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THUNDERTAKER Episode 1: Voodoo Priestess

Midnight Rider on a Graveyard Run

By Koz Mraz

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THUNDERTAKER: Part 2 of Midnight Rider on a Graveyard Run
THUNDERTAKER: Part 2 of Midnight Rider on a Graveyard Run

Editor's Note: This is Chapter 11-Voodoo Priestess or the first chapter in the second series of MidNight Run. 

Location: The Hilton Hotel near CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Liz enters the hotel room enraged.

“Zac, they've suspended my CSS status and put me on leave of absence!” Liz fumes to me.

“Leave of absence? For how long?” I reply quizzically.

“Indeterminate. Un-fucking-believable. The Agency says I need time to unwind,” she snarls.

“Liz, let it go. You do need to get away. Just let it go.”

“And just where the hell do I let it go to Zac?” she seethes.

“Kathmandu.” I smile.

“I’m sorry. I thought you said Kathmandu.”

“Yes, I have been planning a travel story to the Himalayas for years—a motorcycle ride from Katmandu to Lhasa. It’s the perfect time of year, and you’ll love the ride. What better than the Himalayas to cleanse your soul? We’ll be riding Royal Enfield motorcycles; it will be awesome. We’ll be traveling a thousand miles through the Himalayas with a small group of riders.”

“Fine,” Liz snaps.

“Imagine riding to the world’s highest monastery at the base of Mt. Everest. It’s the perfect way to experience this magical land. Liz, this is a ride of a lifetime… FINE? Do you know how long I’ve rehearsed a pitch to talk you into this?”

“I said fine, Zac. When do we leave?”

“We can leave immediately,” I reply. “I signed my life away to those NSA thugs; a couple-dozen non-disclosure documents and they returned my identity, passport, driver's license, and birth certificate.”
I'm a moto-journalist and live out of saddlebags. Liz has been on the move for the last two years, and neither of us has homes, kids, or even cats. The terrain is rugged and the weather unpredictable. We'll sleep at local Monasteries and be traveling through places frozen in time for thousands of years. It's an epic adventure: man, woman, machine, and the mountains. Both of us are in good health, and while most people have to take Diamox for high altitude sickness, Viagra has a similar effect of increasing blood flow at elevation.

The plane tickets are easy to get (check), passports (check), international driver’s license (check), shots (I needed 6) and Viagra… check. I even quit smoking my Chinese Sunays.

In Kathmandu, we are met by the Himalayan Roadrunner staff and hustled through the bustling airport like refugees from another world. The first day got us acquainted with our Royal Enfield motorcycles. Used by the British in the 1950s, they remain the mainstay of Himalayan Roadrunners because of the availability of parts and ease of repair. For me, the right-side shift and clutch took take a little getting used to, but Liz takes to it immediately.

There are three kingdoms of Kathmandu valley: Kathmandu, the big city; Patan, home to the Newars; and Bhaktapur, a preserved medieval tourist destination. We spend our time in Patan, visiting temples and wandering Durbar Square. Patan is woven together with open one-way streets and filled with artisans and craftsmen—indeed a fascinating blend of history, art, religion, and foods. It's cleaner and more dialed-down than the chaos of Kathmandu, with few tourists.

Motorcycling through Nepal to Tibet is an exhilarating experience. Between road closures, herds of Yaks, landslides and aggressive truck drivers, each day provides a new set of challenges. We cross the Chinese border into Tibet and the group spends two days in Nyalam acclimating to the altitude. It is only 12,000 feet, but preparing yourself for impending higher elevations needs to be taken seriously. AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) varies from light-headedness to downright flu-like symptoms.

Small doses of Viagra daily are helping me immensely through each day's ride. And the evenings? Thank god we have private quarters— I've never seen Liz happier. It's high altitude sexual healing; her dark cloud has lifted. This trip was the perfect prescription.

Spectacular riding takes us up over Tong La Pass with commanding mountain views of the High Himalaya Range. It's here we get our first views of Mount Everest via the saddles of our Royal Enfields. Truly in the middle of nowhere, we pass villages that have never had electricity or running water.

The passing days challenge us with steep off-road inclines, loose gravel, stone and rough tracks. Finally the group arrives at the Rongbuk Monastery guest house at the base of Mt. Everest. It’s the Highest Monastery in the World.

Liz and I acclimate well to the 18,000-foot altitude; others aren’t so lucky. One female rider has to return to Kathmandu, and a male rider need repeated use of a HAPO (High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema) bag. It's an inflatable pressure bag large enough to accommodate a person, through which the environmental pressure can be increased and decreased by the equivalent of thousands of feet of elevation.

The weather granted us a truly spectacular view of the tallest mountain on earth. I was inspired to write a poem.

I say without hesitation
that motorcyclists love the mountain.
It is where we dance.
A graceful ballet of endless pirouettes
as the mountain leads first to the left,
then right, then to the left again.
We freely fall into gravity’s demanding arms
then with a twist of the throttle are
thrust into the next delicious curve.
She lifts the spirit as we ascend,
as we transcend, riding high, above the
mundane until among the stars we fly.

And the mountain is where we fight.
Wrestling against hairpin turns, battling
hard against opposing forces, often for our life.
Because if the mountain wins…we die.

Mountain is where we face our fears,
test inner resolve, or chase foolish whims.
Be it the path of least resistance or
the hard-arduous climb,
It’s here, from the top,
the breadth of our journey is revealed.

The passage past, we cannot change,
the present moment holds endless possibilities
to a future that we have the power to create.

The next day we visit the impressive gold-topped Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. The largest working monastery currently in Tibet, Tashi Lhunpo is most famous as the site of the enshrinement of the first Dalai Lama and is also the seat of the controversial Panchen Lama. It's here that Liz and I are separated from the group by two monks who escort us to a room with hundreds of smiling golden Buddha heads. Another monk donning a large red hat chants before a massive golden Buddha. We stand in silence for what seems an eternity. The monk at the altar suddenly turns and speaks.

“We are simple people and understand truth; we know you seek truth, but your perception is not a contribution to the truth. Never confuse your opinions with truth. Everything you know or believe is, in fact, false. When your world becomes numb, and all hope fades, you must return here, right here to us. Do not forget this. Your life and the life of your world depend on this thing. We are the Curators, Planners and Guardians of truth, and we will be here waiting.”

He hands Liz prayer beads, then gives me a necklace with an extraordinarily detailed painted pendant of a provocative Tibetan female dancer, which I examine quizzically. Staring intensely into my eyes, the monk states, “Your Dakini.” Without breaking a beat, I removed my Eye of Horus necklace and hand it to him. Pausing to study it, he suddenly flashes me a huge sardonic smile. I'd swear I'd seen that same monk smiling at the Shaffer hotel in New Mexico in the Graveyard Run story.

As we are escorted back to the group, Liz blurts, “What was that all about?”

“It's a long story.” Shaking my head, I back-peddle.

“Do you know what a Dakini is?” she asks.

“I do.” I quote Wikipedia, “Dakini, in Sanskrit means (sky dancer) is a Tantric priestess of ancient India who carried the souls of the dead to the sky. She’s a Tibetan Buddhist goddess with a generally volatile temperament, who acts as a muse for spiritual practice.” I still hadn’t told Liz about my spirit guide who visits me in my dreams.

“Well, she had better watch her step,” Liz smirks.
Koz Mraz
Koz Mraz


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