Daydreaming with words such as: the Silk Route, the Himalaya (the roof of the world), the Mount Everest, Nepal and Kathmandu, who does not know that feeling. Add the motorcycle feeling and the adventure of a unpredictable journey, through a non tourist area, and my dream comes true.
My first serious step was a subscription for an organized tour with a Royal Enfield motorcycle, overland from India back to the Netherlands. Unfortunately this tour was cancelled because of customs problems. Shortly thereafter I subscribed again for a new organized tour: This time with my own motorcycle, starting in the Netherlands going overland to Nepal. Sadly enough, also this tour was cancelled, this time because there were only 2 subscribers. The 2nd subscriber was Marcel, and after a first meeting we decided to make the tour anyway, if necessary without an organization.
First we made a rough route using roadmaps, guidebooks and Google Maps. The total came to roughly 12,500 kilometres. We considered flying back from New Delhi in India because there was a direct flight from Delhi to the Netherlands. Later we adjusted this because flying from Kathmandu seems to be much easier concerning the customs clearance.
During the planning, it was soon clear that the roads on our journey would not be always smooth and perfect, so the choice of a allroad motorcycle was obvious. Marcel was already in possession of a BMW R1200GS and I did swap my BMW R1200RT with the R1200GS from my wife. (Thanks love)
Preparations of the motorcycle consist mainly of a complete technical check-up, new tires and some good cases.
Since not only the roads, but also the hygiene and health conditions will not always be perfect, we get a list of syringes and pills: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Yellow Fever, Tetanus, Malaria, Rabies and Typhoid are recommended. We take them all, except Rabies arguing that we always wear large motorcycle boots.
For the border crossings, we need 5 visas and a Carnet de Passage. The visas are arranged by The Visumshop in The Hague and the Carnet de Passage is provided by ADAC in Germany.
Security is perhaps the most discussed topic during our preparation. In eastern Turkey the Kurds are fighting in the mountains, In Iran the government is thinking about a war with Israel or America, in Pakistan dozens of people are killed daily at the border of Afghanistan and in India there are recently a number of bombs exploded. After months of following the daily news at Google and some intensive contact with a number of embassies, 6 weeks before departure we decided to just go. The embassies of Iran and Pakistan did promise if necessary to give police and / or military assistance, (see video) and above all, we read everywhere that especially in these countries the hospitality will be great. We decide to go, with the agreement that if the situation would become unsafe, we always can turn around or fly back.
Last item of the preparation is off course luggage. Below a list of the most important items:
3 motorcycle pants
1 all-weather pants
1 motorcycle jacket
2 Buff kolletjes
3 pairs of gloves (We drive through 35 degrees of frost)
1 vest / windstopper
4 long sleeve shirts (in Pakistan and Iran long sleeve appreciated)
Carnet de Passage
Ring Antenna (alarm)
Electronic fuel pump
Tire repair kit
Chain with lock
Jerrycan for gasoline
Tantum / tijgerbalsum
First aid kit
Bag / headlamp
This diary is computer translated. If you prefer reading the handwritten travelreport click here.|
The Carnet is arrived, the Visas are almost ready and the countdown has begun ....
It seems we are ready. Carnet de Passage is in the house, the visa will be sent early next week. The motorbikes are ready to go and all accessories are mounted. Last Wednesday Marcel had his last injections and last Thursday he had a wonderful farewell celebration at ProRail.
Only 3 more nights ...... The visas arrived yesterday and my motorbike is now completely finished. New tankbag, new oil, new tires, new brake pads, even new clutch plates, so the technique is 100% up to date. Despite the months / years of preparation I am getting a bit nervous, or call it a healthy tension.
We are ready to go, tomorrow begins the great adventure. With brutal force everything is fitted in the cases and at the last minute my headlight breaks down. After replacing the headlight alse the throttle cable breaks ........ All problems are now fixed so we are ready to go. Tomorrow morning first a cup of coffee and then we will try to make it to Regensburg, Germany. As this is our last day at home, we would like to thank everyone who has responded already. Thanks for the sympathy and all tips and advice. Of course it is also very nice to read responses in our guestbook during our trip, so please lets hear from you.
