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Dust to Glory : A Road Trip To Far East

Words & Photos: Aashish Niroula

This story dates back to more than a year ago. The alarm starts buzzing at 5am in the morning. It was the first sound to mark the beginning of what would be a mad solo ride back to Kathmandu, after a heavily inspiring ride around the Eastern hills of Nepal. But I decide to extend my sleep, as I was still withering in pain from the previous day’s extensive ride around Dharan and beyond, to places like Dhankuta, Hile, Basantapur, etc . Little did I know that it was only a prelude to what was about to come. After a heavy brunch lovingly prepared by my grandmother, I started off from Biratnagar. I was returning to Kathmandu today.  Sadly my faulty DSLR had broken down yet again. Hence, the pictures you see here are actually from my recent ride to the same place.
 

DTG-1

 

I left Birtanagar at 1pm, and my target to reach Kathmandu by 10pm was already looking bleak. After passing through sun-flower plantations at Inaruwa, I soon reached Koshi Barrage and it was a relief to pass through the region with cool breeze blowing in occasionally.  According to the Mahabharat, the God of death took the form of a woman and resides on the banks of the Koshi River to keep the growth of human population under check. I made sure that I didn’t help the God reduce the count and safely passed through.

Next stop was at the popular Peda Bazaar, a stretch of highway road renowned for the shops that sell delicious Pedas, a popular local sweet. I bought a boxful of the sweetmeats from the ‘Budo Babaji’s Peda Bhandar’ and filled myself with a meal of rice and fish curry. Already exhausted from the ride, I laid myself on a bed nearby and took a quick power nap. I woke up, only to realize that I had overslept. So I quick fired the engine again and rode non-stop till Bardibas. I had heard about the road to Kathmandu being shorter from Bardibas, if the detour to Sindhuli was taken. A few enquiries were made and though I wasn’t really recommended the route, I decided to try this new stretch of road that was still being constructed at a few sections. And this decision later didn’t really turn out to be one of my best judgements. Maybe I should have just listened to the locals…

Gliding through the smooth curvy road towards Sindhuli, surrounded by the jungles glowing in the sunset, and seduced by the thrill to explore the unknown, I zipped ahead; new roads always fills me with the energy to endure the journey ahead. The road quality was probably the best I had ever ridden and it left me wondering why the locals still insisted on taking a different route. But soon, I wandered off a bridge and found myself riding towards the river. It didn’t take long to realize that I was lost, with the river track leading nowhere in the darkness. With continuous failed attempts to retrace my way back from the sand to the road, I was getting frustrated and nervous. Then luckily, I heard some temple bells ring nearby. I took the stairs to the isolated temple, and nearly like in a Bollywood flick, sought for salvation from the temple priest. Fair enough, he showed me the right way that would lead me to Sindhulimadi. It was already twilight and my fun journey was now turning out to be a scary one. The path led through a very thick and slushy forest in the pitch dark. To add to my horror, my bike lost its rear brakes and manoeuvring the motorcycle not really being sure of where I was going was becoming more frightening. Somehow, I managed to reach Sindhulimadi by 8pm. Then it began to drizzle. Challenges galore, I still kept pressing hard. The ascent to Sindhuli Gadhi started and it was fun to be back on good quality roads ripping through the corners again. I could imagine how fun it would have been to ride this sweeping road in daytime with more visibility to boot. The road was filled with plenty of curves and kept snaking through for the next 25kms or so. And suddenly, there was no road at all! Barred with bamboo sticks it was land’s end and there was a 90° vertical fall into the river.

 

DTG-7

 

Back in Sindhuli, an old lady had informed me of a tough stretch of off-road ahead and advised me to take the left turn just before the awesome snaky road would end. So I retraced my route and did as advised. But instead of heading towards Khurkot, I had again wandered somewhere else. I seemed alone in the wilderness and as I looked further towards the dark horizon, I could see several hills criss-crossing each other and there was not a single light in any one of them. Though I loved the amalgamation of fear, thrill with joy and serenity, a cold chill ran down the spine and shook my whole body. Nevertheless, with no other option, I continued through the tough, rocky and dusty road heading uphill. At one point, the bike got stuck and I had a fall. My feet were sunken on nearly one feet of loose red mud and pushing the bike out of trouble wasn’t just working out. After several tries, I finally managed to set the bike free from the rut.

As I was approaching the top of the hill, I kept praying if I could come across any living soul. It was already past midnight and I could only spot around 5 to 6 houses near the roadside with the limited visibility of my motorcycle’s light. As I was about to approache one of the houses, the most bizarre of all things happened in front of the cowshed, where I witnessed what seemed like a ‘paranormal experience.’ I immediately ran back through the barren fields, onto my bike and revved away as fast as I could.  After gaining some distance, I knocked at one of the houses and asked an elderly man for direction. Pitying me, he offered food and asked me to stay. Somewhat suspicious, I decided to deny the offer and move ahead. Apparently, I had missed a signboard and wandered 15kms off to this mountain. I steered back and found the right way. By the time I reached Nepalthok it was already 2.30am in the morning and I had provoked at least a dozen people from their sleep, some in the cowshed and some in their homes. I later learned that the mountain I had wandered into was popularly known as ‘Nangey Danda’ (Naked Mountain) and many travellers would regularly get lost in this mountain due to a missing signboard.

 

DTG-5

 

I was relieved that the ordeal was over. But alas, the Gods still had more in store. As I continued towards Kathmandu from Nepalthok, it started raining cats and dogs. I could not put on my black visor due to the dark visibility, and the spattering ran further blinded my limited vision. After bearing through some more torture, I finally reached home at around 5am in the morning. I had never ever felt so much relief before. Obviously, I had faced some problem or the other when taking on an adventure. But this one was truly unusual and memorable with a plethora of challenges like heavy rainfall, curvy roads, misty mountains, unknown rough roads and lonely extended riding hours on crazy terrain. This ride was a complete test of my patience, endurance level and riding skills.

Of course, I learned my lesson the hard way. Never travel alone through an unknown route in the dark…

TRIPMETER:

Biratnagar-Bardibas: 175kms

Bardibas-Nepalthok: 108kms

Nepalthok-Kathmandu: 75kms

** Please note that the pictures shown here are from a recently made ride through the same location, as the ride mentioned here was mostly executed in the dark.

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