Everest Base Camp and Nepal

Nepal was like a breath of fresh air for me, both literally and figuratively. About 20 miles after crossing from India to Nepal you start to climb into the mountains and get away from the constant smoke, smog, and haze that seems to never disappear on India’s flatlands.

But first let me tell you about my border crossing. Apart from almost getting hit by oncoming vehicles or having animals jump out in front of me while riding down the road, this was by far the scariest experience I’ve had on the trip. I’m sure most of you have not heard about the Indian governments’ blockade on Nepal going on right now. But to sum it up, Nepal changed their constitution and the Indian government doesn’t feel like it gives enough representation to the Nepalese of Indian descent living along the border enough representation. So the Indian government response was to block trucks, cargo, and fuel from going into Nepal. This is creating major social unrest because Nepal was getting 100% of their fuel from India. People are suffering and dying because of this and I haven’t read one article in the news about it, it really blows my mind. It started about 12 miles from the border where there is semi-truck after semi-truck parked along both sides of the road. Think about how many trucks that is! 12 miles, both sides of the road, all the way to the border! I knew something was up long before I reached the border.

Arriving at the border the Indian officials told me I couldn’t cross because it was too dangerous on the Nepal side. After about 15 minutes of talking through it one of the Indian officials said he would walk across and ask the Nepalese border patrol if it was alright for me to pass, they agreed to let me through. After finishing the border formalities with India, I road across the bridge into Nepal. The Nepal side was like a ghost town, completely different than any border I’ve crossed so far. The only people I saw were about 30 army troops standing in the center of the road in full riot gear. I couldn’t see where the customs or immigration buildings were so I rode up to troops. One of the higher ranking guys spoke English and informed me that all customs and immigrations offices were closed because nobody was crossing the border. I was told to ride 4 hours to Katmandu and check into immigration there. Now if this sounds completely screwed up, IT IS!! Being in a country with no stamp and no paperwork for my motorcycle is just asking for trouble. I really had no other option at that point so I continued to ride on. About a mile down the road I was stopped by more troops in full riot gear and guess what they wanted to see? The immigration stamp and import paperwork for my motorcycle! I sat there for about 20 mins trying to explain to them their buddies down the road just told me to ride to Katmandu and they should call them on the radio to verify. Finally someone with some sort of authority that spoke English arrived but his message was not what I wanted to hear. He told me I had to wait two or three hours for the customs and immigration guys to get there so I could get all my paperwork sorted and get on the road. So there I waited, talking with the guy that spoke English, showing him pictures of my trip and admiring the beautiful Nepalese army girls. Maybe it was their uniform, maybe it was the fact they were walking around carrying AK-47s looking and smiling at me every once in a while, I don’t know but they were beautiful.  Anyways, the guys finally showed up two and a half hours later and after another half hour after that I was on the road.

Leaving the group of soldiers and immigration guys I thought I was free all the way to Katmandu. I was wrong, completely wrong. No more than another mile down the road I came to the center of town where another 50-75 soldiers in full riot gear were standing in the middle of the road, except these guys were in formation. They were the first people I saw during that mile stretch of riding through town. I slowed as I approach and when I got within 20 feet I could finally see down the street they were facing. Sure enough there was a full on riot happening! Bricks, rocks, and Molotov cocktails getting thrown at police. Tires burning in the streets and the army holding back the crowd with firehoses. I sat there for about 5 seconds watching the madness unfold before I was yelled at to keep moving. Thinking once again I was out of the woods, I pressed on only to run into a blockade the locals had set up across the road. Big trees, concrete barriers, broken glass, and you could see all the black circles in the road where they had been burning tires. Looking to the left and right there was no way for me to get around it because both sides of the road had a small pond on each side. Quickly scanning my GPS and surroundings I found out I needed to backtrack about 2 blocks to a dirt road that looked like it went around the outside of town. As I’m working to get my bike turned around about 15-20 teenage kids appear from behind a fence holding pieces of wood, tree branches, and containers with who knows what. They spotted me and started to jog my way. I thought it was a real possibility my trip might end here. I started to go through my head what to use for a weapon and which one I’m going after first. As they got closer I can see that they have smiles on their face. Thank God they were more interested in looking at my motorcycle than trying to steal it, my fuel, and all my gear. After letting them have a look and showing them the road I was going to take they gave me the thumbs up, helped me push my motorcycle around and I was off. The rest of the trip to Katmandu I was on edge but made it there after a pretty uneventful yet beautiful drive that evening.

The next couple days I joined up with Frank, Petra, and Chris once again. We did the usually hanging out, drinking beers, and having a great time. Along with that I was busy lining up my visa for Myanmar and sourcing all the gear in needed for the trek to Base Camp Everest! With everything in place I was ready to get on a 5:50am flight to Lukla airport. One of the craziest and most dangerous airports in the world. Planes come into land on a steep incline so they can slow down on 460m strip. Takeoff is an all or nothing game. Once the plane starts rolling down the runway there is no way it can stop and if it doesn’t get airborne there is a surely fatal drop off the cliff into the canyon below.

