It’s brutally cold, especially at the hilltop viewpoint that’s unprotected from wind chill. But if you manage to make it up for sunrise (I resorted to prying Chris out of bed the third morning), you can die happy. Every time you watch a Paramount Pictures movie and before it starts think: “wow, those are some pretty mountains”, Naragot is that on steroids.
For a place that has the view of nine of the twelve Himalayan mountain ranges, it’s surprisingly empty except the three pups who are quite obviously Kings of the Hill. Due to it’s proximity to Kathmandu, there are more local tourists than foreign tourists riding up for the weekend just like us.
On the way down from the most amazing view I’ve ever seen, we see a local truck captured by black ice, fallen in a ditch, surrounded by rangers trying to pull it out. More excitingly though, another foreign couple on a Bullet with Mumbai license plates! Apparently, not all bikers are as lucky as us as they said that the first two weeks after getting their bike they couldn’t ride more than 100 kilometers before breaking down. There’s us, a month and a half in without any major breakdowns.
As we chat, a very tan grandpa with Santa Clause-white hair walks by, grabs the bike to steady himself, and attempts to hop on the rack to hitch a ride!! As I look at him in confusion (nose to nose at this point) he signals to start going up the hill as if we were his personal taxi. I signal that we’re going downhill, he mumbles (probably cursing) at me in Nepalese, and trudges on the steep upward mountain.
It’s something commonly done in India and Nepal- if there’s less than three on a scooter or space available on a truck, people get taxied for free. Something done out of the kindness of people’s heart, but also sheer practicality with billions of people.
A guy we met in Naragot told us about Kodari, and we still have two days until we have to be back in Kathmandu to pick up our Indian visas so of course we had to do one last side trip. Kodari is a mountainous region boarding Tibet that was very heavily hit by the earthquake in 2015, and although damaged is still open to tourists.
The road up is bad, but not Muktinath bad. There’s a few remnants of landslides and a few broken buildings but nothing too shocking (yet). As the Tibetan boarder nears, police checkpoints emerge. A total of four before the booming steel gates blocking entry to the bridge dividing the Nepal and Tibet.
After the checkpoints, cliffs disappear and cars disappear into cliffs. Houses are left as skeletons; robbed of possessions and broken down for bricks. Some shops suffered the same fate, others left hauntingly untouched. A barber shop complete with a swivel chair and combs, staring back in a dusty cracked mirror. Entire portions of the concrete water dam halfway down the riverbank.
Once a vibrant town, Tatopani lost its energy from the hot springs. Passing Tatopani to Kodari is a recent landslide being cleared by cranes and trucks. LG loses her footing in the sand, giving us an uninvited view of the rocky cliff below us. Between the landslide to our right and the dangling cliff to our left, we had no more than a meter and a half of wiggle room and any mistake feels dramatic.
Safely, we reach said booming steel gates. The Nepalese immigration officers are bored staring at abandoned buildings converted into Monkey Kingdom, and jump at the chance to interact with some cool foreigners (that’s us!). We park up LG as they creek open the gates allowing us to get closer to the Tibetan border, warning us to stay as close to the cliff as possible in order to get furthest away from the potential falling rocks from the hill. After some debate within themselves in Nepalese, they take us across the bridge to where two orange prayer handkerchiefs are innocently tied in the middle signaling the border.
A few selfies later, we pass Monkey HQ again to collect LG and make our way. Call it paranoia, but the ride down seemed to have lots more surveillance cameras set up on the Tibetan mountain across the river. What intel they were going to collect from Nepalese mountain tribes is beyond me.
(Or maybe… they’re collecting intel on foreigners with Enfields who step foot into Chinese land. We’ll never know.)