With the help of Mickey, a bloke he met in a bar, Rick bought a 1977 Bullet just south of Chennai. He rode south-west to Kerala, and then all the way up Nepal, with a crumpled map hand-drawn by his stoned friend. The idea was to see a random cross-section of Indian life. Maybe it was the weed that Justin had smoked before scribbling the map; maybe it was the distorting effect of the Mercator projection. Either way, Rick had vastly under-estimated the size of India.
They say India is short for “I’ll Never Do It Again”. Many thousands of kilometres later at the border with Nepal, Rick breathed a sigh of relief. Within minutes of leaving India, everything changed. Even after riding so many countries, the road north out of Tansen took his breath away. The nature and culture were amazing. And it was so much fun to see it on this old, bone-shaker of a bike. He headed to Pokhara for a cold beer.
Rick became friends with (and the best customer of) Jack, the boss of the Busy Bee Café. With a great rock & roll scene and a lively atmosphere, it was the perfect antidote for India. Days rolled into months. Pokhara had so many cool things to do, but there was nothing professional in motorcycles. In fact, the opposite was true. Local shops were renting out poorly maintained small bikes to anyone who would pay. Tourists were flying around, out of control, with no understanding of even the basics. There were lots of accidents. The Royal Enfield scene, which was so prominent in India, was missing in Pokhara.
Rick saw an opportunity, and the initial concept started to develop. He started consulting with local businessmen about these ideas. The feedback was positive, so he started to set wheels in motion. A few months later, Moniek came to Nepal to see for herself. She loved it, and they fleshed out a business plan together.
There were a few basic ideas: build beautiful Royal Enfield bikes; teach people to ride properly; create a custom and classic bike scene; help people to buy and sell bikes with no bullshit; and organise tours around the country. It was clear from the start that experienced riders would be interested. However, we wanted to share our passion for motorcycles and adventure with a much wider group. It was really important to focus on beginners; and girls in particular.
The idea was to bring something new and original to Pokhara that would complement the other adventure activities on offer. A founding principle was to create real employment, and provide development opportunities for our staff. We wanted to have a major knock-on effect to other businesses; everything that could be done in Nepal would be done in Nepal (designing this website, for example). Overall, we wanted to have a positive impact on the country.
Together we created the business. Getting the papers straight was one of the biggest challenges. Nepal is full of foreigners in the charity and NGO (No Good Outcome) industry but, unfortunately, there are only a handful of entrepreneurs. This foreign handout culture, and the all-pervasive corruption that it breeds, makes it incredibly difficult to open a business legally. Eventually, after many dead ends and broken promises, we made it.
Jack offered his old Busy Bee kitchen as a temporary shop, until we found our feet. It was completely derelict, but the location was perfect. The concept of a bike club inside a nightclub seemed fantastic. Over the years, the double-act of Hearts & Tears and Busy Bee has become a landmark in Nepal; long may it continue!
A word of appreciation from Moniek & Rick: “We have immense gratitude to the people who helped us out from the start. Without doubt, this has been the most challenging undertaking of our lives. It’s also the most rewarding, and has changed the lives of so many customers. Huge thanks to our families, Jack Tamang, Trevor Beale, Geoff Shingleton, Ollie Pang, Birendra Lama, all the Busy Bee guys, and the local business people who have helped us along the way. It just wouldn’t have been possible without you.
A special mention goes to Wolf. He was around from the very start, and had a big influence on us. We were honoured to know a man of such integrity, and so generous of spirit. He lived firmly in the present, and demonstrated what freedom really means. Rest in peace you crazy bastard.”