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Poker Run :Thundering Into The New Year

All of us make special plans for a New Year celebration. But amidst the rapid influence of western cultures, our plans are usually more focused on ushering in the New Year of the Gregorian calendar rather than our own Nepali New Year. However, it’s not really the same with the enthusiastic folks at Sacred Summits Pvt. Ltd. Since 2009, they have been organizing the Enfield Rendezvous & Poker Run every year, with the impressive idea to promote the Nepali New Year through probably the biggest and loudest thunder ride, in this land of the Himalayas.

 

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Just like in the previous year, the destination for this 5th Enfield Poker Run stuck on to the peaceful lakeside city of Pokhara and was set for 13-15 April, 2013. Now, as this was an event meant strictly for Enfielders and classic motorcycle owners, we did not dare crash the party with motorcycles of other makes; none of us in the team neither owned a Royal Enfield or a classic motorcycle to participate in the event. So this year too, Rabi Dai from Sacred Summits (Pvt) Ltd, like Santa Claus in disguise, came in to our rescue. We were not just handed over the keys to a Royal Enfield Classic 500, but had the registration fees for two of us waived as well.

 

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The meeting point was set at Gambhesi Thakali Kitchen in Basundhara and by 9 am in the morning of 13th April, all of the participants donning the official event T-Shirt provided by SERVO lubricants had gathered at the venue. The people at SERVO were kind enough to sponsor the event promotion banners as well. After breakfast, a quick ‘Ride Safety’ briefing was in order and we set off towards Pokhara after picking up our first hand of the Poker cards. This year the participants turned up in hordes with a total of 120 Royal Enfield motorcycles and 180 participants. There was a diverse selection of Royal Enfield motorcycles including several creatively modified ones from bobbers, cafe racers, and choppers to scrambler styles, and stealing the limelight away from them was a slick 2006 Triumph Bonneville. Even the participants were an assorted mix of nearly 15 nationalities with riders from as far as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, UK, USA, India etc. Apart from those based in Kathmandu, there were also Nepalese riders who joined the convoy from Chitwan, Dharan and Pokhara. A notable mention goes out especially to the Indian riders who rode all the way from different places such as Bangalore, Allahabad, Arunachal Pradesh, Guwahati, Mizoram, Kolkata, Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kurseong, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai to participate in the ride.

 

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It was a deafening disorder and a pretty sight to have 120 Royal Enfield motorcycles thundering out of Kathmandu. We were escorted by the Tourist Police till Nagdhunga and headed towards Naubise, with Pramod ‘Goofy’ Shrestha from Himalayan Enfielders leading the pack. After riding down the windy 20km road towards Naubise, we then regrouped at a nearby highway restaurant to pick up our second hand of the Poker cards. After some light snacking and refreshments by the roadside, we thundered back on the highway. With the highway now opening up, the speeds increased and the group began to gradually break with the difference in each individual bikers preferred riding pace. The ride continued till Mugling, where a tasty lunch (courtesy of M/S YETI AIRLINES) awaited us at the Rupsi Restaurant. Along with the lunch, the third Poker Hand was dealt. The convoy then moved toward Pokhara, only to make a RED BULL Pit-Stop at Akala Highway Restaurant, Manapang, at a distance of 35 km before Pokhara. After a refreshing break with free Red Bull energy drinks (courtesy of M/S RED BULL) and the dealing of the fourth Poker Hand, the bikers regrouped and continued in tandem towards Pokhara. As we rallied through Pokhara, the locals and tourist watched in amusement seeing the bullet train pass through. We were greeted to a warm welcome in Pokhara with Tibetan garlands for each individual rider and to the tune of Panchey Baja’s by the Nepal Tourism Board, Pokhara and the concerned Business Community. The thrilling Poker Run finally ended upon our arrival at The Landmark Hotel. After the bikes were parked for the night at the army ground nearby, we were allotted our rooms and given some time to refresh ourselves for the gala New Year Eve celebration in the evening. The celebrations began in the hotel premises, with participants dancing and singing to the live music performed by a band from Pokhara, and enjoying the free flow of lavish snacks and dinner. The party was further livened up with the free flow of alcoholic beverages for the participants – Nepal Ice Beer from Sungold Brewery and Ruslan Vodka from Himalayan Distillery After the crazy night, a heavy buffet breakfast was in place at the Landmark hotel. We then rode towards the nearby Bal Prabhat Boarding School in New Road, continuing with the tradition of incorporating charity in the event. With support from Millennium Publication to distribute textbooks and children’s books in the school, the organizers also promoted the hand washing campaign led by Ministry of Health and Population with UNICEF. The rest of the day was then free to chill out in Pokhara and enjoy its serene beauty. Pokhara was abuzz with the Poker Run participants as they were engaged in a number of outdoor activities such as cycling, sightseeing, boating, paragliding, bar-hopping, etc. As the evening neared, all the riders gathered at the Atithi Resort for the Best Modified Royal Enfield competition. This year there was a panel comprising of experienced riders and after a round of thorough inspection, the winners were announced in two categories. Olivier Delacretaz, a Swiss national based in Pokhara won the coveted award for the Best Customized Enfield (Without Disc Brakes Category) and Manish Maharjan took away the title for the Best Customized Enfield (With Disc Brakes Category).

