06.12.2011 Harry’s arrival in Kathmandu
About a year ago, Harry contacted me via e-mail. At this time he had some questions about my equipment. We stayed in contact and exchanged some e-mails, as he planned an overland trip from Innsbruck, Austria to South Africa. He couldn’t pass the border from Turkey to Syria and decided to change his route to Asia. When he heard about my plans to go overland from Nepal via Tibet and Southern China to Laos, he was very excited and booked himself into the same group. I followed his “race” from Iran to Nepal on his website http://www.freedom-on2wheels.com (German only).
Today he will finally arrive in Kathmandu! The Swiss couple, Janine and Fabian, who are in our group as well, and I are eagerly waiting for him to show up. We are a bit concerned if he can make it as it’s getting dark already, as we hear the typical sound of a BMW boxer and rush downstairs. It’s him and “Flocke”, his BMW R1200GS Adventure and we give him a warm welcome. Harry is exhausted and starving. He didn’t find India amusing at all, although he rushed from Amritsar to Kathmandu in only 9 days. He complains about the people, the food, the traffic, “I’ll never do it again!”, he states. I try to calm him down and we all go out for dinner. It’s the first decent meal for him since a week.
07.12.2011 Hanging out in Kathmandu
It’s another lazy day for me, still working on photos and learning “Apple’s Aperture”, the application I decided to use to manage my photos from now on. Harry is busy doing his laundry and cleaning his gear. For dinner we are invited to Schmi & Simone, the Austrian couple on KTM 990 Adventure. It’s their last day in Kathmandu. They decided to ship the bike with aircargo to Bangkok. Harry still moans about India, whilst Schmi, who travels India for the last 10 years, tries to explain Indian’s culture, customs and way of living. It’s quite interesting to follow this discussion. Bottom line: “You either love or hate India”, a popular saying. In my opinion, I really love a lot of places in India, but the way to get there is quite exhausting, especially if you travel on a motorbike. I also met so many great people and had a fantastic time during my 5 months in India, that I can’t complain.
Fabian, Harry, Janine … and a little bugger asking for money:
Harry & Tom. It was cold at Schmi’s place. The headscarf just for the show ;)
08.12.2011 Preparing the bikes
We meet Fabian and Janine for breakfast and fill out the application forms for the China visa.
Harry carried a set of spare tires (Heidenau K60 Scout) on his BMW R1200GS Adventure. As his current set of tires is still in good condition, he offers to borrow me his spare tires. I’m very happy about this, as I heard excellent things about the Heidenau K60 Scout from other overlanders and I was looking for a tire which provides both, dirt-road performance and durability anyway. I used up 4 different set of tires during the last 35.000 km of my journey. They either give you good grip on gravel & co or last many kilometers on tarmac. I’m positive that the K60 Scout will be my final choice for the thousands of kilometers in ever changing conditions to come. For the records: The rear tire comes with 9mm and the front tire has 6mm of profile. BigBertha has 48.125km on the clock.
Earlier I found “Autoland” (http://www.autoland.com.np) in Kathmandu, a shop for all sorts of car accessories. We go there to buy some Octane booster, which helps a lot to improve the regular petrol available in Nepal. On a side note, there is “Speed” available in India (about 91 Octan), but there is only 1 sort of Petrol available in Nepal (about 89 Octan). Autoland also has a tire workshop nearby and Mr. “Lok”, the owner, offers his space to us to change the tires.
I show Harry a place called “My friend servicing center”, in Shalku, Kathmandu. (Tel: 9841217169, no website or e-mail) That’s a car wash with high pressure water. Mr. Chandra Shahi and his team take their job serious and offer a real great service. Bike wash is Rs. 350 / EUR 3.
We end the day in the “Everest Steak House”, my favorite place for proper Beef Steaks in Kathmandu.
09.12.2011 Preparing the bikes (cont’d)
We have Muesli breakfast at the rooftop of our Hotel Diplomat (a.k.a. Chillout Lounge). We do some more maintenance, such as cleaning the air filters. Harry’s K&N (Part# BM-1204) is really dirty after just 1,500 km in India. As this filter is reusable, he cleans and re-oils it with the K&N Care & Service Kit.
I’m using a pre-filter from Touratech (Touratech Part# 01-044-0875-0), which is pitch black too, but my main air filter is in excellent condition.
This investment really pays off. I’m very happy with this piece of equipment and highly recommend it to everyone who rides in such a polluted region. Touratech ships two of this filters, so I give my spare one to Harry, who gladly accepts.