At last! We are moving !!!! This morning at approximately 10:00am departure from Tiel after a somewhat restless night. We had the whole day a perfect drive, despite a short traffic jam. It was very cold, so the thick gloves are already out of the case! We ended our day in a tight Etap hotel in Regensburg. Our goal for the first day is easily achieved......
After half an hour with dense fog, the rest of the day we had wonderful sunshine. After 650 km we arrived in beautiful Budapest and tomorrow we will be heading to Romania. Greetings from Joop and Marcel.
After a good breakfast, we met with five Chinese(Joop)/Japanese(Marcel) tourists who desperately wanted with us on a photo. After a 10 minutes photo shoot, we left Budapest with 150 km dull highway. After the border crossing with Romania everything has changed! POVERTY everywhere. The first half hour avoiding large potholes and then enjoying the Carpathian Mountains: Super! Here horse and buggy and crossing cows are quite normal. We are now back in a big city (Cluj-Napoca), where horses are exchanged for Porsche and Audi. Tomorrow we drive through the Carpathians and hope to reach Bucharest at the end of the day.
A long day riding from 9 am until about 19.00 pm! Long and tiring but also a WONDERFUL day! Asphalt as a billiard table, and many beautiful roads through the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. It looks a bit like the German Eifel region, but without trees. At 19:00 we arrived in Bucharest. Here we have not seen a lot, and our hotel is not in the best neighborhood, so I guess we also will not see much tonight.
Today again a long day but we are already in Edirne - Turkey. A friendly place just across the border. Today many nice turns in the Carpathian and good roads. This afternoon we did get a warm welcome and free coffee from some very hospitable people in Bulgaria. In the dark we crossed the Turkish border with a lot of hassle with checks and stamps. Now it is already late so we are going to look for some food.
Well, what shall we say, not really a rest day. After 200 km highway the clutch of Joop breaks down and 100 km later the oil light of Marcel is lighting up. With a Pumping clutch and regular oil checking we drive through busy chaotic Istanbul, a great challenge ... At the end of the day we find a BMW dealer on our route. They will order some spareparts and tomorrow they hope to solve our problems. We are looking hours for an available hotel (all hotels are full) and finaly at 22:00 we end our day.
Today some local culture, visiting the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi palace. After some nice Kebab we drive in the afternoon back to the BMW dealer. Joop gets a new clutch cylinder and Marcel gets some new oil and a complete checkup with the diagnostic computer. Hopefully we are on the road again tomorrow. Let's hope this will be the last technical problems.
First of all great fun to read that everyone reacts in our guestbook. Every time we have Internet, we look forward to read all the new entrys.
What we have not mentioned yesterday is that we did change hotels. In the morning we were asked to change hotel because the rooms were double booked. Shit happens. Today we drove nicely through the mountains over some highways to Ankara. The most important was our test of the clutch and oil and luckily everything went well. Tomorrow is our goal Cappadocia with a day of rest. Greetings from the boys in Turkey.
Here we are again. Today, a ride from Ankara to Nevsehir in Cappadocia. A beautiful two-lane road through the mountains where our Beamers did enjoy the great curves. Around 13:00 pm we found a nice hotel built inside of some rocks. Cappadocia is famous for its houses and even entire villages build in or under limestone rocks.
Marcel is already starting at 5:00 in the morning with a wonderful balloon flight over Cappadocia, with beautiful pictures that hopefully later wil be shown on our website. We continue our way with first 100 km of fairly boring roads, but after 200 km stunning lunar landscapes, rocks, colored mountains and wherever we stop always friendly people giving us a warm welcome. When refueling we always get offered some free tea and people always like to make some conversation. We ride so smoothly that we are driven even further than planned and are now already back in Elazig.
Sometimes you have those days when everything seems to happen on one day. What a wonderful and bizarre day today. We started in the pouring rain on our first mountain pass with spectacular views and a half hour ferry over a large lake. When we went off the ferry we got our second surprise; a military check-point. Here we drank tea 45 minutes while our passports were checked, we had to tell how much money we had, what work we did, etc. etc. Meanwhile we did get a show of all there armery like a Browning pistol and some large guns.
