Updated: Oct 28
The woman who inspired me to do this is Kerstin, the founder of BIKE ’N SOUL. A decision I will never regret.
The key to adventure riding is stepping into the unknown with courage, spontaneously flowing with events as they unfold.
I first encountered Kerstin on social media while absorbing all I could about adventure riding without quitting the comfort of my couch.
A dirt bike crash two years earlier had shaken my confidence, but I was cautiously riding again. And so, while I lived vicariously through anonymous social media, dreaming of being a free soul on a motorcycle in foreign lands, Kerstin posted she would join a women-only ride in Nepal from Kathmandu to Lower Mustang as an assistant partner.
I hesitated only a minute before signing up.
I instantly bonded with the woman whose life inspired me
Arriving in Nepal a few months later, I was thrilled to meet the women I would be riding with and what a group of soul-sisters we became.
But my most profound connection was with Kerstin.
After the official tour was complete, I had a few extra days before returning back to the USA, so Kerstin and I set off together for a 250 km overnight ride on our own. The previous 12 days of riding with her were very empowering because her skills on a motorbike are excellent, and she calmly encourages more novice riders to take the challenge.
Our solo ride began in a garage
A fragment of a key got stuck in the rear tire of my rental bike—a weathered black Royal Enfield Himalayan—and flattened it while navigating Kathmandu’s insane traffic. Kerstin and I had left our guesthouse about an hour ago, and now here I sat at a dusty roadside table with a lukewarm cup of black Nescafé while Kerstin negotiated the repair with motor oil-coated mechanics at a garage on the outskirts of Kathmandu.
Kerstin's extensive experience of more than three decades of exploring Nepal, including a 10-year work stay, has enabled her to achieve an impressive level of fluency in Nepali.
Always keen, ever kind, her bemused banter with the mechanics was but one delightful aspect of traveling this country with her.
She took me on one of her favorite routes: east out of Kathmandu, past ancient Bhaktapur, up and over to Dolaghat along a number of gushing rivers, eventually climbing to the village of Charikot on the road to Jiri, with Mt. Everest just beyond.
The commonality in Nepal slayed me until I got it
While riding in Nepal with Kerstin, you get a rare insight into the inner lives of people we would ordinarily be too shy to engage with. Such as when we encountered an exotic-looking elderly lady sitting idly in a small village with chickens clucking at her feet.
Does one imagine she is serenely contemplating Buddha?
After asking how things were going, Kerstin mentioned that she had complained about her daughter-in-law's inability to properly cook daal bhaat.
The commonality in Nepal sometimes slayed me, but Kerstin was quick to explain.
On this occasion, I learned two interesting facts about Nepal. First, daal bhaat is the country's number 1 national dish, which typically consists of rice, lentils, and vegetables and is consumed twice daily. Second, after the wedding, the bride moves in with her husband's family to relieve the mother-in-law of her duties, including cooking.
Exploring Nepal with Kerstin involves meeting its people
Watching Kerstin gently coax stories from locals is to see her vibrantly aglow. Breaking down the language barrier enables greater intimacy across cultures among women and is a precious gift granted by accompanying her through this stunning landscape.
She appreciates, translates, and shares profound human stories and the complexity of the Nepalese culture, emphasizing our deeper purpose in travel and adventure.
What began as a distant dream for me, the challenge of adventure riding in Nepal, to taking a risk with a group of strangers, led me to a solo ride with Kerstin.
She truly understands that earning a sense of achievement in conquering the unknown is made sweeter by the ineffable joy in human connection.
If you’re keen on gaining a deep understanding of Nepal from the back of a motorbike, Kerstin is the one you’d want to ride with. Whether in a group or solo.
Note by BnS: When I first met Ellen in Kathmandu, she was anxious about navigating through the Kathmandu Valley. However, by the time she left for the US three weeks later, she overtook and trailblazed down the slopes like a local. Her riding confidence had remarkably improved, and she returned home as a different rider altogether!
Motorcycling in Nepal: What it’s like the first time — grab your free download here.