**Warning: This post contains references to poop and motorcycles! If either of these things make you nauseous, turn back now!**
After eight days in country in Nepal, I flew to a small city northwest of Kathmandu. The beautiful city of Pokhara finally gave me a glimpse of the front range of the Himalayas, which had hidden themselves under smog the whole time I was in Kathmandu Valley.
My hotel room was on the corner of the building, with a beautiful view of the lake from the front window, and a balcony on the side that opened to a view of the mountains.
At this point in my journey I had become very ill (see previous post for details) so by the time I got to the hotel, all I could do was sleep. After a three-hour nap I decided I had to at least take a walk in the sunshine and get some pictures of the lake. I was so weak by that point that I walked very slowly, sipping an electrolyte mixture in my water bottle. Even carrying the camera around my neck took effort I wasn’t sure I could spare.
I had planned to attend a three-day event at a yoga retreat center while I was there in Pokhara, but there was only one more day of sunshine in the forecast before the rains started. I figured yoga was an indoor activity anyway, so I had a day or two to explore and was determined to make the most of my time while the weather was good.
I’m not sure why I was so optimistic at this point. It was probably the dehydration.
I had been sick for an entire week, despite taking medicine from the pharmacy for what I thought was traveler’s diarrhea. I should have known at that point that the yoga center was no longer in the cards. If I even tried to stretch it was goodbye electrolyte water.
So this next part is where all you mom-types might start shaking your finger at me. I’m a mom too – so you don’t have to say it.
However, in my defense, those of you who know me or who have been reading here for some time understand my penchant for motorcycle riding – particularly in foreign countries.
In fact, I had just finished writing Book 1 in a series called Steel Journeys, about a woman who owns an all-female, global motorcycle touring company, which is due out later this year. More on that in this post here!
Anyway, I decided to cut my walk along the water short, because I was pretty far from the hotel, and I wanted to make sure I had the energy to get back. I drifted toward the first side alley that led back to the main road and saw a beautiful Royal Enfield parked next to a building, so I took a picture of it.
The Royal Enfield is a British-made bike that has long been a favorite of mine for its vintage lines and quintessential motorcycle vibe. In fact it was my one not-so-secret desires to rent one of these bikes and do a little touring once I got outside the craziness of Kathmandu.
To my delight a little farther up the alleyway was a shop chock full of Royal Enfields and a sign that said Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Tours.
What are the odds that the one alleyway I picked to walk down just happened to contain the shop of my dreams?!
It got better. The owner, Matt, was Australian. Someone in Nepal who spoke English and takes people on tours on Royal Enfields? Was I delirious from lack of food and water?
I talked to Matt for a while and although he usually runs multi-day tours, he was willing to rent me a bike with a guide to take me on an all-day tour of the surrounding countryside.This was everything I had hoped for and more.
Since Nepal has a decided lack of both street signs and traffic rules (as well as very few paved roads) I had resigned myself to the fact that I probably wouldn’t be riding there, but this was a game-changer.
This opportunity checked all the boxes, and felt like a gift that I couldn’t turn down! There happened to be a bike and a guide available on either of the next two days, only one of which was going to have decent weather. Of course, there was only one problem: I hadn’t kept any real food down in several days. You’ve probably already figured out what happened next.
Does anyone remember the commercial where the woman is on some kind of a tour and gets hit with diarrhea then she comes out of the bathroom smiling and it’s an ad for Imodium? I’m pretty sure I dreamed about that commercial as I drifted off to sleep that night. I knew I could sit the bike and operate it, it was all that vibration and jiggling that had me worried, but I figured if I could just get through the ride without losing my shit (literally) this was the chance of a lifetime. I would likely never be back in this particular part of the world, and this was an experience I desperately did not want to miss.
After a good night’s sleep and two Imodium I decided to give it a try. Bad decision? Perhaps, but logic was fuzzy at this point in my trip.
I’m used to a Harley, and while this looked like a standard street bike, it turns out the Royal Enfield’s suspension can take a beating on par with a BMW dual sport. Had I known what the terrain would be like ahead of time I honestly might have begged off the trip, but Matt assured me that the roads were fine and there were only a couple of parts with “just a wee bit of gravel”.
Note to self ** A wee bit of gravel is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
Up until this point I’d never ridden a dirt bike, and this eight-hour long ride turned out to be about 70% off-road. Steep ascents over rock-covered, deeply-rutted terrain, and hairpin turns on cliff faces with no shoulder and no guard rails was just the beginning. There were also multiple steep grade descents filled with deep sand, at which point I had both feet out as the back tire fishtailed, just trying to keep it upright and not go over the side of the cliff. I spent of lot of the time balancing power with severe terrain, just trying to stay upright, and was up on the pegs for at least half the ride to keep my guts from being jarred completely loose.
Then came the suspension bridge that was barely wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. You know, the kind you see in movies where stunt men make it look easy?
I must have blocked out the part of the pre-ride brief when Matt mentioned the “little suspension bridge which is really nice”. Of course I ended up having to ride it because – well, how else are you going to get across the river? I asked my guide, Rajan (whose nickname was Mama) to take a pre-death selfie with me just prior to the crossing, so here’s me and Mama:
**Important note: Yes those are groups of people walking. There are ALWAYS people walking across that bridge so there’s no way to “wait for traffic to clear”.
You just have to honk at them, they lean WAY over those sketchy netted sides, and you squeeze by them. It was, in a word, terrifying. I’m still not sure how I got up the gumption to cross that thing on a motorcycle that I had only familiarized my self with a couple of hours prior, but I blame it on dehydration and the inability to make sound decisions in my pre-death state. This is the video Mama took of me crossing the bridge:
When we stopped for lunch (which I didn’t eat) I found out just how much trouble my body was in, because my pee was the color of a nice strong cup of earl gray tea. The nurse in me realized that my kidneys were definitely not happy, but by then we were literally in the middle of nowhere.
The only way back was to ride back, so I rallied, partly because I absolutely hate the thought of anything beating me (even death) and partly because…well, what the hell else was I going to do?
I can’t tell you much about what happened the rest of the trip, except to say that after feeling very proud of myself for having survived the rough ride getting there, the hardest, most technical riding ended up being AFTER lunch. I just focused all my energy and attention on getting back in one piece, but we did stop for a few pictures.
When we finally arrived back at Hearts and Tears I was both exhilarated and ready to pass out. The next day I was hospitalized and found out I had an intestinal parasite as well as needing emergent gall bladder surgery, but you can read that part of the story in my previous post.
This may be the most fun and challenging thing I have ever done on a motorcycle. There were several times I thought about my Go Pro (especially in the treacherous parts where I thought “no one is ever going to believe this”) but the quality would have been terribly it was so bumpy! I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it!
Stay Adventurous Friends!
PS – Interested in reading more about women and motorcycle adventures?
Check out my new women’s adventure book series Steel Journeys – you can read more about the series in this blog post.