Bullets Over Bhutan

In 1997, Robert Smith joined one of the first motorcycle tours through the quiet Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.


In 1997, I joined one of the first motorcycle tours of the remote Himalayan kingdom.

Dusk was slipping into night as our motorcycle caravan turned off the single-lane Bumthang Valley road. The Enfield’s pale headlight just picked out the way ahead — a narrow, climbing stream bed. Standing on the pegs, I held second gear and pointed the front wheel uphill. The Bullet slogged patiently up the slope as the back wheel scrabbled for traction.

The Bumthang festival started that evening. In a plowed field, under a full mountain moon, maybe 300 excited Bhutanese were milling around. We were told we’d see firewalking, and I envisioned red-robed, chanting monks walking barefoot over beds of glowing coals. Instead, a steel frame like a soccer goal was draped with branches and leaves. When this was set alight, everyone ran underneath the flames, laughing. For this I travelled 13,000 miles?

From the crowd staggered a dancer in a grotesque animal mask, wearing a long white robe and a crimson wig. Another, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Jimi Hendrix, lurched forward waving a pole decorated with streamers above his head. The two began a charging, cavorting dance as the spellbound audience swayed back and forth.

“They’re hypnotized,” said Dorji, our Bhutanese guide. They looked stoned to me …

9/17/2020 11:03:54 AM

click on "continue reading" just brings up the 'subscribe to the mag' screen - not the rest of the article...

9/12/2019 7:17:00 AM

Fascinating trip and the perfect mount for the region. I love the pedigree and the simplicity of the RE and, I’m sure, one day I’ll add a Bullet to my stable. Thanks for sharing this memory.

The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5.00 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $29.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $34.95 for a one year subscription!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter