My post on Ian and Caroline started me thinking more about the people you meet on the road and how they become such a vital part of your journey. Sometimes it can be just a day’s worth of company with another overlander that makes the difference. Other times it can be days or weeks of time together. Where a person comes from and what they used to do isn’t usually so important as who the person is.
This excerpt from Under Asian Skies explains more of what I mean. The scene was a moment of real anticipation. I’d first met, Birgit almost a year before in New Zealand, and had last seen her at her home on Lake Constance in Southern Germany. I’d flown there from Australia to find out if there really was something going on between us! There was, and she decided to fly out to Nepal to join me for 3 months.‘The day finally arrived. It was Monday the seventh of November and Birgit’s plane was due to land at the Kathmandu airport. She arrived with her helmet, her old burgundy leather bike jacket, a small pack and a big grin. This was the first time she had been to a Third World country so her eyes were wide open from the moment she stepped out of the plane. Watching her reminded me that one of the things I’d found so fascinating was her insatiable curiosity.
Because of language, I was the odd one out with the welcoming party for her from the other bikers that night. Karsten, Jurgen, Tomel, Franz, and Ben were all German. But it didn’t matter, the lads had laid on booze, nibbles and a very warm ‘Willkommen’ for her. It was one of those moments when the amazing camaraderie of the road shone out. The Everest Hotel for all of us was a mini oasis in Asia; in a way, it was our own crossroads.
Then French Eric arrived on his BMW. By this time there were seven BMWs in the courtyard, but Eric’s was decidedly different, as was the man himself. Eric had set off from France with a sidecar attached to his bike, and his girlfriend inside.
To help gather funds for his trip he’d sold every part off the bike that wasn’t required to make it work, and had built replacements for those parts himself. He’d made an enormous fuel tank that dwarfed the bike. Everything was hand painted black, and he was carrying pots of paint so that he could paint the flag of each country he passed through onto his tank. He also carried a ‘ghetto blaster’ and an amazing collection of cassette tapes – when I saw how much kit he was carrying I stopped muttering ‘must get the weight down’ about my bike.Eric, in spite of such flamboyant travel style, was a quiet, rather laconic person. I also thought that he was lonely, but after his girlfriend had gone home in disgust, he seemed to prefer travelling on his own. Eric’s girlfriend had left him after the sidecar had separated from the bike, to leave the two of them going in different directions…