I doubt if this is going to be anything like the Himalayan Odyssey. It’s just the first and the last day of the tour that may take a toll on us, due to the heat, otherwise the itinerary looks pretty rider friendly. And if we are lucky, we may spot a Rhino too”. I overheard someone say this at the rider briefing, smiled to myself and wondered how the adventure quotient of a meticulously planned motorcycle tour could go completely underestimated. Politically, people know Nepal as the land of the Buddha and the brave Gurkha warriors, and this was where Royal Enfield took us for their latest ride.
The Tour of Nepal is a journey that is a rider’s paradise in every way that you can imagine. It’s an experience that showcases this landlocked protectorate through sinuous hill trails, vast plains, dense jungles, shadows of some of the highest mountain passes and places of incredible natural beauty. The highlight of this tour was the all-new Himalayan model, which made its debut. The well known Classics and the Thunderbirds, owned by the participants, made for good company. We were just about ten riders in all, and that meant staying together while on the move was not really difficult.
The 16-day itinerary, covering 2200 kilometres, kicked off from the very hot Lucknow, and saw us weaving through the urban chaos that was snarling around upcoming flyovers until we hit NH28. Some lost their way in the bylanes of dusty Gorakhpur, until we regrouped and crossed the Indo-Nepal border into Bhairahawa, our first stop in Nepal. From there on, we bid goodbye to the straight highways and began our ascent towards Pokhara, Jomsom and Kalopani all the way to the highest point of our ride, the Muktinath temple located under the foot of the Thong La pass at, an elevation of 3710 metres.
It was on this stretch that the Himalayan excelled itself. It smothered bad roads and displayed incredible poise all the time, thereby offering a very plush ride. Thanks to its brilliant chassis, a smooth engine and the long travel suspension, off-roading was an absolute delight. The cruisers, on the other hand, required way more control to stay planted on some of the tricky sections, which had loose gravel, fine sand and slush. In a matter of just four days, temperatures plummeted to under 6 degrees, from the 45-degree heat that we had started from. What came as a pleasant surprise was that even at such remote locations, the hotels offered us amenities like hot water, strong WiFi networks and delicious local cuisine.
Despite the tough ride, we were still smiling away at our dinner tables and revelled in the fantastic experiences that the tour had given us this far. Almost all of us had had a fall, but that didn’t stop us from going further with renewed zest. On our way back, we took a dip in the natural hot water springs in Tatopani, which massaged and revived our tired bodies. We also took a day off at both Pokhara and the capital city of Kathmandu. The night clubs, the motorcycle and the trekking gear stores and some souvenir shopping on the streets were the order of the rest days.
Our journey had progressed into the countryside, which was famous for its trekking paths and camping sites. We rode towards the east until we stopped at Kodari, which was about 5 kilometres short of the Tibet border. This place also happened to be amongst the worst affected during the earthquake in 2015. We reached early and found ample time to indulge in the famous swing and bungee jump into the valley below. Next en route was the country’s finest hill station, Nagarkot, which welcomed us with mild thundershowers. Once past the 20 kilometre mud paths, the hill views from here were simply breathtaking.
The tour was coming to an end, but not without taking us through some stunning landscapes and pristine forests that led to the Chitwan National Park. The night before leaving Chitwan, the group mulled over the idea of either doing the optional park safari or proceeding to Bhairahawa. We chose the latter, and after we checked into our hotel rooms, we boarded a van that took us to the Buddha’s birth place, Lumbini. The experience at the sanctum was calming and restorative. The teachings of the Buddha were inscribed on the compound walls, reiterating the importance of truth, harmony and peace.
On the final day, we were back on the national highway and reached Lucknow in a few hours. We celebrated our ride over a group dinner and reminisced over the wonderful time that we had shared as biking aficionados, over 2 weeks. We made new friends, developed better riding skills, changed perceptions about destinations and returned home as a bunch of re-energised individuals. If you were to ask me to pick my favourite among the many tours that RE does in and around India, it would be impossible to choose. I have done three of their tours, back to back, within a year and each one draws me to do them once more; I really don’t think it would be apt to compare them. After all, in keeping with the spirit of travelling, one seeks bliss from nothing more than the journey itself. With RE, it has always been an immersive experience, year after year.