The world is your lobster! Well it is if you’ve got a motorcycle and a sense of adventure…
Riding a motorcycle in a farflung environment stirs the soul and challenges the norm. You learn to adapt, to take the lows when they come but to make the most of the highs.
These trips don’t always come easy or cheap but with expert companies (many featured in this MCN Escapes issue), they come easier and cheaper than you’d think. There comes a time when you simply have to take the plunge and do something that takes you away from the daily grind. See which of these epic trips tickles your fancy!
ROAD TO KATHMANDU
Riding in Tibet is a combination of isolation, altitude and mystery that gives the area significant appeal for motorcyclists. The route from Kathmandu to Lhasa along the Friendship Highway is one of the world’s great journeys, with thrilling and exciting sections with steep cliffs and waterfalls.
The highway, on the Tibetan Plateau, starts from Lhasa – the capital – and passes the turquoise Yamdrok Lake, before connecting to Shigatse. The road forks after this, with one branch heading west to the city of Ali. The other continues south, past Tingri, New Tingri and on to the Rongphu Monastery near Everest Base Camp. From here the road continues on to the Nepali border at Zhangmu, traverses the Sino-nepal Friendship Bridge and continues to Kathmandu in Nepal.
Sights along the route include various cultural monuments, the upper valley of the Yarlung Zangbo River, vast grasslands on the plateau, and mountain vistas including five of the world’s highest peaks: Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma. The Highway is used by pilgrims from all corners of the world to the spiritual centre in Lhasa.
You need to be aware of monsoons which lead to flooding and serious altitude where acclimatisation is vital. You’ll pass through dense tropical vegetation, cascading waterfalls and the barren rocky landscape of the ice giants.
The view from the summit of the pass at Lalung La (16,574ft, 5052m) is breathtaking – a chain of six and seven thousand-metre peaks (19,685ft, 22,965ft) – only topped by the 26,318ft (8022m) Shisha Pangma. From Lalung La you leave the monsoon rains behind and head across the highlands.
Think of all the best roads you’ve ever ridden. Now imagine all those other incredible roads you’ve read about in magazines, or seen on TV? Now stitch all these ribbons of tarmac together, lay them out in one place and you’ve got Tasmania.
One minute you’d swear you’re in the mountains of southern Spain, or northern Italy, the next Sardinia, Scotland or Wales. Ride a few hours down the road and you’re magically transported to the TT Mountain Course, the Targa Florio in Sicily, and the tree-lined tarmac surrounding the Nürburgring.
You can ride for tank after tank of fuel without seeing either a straight stretch of road, another car or a town. Tasmania might be over 10,000 miles away, but it’s a bikers’ paradise. Half the size of England, but with a population of just half a million (compared to the UK’S 65 million), Tassie is a riot of traffic-free corners, seemingly endless mountain hairpins, undulating sweepers and perfectly-surfaced, dizzying switchbacks.
Tasmania is covered in National Parks and Heritage sites, so it’s the perfect place to watch the world drift by on a touring bike. And if you’re on an adventure-styled machine, you can lose yourself on off-road trails for eternity.
Unlike Australia, you’re unlikely to see an over-zealous copper hiding behind a wheelie bin with a speed camera, or any police presence out on the open road – just do the sensible thing and behave yourself around town and you’ll be left alone.
The Tassie roads are the main event for us, but there are surprises along the way. Whether the food comes from a fish and chip shop or an oyster bar, the grub here is truly incredible and is some of the best you’ll find anywhere in the world.
Along the way you’ll see penguins in the sleepy town of Bicheno, as well as a bike museum stuffed with over 60 immaculately restored vintage and classic machines. And then there’s Joe’s Bar in Hobart, which seems to be an eerie Hard Rock-type shrine to crashed racing cars and bikes, with spanners hanging up behind the bar where the optics should be.
Four long days of Tassie riding is more than enough to scratch my sports riding itch and leaves my mind and body frazzled. There’s little doubt Tasmania is a haven for bikers, whether it’s for the roads, the scenery, the high-speed madness or culture. Just a shame it’s so damn far away.
It’s rides like this that dreams are made of