10 Reasons To Travel The Himalayas On A Motorbike
It's surprisingly easy.
In the three months between July and September, while the rest of the Indian subcontinent is sweltering in the monsoon heat, the ice melts just enough in the Himalayas to uncover some of the highest roads in the world.
Exploring the Himalayas by motorcycle is an incredible adventure through some of the most jaw-dropping and spectacular scenery you’re ever likely to see. It’s also surprisingly easy to do. If you love riding bikes, or even if you’ve never considered it, here’s 10 reasons to get out and explore the Himalayas of Nepal and Northern India by motorcycle.
# 1 The Ride Of Your Life
You can ride one of the coolest bikes in the world for just $15 per day in the Himalayas. The Royal Enfield Bullet is an Indian bike that hasn’t changed all that much since the ’50s, and fuel and hire prices are pretty cheap. Super tough, super cool… semi-reliable.
#2 The High Life
Just outside the ancient North Indian city of Leh is Kardung La. At 5359 metres above sea level, it’s the world’s highest motor pass. Riding on the highest road in the world is pretty brag-worthy. It gets pretty chilly at that altitude so some thick thermals are highly recommended.
#3 It’s Cheap. Really Cheap.
India and Nepal are both incredibly friendly to the traveller’s wallet. Fuel, food, and accommodation are all dirt-cheap. There’s even a cool 1000-year-old monastery in the North Indian Town of Lamauru where you can stay for next to nothing. It’s certainly a room with a view.
#4 You’ll Come Back With Amazing Photos
The Himalayas must be one of the most photogenic regions in the world. The scenery is stunning and there are plenty of interesting towns and people along the way to ensure you come home with amazing shots. Travelling by motorbike gives you the freedom to explore and get the shots no one else can. Leave the selfie stick at home, people.
#5 The New Friends
The donkey sanctuary in Leh is a very special place, set up for animals so they have a place to go once they are too old to work or have been abandoned by their owners. These friendly animals have had a hard life and they absolutely love to have visitors stop by and show them some affection. BYO carrots.
#6 It’s Relatively Hassle Free
You can avoid most of the hassles tourists encounter when travelling. Whether it’s overcrowded busses or getting scammed on hotel rooms from dodgy taxi drivers, these all too common traveller pitfalls can be avoided when you have your own transport. Travelling overland by motorbike means you can go wherever you want to on your own schedule.
#7 You Get Used To The Traffic
This region is renowned for having some of the worst traffic in the world. Ancient narrow streets, overcrowding and more animals than you can poke a stick at means there can be serious congestion at times. This can be overwhelming, but there’s an order to the chaos that you’ll quickly get used to. On the plus side, once you leave the city the roads are basically deserted.
#8 The Locals Are Lovely
Once you leave the city and pass though some of the smaller towns that rarely host visitors, being a traveller feels like you’re a B-list celebrity. Locals will go out of their way to talk to you and help you in any way possible. We met this guy in Nepal between Tansen and Pokhara when we stopped to take some photos. He pulled over to see if we were OK and after an hour of chatting we had a new friend to stay in touch with.
#9 Off The Beaten Track
On a motorbike, you get to visit towns many tourists don’t get to see. In Nepal, 45km from Pokhara rests the town of Bandipur. It’s a stunning little village high up in the hills overlooking the Marsyangdi Valley. It takes about an hour from Pokhara by motorcycle and it’s one of the most breathtaking rides on the planet. Bandipur is like a time capsule giving you a glimpse of Newari culture as it has existed for centuries. There’s also a rad soccer field at the edge of town where you can have a kick with the local kids with the Himalayas as the backdrop, without a worry in the world. Imagine that.
#10 You’ll Overcome Your Fear Of Heights
Sometimes you’ll find yourself riding along a dirt road, stopping to look over the side and being faced with a 1000m high sheer drop to the valley floor below. See that speck in the photo? That’s a full-sized human looking down over a road with no barrier. If that doesn’t make you overcome your vertigo by default, nothing will.
(All images: Louis Gill)