My previous article was on the Enfield riders of Kathmandu and I’m sure you figured out how dedicated they were to their bikes. The classic look, ‘Made like a Gun’, the basic mechanical construction, well the charm of this bike lies in its low-tech high performance four-stroke engine. Turn it on, and the air around you reverberates with a low frequency rhythmic rumble or as we call it the "Thump". This is the classic sound of the fifties and sixties, no longer found in today's bikes. Talking about the riding culture here, how could I miss out on the Poker run that takes place every year here in Nepal? So here I have it; the establishment of Poker Run in Nepal and the man behind it, Stewie Mclean.
Poker run, in Nepal started around 2007 when two Enfield riders, Binod Chhetri Acharya and Stewie Mclean came together. Stewie Mclean is an Australian rider and he brought about the idea of poker run in Nepal, well he’s been bringing groups from Australia for bike tours and trekking for the last six years. He loves riding, going on trips in Australia and here in Nepal. In Australia he rides a Harley Davidson, and here in Nepal he owns a Royal Enfield 500cc bullet. Talking about his rides, in Nepal he’s been to Pokhara, Jomsom, Chitwan and he’s planning to go to Mustang next year. He was also a part of the trip to "the Roof of the World" - Tibet. Back in Australia he used to be a school teacher. He worked as a teacher for 25 years, and then continued as a private contractor. He worked in timer mills and poker mills fixing machinery. Currently a journalist, he’s the pioneer of arranging the Poker Run in Nepal through Sacred Summits where he works together with Ravi Thapa. Whenever he comes to Nepal he gives donations to orphanages, he raises funds in Australia and also persuades Volunteers to come here to help the needy.
Stewie was in Nepal when I took his interview, I ended up at Sacred Summits where I met him and then I got to know more about him. Well here I have him, Stewie McLean:
Cherry B: When did you first come to Nepal? What was your main purpose?
Stewie Mclean: I first came to Nepal in 1991 with a trekking group, my friends were all riders, so they wanted to come back to Nepal but no one wanted to walk so we decided to organize a bike trip.
Cherry B: Tell us about the riding culture in Australia. How is it different from Nepal?
Stewie Mclean: Well, Nepal is getting similar to Australia. Back there we take bikes as a sport, whereas in Nepal almost 90% use it for transport. So I say it’s getting similar.
Cherry B: What motivated you to organize poker run here in Nepal?
Stewie Mclean: I had a friend Binod Chhettri, well we used to ride together. I sponsored him to come to Australia, there he stayed for several months and that’s when we thought of organizing a Poker Run here in Nepal. Unfortunately when we came back, Binod passed away from a heart attack and well in his remembrance last yr on the 1st of April we organized our first Poker Run.
Cherry B: What is the tattoo culture like in Australia and how are you promoting the Tattoo Convention which is taking place this April here in Kathmandu?
Stewie Mclean: Back in Australia, I write stories for a bike magazine. I’m actually a photo journalist. So I was thinking of writing a story on the Tattoo Convention as well. At home, there are a lot of bike shows, tattoo competitions, so I write about them as well. The tattoo culture is very popular there, becoming fashionable is what youngsters want…which I think is happening in Nepal as well. Almost everyone has a tattoo these days.
Cherry B: Which has been your most memorable ride?
Stewie Mclean: The first ride is of course… getting used to the traffic here in Kathmandu…which is really tough… and secondly, the ride to Tibet. Tibet is a beautiful country, the views, the scenery, fantastic! I enjoy bringing other riders here; they’re interested in the culture and the scenery. Once they come here, they come back a couple of times.
Cherry B: What do you know about Nepal? How did you find it?
Stewie Mclean: I’d like to know more about Nepal, each trip makes me learn more about the country and I have quite a few friends here. Talking about the language, I can’t speak but can surely understand when people are talking. It’s a very good country and as most of the people know English, it’s not hard to communicate. People are really friendly and open. I have a lot of close friends here so Nepal feels like a second home. When I’m back home, I do keep in touch with them on Facebook.
Cherry B: Any advice for riders? Like safety measures and stuff?
Stewie Mclean: In Australia riders follow the rules, they’re quite rigid. In Nepal, well give way for vehicles until the system works here.
Cherry B: What is your advice in life? As in the motto you abide by?
Stewie Mclean: “Treat everyone with respect, don’t take life too seriously”.