In the evening we meet up with the Dutch couple, which will be in our overland group to Tibet as well. Their choice of transportation is a 4×4 Landrover Defender, which they drove all the way from Holland to Nepal. We exchange travel stories and discuss the conditions we might expect in Tibet.
10.12.2011 A day in Kathmandu: Admin, Shopping, Momos!
All participants of the overland journey from Nepal to Laos come to the hotel of the Dutch couple to meet Mr. Tirthu Acharya, a representative of the travel agency. On the way to their hotel we bump into a procession. Women who are dressed up in their national clothing throw petals at the people, a colorful event. We don’t know what this procession is all about, but it’s marriage season in Kathmandu. Maybe this is a celebration of the bridal couple?!
At the hotel we pound Mr. Tirthu with questions about the route, accommodation, road- and weather conditions in Tibet. As we will be travelling in altitudes above 5000m these are our major concerns. Our visa applications for China are being checked and we pay USD 95 each. We will have a group visa, not individual visas, which is slightly disappointing, as we won’t have any visa sticker in our passports. We learn that we have to stay together at all times as there will be many check points en-route. Our group now consists of four motorbikes and one car: Fabian & Janine on Yamaha Ténéré 660, Harry and I on BMW R1200GS Adventure and the Dutch couple on Landrover Defender. The price for this 27 day adventure through Tibet and Southern China including the visa is €1.340 per person. We are lucky as we have a car in the group, which carries the guide! Otherwise the price would be much higher, as a support vehicle would be required for the entire journey through China.
After a couple of hours later we leave to do some shopping. I need a warm jacket and find a Marmot primaloft for €40. I’m told it’s a factory outlet price, but I doubt it’s genuine Marmot. Anyway, it’s warm and fits nicely underneath my bike jacket. Harry finds an inflatable pillow and Energizer Lithium batteries for his SPOT Messenger. BTW: I was not able to find those batteries in India, but they are available in Kathmandu. Strange, but true.
We walk around Thamel, the touristic center of Kathmandu, buy some more bits and pieces, such as Dimox, the pills against altitude sickness, and end up in a small local “Momo”-Restaurant for dinner. There is no electricity, just candles. Momos are dumplings filled with Buffalo meat and we love them. You just don’t want to spend a single thought about hygiene in such places. Dinner with rice wine is NRP 90, about €0,90 for the both of us!
11.12.2011 Service (Odometer: 48.000km)
Today is a big day. We will do a service for our BMW R1200GS bike, including changing the engine-, drive shaft- and gearbox oil and adjust the valves. Back at “Autoland” http://www.autoland.com.np we find Total 5W40, a fully synthetic oil which is specified for temperatures as low as -25°C. We buy 12 liter of that expensive stuff (€15/liter) as we need 4l per bike and want to have 2l each as spare. My experience in the Indian Himalayas shows that “BigBertha”, my bike, needs more oil than usual in high altitudes and cold temperatures. I want to be on the safe side. Mr. “Lok”, the owner of Autoland provides us his workshop free of charge. Everything goes well and it’s fun to do the service simultaneously. A few spectators come to the shop to see us working. There are also two guys from a local magazine, who follow every step of the service, make photos and have a lot of questions for us. They are planning to write an article about us. The guys from Autoland serve us coffee, water and even sandwiches, all free of charge.
Harry in action:
BigTom replacing the oil filter:
I drop the wrench in the old oil and get covered with the stuff. :)
Valve adjustments. No problem for me by now:
As we expect temperatures around -25°C in Tibet, I need to switch to another oil. “Autoland” in Kathmandu sells this Total 5W40 full syn. Darn expensive, but I want “BigBertha” to enjoy the ride too:
I can help the guys at “Autoland” to place a rim in a 4×4 tire:
After completing the service of our bikes, Harry and me enjoy a coffee. Cheers, well done! :)
Back to the hotel, it’s time to review Harry’s luggage. When he left Austria back in August 2011, the total weight of his bike and him was 492 kg!!! By now I have quite some experience, as I also got rid of about 60kg excess luggage. It is hard work to convince him to let go unnecessary tools, rechargeable batteries and chargers, flashlights, power inverter, chain locks, etc. It’s funny as I carried all the same stuff with me too. All in all, Harry will travel 15kg lighter from now on. ;) What an achievement! We meet my friend Chis for dinner, who is in Kathmandu for business reasons and “celebrate” at a Thai restaurant.