Nepal 2019, Uncategorized

Kusma at last

Today is the final day of the course; the ladies have had all the training so today it’s a case of watching them deal with a variety of hazards and roads, seeing how they use their skills and judgement for themselves. They are a lot happier this morning, a good night of rest and they’re raring to get going. There is a mix of tarmac roads to start with and they are all much more confident with the bike. They may only be 150cc machines, but they are very tall for them. Most bikes in Nepal are scooters, which these three are all used to riding, and they have an automatic gearbox. Manual bikes are predominantly 150cc with a couple of 200cc models, and the ubiquitous Royal Enfield Bullet 350. They have all struggled with fine clutch control, tending to use it more as a switch, but they do very well in the villages and the very slow uphill stretches behind very heavily laden trucks. At the start of the course dropped machines were quite common as they struggled with the clutch and height of the machines. No such problems now.

We head out into the hills and the rough, unmade roads and rock trails that these machines were bought to deal with. From the start we have introduced the phrase ‘risk assessment’ to them which is, when you think about things, what we all do when driving or riding anyway. Only now, they are more aware of the risks. They have had enough to cope with using the clutch and the size of the bike anyway, but now they have to figure in planned routes, and planned stops, so if they need to stop they can put a foot down. With their diminutive size this needs a lot of thought and they do well. Two of them are considerably taller than the third so they have, in general, more route options available and they all have different levels of skill in various techniques but they all play to their strengths and take the best choices for them. They all get to the destination with very few issues and the smallest one has none at all. She had the biggest hurdle of all to overcome but has done so very well indeed. Both myself and Pete are very impressed with the progress she has made. No complaining, no excuses, just questions and downright determination.

At the top of the hill we find the highest, longest, suspension bridge in Nepal. It is 347m long and 166m high, access and exit via some stone steps, and it is a road in constant use by both bikes and pedestrians in both directions. Nepalese don’t often look 347 metres ahead when driving or riding so you have to pass as well. This is done by leaning into the side mesh. All good fun. We were here last year and I regretted not riding over it, so this year I ticked an item off my bucket list and rode across it. Click below

to see the video if you want. When I got there, two of the girls had walked and wanted a lift back, so the return route was with a pillion.

The third lady wanted to ride across it, so she did so. These bridges are a common sight in Nepal and an essential part of the road network. This one turned a commute between Kusma and Balewa from a 2 hour walk to a 5 minute one and the girls will have to deal with them, or seek an alternative. It’s great to see them riding in acknowledgement of their own abilities and confidence rather than being a passenger on the bike which they were at times on day 1.

The return route is on similar roads, only downhill now, so another set of problems have to be overcome as well as confident use of the front brake. In common with many scooter riders across the world they were afraid of using it in the belief they would crash. Again, they dealt with all routes and hazards with great skill and competence.

To see these three grow in confidence the way they have this week has been a great source of pleasure for Pete and I, they are the first ladies trained in Nepal in motorcycling techniques and in the 50th Anniversary year of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, and our own Women in Action month, there is a lot to be proud of both for them, and us.

Hopefully more female motorcyclists can be trained but there is a current backlog of tests in Nepal to acquire a driving licence. The GWT are desperate to overcome this but so far there seems to be no shortcut available.

This has been another memorable visit to Nepal for us both, and to see first-hand the level of care these people deliver to retired Gurkhas and their families is truly humbling.

As well as delivering welfare, the GWT have built 30 schools in the last 3 years and are doing water management projects across Nepal; there is much more to the organisation than we both thought…

Nepal 2019, Uncategorized

A Year On…

We are on our way again! We are due out in 2020 with a follow-up to our initial trip last year. For those who did not read about it – or as a reminder for those that have – last year’s blog is on the ‘Nepal 2018’ page. You can find the link in the green bar at the top of this page.

This year we were additionally asked if we could train some more welfare assistants for the Gurkha Welfare Trust. Only this time they are women.

The Gurkha Welfare Trust is a charity that takes care of retired Gurkhas and their families who often live in outlying parts of Nepal where there are no services to speak of. In the past Donkeys were used, but in more recent times the use of motorcycles has increased. They use the same Donkey paths and river / stream beds for which there is no training available in Nepal. In fact there is no real formal motorcycle training in Nepal at all. The most highly trained riders are the people we trained last year who are busy carrying out their own care missions. Monsoon season is on its way and when that happens the motorcycles get put away. Not because the riders don’t like getting wet, but all that water has to go somewhere, and stream beds get buried very quickly under a lot of fast moving water.

Neither Pete Doherty nor I really recall seeing many women riders, or even many women welfare assistants within the places we stayed, though we were focused on the task in hand so weren’t particularly looking out for them. But they do exist.

This trip has two aims; to help a group of women riders gain extra general motorcycling confidence and off road skills and a group of young gents who need a bit of all-round improvement in motorcycling. They will not be training others so that side needn’t be covered this year. That means the two groups should be done in 11 days. 6 days for the women and 5 days for the men. The extra day for the ladies is to be a ‘long run’ off road by way of consolidation. This will not be necessary for the men.

The focus on this trip is the women. If they need an extra day then they get it, at the expense of the male group. The two groups are to be trained separately, perhaps a little more on this later.

For now though, it’s last-minute prep before setting off to Heathrow. Pete is going to start packing soon…

So please bookmark / follow this site and I will try and update it as we go. All comments welcome!