Overland to Nepal:
After years of doubt and months of preparation Marcel and I leave at the end of 2008 on the motorbike from Holland to Nepal. We travel without travel organization and our final destination is Kathmandu.
We drive fast through Europe, Holland, Germany and Austria, and in Hungary we admire the beautiful Budapest, where theDonauRiver the town split into 2 pieces. Buda on the right bank and Pest on the left. We stop at the "Heroes Square" monument and are attacked by Chinese tourists who aOverland dmire our motorbikes and our route to Nepal.
In Romania we drive thru the Carpathians mountains into Bucharest and are surprised about the big difference between poor and rich. Here you find a horse and wagon alongside BMW and Audi. In Bulgaria we enjoy the good road thru the Balkan mountains and before we know, we are at the border of Turkey. Here we begin to feel the real adventure. Or in StarTrek terms:
"to boldly go where no motor bike has gone before".
On the highway to Istanbul my clutch no longer works and I leave the motor in 6th gear quietly roll until full stop. After consultation BMW Holland, we are driving to BMW Istanbul, where after examining, the clutch cylinder is replaced. After a good night's sleep, we visit the Blue Mosque, thé tourist attraction of Istanbul. This mosque from 1616 is different from the normal mosque because of the 6 minarets (prayer towers). This is because the architect had understood that the sultan did ask for Alti (six) towers instead of Altin (gold) towers. The story is that after this, in Mecca the holy Al-Masjid al-Haram Mosque did built a 7th minaret.When we leave Istanbul by crossing the Bosphorus ocean strait, we say farewell to the European continent and travel in to the Asia continent.
Through Ankara, the former residence of Mustafa Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey - we drive to Cappadocia. Here is the landscape formed by limestone and tuff cones, caused by eruptions of the volcano-Dagi. Many of these tuff cones have served until 1950 as a cave living, but are now protected by the UNESCO world heritage. After Cappadocia, we are in eastern Turkey, where you regularly see beautiful collared lunar landscapes. We drive throughMalatya to the province Tunceli, where at the end of 2007 were still fighting between Kurdish rebels and the army. We are reminded by a military checkpoint where we are questioned for an hour. The atmosphere is friendly with a nice cup of tea. We even get an overview of their guns and aexplanation about the operation of a Browning pistol. After a number of lovely small mountain passes through the Munzur mountains, we are back on the highway to Erzurum. To our great surprise, there is a speed control and we get a fine because we drove 100 km.p.o. Apparently the maximum speed for a motorbike in Turkey is always 70 km.p.o. We drink a cup of tea with the police and stay in Erzurumwhere we park our engines inside the hotel next to a fire stove. Our last day in Turkey is a small trip to the border village Dogubayazit. However, I pop in a deep hole and my top case spontaneously degrades. With tension bands and duck tape, we close the gaps, and we continue our travel. Dogubayazit lies at the foot of the highest mountain in Turkey, MountArat (5,137 mtr) and is the place where the legendary Ark of Noah is built. There is even a Noah Ark Visitors Centre on top of a mountain. When I arrive after a half hours driving over unpaved road on the top of the mountain, the centre appears to been closed for years. The view is great and with some imagination, you can see a kind of impression of the Ark in the Valley.
The crossing to Iran is time consuming. After at least 20 stamps and signatures and after more than 2 hours we arrive in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The next hurdle is the exchange of money, which at the border only can be done on the street. Once we have the money, we get to the hurdle of fuel, only possible with the correct fuel pas. Fortunately, we are helped by a friendly Iranian who is sharing his fuel pas. We stay in Tabriz, capital of the province of East Azerbaijan. In many places you see posters of soldiers who were killed in the war with Iraq and, of course, there are still pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini. In the pouring rain we drive through Sanandaj to Hamadan and even take a detour of 200 km because of snow on a mountain pas. The roads are getting worse and the traffic rules are slowly but surely beginning to disappear completely. Here is just the law of the strongest (the largest).
