We arrived in Pokhara yesterday afternoon after a thrilling ride up from Tansen on what’s described as Nepal’s finest motorcycling road, a series of gorgeous hairpins carved into the hillsides high above a river gorge.
On rolling into town we had to quickly reacclimatise to the world of chocolate lassis, dreadlocks, baggy trousers and 100 rupee T-shirts – Pokhara is indisputably Nepal’s premier backpackers’ playground. Nestled cozily between the mighty Machhapuchhre or Fishtail Mountain and Phewa Lake, the town serves as the setting off point for treks into the stunning Annapurna mountain range that surrounds it and is home to a plethora of cheap hostels, funky coffee shops and overloaded outdoor stores with Bob Marley / Om Mani Padme Hum ringing out from nearly every doorway.
We’d been liaising with Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club for the last couple of months to organise the purchase of a Nepali-registered Enfield, something that a lot of people had assured us was simply impossible without actually being in the country. However they’d clearly never met Matt and Chantal, the wonderful Aussie owners of Hearts and Tears. Their combination of creativity, efficiency and tenacity along with an intricate knowledge of how things work in Nepal and an infuriating capacity to always agree to our most outrageous demands had delivered us a bike and all the requisite paperwork for taking it into India, Bhutan and beyond before we’d even entered Nepal.
Arriving at their place, we soon found out that there was much more than just Enfields being taken care of. Like ourselves, Matt and Chantal had both previously been working in development aid and their desire to make a contribution to the community around them has in no way been muffled by the sound of growling motorcycle engines. This attitude starts right at home in their employment policies towards their local staff and extends to sponsoring local schools and hospitals along the routes where they run tours. It also includes training local women to ride Enfields in order to help challenge gender stereotypes – which struck a chord with us as we had noticed the shocked yet approving glances of many women we passed along the way when Emilie was driving.
Matt also educated me about things like hydraulic tappets and other such marvels that I had no idea existed while Emilie quickly decided it was about time I took a maintenance course. As we transferred everything across to the new bike though we found that the luggage carriers didn’t quite fit at which point the ever-resourceful Matt decided the only option was to “call Jim down from the hills.” Jim turned out to be a middle aged American who’s taken up residence high above Pokhara and set up a one man welding station with a nice line in turning out decent cooking stoves for neighbouring villagers. He showed up tanned and beaming and was soon taking care of our little problem.
After a lovely long chat we said a fond farewell to our Delhi bike which will be picked up by one of Lalli Singh’s guys in a couple of days and ridden back to India. As the sun set over the snow drenched Himalaya in the distance we climbed onto our new Bullet which is to take us, hopefully, right through to Rangoon. Just as we were about to pull off, Matt and Chantal announced they had a little surprise for us and presented us with the following:
Guys, we simply can’t thank you enough!