Friday, December 19, 2014

Day 21 Setting out for Manang... Oh Nepal... you and your pesky lessons and reminders.

Woke up early... 6:30am.  Strapped the bags to the bike and set out for Bullet Basecamp again.  Raju had the 1985 XR350R there for me to test ride.  Not so much for me as for him.  He said that people had complained that the bike pulled to the left at times.  We had talked the evening before that I've ridden a lot on XR400R's in Peru.  So I kicked over the high-compression single and it roared to life snorting out of the Supertrapp exhaust.  I stood up in the pegs and ripped it out of the shop.

This was a really bad idea.  The bike ran like it was a week old, not 30 years old!  The suspension was plush and felt great.  The only pull to the left I could figure out was just suspension dive on off-throttle.  I'm sure whoever was riding this thing had no concept of staying in the throttle.  This bike pulls!

I'd made up my mind though.  As much as I wanted to take the Honda, I'd decided that I would make do with the Yamaha to save some money.  It was all loaded up.  Good thing too, or I'd have been very very tempted to take the vintage Honda.

When I set out, I'd decided that I would try to make a short cut from the highway.  I saw that there were a couple of dirt roads on the map that went almost directly from Pokhara to Besisahar.  This would cut off tons of km's of wrapping around to Dumre on the Pritvi Highway.  I was so excited to get into the back country immediately that this was a really exciting option.  I was thinking I was so smart with my map.  Duh, who would go all that way around, when you can just rip some gravel roads right through?  So sweet.  I gotta dirtbike now!  I can go anywhere!

The view at Begnas Tal was prettier than the first time I was here.  Nothing wrong with glaciated peaks reflecting in glass smooth water.  Pretty sublime.  I was very happy for the clear weather and couldn't wait to get up in those peaks!  I wound my way around Begnas Tal and between it and Rupa Tal.  I followed thinking this was such a great score.  Beautiful scenery, good paved road... and then the pavement stopped and life got really, really bumpy.  The lack of compression and rebound damping was driving my crazy.  Every bump the telescopic forks banged down as they rebound from their compression stroke.    I smiled on.  The route was challenging but beautiful beyond belief.  When the road dead-ended at a half-built bridge twenty minutes into my "shortcut", I started to wonder.  But the locals just pointed me back to where I came from and signaled to ride up the riverbed.  Nobody speaking English out here...  but I got the gist of it.

I stopped to rearrange my gear and take a couple layers off.  It was really warm back here in this protected lowland valley.  I waved over a young boy that was watching his grazing water buffalo.  He looked to be in his late teens and I figured he might be able to speak some English.  He came over shyly, but sure enough he spoke English.  I showed him my map and pointed out the roads, I wanted.  He nodded, and pointed ahead up the riverbed.  I asked how long to Besisahar... "10 hours in bus."

Wow.  Nice short-cut!  He told me to go back to the highway.  It had taken all of 45 minutes to go 7 kms.  I could quickly see that this was going to take extra days, not extra hours, to take my imagined short-cut.  It would be beautiful no doubt, but I didn't have that kind of time.

So I backtracked back out to the Pritvi Highway.  And as much as I wasn't wanting to ride it again, I was moving along at a great pace.  Just fast enough to be fast and just slow enough to be safe.  And riding one gear higher than felt right to keep the torque down and hopefully keeping the motor burning very efficiently.  I zipped along and soon found myself in Dumre making a left across the big river and now heading towards Besisahar on a nice paved road.  Audrey had told me that this section: Dumre - Besisahar took about 3 hours in a microbus.  I looked at my watch 1:30pm...  with any luck I'd be in Besisahar by nightfall.

The road was beautiful and I was clipping along nicely.  I was making good time.  The sun was bright and warm.  I was dressed perfectly, had great tunes jamming in my earphones, was stoked that the landscape became fully pastoral and the hustle of the Pritvi was fading fast in my memory.  Passing was easy out here... rarely were there vehicles going opposite directions, meeting at the same time.

I came up over a sweeping left (riding on the left here) and passed a bus quickly on a downhill when moments later I hear a deep thunk followed immediately by a LOCKED AND SKIDDING REAR WHEEL, that didn't respond at all to my having pulled the clutch lever tight to the handlebars!  All I could think of was that if I didn't keep this thing on its wheels the bus, whose horn was now BLARING, would run right over me!  I kept keen on the bars gently controlling the skid to the left shoulder, while the bus BLASTED past me, horn still BLARING.

I came to a stop.  Holy shit!  What now?  I thought I'd seized the motor.  I got the bike to stay on the sidestand even though the bike was facing downhill.  I looked at the bike tracing my eyes from the rear sprocket forward, hoping to source an easy fix to my locked death skid of a moment ago.

Oh.  There's the problem!  This will be an easy fix... with parts and a professional workshop maybe...  Not so much on the side of the road with a multitool pliers and a mini-wrench named after a cute orange pet fish... Lil'Guppie doesn't sound so tough when this is what you're looking at having to remedy on the side of the road!

YEAH!  Ooooops!  And all I could really see was the top of the sprocket jammed into the swingarm.  The Lil'Guppie did succeed in getting the sprocket cover off so I could try to figure out what to do about this mess.  Honestly... ear muffs kids... "FUCKING YAMAHA!!!"

I took a breath and looked at the positives.  1.  It was sunny and warm.  2.  It was 2:30pm not 5:30 and getting dark.  3.  Look at the view where I broke down...