My 12 day trek to Everest Base Camp was nothing short of incredible. This was another thing I had dreamed about before I left on my trip around the world. Being in the mountains trekking for that long was great for my mind, body, and soul. There is something inspirational about being in a place like that with people doing extraordinary things every day. I put climbing Everest on my bucket list and it is one thing I will do in my life. I guarantee that. My guide Tulu was great and staying at the Teahouses along the trail was an experience in and of itself. They are the most basic rooms you can imagine. Most are freezing cold at night, the beds are a thin mattresses on plywood and the comforters didn’t cut it so I slept in my sleeping bag every night. Electricity is a hot commodity if they have it. Some days I had to pay $5 just to charge my phone/camera! Another thing is the amount of food you consume on a trip like that. Everyday were huge breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Always lots of eggs, noodles, dal baht, and tea just to try to keep your energy levels up for the next grueling hike. The highest point I reached during the trip was 18,481ft (5633m). That is only 1,840ft below the top of Mt. Denali! I decided that is another mountain I will climb in the next few years.

Everest Base Camp was different than I expected because it was totally deserted. They had shut down climbing in 2015 due to the earthquake that rocked Nepal last year. Also, nobody really climbs it at that time of year anyways. I didn’t realize they pack absolutely everything out. Looking up at the Khumbu icefall from base camp it’s hard to imagine so many climbers make it through that section. It would be extremely intimidating sitting at EBC acclimatizing for your climb looking up at that every day. After reaching EBC and Kala Patthar it was time to start the trek back down the mountain. The trip down was just as great and since you have pictures of almost everything already it’s great to hike and enjoy the surroundings. Getting back to Katmandu I relaxed for a couple days, got a couple massages and went out with some folks I had met on the trek. Leaving Gina behind in Nepal the next stop of my trip was China!

Living Large in Dubai

After going through Eastern Europe, Turkey, Russia, Central Asia, China, Pakistan, and India for the last few months, going to a place, like Dubai, is a total shock to the system! All those previous places have little tastes of western culture, but Dubai is full-on western culture to the max. Spend more, have more, do more, be more, just MORE. Haha! I thought I knew what being rich was, but that place takes it to a whole other level! I was there for almost three weeks and didn’t really hold back. I went crazy, stuffing my face at my favorite pizza joint, Papa Johns, at least 5 times. I went to Mc Donald’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, the movies, the mall, skiing at their indoor slope (penguins included), the water park, the bars (where one drink will cost you $20-$30), cart racing… 3x, a private residence at the Burj Khalifa, Ferrari World, and the world’s fastest roller coaster. Happy hour at rooftop bars, a water park, rolling around Dubai in a Maserati, pool parties, beach parties, I think you get the point.

It was absolutely crazy and I had a total blast. I had so much fun and met so many great people. The premise of my trip was to save money, buying all my motorcycle parts there. While I never added how much I spent vs. saved, I can almost guarantee it did not happen. But the people! Seriously! The first night, I met Manchit, from China, and Ryan, a fellow American traveler. The next couple days were Jamaal from the UK, Lisa from Canada, Diana from Germany, and many others. It wouldn’t have mattered what I did or how much money I spent; it was the people that made it so much fun.

Dubai was a vacation from my vacation, but I did manage to see some cultural things, as well, going to a few mosques, taking a river tour to see old town, and visiting some museums.  Four girls from the hostel and I rented a car and drove down to Abu Dhabi for the day. There was where we visited one of the mosques and then went to Ferrari World. Ferrari World has some sweet go-carts and the fastest roller coast in the world. It is insane what that roller coaster does to your body! Diana and I ended up riding it five times, right at the end of the night, because there was no line, and I developed the shakes for the next few hours. My body was prepared for the G forces that baby has to offer. Apart from the go-carts and coaster, there wasn’t much else to offer. My suggestion is to wait about 2 years and go, because right now, they are building a lot of new rides.

Getting to see the Burj was a stunning experience. You don’t realize how massive that building actually is until you’re standing directly under it. I was lucky enough to get to see one of the residence apartments inside. One of the guys from the hostel ended up meeting the girl who owned it, so we got a free tour of the building and got to have some drinks at the highest bar in the world! A couple of days later, he got the keys to her Maserati, so he picked us up, and we got to roll around Dubai, feeling like high rollers. It’s just crazy some of the things that can happen when you travel.

India Part 1

After finishing up the Pakistan tour in Lahore it was a nice appetizer for what I was about to experience in India. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into a country of 1+ BILLION people. Riding into Amritsar I immediately felt the traffic and congestion of a place with that kind of population density. There were people everywhere! It’s tough writing this post over three months since I crossed the border, (I KNOW I’VE BEEN SLACKING!!) especially because India was a place that wore on me. Riding though India on a new BMW causes so much of a scene it’s virtually impossible to stop anywhere without having at least 10 people come over to see the “new attraction”(I also know no one feels bad for me). My only relief was heading up towards the mountain around Leh, Ladok and Spiti Valley. There are less people and semi-open roads as well as some incredible scenery.

