This story begins in the middle, with more then a dozen biker dudes sloshed in a Jiri guesthouse over the weekend. We had just ridden what seemed like a thousand kilometers from Kathmandu (it’s only about 180km) but my two flat tires made it seem longer, as I had not checked the tubes on my rusting Enfield 350 Bullet prior to launch. Consequently, I had a flat in the front by lunch and then one in the back when there should have been dinner. But changing a tire with 15 other bikers in the middle of the forest late at night, illuminated only by a makeshift campfire, iPhones, and one mini Maglite - is one of those adventures that a biker tells as a tall tale on a future ride.
We eventually made it to the Sagarmatha Lodge and Restaurant in downtown Jiri around 10pm, and the Sagarmatha is your typical guesthouse of an age gone by, located in a yesteryear hamlet that has just begun to re-invent itself - with a cheese factory and a llama farm. Years before the Lukla Airport was built, Jiri saw 600-700 tourists arriving per day, all folks on their way to Everest by trail. Nowadays, I’m positive that our group of Enfield Riders (sponsored by Sacred Summit Tours) was the biggest group of 15 this town had seen in quite a while.
If not the largest tour group, we were definitely the nosiest. This pack of bikes, from ancient to brand new, 350cc to 500cc, some stock and some knocked up with new seats, paintjobs, and hot tires were loud enough to wake the entire village.
So it took until about midnight until everyone had their fill of grand dal-bhat and some really fine booze, and then while we were all singing 60’s songs and laughing out loud at just about anything, I got off on my rant about the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) 2011, and this year’s silly campaign slogan of “Guest is God.”
“Guest is God, come on now, that can’t be right!” I remember screaming above the din, “You guys are the Gods, not me, look at you...ya look like biker rupas, dressed in leather and denim with hearts of gold – people should be paying to come see you, like at a monastery – they don’t have you pay to go in do they, they charge ya admission at the gate, right!”
Well that got both groans and laughs. Sure, in Nepal the “guest” is important, honored, etc. - but a God? I can’t see it, since in many cases, the guests are not even polite, let alone god-like. I was taught that respect was an earned thing, and not something given up blindly. Call me a pragmatist, but I’m not gonna look at a bunch of loud Brits or Yanks on holiday and start thinking oh my Mt Vesuvius or Greek quorum. Well, maybe Mt Vesuvius, once enough alcohol sets in.
Interesting enough, there was an American “Man of the Cloth” on this ride, which was fantastic and quite different. And since everyone was behaving (pretty much) I don’t think anyone felt uncomfortable with an evangelist biker dude handing out bible cartoons. After all, rides always make me think of the multitudes of gods – as they all seem to come alive as you roar by uncountable temples, monuments and stupas day into night.
And this ride was no different; from the time we left the Handlebar Bar (7am) to our final stumbling into a guestroom straight out of a scene from Little Red Riding Hood (3am), my head was swimming in gearboxes and fruit carts and local buses with Shiva and Buddha and Jesus all mixed together. The bare bed and thick sirack (blanket), coupled with the fact that all the windows had panes of glass - portals to the brightest stars of this hemisphere - made for a great night’s prayer – we made it, thank you dear god(s)!
Jiri is a bygone attraction maintained in Swiss fashion, and perhaps should be preserved as it once was, or even designated as a World Heritage Site.
Then it was a glorious morning beginning by woofing down a slab of Tibetan bread with a huge farm-fresh omelet draped atop. That was washed down with lots of strong black coffee, and any hangover was immediately vanquished.
Going back always seems more pleasant and relaxed then the way up. Jiri in the morning is as idyllic-looking as any Swiss hamlet when seen from above. Roaring out of town was bittersweet, as I wished I could stay longer, perhaps forever, but this was just a two-day ride...
Jiri, no matter how alive with the vibrant colors of the Nepali spirit, seemed a bit sad as well. Jiri is a bygone attraction maintained in Swiss fashion, and perhaps should be preserved as it once was, or even designated as a World Heritage Site, and most assuredly should be promoted far more than it is by the NTB.
Herojig is quirky kinda expat happily living in the Kathmandu valley with Nepali family, friends and a very large dog – but last weekend he was just a biker