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Himalaya Expedition 2017 Chapter Two

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Dispatch from Evan

From bathing with elephants, to riding the King’s Roads in Bhutan, to exploring the once closed Burmese countryside, the second leg of our journey proved to be eye opening and enlightening on so many levels. Dan departed in Kathmandu while Windsor and Curtis’ adventurous daughter Alexis left us in Paro where we were joined by the witty and even keeled Joe Laumer. All of us were excited knowing we were accompanying Joe to Bangkok for his wedding to the beautiful and engaging Valerie.


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Dispatch from Joe

I joined the group in Paro, Bhutan for the second half of the journey.  The original intent was for me to take over for Windsor Ford and ride along with Dan Moore for the second half of the expedition.  We would ride through Bhutan, then the highlands of India (Nagaland), into Myanmar, then Thailand, ultimately ending the adventure in Bangkok. Unfortunately, Dan had a major altercation with a large truck in Nepal.  His bike was run over by the truck and somehow he was spit out with a shoulder injury and other minor bumps and bruises…..could have been much worse. The bike was totaled, both Dan and the bike headed for home from Kathmandu.

Windsor arrived in Paro and gave me a quick run down of the situation:

  1. Despite shipping extra tires for the trip, Dan and Windsor had managed to damage the tires on their bikes so there are no more spares.
  2. Windsor has already had two punctures on the new tires and those have been plugged.
  3. The low fuel level gauge sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.  The bike has a small primary tank, with a small secondary tank under the seat.  If the bike starts to sputter, the primary tank is empty.  Reach down under the tank and push this little button, for more fuel.  If you still need more fuel, there is a one gallon can attached to the back of one of the panniers.  There is another gallon gas can inside the right pannier.
  4. The GPS unit sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t.
  5. The seat on this bike is terrible and your butt will be sore in sixty minutes.  It is also too tall for you, but if you want, you can pull some of the padding out from under the seat.  This will lower the seat, but then your butt will be sore in 60 seconds.
  6. This bike does not have ABS brakes and has only one front caliper, so it doesn’t stop as quickly as you are used too.

So to summarize, I am setting off in unknown countries, with a bike that has questionable tires, limited braking power, questionable GPS guidance system, a suspect fuel delivery system with enough extras fuel to blow me to kingdom come, a seat that is as comfortable as a piece of lumber and when I stop my feet don’t touch the ground!  Great…..just great…..let the adventure begin!


While Bhutan is the first country on my journey, so far it is my favorite.  The Bhutanese people are incredibly gracious and kind hosts as they share their country with us.  While all industrialized nations talk about their GNP (Gross National Product), Bhutan boasts about their GNH (Gross National Happiness), and it shows.  The country is predominantly Buddhist, which as we have discovered is a very complex religion steeped with many rituals.  Religious buildings and artifacts can be found in every nook and cranny throughout the country.  From large, elaborate monasteries clinging to the sides of cliffs at dizzying altitudes to prayer wheels filled with millions of mantras, to prayer flags fluttering in the breeze to numerous roadside crypts commemorating various monks within the religion.  One cannot venture far without experiencing one aspect or another of the faith.  I mentioned it was a complex religion with many rituals and rules, but I think it can best be summed up by the simple belief of….”Do No Harm”.


We traveled many mountain roads that were in pretty horrible condition.  On one particular day it took us 10 hours to cover a distance of only 135 mile.  It felt like that entire distance was under construction.  Bhutan has an arrangement with India, where all road construction is handled by the Indian Army and performed by Indian citizens who live in small metal sheds along the roadside.  Entire families live and work along the road.  You will see husband, wife and children working side by side.  There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to the overall construction plan.  You will travel many miles along torn up roads that appear to be under construction with little work actually taking place.  Then out of the blue, you will hit a beautiful, stretch of asphalt.  But just as quickly, you enter a pothole so deep that you are sure it has it’s own address or could be seen from a satellite view on Google Earth.  You pass men and women with sledge hammers who are doing nothing more than making smaller rocks from big rocks.