What is very striking in Iran, is the enormous friendliness of the Iranian citizens. A good example is the store where we did arrive wet from the rain and asked for a cup of tea. The man has no tea, but is starting boiling water immediately and invites us to sit behind the counter by the stove. Meanwhile the shop runs full of Iranezen who want to know all about our trip.
Unfortunately, there is also such a thing as a secret service, which is clearly less friendly. In the small town of Tiran our passports are taken by the local police, and we are interrogated by two agents in citizen clothes. After one hour we are happy to leave Tiran. We sniff some culture in the capital Esfahan on the Imam Square, which is the second largest square in the world. At the Imam square, we visited two famous mosques: the Masjid-i-Shah, which is lined with colorful tiles, and the Masjid-i-Sheikh Lutfullah, a mosque with a large blue dome.
After Esfahan we drive on the highlands of Iran or the so called Iranian plateau to Yazd. This plateau is extremely wide, empty and abandoned. The only thing you see is sand, sand, and sand with occasional a old ford. Yazd is famous for its narrow alleyways and underground waterways for water from the mountains to the city. Next stop is the city Bam, where the unsafe opium territory begins. When we make a fuel stop the first man we see ask us if we want to swap cigars against opium. Welcome to the wild, wild, east!
In 2003 there was a major earthquake in Bam, where 30,000 people have died and half the town is destroyed. Even now we still see destroyed buildings. We park our engines in the lobby of a hotel on the marble floor. The hotel has 200 rooms and after we checked in, there are 5 rooms full. If we want to leave the next day, the hotel has arranged a police escort that will accompany us thru the opium area. Four armed men in uniform in the back of a pick-up guide us over 200 km through the desert. Then we are again allowed to travel alone and passing beautiful landscapes and regular some wild camels. Near the Pakistani border, we see at a military checkpoint 100 men behind a gate in the sun. They call for cigarettes and water and we understand that they are Afghan refugees. We extra realize that the coming days, we will travel close to a war zone.
The crossing to Pakistan takes just as the Iranian border, about 2 hours and looks very old fashion. A few wooden houses disorganized together, where our entry is written in a big import / export book. Since it gets dark we decide to sleep in the border town called Taftan. We sleep in an unmade bed with a bathroom that is equal to an open sewer. The curtain in the bedroom waves up and down by the rats that crawl around. The hotel owner will sleep tonight next to our bikes, so they are not stolen. We really feel to be ended up in a ghetto. At sunrise we get on the motorbike and are driving with a happy feeling tight to the emerging sun in the east.
At the same time we drive close to the Afghan border and feel the war tension at every stop. Respect for our men and women in Afghanistan. Petrol stations you will not see here in West Pakistan. Here fuel is sucked into measuring cups and those cups are emptied in the motorbike. If you're lucky they use a cloth as a filter. The road is clearly not being maintained for many years, and we regularly travel thru unpaved and single roads. The only traffic you occasionally see are beautifully collared trucks, but they see motorbikes only as moving targets. Regularly we have to dive in the road shoulder for survival. The nature is impressive empty. We drive through gravel and sand deserts where you literally can look to the horizon. Eventually we found around 19:00 in the dark a hotel in Quetta. This city is known as a base to Afghanistan, for both the UN and the Taliban. We are therefore in a hotel which is heavily guarded and decide to stay in the hotel.
We are getting really afraid when we are told that the Taliban has serious plans to kidnap us on the next day. The chief protections of the hotel - a former major in the army - gives us his cell phone number and signs a safe route on paper. The next day is off course an very exciting day. We drive again on empty pieces of desert, but now we see in every group of people also weapons. Fortunately nothing happened and around noon we forget the kidnap threat. The next challenge is 65 km unpaved road, where we regularly drive in loose dessert sand.. We both fall once with the motor but at twilight we reach unharmed the inhabited world. At a police station, just prior to the IndusRiver, we are told that the kidnap threat is not over. The police don’t want to risk anything and order us to travel further to Multan. This means that we have to drive more than 4 hours in the dark. This is perhaps even more dangerous than meeting the Taliban. We have no choice and after a total of 15 (!) Hours we arrive exhausted in Multan. An unforgettable day! The next morning, the police escort already arrived before breakfast, ready for the next journey. This day however is only Highway and we therefore easily reach the last town in Pakistan: Lahore.
