It sounds like something out of a movie. Steve met Emiko 17 years ago in Australia. She was a 23-year-old Japanese and he was a six year older Australian.
They think it was destiny that brought them together and their mutual interest in travel. This week they were in Pokhara, racing ultralights, taking in the scenery and talking to locals. Their eyes still sparkle when they talk to each other as if they'd just met.
Emi and Steve (pictured at Pokhara airport this week) aren't your stereotypical tourists, offspring of rich parents off to see the world. Emi was a daughter of a single mother who had to support two other siblings. They all helped their mother clean, cook and take care of their youngest brother.
Even while young, Emi had a dream of going out to see the world. Steve also grew up in a working class family who loved bicycling. After they met, they pedalled across Australia, then around Emi's home in Osaka. For 11 years since 1989 they cycled 113,000 km around the world enjoying interacting with different peoples and cultures across deserts, cities, rain and snow. They lived frugally and roughed it, money was always short and they stayed in cheap lodges and even carried a tent. The adventures are inumerable: running away from grizzlies in Africa, encounters with armies of red ants in the Amazon.
After a few years of this, they finally found sponsors from Japanese helmet, bicycle and tyre manufacturers and the going got easier. In 2000, they reached Pakistan in their round the world journey. But Emi was diagnosed with cancer and rushed to Japan where doctors told her she had six months to live because the cancer had spread.
Steve was devastated and got to work trying to make her happy, downloading jokes from the internet to tell her on her hospital bed. After a few months in hospital, they decided to go home, Emi changed her diet turned to yoga, listened to soothing music and moved to the countryside. Slowly and unbelievably her health improved. A year later she was able to take walks around her home. Her doctor was convinced this was a miracle. By 2004 Steve andEmi were back in Pakistan to start where they had left off in their bicycle journey.
The cancer hasn't gone and Emi needs a check-up every month. But the couple have an added mission to their journey now, they speak on cancer wherever they go. "I don't want to fight with cancer, I want to live with it because it has become a part of me now," Emi says, "I am learning to live with cancer cells, and I know if I am happy they are happy too and won't do me any harm, and my happiest moment is when I am with my husband."
Everywhere Emi has been in the past two years people have urged her not to give up. Steve says: "Everybody has to die one day, so why not live every day to the fullest, do what you like doing and be happy."
Steve and Emi have made a list of the places they'd like to comeback to when their journey is over in three years. And Pokhara has just been added to their list.