We asked Mr. Rabi Thapa, CEO of Sacred Summits and full-time adventurer
Forget biking tourism, there aren’t even enough motorcycles on the roads.
In a time like this, a common passion brings two adventure groups together.
A ride to Tibet, the roof of the world.
They were told it couldn’t be done. “A ride that rough and that too on Enfields? No way.”
But Sacred Summits and Himalayan Enfielders were set on their goal. This ride would pave the way, hopefully, for many enthusiasts to follow. As such, this ride does not start with the first rev, but it begins with the hurdles it took for it to even be possible.
The first hurdle. Permits.
This trip appealed to quite a lot of the expat community in Nepal. Among the enthused were a Diplomat and a UN worker. Rabi Thapa recalls sitting in his office when he got a call from the Chinese Embassy.
“We hear you are planning a tour,” the caller said, “And that you are taking some diplomats. Come to the embassy with the paperwork immediately!”
A little surprised, he readied the papers and arrived at the embassy only to be told there was no way they could allow these people to go. With a heavy heart, he had to tell these people that this trip would not be possible for them this year.
The second hurdle. The bikes.
As an incentive for joining this tour, they had advertised that 500 cc Classic Royal Enfield bikes would be provided for this trip. But as it turned out, there weren’t enough of those bikes in the country itself!
So they had to quickly arrange for five bikes as well as a more experienced mechanic to be brought from Delhi. In this way, for the first ever ride to Tibet, they set off with ten people. It was set to be a 15 day trip.
The roads that were only familiar with jeeps or bus tracks were not very welcoming to the riders. They were met with harsh winds, blowing dust and gravel at them and their bikes. The exhaust pipes, having seen better roads, started to give away for most of the bikes. The riders at the front rode on while the ones that rode behind found a trail of battery boxes and covers on their way.
They had to stop multiple times to fix the bikes, to collect the fallen parts, to shake off the road that engulfed their jackets.
However, the ride to tibet was not only about the rides. They stayed in strange hotels along the way. One that Rabi Thapa recalls with a laugh, did not seem to have doors in any of their bathroom stalls. A fact that for some reason only seemed to surprise them, as visitors, while the locals found this completely typical.
Once they crossed Lhasa though, the hotels became scarce. For this, they had a camping crew following them on a truck with all the equipment. After riding for 200 to 250 kms a day, they would stop to rest while the camping crew set to work.
They would location scout and set up camp. Every time, they’d camp at a unique location. From hot springs with the locals to the turquoise blue Yamdrok lake, from camping in front of a monastery to camping right by a duck farm with a delicious dinner, the riders embraced every new experience with open arms.
Their determination on these rough terrains, however, was rewarded. They visited Jokhang Temple, the heart of Lhasa as well as the Potala Palace. They got to drink with the locals who definitely taught these hardcore riders a thing or two.
When they entered the bar with their newly made friends, they learned that here they sell beer not by the bottle, but by the case. Add to that, a hostess stands right by,
waiting to pour you about two shot glasses worth of beer the second your empty glass hits the table.
The partying does not end there. It is tradition to say “Ghyampe!” or “Shyapta!”, their version of Cheers! And drink a shot with every new person you meet and what’s more? You have to return the favor.
By the end of the night, our capable riders were swaying in unison with the locals, revelling in the cultural programs having forgotten their weary travels.
This is the story of the first Ride to Tibet, the success of which drew many more passionate riders to join this venture in the succeeding years. As a little icing on this cake, the one UN worker who had been refused earlier, got to go on this ride during its second run.
In fact, this venture had become so well known that people filed in from all parts of the world to be a part of this ride. The subsequent years also led them to be the first group to ever ride to Muktinaath, but that’s a story for later.
So, What does it take to ride to where no one has ridden before?
Riders with a rooted determination.
A terrain that taunts to be conquered.
And a solid crew.