After all this information we drove about four hours thrue beautiful mountain passes. The first 100 km there was so much gravel on the tarmac that the road often was not visible. The last 5 km was even completely unpaved. Finally around 15:00 we are back on a "normal" road but there is a truck droven into a ravine and the road is closed. After half hour of waiting we desided to take a detour and within 5 km we were stoped by the police. Apparently motorbikes in Turkey are allowed to just 70 km per hour and we did 110 km, resulting in a fine of about 75 euros. Finally we drive in the dark to Ezerum and find a small hotel for 20 euros per person. What a day, what a day.
East Turkey is realy compleet difference from west Turkey. Here in the east we are not supprised with a herd of goats or cows on the highway, it feels normal. We avoid thousands of holes in the road except one big puthole making the topcase spontaneous breaking of the bike. We fix the problem with a lot of duck tape and a large tension band around the topcase. We arrived at the Iranian border and have even sniffed some culture visiting a palace and the possible emergence site of the Arc of Noah. By now we have droven 5,000 km and all is well. Iran here we come.
We are traveling fast, we are now already in Sanandaj, Iran. Yesterday the border, a big hassle. Stamp here, back to the next counter, another stamp, back, back again, then again to the chief: short 2 hours later we finally proceed. Iran is at first sight not very nice, there is debris everywhere on the streets. Women in black burkas and men with big woolly hats on the head. Livers for lunch mmmwwwwah not really good nice?! We drive to Tabriz and found a small hotel.
We start the day with a cardboard sandwich, mmmwwwah ....... Today it is cold and lots of rain. Fortunately, the top case is waterproof! After a long way through the mountains, the road suddenly ends! We need to take a detour of more than 2 hours or we have to cross a high mountain of sand/mud. So we make a little prayer and try to cross the mountain. Exciting, sliding up and down, feets on the ground, but we made it! We are glad to find a hotel. Even happier when we eat: yes: Mixed grill with genuine FRIES!
Internet starts to become a problem here, but we will do our best to update our diary every day.
Today we begin with a mountain pass where it snows. After 10 km we decide to drive back because it's too slippery and we simply can not see our sights. The rest of the day we drive with constant rain through beautiful mountain scenery. In Iran driving in the rain is like Russian roulette. You can not see the holes in the road, you get large waterfalls splashing over you and you see through the visor so little, that trucks on the wrong side of the road are seen sometimes almost to late. The traffic here is really a madhouse. Trucks overtaking trucks as you approach them head on with a distance of perhaps 100 meters. You then have two choices, or a frontal collision or brake hard and go to the roadside. The traffic is crazy, but people are really great. For example in a shop we had lunch with tea and biscuits and the owner of the shop let us sit behind the counter by the stove. Everywhere we stop, there are 20 people within one minute asking about the motorbikes and asking who we are.
Today at last one day without rain, even regular Sun. We drive along a very beautiful mountain range which is about 2400 meters high and up to 200 km long. If we are at lunch (chips and cookies) we are visited by a police and the atmosphere changed completly. We need to go to the police station and after half hour there are two men in civilian cloths (Secret Service?) asking us all kind of questions. Finaly they where satified and we are happy just to ride. An hour later we're in Esfahan near the main bazaar and mosque, in a neat and clean hotel. Tomorrow cultural activities.
Have you seen one mosque, you have seen them all, a wise man once said ..... However the mosque from today was extra beautiful, just like the Grand Bazaar. We where all morning accompanied by an Iranian who was learning German and enjoyed our view of Iran and Esfahan. The good man has paid even the tea and biscuits and wanted nothing in return. Friendly folks those Iranian. Also fun was meeting with Frank and Mary who could tell good stories about Pakistan, India and Nepal. Furthermore, it was mostly a rest day today and we both look forward to drive again tomorow.
Driving and at the same time a rest day. The drive to Yazd went so smoothly that we even sniffed some culture in the afternoon. During the ride we were once stopped by traffic police, but when he noticed that we did not understand Farsi, we were allowed to continue. Yazd itself has naturally beautiful mosques, but in addition there is also a history of underground water mains which we have visited. But best of all was the fact that today we had sunshine and we have driven so wonderfully dry.
