Kagbeni to Mallaj
The mood was a little subdued this morning as bad weather was expected which is not conducive to riding on some of the most dangerous roads on the planet. A low grey fog and foreboding looking sky shrouded the mountains and we went for a wander around the medieval ramshackle village before breakfast.
We were technically still in Nepal but this place had a strongly Tibetan feel about it with its coloured stone buildings and temples, narrow winding flagstone alleyways, and local herders and their groups of goats darting around, and different dialect. Wood was piled atop the dwellings for winter fuel and the whole village had a medieval feel to it.
Once we’d negotiated the alleys and livestock it was time to take a look at Kagbeni temple which we were told was over 600 years old. A lone woman was offering prayer at the steps leading into the large ochre hued block, the rest of the compound was empty. I wandered around alone to get some shots of this fascinating but eerily quiet place.
Inside we were met with an explosion of colour where a novice monk gave us an explanation of the different sects of Buddhism and proudly showed us two thrones and a book containing thousand year old Buddhist scriptures. From here it was back to ‘Yac Donalds’ for breakfast and to gear up for what could be a wet and cold ride.
It started off dry but was bitterly cold with hands numbing rapidly, about an hour into the ride it was my turn to get a flat and it couldn’t have happened at a worse place. A JCB was happily dumping rocks down the cliff face on one side and a snow storm was rapidly approaching from the other.
The next couple of hours were pretty miserable as wind and sleet hammered us dropping visibility, steaming up goggles, freezing feet and fingers, and making the roads even more treacherous than normal. There were a number of spills, including Dicko getting horizontal in a freezing river, before we stopped back in Kalopani for a much needed coffee as the hail fell outside.
A couple of hours of tough riding later we began dropping out of the valley and were back at our original tea stop just after midday. Today was all about getting off the mountain, not taking photos; I’d left my camera in the jeep.
Diggers dumping dirt and blocking the roads was a common feature and we came across another one as we neared civilization again. Traffic had built up but locals told us that motorbikes could make it across the mountain on a ‘short cut’ trail rather than wait for the road to re-open. It turns out that truck and bus drivers also had the same idea making this ‘short cut’ one of the hairiest parts of the entire ride as half of Nepal also decided to take it rather than wait.
We’d made it to Galeshwor and stopped for lunch but group moral was ebbing due to being cold, wet and very tired while knowing that we were on the return leg of our trip. It was not far to our accommodation but it entailed an almost 45 degree climb on loose gravel and bowling ball sized rocks. Needless to say over half the group, including myself, came off or needed a push – we were shattered.
Once arrived at our final digs, which were the most impressive so far, beers were cracked and smiles returned to the battered group of hardy motorcyclists. A very welcoming Nepalese host called ‘Prince Mickey’ made us feel at home at his flamboyant hillside abode at The Heritage at Mallaj. A fire was lit that night and we dined well and drank rum while reminiscing over the trip and drying our boots for the next day’s ride.