My phone rang. The screen told me it was Pete Doherty; a good friend for many years now. We worked together as instructors for about 10 years on the Motorcycle wing at Hendon; the Metropolitan Police Driving School. We have both been IAM members and examiners for years and are now full time employees as area managers. It is not unknown for us to have a little bit of banter and the occasional wind-up. We have learnt the signs from each other to know when a wind-up is coming. Our lips move.
Today was no exception.
“Do you fancy a trip to Nepal”? he said, “Bugger off” I hinted.
“Off Road Motorcycling” he replied “Seriously”!
“I can’t afford it”
“It’s for work”!
“SERIOUSLY seriously”! he gushed, which was the age-old code that a wind up was not in the air.
He went on to explain we were to deliver motorcycle training to the Gurkha Welfare Trust on behalf of IAM RoadSmart.
The Gurkha Welfare Trust is a charity that does exactly what it says on the tin. They take care of retired Gurkhas throughout the country. To work for them, you have to have served as a Gurkha. They supply aid ranging from Medical and Financial assistance all the way to Welfare visits. Some of the main roads in Nepal are metalled, most would appear to be tracks and many aren’t wide enough for 4 wheeled vehicles. Hence the reign of the Donkey. See what I did there? Never mind…
We have both delivered off-road training to students in the Police. A 1-day course for most students and a more technically intensive 4-day course for officers patrolling off road
Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t competition level stuff but an introduction on how to get from point A to point B off road on a bike fitted with indicators and mirrors and actually arrive in one bit, able to carry out a job. Exactly what was needed in Nepal. That’s the hook. That’s the point we need to get across; if the doctor crashes en route and doesn’t arrive at the outlying village, what happens to the patient?
I started to get together a list of essential things I needed to buy for the trip. A small helmet-mounted camera, a new lens for my camera; I quite like photography and have a couple of nice lenses, but space is at a premium on a bike and there may not be room / time to change lenses. Then there is the possibility (OK, absolute certainty) that I’ll come off at some point. A quick visit to eBay sourced a reasonably priced second-hand 18 – 200 super zoom that will stay on for the whole trip.
Of course, with the potential number of images and videos each day I needed somewhere to store them. Back to the internet for a USB hub, card reader and portable hard drive. And a case. For the benefit of the missus who will be reading this it all cost less than £50. Ish. Honest. I’ll bring you some perfume back darling…Eau de Yak?
When it comes to planning we had a pretty vague brief. Teach on-road and off-road riding to them. Riding, roads and road safety in Nepal are far different than we are used to in the UK. Google it and you’ll see what I mean.
The first day on the road we ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara. 200km or about 125 miles, even in the Highlands of Scotland this would take a maximum of about 3 hrs. I’m told this trip could take 8 hrs or even 10. I think that may be a wind-up, but no-one has said “SERIOUSLY seriously” yet…
We were wondering about which bikes we’d have. We imagined it would be something made in the region such as Hero or Royal Enfield. The latest ‘Himalaya’ model, even. We then discovered they would be Honda XR150L’s. I’m 6 foot plus and the wrong side of 14 stone. Pete is the wrong side of both. I think we’ll need two each; one per bum cheek!
As time moves forward we find we have total of 12 students, which is a challenge but manageable. We will be teaching them over 7 days and will be aiming to teach them a method of riding to a system, colloquially known as IPSGA, which those readers who have done some advanced training will (hopefully) recognise. For those that haven’t done any post-test training (and you really should, you owe it to yourself to safely get the most out of your hobby) it is an acronym for
It works. I’m not going to go into depth about it here. Google or www.iamroadsmart.com will answer your questions It also works off-road in our context so we’re only teaching one system and applying it to a variety of hazards with a few extra techniques to help ride over rough ground.
A large unknown is the base level of the riders and we won’t know that until we see for ourselves but, again, the standard required to pass the driving test in Nepal is greatly different to our usual expectations. We have been told many of our students are experienced cross-country motorcyclists so we could have anything up to a budding Dougie Lamkin in the group.
The idea is to ensure they are getting it right by skill rather than luck so we will have a theory session then it’s a case of putting into practice which is the key to any effective training.
They are, rightfully, a proud nation and proud of their Country. We need to engage with care and not be condescending or disrespectful to them or their nation; it’s a nation and a culture I have long held an interest in; mainly due to a large hill they have there…
We can’t wait…time to pack; I set off tomorrow!