 

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Alongside the competition, other prizes were also awarded. Retired Lt. Col Sohan Roy, who has his name in the Limca Book of Records (2009) for being the oldest person to ride to the highest road in the world at Khardungla, was felicitated for his passionate initiative of riding all the way to Nepal from Allahabad, beating all odds even at 65 years of age. Our respects to the man and hope we too can keep doing the same for a lifetime! Manashri Bordoloi, who rode from Guwahati in Assam with her husband and 10-year-old daughter for the Poker Run, was awarded the Best Supportive Women Rider. Manashri was representing The Bikerni, a popular all-women motorcycle association of India. Representatives from the Wolf Pack Motorcycle Club of Bangalore took the deserving title of the Longest Distance Riders. Ironically there was also a Hard Luck Award for the rider with the most serious breakdowns and Deepen Bista took away the deserving title.

 

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We then moved towards Bullet Base Camp for the final night of the celebration ride. An amazing and thrilling fire show was displayed by the Bullet Base Camp Team and the riders could try their luck in the Langur-Burja dice game hosted by some of the enthusiastic riders. After another round of crazy night, a late breakfast followed the next morning. Over breakfast, more prizes were announced. Some 20 participants won lucky spot prizes that were sponsored by a variety of Wildlife Resorts, Hotels, Restaurant & Bars, Spa, Adventure Companies and Domestic Airlines. Similarly, Raghu Melkote from India won the coveted ‘Best Poker Hand’ and was gifted a well packaged two-night stay at Temple Tiger Jungle Lodge for a couple.

 

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The convoy then thundered back towards Kathmandu. Unfortunately, the return journey saw a couple of breakdowns and more time loss due to a blocked road by a forest fire near Mugling. But as the evening closed in, everybody made it to the Kathmandu Handle Bar for the closing meet, beating the heavy traffic jam all the way from Naubise to Kalanki. It was the end of a fantastic adventure and a truly international event on Nepalese terrain, with Enfield and Classic Bike enthusiasts from different parts of the globe taking part. Until the next Enfield Poker Run…

 

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What is Enfield Poker Run?

 

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The Enfield Rendezvous & Poker Run is a non-competitive annual motorcycle riding event aimed at bringing together Royal Enfield and other classic vintage motorcycle riders for a ride through the Nepali countryside. No, you don’t actually play cards while riding! Riders will have to pick a card only in each pit stop to make a complete Poker hand at the final destination and the best Poker hand wins an award. In addition to that, there are also other various specific awards and the check points offer free food, drinks or lucky spots prizes. Rabi Thapa (CEO of Sacred Summits Pvt. Ltd) in association with an Australian friend Stewart Mclean, had initiated the event in 2009 in memory of their riding friend late Binod Chhetri, an adventurer and a die-hard fan of the Royal Enfield motorcycles. Over the years, it has gained much popularity and has become a ‘must attend’ event for Enfielders to come together once a year to swap bike riding stories, celebrate the Nepali New Year in style and share the road with fellow locals and international riders. While Christians waits for Christmas, Hindus for Diwali and Muslims for Id, Enfielders here in Nepal now eagerly anticipate their loudest and biggest reunion – The Enfield Poker Run.

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