Around The World On A Harley Davidson

By Peter Forwood July 96

The Trip

With any trip there must be goals set to keep one on track and this trip was no exception. The original goal of having fun soon extended to having frustration. Not that that in itself wasn't fun, looking back, but at the time it was immense annoyance. But the real goals slowly evolved.

 Whilst the family was travelling Sumatra in 1992 we developed a disliking for being sardines on buses but found motor car hire expensive or difficult to obtain or fish-bowl-like. That is where you are watching but not a part of the events taking place. It was discussed and thought that motorbike travel would be the answer to all of our future travel problems. It would be easy to transport, cheap to operate, versatile, and you would certainly be part of the environment with all of the smells, dirt and danger that go with the Asian experience.

The motorcycle before the trip. Ah, but I had long had a dream, another Harley. Bitten off in my prime from keeping my original Harley and bitten off by children financially, it wasn't until I acquired that magnificent age of 40, that change of life that rearranged my priorities and justification outweighed common sense and an Electroglide was born to the Forwood household.

Not that any Harley would do. It must be a touring model to satisfy the comforts of the wife and it must be comfortable and strong enough to travel the world, particularly Indonesia. This was expressed to the dealer who seemed to be quite amused, however he did not let his amusement hinder his profits and feigned considerable interest. Another 40 year old who is dreaming, dreaming, dreaming. And of course he was correct, at the time.

Would a trip around Indonesia be sufficient for such a magnificent beast? Would it not want and did it not deserve more. Ah, Milwaukee for it's brothers' 100 year anniversary. It was only a short time to 2003. Wasn't everyone talking about being there? Shouldn't we go? Why not go, you may also ask why go. If you need to ask why you are not ready for your first Harley. A world trip to finish in 2003, to have travelled the furthest, to have experienced the most, to have endured hardship, yes that was the dream.

How to get there. Simply flying the bike would be the easiest and cheapest. To travel with the least amount of ocean crossings, to cover every continent, to visit as many Harley riders, to absorb the cultures of the countries visited and to enjoy the trip would be a more demanding and exciting adventure. We chose the latter for this story would have been boring otherwise.

With any plan that is a dream, when the wire is drawn it is somewhat tighter than you expected and compromise is grudgingly accepted. The trip would be tedious to remain travelling for eight years. So 50% home and 50% away. The children are still in school. Should we board them or would Kay wait. Kay decided to wait and join in 1998 or 1999. How do we link countries into a string to see them all and miss none? What countries do we want to see and what countries want to see us? Where is there no land bridge and where is the shortest water crossing?

After much discussion the following plan was set loosely in place. To leave Townsville for Darwin mid February 1996 and fly the bike and myself to Bali, Indonesia. (Planes are too small to go to Timor and boats only go every 6 months). Bali to Medan in Sumatra via Java and over to Penang in Malaysia. Down to Singapore to finish the first leg by mid May 96. Fly home leaving the Harley in Singapore. Return mid August 96 to finish Malaysia and Thailand with possible excursions into Burma (Myanmar) and Laos with possibilities to Vietnam and Cambodia. Leave bike in Bangkok. Now the interesting leg starting Feb. 97, as Burma is closed to through traffic and the Spice route through China is out of the question at this stage, the bike will be flown to Calcutta in India and the long haul through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and onto Greece taking 6 months before returning home. Feb. 98 off again possibly with Kay if Michael decides to go to boarding school as it is his last year. Back through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and across to Spain. Again 6 months and back home. From here the plan gets a bit flexible and fuzzy but for the next three years (99,00,01) travel Europe including Russia. 2002 over to Canada and of course 2003 in the home of Harleys. 2004 South America and who knows from there.

Well that is the dream, now where is the reality. Finances ok, wife's permission for first leg and tentative approval for master plan never expecting it to eventuate, only logistics to overcome. Would someone else like to come? No, the line would be drawn at the blond 18 year old down the road, not that she would come with me anyway but at 40+ it had crossed my mind. Letters sent to every Harley club in Australia to drum up support. A couple of nibbles from dreamers, I would come if I could only. No serious contenders this trip but plenty of "I will be ready for the next trips", maybe they will maybe they won't. So it is alone that I set out.

Shock horror other nations won't just let me rock up and ride through their territory. I have to have a Carnet de passage. What do the French have to do with me wanting to get to Indonesia? A passport for a bike in case I don't take it out and avoid paying the duty. Sounds reasonable a refundable bond but 150% of the value of the bike. $24000 x 150% = $36000. Surely not. Ah but that is cheap, for India and Pakistan it is 350% or $84000. But why? Well it seems some unscrupables were riding cheap bikes from Europe across to India for a holiday and flying home and it was cheaper to forego the bond and sell the bike than it was to ship it back home. The 350% soon put a stop to them but penalized people with more expensive bikes.

The other bad news is nobody will insure the bike overseas, so if I prang it or if it is stolen it's at my expense. Can't blame them though, how do you repair a bike in a country you can't get spare parts and how do you chase up a stolen bike overseas. Well that was expected and the risk taken as part of the general trip.

However the double whammy almost dissolved the journey. If the bike was stolen there is a risk of losing the bond as well as the bike. The logic, well the bike has effectively been imported to that country and all duty was payable, even if you no longer had possession. Well you see again some unscrupulouses previous to me decided to sell their bikes and say that they were stolen thus avoiding import duty. There may be some consolation in that the full bond would not be lost, only to the extent of import duty usually 100% and in some circumstances in the case of theft duty could be waived if there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the theft, that is if it really was stolen not sold.

Reassessment of the entire risk to benefit weighting needed to take place after this latest setback. Ah it's only a small fortune, you don't have to sell anything the bank will accept collateral and nobody will steal my bike. Will they? Well they won't now. The burglar alarm, two disk locks, one on each wheel and two hidden switches to disconnect the electrics will ensure it won't be ridden away. Still, nothing can ensure it won't be carried away. It will always remain the biggest worry of the trip.

When setting out to achieve something if one only knew the direct way to the solution life would be so much easier but usually Murphy's law gets at you along the way. After correspondence to the consulates of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia it was fairly obvious that the former three had in place the recognized procedure of accepting a Carnet issued from another country's Automobile Associations, but Indonesia racing towards this had only created confusion. Yes they would accept a Carnet from January 1995, but there were reports that vehicles were being rejected on arrival, someone forgot to notify the customs officials. So the Automobile Association stopped issuing Carnets, back to applying through the Police force. Ah but they knew you should use a Carnet so they were ignoring your letters. All resolved when, just two weeks before final departure, I finally received a fax from Customs in Bali stating they were accepting Carnets. But will they when the time comes or will some financial inducement be necessary?

Begin the trip in Australia or travel directly to Indonesia , Malaysia/Singapore , Thailand , a short journey into Burma/Myanmar


Top of Page

Story and photos copyright © 1996-
All Rights Reserved.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website, with more Travellers stories, a great Travellers Newsletter, and a Bulletin Board for all the latest On the Road Information! Webmaster: Grant Johnson