OFF-ROAD THERAPY (PART. 2/5)

Nota Bene:
This text was written by Annie, one of our road sisters who joined our first tour in Nepal, in 2022.
It was translated as close as possible from the original French text in order to keep the essence of her story.

Departure Ceremony and First Day

On this 17th of October 2022, we began the day of our grand departure with a Puja (prayer).

 

The sun was shining, and it staid with us along the way.

The Puja, throughout the journey, was an enchanted parenthesis for me and anchored me spiritually in this adventure.

Sushant and Yurbisha, our valiant team captains, introduced us to this ritual, adorning us with silky scarves around our necks and blessing us with the ‘tika,’ a powdered red mark on our foreheads.

 Thus, we left our guesthouse named Seven Women.

It’s a true sign of destiny, one might say.

We are seven women, seven adventurers, seven sisters, seven conquerors ready to discover Nepal, its people, its culture, and its landscapes.

 

We were ready to open the doors to our inner worlds with the rumble of engines, falls, resilience, and encouragement.

off road therapy

 

But embarking on an initiatory journey is earned, and it won’t happen without challenges. Leaving the city of Kathmandu was our first challenge.

First rapid heartbeats.

“Bam… Bam…”

  

Kathmandu is a city like all major Asian cities; it’s charming but bustling… and traffic rules don’t exist. Remain courteous but also don’t hesitate to take an opportunity to squeeze through. A whole philosophy!  

My state of mind was serene before departing… but not for long.

  

Just a year after obtaining my motorcycle license, why would I throw myself into the lion’s den when the roads of our French countryside are more welcoming?

Mystery… But humans are like that.

Provoking difficulty to find meaning in our lives. Even if I had faced personal challenges recently, this time, I had chosen the challenge myself.

 

And that makes all the difference.

  

The first day was a series of firsts for me.

The first time I rode a Royal Enfield, a charming little goat aesthetically but extremely different from my very docile Yamaha XJ6 roadster, which I named Constance. These two motorcycles are like fire and ice. Day and night. My first major difficulty was getting used to my Royal Enfield. Initially, we were not friends, but once I managed to tame this mountain goat because it has quite the character, I found it charming after all.

off road therapy

The first day was memorable.

How to get out of Kathmandu with a motorcycle I didn’t yet know? I often stalled with this single-cylinder engine. Later, I learned to play with the clutch to maintain my balance…  

But until then, I fell, a few times!

 

Falls while standing still, falls off-road, and a fall because of a big rock that I couldn’t avoid. I even managed to ‘christen’ my motorcycle within 20 minutes of riding. Trying to pass a motorcyclist, I had to brush past his bike. I continued on, thinking nothing had happened. He eventually caught up with me. Everyone stopped.

I felt embarrassed.

Apparently, there was a scratch or something on his license plate. Sushant negotiated with him, and we carried on.

Quite an eventful start, wasn’t it?

Fortunately, the team’s kindness and patience greatly helped me persevere despite everything. Everything was new for me.

Traveling with a new motorcycle.

Traveling to Nepal with a group.

There were so many new variables to manage simultaneously. I was realizing a dream, and at the same time, I had to pull myself together initially before becoming more comfortable. 

The first day laid the foundation for a relaxed atmosphere, steeped in sisterhood, which Alison managed to create and maintain throughout the journey. Despite my falls, thankfully without serious injuries, I still managed to overcome my fear during a steep uphill climb on the motorcycle, and to descend with the encouragement of my road sisters.

Every success was verbally celebrated, creating an atmosphere of confidence. 

Yet, at the end of that day, I was disappointed in my ‘performance.’ 

The 50 kilometers separating Kathmandu from Kulekhani were an intensive learning experience on all fronts. Perhaps subconsciously, I thought I would do better. Yet, I had promised myself to be less demanding of myself after the illness. Old habits die hard.

 

Yurbisha encouraged and congratulated me. It was comforting, and I knew that as the days passed, my riding would improve. Never despair.

  

And the following days…

off road therapy

On the second day, even though waking up was a bit tough, I resolved to trust myself more to fall less. As the days passed, I kept my balance more, and that was encouraging.

In reality, I wasn’t quite used to this single-cylinder engine, and my usual motorcycle, equipped with various technologies, compensated for the lack of technicality of a novice motorcyclist.

  

Throughout the trip, we rode on all types of roads. 

Muddy, rocky, dusty, winding, mountainous, rugged, potholed, and more. Some roads were impressive, especially when they were narrow and bumpy, with cars and trucks coming from the opposite direction. Once, we were forced to stop and wait for the excavator to finish restoring the road. In the span of two weeks, I felt like I had gained experience at a frantic pace, as if each day was an intensive motorcycle lesson. 

 

I remember during the briefing when Alison advised us: “If you have to choose between the ravine or the wall, choose the wall.” We laughed with a hint of nervousness. Quite an ambiance. Ellen, my American road sister, and I often sang ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ in homage to these river crossings that could sometimes be impressive. I would have added Gloria Gaynor’s song ‘I Will Survive’ to motivate us, but in the end, we did it!

  

The only respite we could have was on the highway. To think that initially, I had imagined four-lane highways with chickens on the side…I was already shivering at the thought alone, but fortunately, reality was different. There were indeed chickens (as well as pedestrians, vendors, cyclists, cows, etc.), but to call these tarred roads highways, we were far from it! 

 

I admired my road sisters who never gave up at any moment. Fortunately, we had a 4×4 support vehicle driven by our amazing Bijay. Sandrine and I were able to enjoy some restful moments in the car when we were too tired. Everything was planned, and we were touched by the devotion of the Nepalese team. For my part, I had to find a compromise between self-transcendence and my health.

Finding one’s limits, yes, because this journey also allowed me to know them and to overcome my fears, especially when we entered Mustang.