Pete and I have been out on the bikes on our own, riding around Pokhara. The driving is exactly the same as last year; very few people indicate. Well, actually they do, but not the way you’d expect. For example a right indicator means they want you to overtake them. Or maybe turn right…but it works!
Horns are still as plentiful as ever. Pete and I haven’t used ours as there has been no need; careful observation, anticipation and planning has meant we have not needed to alert anyone to our presence which is the UK perception of horn use. In Nepal it means many things, such as ‘Hello’, or ‘I wish to overtake you’, ‘I am overtaking you’, ‘Please overtake me’…quite a long list we think, but the one thing it never seems to mean is any form of aggression; road rage just doesn’t feature on the map…
A common technique is one we have all probably experienced when riding motorcycles in the UK. The old ‘If I don’t look at you, I can’t see you, so you’re not there’ approach. Again, it works, someone always makes room for you. Often with a horn note to let you know, and of course a polite ‘Thank you’ horn note is the standard reply.
But it’s just what you have to do. You cannot ride ‘UK style’. For a start, you’d never get out of a junction! You have to join in. Pete was joining in by not looking at a car from his left at a roundabout. The car started it by ‘not looking’ at Pete first. It made for interesting viewing from behind, and it was close but slow (as it always is) and people made room.
After yesterdays’ work on the football field – some pictures attached from that – we went to the river bed today. We remembered from last year it had a selection of short, gentle, slopes and shallow river crossings to learn some basics on.
The journey there revealed there were some issues with the use of the clutch which is not surprising; most of these ladies are scooterists so are unfamiliar with it. We decide that we will do some exercises to improve that.
Upon arrival at the venue things have changed a lot! There is work underway to construct a new bridge with a lot of groundworks. The gentle slopes have gone, replaced by steep mounds of loose stones and the river has been diverted into a narrow channel. Time to change and adapt again!
We start off just by getting the ladies to walk alongside the bikes, engine running and in first gear. By gently slipping the clutch the aim is to walk alongside the bike with it driving itself, rather than the rider pushing it. This proves difficult for some as they tend to just ‘drop’ the clutch resulting in uncontrolled launches or stalls due to lack of revs. We spend a great deal of time on this as it gives excellent practice on clutch / throttle control balance and control. Gradually confidence and ability improve.
Pete and I have a recce of the area to find another suitable challenge but the route we followed didn’t reveal anything suitable so we returned. Pete was in the lead and had a bit of a moment climbing some loose rocks so I stopped further back to give him time and me room to build up some momentum to climb them. No worries, it was just a ‘moment’ and my way was clear so off I went. Literally. I had stopped on a bald bit of ground amongst the rocks but in fact this was something called ‘Fesh Fesh’. It has the consistency of talcum powder and is almost a cross between fine ash and snow. I had been warned about it but didn’t know what it looked like. Well, I did now! In thin amounts on rocks it is like ice, up to a certain depth (a couple of inches) your tyres can cut through it to the ground beneath. Anything deeper and it’s a case of trying to ‘float’ over it quickly. Horrible stuff!
After I pick myself and the bike up we get back to the group and talk about how to get up some of the mounds (these are actually a mix of rocks and fesh fesh so they collapse quite easily). The ladies decide they couldn’t ride up it, but could maybe ‘walk’ the bikes up so we do just that. They soon learn the advantage of being ‘uphill’ of the bike; if it falls, it falls away from you, and if you’re short in height then it’s easier as you are above the bike. It’s great, even at this early stage, to see them putting new ideas into practice. We have explained to them at the outset that this is about arriving at their destination. If they crash out on the way to see their patient in the mountains then the patient doesn’t get the treatment they need, and the ladies get some treatment they didn’t want.
We look to move to a long stretch of road where we can practice using the gearbox and standing up whilst riding. At this point one of the ladies had an innocuous trip and hurt her ankle so it looks like she may not be able to complete this training. We will see tomorrow.
They all see the point of standing up on rough surfaces after a few miles of this and with the onset of another storm we return to base. The ride back is a huge improvement over the ride out earlier today. They understand more about clutch and gear use so we stay together, there is much more control when moving off; all in all an excellent day and they have worked really hard. They themselves are still enjoying but all complain of sore forearms…and anyone who has ridden off road will be familiar that!
The photographs on this blog entry are courtesy of Sidhartha Gurung, the GWT Photographer, and I thank him kindly for letting me use them. I can’t put mine up as I dropped my camera…don’t tell my wife!