Yesterday evening we had a nice chat with a man and woman from Paris who are already 5 months on the road and are making a trip around the world. Today we drove again about 535 km further east. The first part was a boring highway, but about 200 km from Kerman there was a nice road through the mountains. At Kerman also the notorious no man's land began. At the first gas station Marcel immediately get the question if he would like to exchange his cigars for opium. Welcome to the wild, wild East. We have now arrived in Bam, where in 2003 more than 30,000 people have died in an earthquake. Tomorrow at 8:00 our first police escort wil guide us through the opium fields. Hopefully tomorrow we can find some internet so we can give you a update.
What a bizarre day. At 7:30 we meet our armed police escort in the breakfast room. This escort brings us a few miles and then we switch to a other escort. This switching continues basically the whole day again. Sometime the escort is in police uniforms, sometime in military uniform and sometimes even dressed casual. Sometimes we are even in doubt whether we are behind our escort or even at some kidnappers..... The ride is very nice in terms of nature, but you see more and more poverty each kilometer. We have been fairly early in Zahedan, as arguably the most dangerous city in this area. We decide to drive straight through to Pakistan. Around 14:00 we are at the border. Here begins the famous customs clearance. Around 17:00 we have the stamps and decide to stay in the border place. This borderplace (Taftan) is a large garbage dump, just like our hotel. It only costs 8 euros but it is too disgusting for words. Mice and cockroaches run under the curtain and the bed is like the previous guest has left. We have no choice, so try to get some sleep.
We get up at 5:00 Iranian time (6:30 Pakistan time) and drive after a cup of tea and two biscuits straight to the poor east. Through the blinding rising sun we drive the first part more by feeling than by sight, but we enjoy the views around us. After an hour the road has been changed in a so called single road with on the right and leftside sand or gravel. Oncoming traffic is clearly no willing to go into the sand or gravel, so we are everytime doomed. All in all we drive today, a thick 600 km of which about 75 km unpaved. The other 525 km is paved, but has so many holes and gaps that the motorbikes have a hard time. We drive through gravel and sand deserts and in the end through a beautiful mountainrange. We ride close to the Afghan border and feel the tension of war at every stop. Respect for our men and women in Afghanistan. Completely empty we reach Quetta at 18:00, where we search one hour in the dark for an available Hotel. This time it is expensive ($ 120 per person), but we are clean and above all, there is a large fence and plenty of security, good night.
We do crazy and stay another day in this luxury hotel. After some negotiation about the roomprice, we are also allowed to wash our bikes behind the hotel, but only under the supervision of the head of security.... Marcel makes his air filter and Joop is tighten his handlebar, which is now more connected like a racing handlebar. After the maintenance and washing (they are beautiful again), we update our journals and the Internet and take the rest of the day off. What we do tomorrow we leave just in the middle, maybe we could write more about tomorrow.
An unexpected rest day. We begin today as planned with sunrise for a long journey to Multan. But around 25 km Marcel hits a truck from behind. No inguries but his ABS is not working anymore. We decide to go back to our hotel. 5 km later driving without ABS on a slippery road in Quetta gives us the second small crash. Big advantage is that this crash also enabled the ABS again suddenly!? We decide to check the complete motorbike and take a rest. As I said before have a nice day.
Today the long leg to Multan. This day is more exciting because Marcel a few days ago was told indirectly, from two students, that two European riders certainly had to consider kidnapping this route ... We leave at sunrise and ride the first hour of delicious good road. Then exit the paved road and drive over 65 km completely unpaved. Regularly struggeling through the dry desert sands and sometimes through a slippery clay mass. We put both our machines once on one ear, but without any damage. After the beautiful mountains we encounter every few kilometer indeed soldiers but they are all friendly waving. Around 17:00 we arrive at a large river near Multan where we are caught by the police. We are told that we should not sleep on the west side of the river and we are obliged to drive to the east side. This is still more than 5 hours driving through the darkness with armed police escort:Madness. Completely exhausted we arrive after 15 (!) hours riding at our hotel. What a day, what a day ...
