"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
"I woke up at 5:30 am, covered in ants, and felt very eager to leave the hotel. I packed my bags and arrived at the 'ferry terminal' at 6:30 am only to find out that the only operating ferry had already left. The other ferry was out of service. Instead, I was offered a place for my bike and myself on what looked like a big canoe. I wasn't at all happy about crossing the river in that thing, but the Colombians seemed like they knew what they were doing so I thought, why not. I found a seat in the canoe and managed to convince myself that this was a good idea. I was actually beginning to look forward to this little adventure but the joyful anticipation disappeared rather quickly when I realised that they kept letting passengers and motorcycles onto the canoe until we were 60 passengers, 10 motorcycles, and a lot of luggage. When the canoe left the dock, several passengers were shouting 'There's too much weight!' but nobody in charge of the boat listened..."
Annette Birkmann, Denmark, in Colombia
"With 20 liters of extra fuel in water jugs, some pasta and water we set off to Bolivia. What we should have also taken with us was a new battery, since mine failed and we had to push start the bike every time we stopped. At about 15,000 ft the cold wind picked up and the sandy, dusty, rutted road started, we both had some serious swerves and almost fell off in the first hundred feet. Than we got the hang of it more or less and made it to some beautiful hot springs. It was definitely the worst road I have ridden and it really took it out of me, standing up most of the way in fear. The three ladies were very sweet and laid out some 16 blankets on the floor for us to sleep under, gave us coca leaves to chew on to keep the altitude headaches away, and cooked us some food. All the tours finally left around 5 and we had the hot springs all to ourselves, with the longest shooting star we had ever seen."
Brad and Jolanta Glabek, USA, in Bolivia
"I was really surprised by the good roads in Iran and above all of the kindness and friendliness of its population. The mosques of Esfahan were the most beautiful of the trip and Persepolis sent me back to the ancient Persian times. The bazaars in Baluchistan Quetta were a real human zoo, full of Pashtuns, Afghans, and Baluchies with their daring glances and turbans. The Karakoram Highway in north Pakistan gave the best glimpses of some of the highest snowy mountains of the Himalayas. I finally reached India after five months and 20000 kms of roads. The highlight of my journey has been the unbelievable Leh-Manali road in Ladakh. No doubt, the most beautiful road in the world riding a motorbike. The astonishing almost moon landscape, at more than 4000 m altitude, of the Himalayan chain with the highest pass of the world at 5600 m. The craziness of Delhi's traffic and the Rajput palaces of Rajasthan and some elephants and holy cows to be avoided all the way on the messy roads of India."
Pablo Alvarez, Spain, in Iran, Pakistan and India
"We finally found the real Africa. The journey from Wadi Halfa to Dongola, our favorite, through some of the toughest riding we had done, 420km of washboard gravel roads to sand and more sand. The scenery makes up for all the exhausting hours of standing up and trying not to crash in the sand. Every so often one gets a glimpse of the Nile. Each village unique, the Sudanese people very welcoming and all smiles. Camping under the stars by the Nile, having the local farmer come for a visit with his wife and child in the middle of the night, is something that we will never forget ."
Ruby and Mike, Canada, in Sudan
"We hadn't planned to cross the border that evening, and indeed at one point we pulled over hoping to bush camp for the night, but as everywhere was either fields of crops or near to villages, we were a bit dubious. So we pressed on, assuming that we could find somewhere to sleep at the border town of Gallabat. No such luck. Not that it mattered! The border was still open, even at 5:30pm. So, with some help from a fixer whose assistance we didn't need or want, we got through the Sudanese customs, crossed a bridge (no barriers, sign posts or anything), and arrived in Ethiopia! It was the least difficult border crossing I've ever experienced. The customs official sat outside on his plastic chair, waved various papers about at his minions, who ran about sorting them out, while we drank cold pepsi and made small talk with him about our bikes. It couldn't have been further from our experiences elsewhere in Sudan, and set a nice tone for our departure."
Cathy and Glyn Riley, UK, Bristol to Cape Town, in Sudan
"Vwaza has a big elephant population, but the rangers at the gate were happy for us to ride the 1km to the campsite, so because they were relaxed, so were we and we rode into the camp and chose our spot next to some bushes. Still sitting on the bikes, a little boy crept over to us and whispered 'be careful', then shot back to hide behind his Dad's 4x4. Following his wide eyed gaze we saw a herd of elephants munching on the bushes about 2 metres away from us! Paul got off his bike and backed away behind a tree, but I just sat there staring. It wasn't until he said in a low, stern voice 'Zoe, get off your bike you idiot', that I followed suit! When a bull came out of nowhere from behind us, I chose to sit on a picnic bench for protection, while Stanford, the campsite manager, crawled underneath trying to hide and this time Paul just hauled me out of the way!"
Paul and Zoe Jenkins, South Africa, in Malawi
"Motoring into the darkness, I also realise that my rear suspension is too hard. Set up for a load or two people, my weight doesn't load the spring enough and I bounce over every bump while I lose traction every time I accelerate. The constant vibration passes through to my kidneys feeling a lot like a 'stitch' when you exercise harder than your body can handle. After 10 minutes the pain subsides and I start to climb, sliding and bouncing over the washboard of the gravel switchbacks torn up by previous trucks. I climb, I climb, and I climb further. The oncoming trucks are ruthless, blinding me with their high-beam and forcing me to the edge of an invisible precipice. The buses are worse, not even slowing. Every time I meet another vehicle, dust blinds me and I must hold my breath and look for any opportunity to pass..."
Josh Forde, New Zealand, in Bolivia
"Route finding was proving problematic; there were few road signs, and what had survived had mostly been shot to bits. Late one dark, rainy afternoon, I was riding along what had once been a tarmac road, and came upon an unexpected fork in the route. The left fork showed the broken remains of the tarmac leading off into a forest; the right fork appeared to be a bumpy, potholed dirt track, but was currently under a foot of fast-flowing water. I paused and deliberated, unsure which option to choose. There was no-one around to ask, but I could see tyre tracks coming out from the river. On the other hand the remains of the tarmac suggested the route of the old road, and this fork was also marked with official-looking red and white painted concrete posts. This looked the most promising, so I set off hopefully, bumping over the smashed-up blacktop. But after a few hundred yards, I don't know why, but I just had a hunch I had chosen the wrong way. I decided to turn round and go back to the junction and think again. I swung a wide U-turn through the trees and around one of the concrete posts. Out of the corner of my eye I saw there was some faded writing on the post, and more ominously, a skull and cross bones. I stopped to take a closer look. I gulped as I read the words, DANGER! MINES. My hunch had been right - I had just ridden into a minefield..."
Lois Pryce, UK, in Angola
"Just wanted to extend congratulations on the 100th edition of Horizons Unlimited e-zine. You've certainly played an important role in uniting the global community of adventure travelers and given them all a home away from home. Always an excellent read. Great job." John Campbell, Canadian Biker Magazine
"Another fine issue of the e-zine! I think I was one of the 170 subscribers to that first issue and I've loved every single one since. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration, ever since that BMW MOA National Rally in Missoula in 1998 Audrey and I have been absolutely captivated. Life changing? For sure!" Ekke, Canada
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