"On two sides there were railings, but passengers had put down mattresses on the other side of them directly on the edge of the deck overhanging the waters of the lake below. Floor space was so rare that the largest pieces I could find would just about accomodate a single foot. To stand with two feet together was pretty well impossible. And there were still passengers trying unsuccessfully to do that, carrying bags as well.
Shortly after midnight an authoritative-looking man entered our lounge and screamed orders in Arabic, waving his hands all around, exhorting everyone to get off the floors, sit on the seats properly, as others were still stranded on the few one-foot-sized pieces of empty floor that remained outside. He grabbed the life jackets that had been strewn around the floor as makeshift mattresses, stuffing them furiously back into their lockers. Then peace broke out and an interesting night continued..."
Ken Thomas, UK, on the ferry to Wadi Haifa, Sudan
"It was time for the bike. Entering the covered cargo hold the stench was a little strong to say the least. Damage to the fairing revealed the bike had been moved from its original position and dropped at some point, just a little paint though. Hands appeared from all directions. A hand on the back box meant they helped unload thus entitling them to payment. Carol did her best to keep them away from the bike as I wheeled through the throngs of people with the horn and siren screaming for clear passage. Reaching the end of the boat two planks were positioned and I quickly disembarked leaving our helpers on the boat. During the drama 'assisting hands' that were on the bike almost pushed me off the board, and I screamed at them to leave the bike alone."
Ken and Carol Duval, Australia, in Brazil
"It had been raining through the night, not a lot but not a little, so the road that I had enjoyed cruising in on had now turned into South America's longest skating rink, It wasn't that it was rough, it was that it was as slippery as hell, you could hardly stand up on the bloody thing, much less ride a heavy motorcycle on it. That fifteen kilometres took us two hours with just about everyone taking a fall, it was a bad start to the day. Nine o'clock that night we all arrived in Medellin safe and sound if a little wet, the Medellin boys had got us there in one piece... I never take for granted the extraordinary effort that bikers will go to to look after their own, it makes me proud to be part of this small band of brothers. "
Frank Butler, Papua New Guinea, in Colombia
"My heart sank when I saw what lay ahead. This little river was daunting to say the least. Huge trucks were crossing regularly, the water coming up to the tops of their wheels. The water level was as high as my saddle, and the current was fairly strong, the last thing I wanted was for the engine to stall and the bike to go over and get carried off by the river! There was a group of 8 or 9 Kuna men at the banks of the river, and after a little haggling, gesticulating and laughing, they agreed to lift the Harley into one of their canoes and walk it across the river to the other side. Gingerly, I rode the bike down the mud banks and in to the river until it was alongside the canoe that was barely as wide as the bike. With a few grunts and plenty of huffing and puffing, together we managed to lift the rear of the bike onto the canoe, and then hefted the front end in too..."
Daniel Shell, UK, in Colombia
"So off we go, getting darker as we start the 100 mile ride to the only reasonably sized village on this route. To kick things off, we're instantly confronted with a large wooden bridge that looks like it collapsed a long while back. I should be wiser after all the previous river crossings, instead I head straight in without first walking through to find a sensible route. It's deep, and more importantly, the current is strong, I'm lucky to make it to the far bank without incident. Simon isn't as lucky, falling in the deep water. We wrestle the overloaded KTM upright, and a Kamaz 6 wheel drive truck takes pity on us, leading a shallower route across the rest of the river. Again Simon falls in a deep section close to the bank. It can be hard work fighting against the current to right these heavy overland bikes."
Gabriel Bolton, UK, on the Road of Bones, Siberia
"We are in the middle of the drug growing area, but we don't have any problems. Everybody is just so surprised to see a sidecar, something they have never seen before. The Lonely Planet says this is a no go area, but we think that is wrong, we don't feel unsafe here at all, but the roads are in unbelievably bad condition, not able to transport back packers easily. Andy impresses me by riding the bike over a very small and damaged wooden bridge. He does that again when we have to take a ferry, which is made of two big canoes and planks. The tracks are still stony and if I was a banana I would have ended up as a milk shake..."
Andy Berwick and Maya Vermeer, in Peru
"Eventually the tunnel of terror loomed up before us, I had been pre-warned about this, it's an Iranian constructed four mile pitch-black flooded tunnel with deep potholes and a delightful carbon-monoxide atmosphere. At least it meant we didn't have to go all the way to the top of the mountain in the snow again. Within 50 yards we had lurched into a very deep pothole that soaked us and I almost dropped Thelma, I think it was only the thought of trying to pick up Thelma in 2 foot deep filthy water in the inky blackness that enabled me to desperately keep her upright..."
Tiffany Coates, UK, in Tajikistan
"The foliage alongside the road was dense. A six-inch earthen berm edged the right side of the piste, meaning no escape path. Suddenly, on the wrong side of the curve, aiming squarely at me, came a hard-cornering log truck. I slammed on both brakes. The front tire skidded on the gravelly piste and put my Suzuki down in an instant. I leapt off.
Prone on the triangulated sliver of piste between the truck's path and the edge of the road, I watched in slow-motion horror as a white Mercedes 3340 cab bore down upon me with the purposeful malice of a tank. I could see the malignant black tire on the driver's side churning inexorably towards me. The leering grille on the front of the cab. Its implacable silver Mercedes logo. The huge cloud of dust churned up by the truck's passage. The sound and the fury of the awful machine..."
Mark Hammond, USA, in Gabon
"The road soon turns into a dirt road. When I ask for the way at a national park toll gate people look at me strangely. I don't take the hint. I get to a fork in the road and make mistake number two: I choose one direction. A few metres further there is a farmer and I make mistake number three: instead of asking 'which way to Phu Joe?' I ask 'is this the way?' to which in Asia there is only one possible reply: Yes. Now the track is proper 4x4 stuff, going through a big mud hole, but without too much trouble. Then I face a major obstacle: a large ford. Now I make the final mistake: Not wanting to go back and the ford not looking too bad I try to cross. It turns out to be knee-deep with a decent current, holes and large boulders in the water. I get about to the middle until I drop the bike. The right pannier goes under and fills with water. I manage to get most of the other luggage off the bike more or less dry and get the bike up. A quick try confirms my worst fears: the starter can't turn the engine, full of water. It takes 4 people from a nearby village to push the bike back out, I pitch my tent for the night in the jungle..."
Peter Hendricks, Germany, in Malaysia
"From the first day on in Laos we're in love with this beautiful and so unspoiled country. During the stretch to Luang Namtha we encounter no more than 10 vehicles; we're passing through villages with bamboo houses on stilts, the children are screaming and waving at us and all kind of animals walking in herds along the new asphalt band. As soon as we stop, we're surrounded by curious kids, their parents observing us rather from a distance. With no electricity, no running water and no means of personal transportation, there must be a different definition of happiness in the mountains of northern Laos... we've seldom seen so many happy faces!"
Darius and Jane Skrzypiec, RTW, in Laos
Are you an Overland Adventure Traveller?
Does the smell of spices wafting through the air make you think of Zanzibar, a cacophony of honking horns is Cairo, or a swirl of brilliantly patterned clothing Guatemala? Then this is the site for you!
Hosted by Grant and Susan Johnson, RTW 1987-1998