani and took a cold shower as we were so muddy and dirty.
We couldn’t sleep that night though, as the only lodge we could find had bed bugs. At 6 in the morning, we were on our way. The next stop would be at Jomsom.
Then, the next day, we were off to Muktinath.
We faced many other troubles along the way, altitude, our engines refusing to carry us at the intended speed and so on. But we inched our way there and made it back too.
In retrospect, I do not remember much of the destination. What I do remember is getting sore from sitting for too long and muddling through the flooding river with the spirit of brotherhood.
Because of all that we faced during our trip; we have these stories to tell. The journey is now etched in my memory and it is a story of hardships, some bad luck, and a story of forged brotherhoods – though temporary.
Captain Jack Sparrow was right after all.