Let me back up a little bit and tell you after Amritsar I headed straight to Delhi because I’ve been driving on a blown shock since Kyrgyzstan. Arriving at the BMW I got the warranty process rolling for my new shock. I also checked on a rim, tires, oil and air filer, and a few other random things that needed to be replaced. I was in utter shock at the prices I was going to have to pay for those items since India and a minimum 300% import tax on motorcycle goods. After discussing it with the dealership, they told me just to fly to Dubai because its cheap and tax free and hand carry all the goods back with me on the plane. Along with saving me a bunch of money I’d get to go to Dubai! I put that in my future plans but while I was waiting on the warranty to process with my shock I decided to put another few hundred miles on it and head north to the mountains!

I headed straight to Manali from Delhi. It took me a couple days to get there but it was well worth the drive. After getting through the flatlands the roads twists and turns through steep river valleys, the smog and the haze start to disappear and the road becomes less and less congested. Arriving in Manali I reunited with Petra, Frank, and Chris (part of the group I rode through China and Pakistan with) who had been hanging out there for a couple days already. We went out for dinner, had some drinks, and did some catching up. After hanging out with them for a couple days and working on getting my permit for the road to Leh it was time to get back on the bike.

The road from Manali to Leh is one that I had envisioned my entire trip. Over the two days it took me to get to Leh I went over two 5,000+ meter (17,000ft) passes and the second highest motorable pass in the world. There were beautiful red rock canyons, huge sandstone pillars along the road, and more amazing views than one can imagine. Unfortunately, when I woke up in Leh after my first night I had come down with a wicked cough and sore throat so that put a damper on exploring the town. Still managed to see a couple temples and the palace but then headed back to the room to watch a few movies, relax and try to recover. Feeling slightly better the next morning I secured my permit for Khardungla Top and took off for a quick day trip. For those of you that don’t know, Khardungla Top is the somewhat disputed highest motorable pass in the world. The sign says 18,380ft but my altimeter did not register that. Either way it’s really damn high! The road up was actually quite nice, there were low level clouds rolling through dropping snow every so often but the gravel road hadn’t froze up and I still had plenty of traction to make it to the top. Things had changed drastically during the 45 mins I spent enjoying the top of the pass! Enough snow had fallen to cover up the road with more and more traffic was coming up the mountain which had packed it all down and turned it into a virtual ice rink. I’d try to pass vehicles coming up the road and end up dumping my bike on its side trying to keep from sliding into them. Most people were very helpful in picking with picking up my bike but there was definitely a few who were a little pissed I hit their vehicles, which is understandable. The thing that stands out in my mind was how out of breath I would get trying to pick up my motorcycle! The serious lack of oxygen made it about 10 times harder to do anything. Needless to say I was happy to make it back down with no injuries and only a few more character building scratches on Gina.

After the K-Top adventure it was time to head to Spiti Valley. On my way south at another one of the 17,000ft passes I ran into a film crew for Royal Enfield. Unfortunately I can’t really write about what they were filming because of the secrecy of the project. I was instantly envious at the amount of camera equipment, drones, and gadgets they had to film with. They invited me to join up with them for the next stop and I happily agreed. We road to Lake Tso Kar, stopping to film along the way. I was recruited to put one of the camera guys on the back of my motorcycle so we could get some high speed action shots. It was an awesome time! Can wait to see the videos when they finally get released, I’ll be sure to share them as soon as I see them.

The next morning the Spiti Valley adventure began. I was welcomed into the valley with a torrential downpour mixed with sleet and snow. Although it was miserably cold all the heavy rain made for some amazing waterfalls on the steep cliffs on the opposite side of the valley I was riding on. The road was terrible so I ended up driving into the night to find a place to sleep. Finally found a place in Kaza around 8 or 9 that night. The next day spent drying out my gear and cleaning up my bike. The road was so rough the day before it had broken a bottle of vodka and split open a can of soup I had stored in my tools bag! Scrubbing and cleaning tools coated with an oily gumbo soup and vodka mixture isn’t a real pleasant experience. Pretty sure my bag STILL smells like that.

I met up with Frank, Petra, and Chris once again in Kaza and we spent the next week exploring the valleys and monasteries of Spiti Valley. Some of the highlights included the town of Mud and our day hike we did with a couple Indian guys we met at our hotel. Since there is not a lot to do in the evenings and electricity was pretty hit and miss we’d usually sit around drink some beers and have some epic battles in the card game Shithead. During our days of riding that week the scenery was incredible every day. The way some of the roads are cut into the sides of cliffs and the towns that are pasted on the sides of these mountains with very little connection to electricity and the outside world make it all worth the tough rugged trip of Spiti Valley.

After the valley was complete, I was off to Delhi for some R&R, a good shower, and a little taste of civilization again. I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, one of the greatest things about traveling is all of the people you meet. During this section of the trip was packed with all sorts of great people. Sachin, Sid and the Hosteller crew from the hostel I stayed at in Delhi, Nitin and the Royal Enfield guys, and Zenosh and “Wet Indian” in Mud. All people that I had great discussions and a great time with all of them and will never forget that.