Despite having had a bike licence for 24 years driving a motorbike in Kathmandu is a crazy thing to do for a westerner as there are no rules of the road..well, there are, sort of..I was told. I decided to assume that everyone was trying to kill me and I would probably be ok. I know the city quite well but was really looking forward to having the freedom to go where I wanted. I did the sensible thing and put on some jeans and my Altberg Field and Fells hoping to keep some skin and feet intact if I came off – not much use when you are crushed by a huge TATA truck but it made me feel erm..invincible haha! Passport in pocket with a stream of contact details and off I shot around the back streets of Thamel to see what the bike either did or didn’t do!
The side streets were overcrowded with rickshaws, sleeping dogs and I could have done with an off road bike instead of standing on the bike pegs to stop myself from being shaken to pieces. After I got used to the bikes funny little ways of jumping out of gear at critical times I decided to pile out onto the main roads.
The day temperature is still quite warm and the sun provides a glare through the polluted air but after a short while I ditched my Oakleys as it was difficult to make out hazards on the ground that could cause a skid or completely dismount the unwary. These ranged from all manner of liquids, solids, drain holes with no cover, chunks of concrete, metal post sprouting out the tarmac and shop owners throwing buckets of water on the pavements and road to tamp down the dust.
Within half an hour I had survived head to heads with buses, avoided being crushed in a stealth like pincer movement from the rear by TATA trucks and another motorbike sliding across the road followed by the owners flip flop. I managed to out run a left flank attack from a bus but my luck ran out when I went off roading on the Honda..Yeah, I know..stupid..but I had to do it!
The plan for the day was to head north out of town through Lazimpat after a couple of jabs at the CIWEC health clinic. Curiosity got the better of me as the road started to get steeper and steeper and more potholed. I decided enough was enough and failed miserably on a U turn on the track- felt the bike going over and decided not to fight it and try and lay it down. The plan worked – just as well as I was literally less than 6 inches away from a 10ft drop into a monsoon drainage channel full of erm nasty smelly stuff! One scuffed bike and elbow later I was haring back down the track into the centre of town.