August 18, 2017 05:17 PM NPT
Pramod Shrestha doesn’t even attempt to deny it. “Any excuse to get on the bike and ride will do,” he confesses. It’s this passion for the thrill of motorbike journeys that got him to take on the Mechi to Mahakali ride challenge this June. But that isn’t even his recent road trip. He just got back from a 33-day Ladakh tour as well. And for the record, he rode his bike from Kathmandu all the way to the land of high passes. In his own words, it’s apparently been “quite a jolly adventure so far”. He sat down with The Week to talk about his adventurous trips.
“The struggle is real. How do I exactly describe this feeling?”
Especially since he challenged himself to what turned to be a 22 hour, 22 minute ride from the east to the west of our country (1100km), there has been some attention from the masses as well as the media. Now he chose to use the moment to raise some awareness on Parkinson disease but apparently, there have been some parts of the interview where he has wondered whether he has done his trips justice.
“How does it feel to travel on a motorbike?” – many often ask him and Shrestha shares that the struggle is real. How do you articulate such momentous experiences? He tries his best though.
“Every couple of minutes, I’m hit by a wave of different feelings,” he explains, “I’m pretty sure it’s what they mean when they say you feel alive.”
When asked to talk about some of his most memorable moments on his road trips, he picks his bike tours to Tibet. Shrestha organizes trips to various places in Nepal as well as abroad in India, Bhutan and Tibet. He has had many journeys to these places with different groups of clients. But still he claims that the Tibet route to the Everest base camp feels different every single time.
“We are riding at more than 4000m high and, as you ride, you see these massive structures from afar. You can’t make this trip on a bike from Nepal but in Tibet you can ride up to the base camp. As you get closer, riding in that cold air, it seems so surreal. Even now as I close my eyes, I can feel the moment,” he says.
He insists motorbikes are the best for traveling and experiencing all the sounds, smells and tastes you would no doubt miss behind a window.
“The most important thing you need to make these trips is confidence.”
Those moments and that indescribable feeling are reasons why Shrestha keeps getting back on the bike. Though his workshop has more than a dozen bikes for organized trips, personally he reveals that he owns only two Enfields, the first of which he apparently bought off an acquaintance in the late 90s for Rs 25,000. He calls it the best deal ever. He knows it was a steal.
But, of course, back in those days, there were only a handful of Enfield riders in the capital. It was difficult to gain access to their part, making maintenance quite tricky. The idea of going on long motorbike trips was also not popular. Shrestha recalls the short trips to Nagarkot and Dhulikhel with his friends in their late teens. Back then, for them, it was apparently “full blown escapades.”
“When you travel on bikes, you are vulnerable to all the elements, from the dust and heat to conditions of the road,” says Shrestha, also sharing anecdotes of the times their girlfriends had to get down and help push their bikes.
However, according to him, the most important thing to go on these motorbike trips is the will to take on the adventure.”Your confidence as a biker needs to be there. You have to have a mindset where you are ready to face whatever comes your way,” he continues, “Embrace the risk. These journeys are all about getting out of your comfort zone.”
“Work makes me turn into a shepherd as well.”
Today, with more than 8,000 Enfield riders in Kathmandu alone, the prospect of “getting out of your comfort zone” clearly appeals to many Nepalis. Along with running his workshop in Lazimpat, Shrestha has been leading motorbike tours for years now. On an average, he shares that there are 10-12 people on the road trips that he plans. He says he mostly leads them from the front but herding the pack of riders is also his responsibility.
“Everybody has their own riding style but in the weeks and sometimes a month of these trips, you need to learn how to motivate them as well,” says Shrestha.
“We are riding at more than 4000m high and, as you ride, you see these massive structures from afar. You can’t make this trip on a bike from Nepal but in Tibet you can ride up to the base camp. As you get closer, riding in that cold air, it seems so surreal. Even now as I close my eyes, I can feel the moment.”
From taking their own mechanic on trips to safety gears, accommodation and such, Shrestha and his team take care of all the logistics. It was apparently the perfect way to share and indulge in his passion for motorbike trips.
As it is, he says, he has realized that one of the best bit of continuing with his road adventures has been the people he has met. “In many ways, the idea of traveling on motorbikes only appeals to a certain kind of personalities. The people you meet are responsible for half the fun of the trip,” he says.
Shrestha acknowledges the long stretches of barrenness that that they have to ride through to reach their destination. He confesses to feeling bored at those instances. To while away the time, he says he talks or sings to himself, or mulls over things back home – basically anything that doesn’t involve putting on headphones because he likes to hear the surroundings and, of course, the engine.
“You need to stay alert,” Shrestha also repeats multiple times.
He apparently doesn’t believe in playing down the risk factor of traveling in this fashion. But he also reveals that in his decade plus of riding bikes, he has only been in one accident. And that too was very recent. He explains it was just that – an accident – unfortunate but unavoidable. “When you are out riding on the road, you never know what will be around the corner,” he says.