We wanted to drive today without police escort, so we did try yesterday the police kindly to wriggle out. However, once we get at the bikes, there are already 4 cops waiting for us. (Guess they did sleep with the motorbikes?) After a day drive with many escorts we search a hotel in Lahore. From this point Marcel and Joop will each have their own route to ride. Joop's adventures continue in this website and the adventures of Marcel will be followed at: http://marcelopdemotor.web-log.nl/mijn_weblog/vakantie/index.html.
In a dense dust/smog cloud I drive from Lahore heading to Amaritsar. The customs formalities at the border goes smoothly and soon I drive in Amaritsar towards the holy Golden Temple. I reach the temple up to 100 meters and then had to turn around because there is really no more space for a motorbike. To escape the crowd I take a hotel outside Amaritsar.
The Sikhs in this province have the strange habit of worshipping the gods with loud music at 5:00 in the morning, so the day begins early. I drive fast to Dehra Dun where three friendly students are bringing me to a good hotel in downtown Dehra Dun.
At ease I drive today from Dehra Dun to Hardiwar. Along the way I see several tents in dry riverbeds. The people in these camps dug by hand sand and stones and throwing it on bullock carts, which then bring it to the mainroad. I also see children of only five years in different parts down the road with a hammer boulders hitting into pieces, so they can be used for road construction. Sad! I also invited again today manytimes in their homes to drink tea, if I every time would say yes I would probably never return home.
I start the morning well, by asking a blind men for directions.... The nice thing is that he realy could explain me in great detail how to drive. Around noon I went to the border of Nepal and this is directly brilliant. First you have a small bridge that is just wide enough for one car. Not that it is important because there are no cars, only bicycles and ox carts. After the bridge is a track with a few shacks where you find the customs. There is no stress or hurry, just relax filling in some some papers. It seems like I am really 50 years back in time. A wonderful feeling! I drive to the Bardie National Park where I overnight. First i must reach my hotel by driving 15 km unpaved road and also crossing a river. Tomorrow I have the same passage again...... In the evening I chat with five Nepales at a nice campfire, about the ups and downs of Nepal, while in the distance we hear a wild elephant trumpeting. Life is Joy!
The 15 km unpaved road and the crossing of the river are this time no problem. I drive further to the East. Around noon I have a choice, or through the Himalayas to the second city of Nepal, Pokhara, or straight to a National Wild Animal Park. I choose (of course) to ride through the Himalayas and the ride is truly amazing. Here again I conclude that the BMW GS is made for this work and all the curvs and turns are dancing under my wheels. Downside of all this beauty is that I drive the last hour in the dark, but hey a little excitement now and then is always good.
At the reception of my hotel, I was warned that the road to Kathmandu would be very bad. The first 5 km, there was indeed no road, just rocks, but then came, just like yesterday, again some glorious curves with the snowy peaks of the Annapura mountains in the background. Regularly there was indeed no road, but I had worse driving days. Just for Kathmandu, 100 meters in front of me a fatal accident happens. Two buses were wrecked and a Nepalese men unsolicited pushes me a zoomed picture under my nose, where the deceased driver is shown in detail. 5 km later I see again a 125cc motorbike crashing, so I ride the last few miles on eggs. I find a good hotel in the bustling tourist center of Kathmandu.
Kathmandu, a city of contrasts. Next to a fastfood-restaurant glue-sniffing children and maimed beggars are sitting on the road. Kathmandu is also the starting point for almost all Himalayan hikers and climbers, and it shows. You can buy everything from sleeping bags to instant food. Even I get sometimes greedy, such as a North Face Goretex jacket for only 35 Euros. Anyway I just got my flight arranged through a local travel agents and if all goes well I will return Sunday morning to Holland. The return cargo of the motorbike seems also to be regulated, so in short, the administrative issues seem to be settled. Tomorrow I will drive one more (last) day in to the Himalayan mountains....
