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6th Enfield Rendezvous & Poker Run

There are people who like to celebrate the New Year with a dinner, a party or just sitting at home. Then there are those who turn up the ignition and rev their engines through the open highway. And unlike the rainstorms of Pokhara, which have a reputation of being highly unreliable, the Enfield Rendezvous & Poker Run has proved itself as a highly consistent thunder-ride over the years. For the 6th consecutive year, Sacred Summits pulled off Nepal’s biggest extravaganza on two wheels and we were part of it, yet again. We tagged along with over 200 partakers on the ride that has become a tradition for Royal Enfield owners and enthusiasts in Nepal. For the third time in the past three years, Rabi Thapa from Sacred Summits handed us the keys to a Royal Enfield Desert Storm that would be our companion for the next three days. With all the costs for the accommodation, participation and bike rental waived, we were all smiles.

 

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This year, the celebration ride kicked off from Zero Engineering, located at Chabahil. On the morning of the rally, we arrived at the flag-off point slightly late. Luckily, we didn’t miss anything. The outskirts of the Chabahil Ringroad was busier than normal with a considerable number of onlookers gathering at the roadside to observe what was going on. Squirming past them, we steered into the welcoming sight of over 150 Enfield motorcycles parked, deceivingly quiet, and a lively crowd of participants waiting to get the show on the road. This year there were participants from 10 different nations partaking in the Poker Run.

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Nearing to the start of the ride, the excitement in the riders was evident. But, before we got on our bikes, there was an important introduction in order. This event has seen a number of riders coming from different parts of the globe to participate. However, this guest was someone special. His name is Charlie, Charlie Bear. Charlie had been traveling since June 2013 across United States to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Philippines, India and for the Poker Run, into Nepal. Initiated by the World Wide Relay Riders, Charlie Bear has been on a motorcycle relay around the world ever since. Charlie will be handed over from one biker to the other until he makes it back to the point of origin. The entire concept is to raise funds to help children with life threatening illnesses. For a community that usually gets a bad rep, this is an eye opener. And did we mention? He is a stuffed toy bear. Charlie would be riding up front with our trusted Road Captain, Pramod “Goofy” Shrestha.

 

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Participants who were not present at the pre-event party picked up their first two cards while the others picked their second card for their respective Poker hands. The rest had become pretty much automatic for the seasoned riders who had been participating in the Poker Run throughout the years. After a short briefing and safety announcements over breakfast, everyone collected their T-shirts provided by Sacred Summits and made their way to their bikes. One by one everyone put their keys in the ignition and the atmosphere gradually filled with the overwhelming rumble of the noisiest and most well-known engine in the country.

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We thundered through the city, organized in a two-by-two file, attracting a lot of attention. We had a police escort up till a little distance past Nagdhunga which meant there weren’t any serious holdups in traffic. Still maintaining the two-by-two line, we noticed that the Naubise road winding down had been freshly pitched. For the first few kilometres anyway. The tarmac ahead of us soon disappeared into a cloud of dust from the construction work being done on the roads. Manoeuvring through the patchy road and blinding dust for what seemed like a longer time than it really was, seeing smooth tarmac beyond the settling dust was a relief. Somehow, we had separated ourselves from the group. Instead of waiting, we decided to ride ahead and wait at the first check point.

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As we reached the first pit-stop at a highway restaurant near Naubise, everyone picked up their third card of the Poker Run. After a short while, the ride continued. Riders began to reorganize and the highway was alive again. Our Road Captain ushered us on and the riders slowly separated, enjoying their preferred speeds as the highway began opening up. The riders then regrouped at Mugling around midday. It was sweltering hot and taking off the jackets and helmets was very much welcomed. Taking some much needed rest, the participants cooled off and sat down for lunch that was being provided by Yeti Airlines. Funnily enough, the sun seemed to act like kryptonite to our daal bhaat power and we were left struggling to refrain from the urge to take a nap. So, after picking out our fourth card, our team left earlier than the rest of the convoy.

 

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Sticking to a slow pace, as we had originally planned, was turning out to be a challenge. The empty open roads practically taunted me to maniacally open up the throttle. It was most likely that the rest of the party was still chilling at Mugling; which meant we were far ahead of schedule. Sitting and waiting at the next checkpoint did not seem like an appealing ordeal, so we took a detour towards Bandipur. The sun was shining bright and the winding roads leading up to the quiet settlement was decorated with the beautiful flora and fauna of the hills. Apart from the occasional bus or car, the narrow road was completely empty. The silence of the solitary hill was broken only by the blare of our Royal Enfield engine. By the time we reached Bandipur, the sunny skies had begun to darken. It also took us a longer time to get there than we had initially estimated. Because we wanted to get back to the group, we rushed back to the highway to join the rest of the riders.