A couple of young boys stopped to see what had happened.  They admired what was a big dirt bike to them.  They were grabbing bolts and chain parts to inspect them, as fast as I could remove them.  I grabbed them back from their curious fingers before they went missing and asked them to go find me a plastic bag.  

A few minutes later they came back shrugging their shoulders empty handed.  "Are you kidding me?  Nepal's roadsides are completely littered with plastic everywhere... and now that I need a some plastic to wrap up these filthy parts, there isn't a piece of litter for miles.  How is it possible that I managed to break down where there is no trash, when all I need is a plastic bag."  I muttered all this out loud.  They shrugged.  Probably wondering what the heck I was yammering on about.

I finished removing the master link with my multitool, saving all the orings, and putting all the important little pieces of the chain link into a piece of paper and into my pocket.  I removed the chain and pried the little sprocket out of the swing arm.  I showed the boys the messy pile of parts, pointed to my somewhat clean yellow riding jacket and they got the idea.  I needed to get this pile of mess onto the bike without getting all the used motoroil on the chain all over my everything.

Two minutes later this was the solution...

We wrapped all the pieces up in this nest of dry straw and then the enterprising young man twisted some more straw into a makeshift braided rope and tied up the hay bundle and I was good to go.  Nest of parts bungee'd under my coat and I started the uphill push, heading 2 kms to Turturhe, where he said the nearest motorcycle repair shop was.

Once more... FUCKING YAMAHA.  Have I mentioned before how little I enjoy pushing motorcycles?

What I couldn't figure out on my long 2k push was how the damn sprocket could have busted off.  Usually they are held on by a reverse-threaded bolt or nut to prevent them from ever coming off.  The more the motor is putting to the sprocket the more the reverse thread holds the sprocket on.

When I called Raju from the motorcycle shop I'd just sweat my ass off pushing the bike to,  I wanted to throw my phone into the gutter and set fire to this piece of crap Yamaha.  He told me that I just needed to get the guys to weld it back on!  WTF?  Weld it back on?  You mean it was welded once before?  He responded that the bolt snapped off 6 years ago and he just welded it on!

I didn't believe that this happened six years ago.  And I couldn't help but want to reach through the phone and grab onto one's neck with how close it had come to me ending up under a racing local bus!

I asked what I should do about the severed stator wires.  No problem Raju said... just have them weld on the sprocket and splice the wires and tape them up.

While I was comforted by his confidence in his fellow Nepali motorcycle mechanics, I wasn't having the same experience.  The mechanics were mere boys,  and the boss was maybe 25 at best.  I just sucked down cigarettes and watched the alpenglow realizing that one way or another, I'd be spending the night in this little farm village.

The mechanics kept shaking their head at the bike as they talked to Raju on the other end of my iPhone.    When they got off the phone, I looked at the boss guy with a questioning look.  He started explaining to me how many bikes they had to fix...

Oh shit here we go... he doesn't know I work in a dealership and how often I've had to look a helpless traveler in the eye and say, "well they could probably fix it..."  followed by any number of ifs... "if we only had the parts, the time, the, the, the..."

But within a cigarette, he'd decided I was worth helping.  And they'd stopped the local welder on the road and we towed the Yamadog to the welding shop.  The sprocket got welded on.  The wires got spliced now in the darkening light...

They had it almost fixed and I was wondering what I would do if they actually succeeded.  Would I push on into the literal backcountry wilderness that I'd intended to ride?  Would I scratch the trip and do the smart thing and ride this hunk of crap back to Pokhara?  Would I stay in this tiny little village?  
Any surprise that the only other Japanese bike in the shop was... a YAMAHA?

They turned the key and the headlight lit up.  Good sign.  But when they pushed the starter it would only sputter and pop once.  Then nothing.  I'd figured they got a wire wrong splicing the stator back together.  But by now they'd opened the cam chain cover and began telling me how they couldn't fix the bike tonight.  The cam chain was too loose.  Maybe so.  I'm sure the power skid hadn't done wonders on the internals of the motor.  I called Raju and gave him the bad news.

I paid the shop their requested fee for the 1.5 hours they worked on the bike... 300 Rupees ($3 USD).  Holy wow.  I think we've got a few bikes in the shop that we could send over... actually maybe I could hire one of these guys to come change tires.  Talk about a labor rate...

Raju had a solution that kept me from getting upset or coming unglued...  He would be in Turturhe by 10:30am with the Honda XR350R.  He would ride it to me and then load the Yamaha up in a truck if he couldn't fix it himself here.

Lost a solid half-day but on the good side I'd be riding the Honda after all.

Staying in these little roadside villages that get no tourism is always a trip!  It is usually afforded only to over-landers in times like these.  Backpackers and package tourists rarely get stuck in these places.  But I knew it would be fine.  I'd eat good home cooked food, steering clear of any meat, and I'd have a place to sleep but knew it would be far from tourist standard...

Don't sleep too closely to the walls and you'll be ok.  Needless to say I slept in my own sleeping bag rather than brave the blankets and linens.  Remember my comments from Tansen about the nose and throat clearing...  Well I'm pretty sure that is what makes up the wall decoration here.  Pretty nasty.

I did have good Dal Baht for dinner.  And the locals who could speak English came by to have a chat with me their lucky tourist.  I was a celebrity.  Thanks to those nice folks of Turturhe, my evening turned into a really great evening that I'll likely not forget anytime soon.

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