On the border to India there is a daily play, where soldiers of Pakistan and India try to impress the other soldiers using noise and public show.
I unfortunately missed this presentation because it starts at 16:00. I drive into the immensely busy India and try to reach the GoldenTemple in Amritsar. With my motorbike I am swallowed up by thousands of pilgrims who walked to the holy Sikh temple. The people love it and call all friendly, but at a given moment there is really no more space to drive. Even the reverse in the crowd takes over 5 minutes. I flight out of the busy town and take a hotel just beforeLudhiana. The morning begins at 5:00 with fireworks and loud Bhajan music which Sikhs use to worship their gods. Next to my bike there is a beautiful Royal Enfield, the engine pride of India. Unfortunately, the owner can not speak English, so it remains in hand shaking. The roads are reasonable, but the traffic is really madness. It also has distinctly different standards about basic hygiene. I see someone vomiting out of the window of a bus and the vomit is just missing a biker behind the bus.
The roads through the foothills of the Himalayas are pretty impressive. Frequently there are large groups of monkeys along the road and there are large bridges over dry river beds. Unfortunately you can also see in this river beds that child labor over here is very normal. Large blocks from the river are minced in to small blocks by children with hammers.
I drive through Dehra Dun and Haldwani and see thousands of pilgrims in the holy waters of the river Gangus. My route is tight between the Indus-Gangus plain to the south and the Himalaya Mountains on the north side.
The crossing into Nepal is beautiful. One minute you're still in the busy and hectic India and half hours later you get in the peaceful Nepal. The border is nothing more than a bridge and a few huts on a unpaved road. Even the customs officials are happy to do their work. I drive 200 km to the BardiaNational Park and see today total maximum 5 cars. The last 15 km in the park are unpaved including a river of 30 meters, with off course no bridge. Fortunately, the engine is water-proof. I am the only guest in the hotel witch is consisting of 3 houses without hot water or electricity. There is a nice campfire and I talk until late in the evening with 5 Nepalese, while in the background we hear elephants blowing the trumpet. Brilliant!
After pancakes and a fried egg for breakfast, the goal is today Pokhara. With snowy peaks in the background I first drive to the east and then I dive into theHimalayas. I enjoy the countless curves and stunning vistas. This road also makes that I drive very slow, so when twilight comes, I am still in the mountains. I see a bike rider with a thick coat leaving a small village and I guess that he will go to Pokhara. In the dark I try to be as close as possible behind him and after a hour's drive I found with no problems a hotel in Pokhara. After I got a few photos of the Annapura mountains I follow my way to Kathmandu. The road is again beautiful thru the Himalayan mountains, and I notice that I can not stop making photos. Just for Kathmandu, the road is closed because of a accident with 2 buses. One of the drivers is dead, and I realize that I have to be careful again in the busy traffic of Kathmandu. Without any further problems, I drive to the Thamel tourist district and find a great hotel. After weeks of almost seeing no Westerner people, Kathmandu is suddenly very Western. I drink delicious cappuccino and even eat a hamburger with fries. The next day I book my flight back and contact an export-agent that will fly back the motorbike. Once I arrive next day at the export-agent, there are 15 men ready to start working with my bike. Within 3 hours, a wooden box for the bike is custom made. and they are lifting the box by hand on a truck. A few minutes later I see the box go to the airport and my motor trip is over.
It was a great adventure and a dream come true.
Movies from this travel: Click here.
A message in our guestbook: Click here.
Like more information send a mail: Click here.