I drive a few hours into the mountains, eat a few cakes for breakfast, sleep an hour on the shoulder on the top of a deserted mountain and drive back to Kathmandu. It's a wonderful simply perfect day. It remains always nice to see how people react to a big 1200cc Beamer. People stop in the street, or even crazier you see them turn around to come and see. When I woke up from my nap up on that lonely mountain there were also five men out of the blue to admire the motorbike. The roads in the mountains around Kathmandu are just as bad as everywhere. At best, you get into third gear but maximum a few hundred meters. The views are great, deep canyons, overhanging rocks and snowy peaks that are always in the background.
An unexpectedly exciting start of the day. If I want to leave the hotel, I hear that it is not safe to go outside. There are student riots that shut down Kathmandu today and there are plenty of fierce fighting with machetes and clubs on the ring road. The cause is the murder of two students yesterday probably Mauisten. The whole journey has been a big adventure and the motorbike need to be shipped today, so I'll take the risk. I put my helmet wide open (so they see I'm a tourist) and show my friendliest smile. Indeed, not one car on the road and regular groups of students with stones in their hands. 2 times I am stopped by students, but once they see I'm a tourist, I can continue my driving. Left and right I see tires burning and there are a few windows smashed in pieces. Half an hour later I reach the cargo agent. There is a team of 15 men waiting for me. Immediately they start measuring the motorbike and start making a wooden box. At noon we all have lunch on a wooden crate in the sun and after noon the wooden crate is lifted by hand (350kg!) on a pickup. Customs is only 100 meters away and the treatment lasts about an hour, then I see my BMW Beamer disappear behind a fence. Meanwhile taxis dare to ride again and I go with a taxie back to the hotel. The gate of the hotel is still closed due to the unrest, but otherwise everything seems calm. Another unexpected day.
Today to the top of the world, which is the highest mountain in the world, the Mount Everest. Actually I wanted to visit base camp, but unfortunately it can only be reached by a 5 day walk or by helicopter, which is $ 500 to $ 1,000 for a visit of one hour. The alternative was a so-called Mountain Flight, where you are in a small plane 1 hour along the highest mountains of the Himalayas. From the air you realize how small mankind is and how impressive the great Himalayas. After a few hours flight I walk through the busy centre of Kathmandu passing a fresh market which is always a good place for making some nice pictures. How about a Ritsha showing a cow in pieces, or a moped white 200 dead chickens. To prevent them to call me a barbarian I also stopped and visited a temple, a Hindu festival attended. Tomorrow I close the trip with a flight to Delhi, where I'm will look around for one day and then will fly back to Amsterdam.
My transportation to the airport had some problems. After 45 minutes waiting my cab is finaly there, but after five minutes we already stopped again with a boiling engine. Despite these delays, I am still on time at the airport and smoothly fly to New Delhi. During the flight I am introduced to the Christian Thordal Dane, who already 15 years draws in the Himalayas and just finished one draw of three months(!). In New I dispose my luggage at the airport and hire a taxi for some sightseeing. All tourist highlights are passing (Red Ford, India Gate, Gandhi's salt march, etc.) After 6 hours I'm back at the airport and realize that a motorbike ride around the country is really completely different than a day by taxi. This time, no searches, no traffic stress, but also no discovery-feeling witch is always there driving on a motorbike. I hang around a few hours at the airport and departure at 1:40 to the Netherlands.
It's over. A great travel with lots of adventure, culture and life experiences. Approximately 12,500 km of which about 200 km driven entirely unpaved and certainly 6,000 km bad roads consisted of more holes than tarmac. Things I will certainly remember are the day driving 15 hours in Pakistan, because of terrorist threats and the transition from the busy hectic India to the quiet relaxed Nepal I will never forget.
It goes almost without saying that Kathmandu and also the great Himalayas have made a lasting impression on me. During the trip it was great to see that the website was visited by many people (3.126 different people!) With this I want to thank every one wo did leave a respons: Thanks!
The motorbike is also safely back in the Netherlands. Figuring out all the pictures is a big job, so the promised movie will take some time.
The movies are ready, you find theme in the menu [Movies]. ENJOY!
During the trip, we received many responses, you can read them again with this link.
Movies from this travel: Click here.
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This diary is computer translated. If you prefer reading the handwritten travelreport click here.