Being unemployed is perhaps a feeling that is capable of being dreadfully awful and pleasantly joyous as well. Mine turned out to be the latter. It was the honeymoon period between two jobs and I’d been mulling over a trip to Khajuraho for a long time, but then that would be endless straight roads so instead, we decided to add some mountain roads to it. Came along an absolutely hasty and unplanned plan – Kathmandu.
I and a colleague set off in the afternoon on 7 February 2017, after investing a considerable amount of time finding a new starter motor for my motorcycle, which is a four-year-old Kawasaki Ninja 250R. That may just be an excuse for leaving late, the fact is I am inherently very very lazy.
Proof of that self-proclaimed lethargy is that our first stop was Agra! A distance of 235 km is not exactly a ‘touring’ figure. Mock if you like, but the plump pillows at Hotel Crystal Sarovar were pretty comfy.
Day two, we rode 340 km from Agra to Lucknow. It was supposed to be a rough ride, not many know the Lucknow Expressway has been opened and can be accessed from Etawah. Even Google Maps doesn’t know this little trinket of information that I’ve just given out. It was freshly laid out tarmac, not the unfriendly concrete surface on the Delhi-Agra stretch. I was happy because my bike would be happy here, and it was. But after a while, 150 km/hr was boring and soon my sports motorcycle was a cruiser.
My colleague, very thoughtfully, suggested we stay over in Lucknow. But this time I chose to man up and stretch it to Faizabad which was another 130 km ahead. This time, it was a budget hotel and let’s not talk about the bog it had.
What lay ahead on day three was a cross-country ride. We entered Nepal from Sonauli border. Post some mild document formalities, we set off and were soon on the East-West Highway connecting Ramnagar to Mugling. It’s a brilliant road, it really is. I didn’t expect such roads in a tiny spec of a country like Nepal.
However, there was the notorious 30 km bit. It was like a road had never existed on that stretch, just grit and dust and rocks and not to mention the incline. It took us about an hour to do 30 km. While I must have received multiple and unmentionable abuses from my bike, my colleague’s Royal Enfield Thunderbird was in its comfort zone. He was one with the locals.
That dreadful hour is also the reason why I fell deeper in love with the Ninja. Far, far out of its comfort zone, it just kept going. Never complained, never punished me.
It was about two in the morning when we arrived in Kathmandu, and immediately we were lost. We met three boys on a motorcycle. They’d run out of fuel. And my dear friend and colleague, as overtly helpful as he is, he gave them a litre from his motorcycle which was running on reserve fuel.
The boys agreed to help us find our hotel, so we followed them and what happened next isn’t exactly what I’d expected. We were taken to the party district with skimpily dressed women, young boys drunk off their minds and peculiarly decorated Maruti 800s (taxis) plying the narrow roads.
This was definitely not where our hotel could have been. We met another local, who was riding a fancy looking dirt motorcycle. He too agreed to help us, but he was unlike those boys very helpful. We soon had two policemen added to the team, who were also on a motorcycle.
The three-men squad safely escorted us to the hotel, which was situated right behind the Durbar Square, which houses the fabled Pashupatinath Temple.
We only stayed a day in Kathmandu, that many people thought was a weird thing to do – travelling so far only to spend a day! But that’s the point. Flying to Kathmandu would have been quick, but on a motorcycle, you get to traverse through the country, see a lot of it, meet a lot of people, know some facts that sitting 30,000ft in the air wouldn’t reveal.
And I find myself in an awkward situation saying this, but traffic sense and ethics in Nepalese is far more civilised than India. Others drivers and riders actually had a sense of compassion for their fellows on the road, something that has been missing in India since the late 90s.
So, if you’re not as lazy as I am, the trip can easily be made in two days, and proof for it is that on our return leg, we stayed for the night after 340km (somewhere near the Sonauli border). Hence the last day of our trip was an 800km ride from Compirganj to Basti to Faizabad to Lucknow to Etawah to Agra and finally home, Delhi.
These six days were a fantastic adventure. I had moments of sheer fear when the rear wheel lost grip or when I lost balance on a rocky road or the one time when a hitchhiker appeared out of pitch darkness waving – I like to think it was a ghost. But, was it worth taking a sports motorcycle to unfamiliar grounds? Yes, down to every bit of it. Now, I’ve come to think of my bike as someone elderly who teaches me, protects me, gives me company, and most of all is a darn good friend.