This whole thing started back in 2013 on our first day of sightseeing. Marybeth and I were touring in a little van driven by Dilli, our designated tour driver. He had taken us to Boudhanath to see the largest Buddhist stupa in Nepal. DJ Tenzing was with us, as he lives near the stupa and had offered to meet up with us. We circled the giant mandala once or twice, then sat for tea. Then we were supposed to get in the van and go to Swayambunath, the monkey temple, across Kathmandu for the next tourist stop. But I had brought some US-grade music gear for DJ (on his request; the quality is better than what they can get) so he wanted to drop that by his home. He asked if I’d ride with him and meet his wife. Then he and Dilli had a quick exchange in Nepali. “Erika you can ride with me to Swayambu from there, OK?” I looked at Marybeth, and in a two-second, wordless glance we exchanged these thoughts:
I’d love to do that, but…
Hell yes, go!
Are you ok with that, riding in the van with Dilli?
I’ll meet you up at the top of the Swayambu hill.
And so I got my first ride on a bike with a famous Nepali musician.
Before I left for Nepal this time I asked DJ if we could meet up, but he’s touring right now. “Maybe I can borrow your bike then?” I could hear the laughter even over IM.
This trip, I got neck deep in scooter rides, mostly because I spent way more time in Kathmandu than my other trips, and because I stayed with friends who always travel this way. It’s far easier than a car because it can weave in smaller areas. They go between people, cars and over rough roads that would bottom-out cars.So this is what most Kathmandu scooters look like.
Next was Roj. I always try to get the music gang back together when I get to Kathmandu. In 2013, this is who was there.
So this time I met up with Roj, Mingma and Mingma’s wife. All of the other musicians are touring.
So we had a quiet little visit, and when it was time to part, Mingma signed Roj up to take me home. I could have taken the bus, but they wouldn’t have it. Poor Roj. It started out well enough, but neither of us were sure where to go, so he offered to swing past the new house he is building, which was somewhere near where I was going. It tickles me that famous people have time to tour me around like this.
So after we scooted by his new home site, we headed in the general direction of the home I was staying in. Once we were sufficiently lost, I called in help and let the Nepali folks figure it out. This is Roj on the side of the road, with my phone jammed in his helmet, talking to Chirring, Danu’s nephew. We did this twice more, and Roj was endlessly patient, “no problem, no problem Erika!”
When we finally got there, Chirring was waiting with a huge smile on his face, and asked to take a photo with Roj. Roj obliged, then was on his way.
So by now I am getting really comfortable with riding around without a helmet, and using this lovely pashmina instead. (It keeps the diesel fumes and dust out better). So it was time to mix things up.
I posted this photo because it was this day that it occurred to me – shit, I’m traveling alone, there is no one taking photos of me on this trip. Selfie time. I hate them, but there you go. Turns out everyone loved this photo. I thought it made me look like a granny, but my darling husband pointed out that it reminded him of that famous Nat Geo cover of the Afghan girl with the green eyes. Maybe it’s the my Mona Lisa smile, I don’t know… but I think I’ll keep him.
Next scooter was in Chitwan (where I also rode a taxi, bus, jeep, plane and a tuk tuk). Turns out a scooter is the best way to get around Chitwan as well. Except in the jungle, where you take an elephant or a jeep.)
He toured me around the countryside, explaining what I was seeing, where things were damaged by the huge flood they had in August, and telling of his plans for development and community help.
Then this bridge – which scared the crap out of me. It was the one time when I held my breath on a scooter. Crocodiles and no railing and so thin… “It’s fine!” he said. And it was.
Back in Kathmandu I picked a new color pashmina because the first one was covered in dirt. They really do serve a purpose, regardless of what I said in the past.
This is Tukti. He was my host for the last couple days I was in Kathamndu. Now it’s a challenge, right? How many scooters will I ride… Tukti took me to the school where the dental program was going on, then on to Boudha, which is near where he lives.
And Chhiring took me on my last scooter ride. Mingma was holding a CD release event with press and lots of fanfare, and he invited me, so I asked Chhering if he would take me. This is us in the audience of the show.
And this is Chhiring and me and Mingma after the show. Then the long scoot home, and an hour or so later I was en route to the airport.
Here is a video of a ride with Chhiring.