 

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Happy to see other riders at the highway, we rolled on into the next and final stop at Akela Highway Restaurant, before reaching Pokhara. The fifth and final cards were dealt here, and we were pretty excited. In our previous hands we had picked out a 9 of diamonds, 10 of hearts, jack of hearts and a 7 of hearts. Getting an eight of any suit would mean that we had a straight, a strong hand. Knowing the odds were low, we were intentionally refraining from expecting a good hand. But, now that our chances were looking very good, it felt almost certain that this was the year for us. Praying for the support of lady luck, we picked up our fifth card. We got the 4 of spades.

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Much like the disappointment coursing through us after that, the skies were darkening as we departed for Pokhara. It looked like it would rain heavily as a slight drizzle started, and with the infamous reputation of Pokhara and its rainfall, a sudden downpour would have been a very expected welcome party. Thankfully the rain gods held back their wrath. Darkness fell, and the headlights of the rally of Enfield motorcycles illuminated the pitched roads. Upon entering the city, we were welcomed at the Lakeside by the good folks of Pokhara with garlands, tikas and bright smiles on their faces. After the welcome, the entire group collected in an open field in the Lakeside and did a few “victory laps” and then headed towards Hotel Landmark. Eager to get the celebrations going, everyone dispersed into their respective rooms of Hotel Landmark and Hotel Snowland to freshen up.

 

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A nice buffet accompanied by some free flowing booze, courtesy of Nepal Ice, was set up in the Landmark Hotel courtyard and a local band from Pokhara began strumming some tunes. It didn’t look like the day’s ride had taken a toll on any of the participants as they partied into the night and welcomed the New Year 2071 in style.

The next day, participants could either relax for the day or join the charity ride to Shree Dhara Pra Bi Vidyalaya. A school located 20 kms from Pokhara at a place called Puran Chaur, it was good to see a lot of the riders opt to participate in the charity ride. There was a small hitch on the way to the school due to a combination of bad terrain and blocked roads. But the well-coordinated crew helped everyone successfully get through. Once we got to the school, Rabi Thapa handed over the books and stationery in a short event, after which everyone returned to Lakeside.

 

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One more event was in store for the night, an event that was the most anticipated for some of the participants: The Bike Show. Modified Enfields are a personification of the rider’s extravagance. Although not yet legalized by our government, riders go to great lengths to enhance the oomph factor of their rides. The bikes competing for the award of the Best Modified Enfield were parked outside the famous Club Amsterdam, where participants were already enjoying the live band and snacks. The winners would be chosen via voting. Later in the evening, prize distributions took place, hosted by Mr. Patrick Wilson. The prizes seemed to keep flowing. The coveted best Poker Hand award was bagged by Lisa Fomenko who won a 2 night 3 day stay for a couple at Temple Tiger Green Jungle Lodge with jungle activities & all meals included. Best Enfield Original Design Award was given to Royal Eastern Enfielders, Dharan (2 Nights stay for a couple at Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, Pokhara with all meals) and the Best Modified Enfield award was won by Zero Engineering (2 Nights stay for a couple at Fishtail Lodge, Pokhara on Bed & Breakfast Basis). Jurgen Schunk won the Hard Luck Award (Full Course Dinner for a couple at Moon Dance Restaurant & Bar, Pokhara) after experiencing a close shave with a lorry. Amanda Cats-Baril was named the Best Supportive Lady Enfield Rider while Helen Thordsen won the award for the Most Enthusiastic Poker Run Supporter. Christmas wasn’t over as random winners were picked and over 20 prizes were distributed. We won nothing. The night ended with a dinner at Club Amsterdam.

 The morning breakfast the next day would officially complete the 6th edition of the amazing Poker Run. And it definitely did not disappoint this year either. A mix of caste, culture and nationalities getting together to ride through the highway to the beautiful city of Pokhara is definitely a tradition we could get used to. We’ll definitely be eagerly waiting for the next Poker Run. Although we didn’t win anything this year, we are hoping things will change in 2072.

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