With what appears to be so much unorganized work going on, I can only imagine how an early morning meeting goes amongst the road workers……..Ok, people, what is the plan for today?  Patel, what are you going to do today?  Sir, I indent to make mud!  Good, good. Ok, Sanji, what are you doing today?  Sir, I will take large rocks and spread them across the road to make it nearly impassable!  Perfect!  Now, Rajie….I noticed it looked like you were trying to mix some concrete yesterday, it is way too soon for that.  Today, I want you to break up big rocks into small rocks.  Got it?  Ok, everyone, let's get out there and make it look like we are actually doing something.  These Bhutanese still thinks we are going to have this road finished next year!!  The entire crowd erupts into laughter.

Seriously though, here are a few observations I take away from our visit in Bhutan:

  1. Extremely polite, gracious and friendly people.  Majority of them speak English, so communication was rarely a problem.
  2. Dogs are everywhere just laying around in the villages and on the roads. It was not uncommon to hear barking dogs all night long.  Many nights, I slept with earplugs.
  3. For a relatively poor country, their cars are all in very good condition and relatively new.
  4. We did not encounter a single traffic light in the entire country.
  5. While traffic was very congested at times in the city, it moved along well and people were polite and moved out of your way.  There was the occasional horn, signaling someone wanted to pass, but otherwise, the Cities were relatively quiet.
  6. Cows, dogs and donkeys are constant road obstacles that need to be driven around.  Very few of the dogs would chase our motorcycle.  For the most part they would just lay there as we drove by, just a foot or two away.
  7. There is no smoking in public in Bhutan.  I probably saw just a handful of people smoking the entire time.
  8. No hunting or fishing is allowed in the country.
  9. Population in the entire country is estimated to be between 500,000 to 750,000.


Joe's Gallery







Dispatch from Curtis

Katmandu was our reward for crossing the Himalayan mountains.  It is a dusty town with small winding streets. My daughter Alexis joined me there.


Alexis and I rode together to Paro, Bhutan. It was wonderful to have time together and share the adventure.


The funeral rituals in Katmandu occurre along the river. Bodies are laid upon piles of wood and burned. The ashes are pushed into the river. Life comes from the earth and is returned to the earth.


Leaving Kathmandu we took a long and windy road to Chitwan National Park.  Chitwan has elephants and rhino. The resort, Jungle Lodge provided a welcome rest. Evan and Alexis enjoyed a bath with the elephants.


We met a gentleman who said it must be exciting to experience the adrenaline from riding motorcycles.  I thought about it and realized that I don't experience adrenaline when riding. To me such a release would mean I was riding beyond my comfort range.  

It was good to get to Nepal. I was tired of the rice and noodle dishes served in China and Tibet.


Leaving Nepal we went into India on our way to Bhutan. India was very busy with a lot of traffic. There were pedestrians walking along the road. Bicycles, scooters, 3 wheeled motorized vehicles, cars and endless trucks, most belching black diesel exhaust - all had to be dodged on the roads.


We made the border crossing into Bhutan. Reduced trash along the roadway was the 1st sign that we were in a different country. 

I don't know that I'd ever heard of Bhutan before this trip. It is a country south of Tibet and China and north and west of India. It has 750,000 inhabitants. National happiness is proclaimed as the most important goal of the country. Bhutan is a jewel. On its Southern border the elevation is approximately 500'. On the northern border are the Himalayas raging over 20,000'. If you like beautiful scenery friendly people, a clean environment and steep mountain roads then Bhutan is a place you must see.


In Bhutan there are 3 types of roads. Roads covered in landslides. Roads being cleared from landslides. And, roads waiting to be covered by landslides. The roads are maintained by work crews who live along the roads. The workers are from India. They're made up of men and women.  Their children are also present. The women work as hard as the men. In fact my observation is the women typically work harder. 

We stopped and talked to the workers. They are always very happy and give us big smiles. They have a difficult life. They live in homes built out of metal drums. The metal drums contained tar oil used to make the black top of the road.


The road work is endless because of the landslides and nature of the roadways. Roads are cut into the side of steep mountains. Steep mountains are the only terrain that exists in Bhutan. As you ride along the roads of Bhutan don't be surprised when a monkey runs across  the road or when you see banana plants above 8000' in elevation. An amazing place and the most wonderful surprise of the trip.


We are at the southeast border of Bhutan ready to reenter India.  I will miss Bhutan, the comfortable weather, amazing scenery and wonderful people.



Curtis' Gallery





Helge's Photo Gallery



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