Though before I start I would like to point out that this has been all that non-biking people have said to me in recent weeks:
"Oh, so you're doing a Ewan then are you?".
No I am bloody well not doing a Ewan, he nicked it from other people first so if I'm doing an anyone I'm doing a Ted Simon or a Mondo Enduro type deal
With that all over, I'd like to say hello to all of you! First heard of the site through Dan Walsh's writings for UK Bike Magazine I think, and now I've joined seeing as I'm trying to summon the courage to make my own trip. The plan so far is as follows. I'm 22, have just graduated and as such I have few ties to anything in particular and I'm floundering when it comes to a 'real' career. So now seems the perfect time to bugger off and do the trip of a lifetime on a bike before mortgages, family (assuming that happens of course
) bog me down. Ted Simon has been a great inspiration so far, and the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook by Chris Scott is in the post. The idea is to ride from the UK down through Africa and then deciding at the bottom (Cape Town) whether to ship the bike anywhere else e.g. South America. I've already done some of Asia (teaching in China, travelling in China, HK, Vietnam, Thailand,) so Africa is the biggest unknown/challenge I can pick. Of course, this is all a little ephemeral and non-specific so I shall put down what I know/think/am wondering so far:
* The Bike:
- Seeing as sand riding is a high probability I am steering clear of the large capacity bikes due to weight, and am looking more in the 600cc range for a balance of weight and power.
- Have test-ridden a Yamaha XT660R following the positive reports from Damon L'Anson's altitude record in the Himalayas, though it still seems unproven in wider circles due to being relatively new. Was impressed though.
- Rode my Dad's old 650GS Dakar, would feel comfortable on it, not sure if I can justify the extra premium cost associated with buying a Beemer though. Not ruling out other avenues, KTM (again cost a problem), more reading to be done.
- Have ridden his 1200GS enough to be confident this is too unwieldy.
- Have been riding on roads since I was 17, had a 125 Varadero, then my SV and have covered nigh on 35,000-40,000 miles in 5 years due to the bike being my only form of transport. I feel this is experienced enough to feel confident of making a trip, though with much to learn of course.
- No off-road riding experience as yet, and I think it would be foolish to leave without some. Thoughts are to pay for off-road days or to buy a ratty old thing to do some greenlaning on. An important factor here is that a £100, £200 or whatever cost of a day's course represents a good chunk of time in Africa on the projected budgets on the overlanders website. So any cash spent here is 'worth' a lot of travel time as it were, as such I'd like to minimise it and I don't think I'll be lucky enough to afford the luxury of the BMW off-road course for e.g.
- In short, I know bog all. I know that before I go I shall need to know a tad more than that.
- I was initally thinking of putting myself through some mechanic night classes or similar, though initial research shows these to be rather few and far between these days.
- I had also wondered about asking a local mechanic if I could watch him, though I'm not sure whether I would need to pay to cover the cost of being a nuisance in the garage/even whether I'd be allowed to do it. Maybe terribly naive?
* The Route:
- This has become shaped more and more by the advice on the FCO website which tends to suggest staying away from countries on the South-West coast of the 'bump' as I think of it (the main headland at the top of the continent) and in the centre of the 'bump'. This would include places such as Niger, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Congo etc. The route therefore seems forced into a similar on to Ted Simon's, i.e. North-West Africa first, Morocco, across the top through Libya to Egypt, down the East side and then able to move inland further down the continent. I need to do more reading, and will double check all advice to ensure it is reasonable rather than unnecesarily cautious.
- It seems the principal 'safe' route which leaves little other option.
- This ties in nicely with my girlfriend who has just left for her year abroad (as part of her degree) in Morocco. So that would be my first stopping point and I could spend some time there with her and exploring the area.
* The Money:
- Currently working odd, manual jobs through an agency. Only £6 an hour which isn't mind blowing but it all helps. With the overtime I've usually been working I'm getting about £300 per 5 day week (started 2 weeks ago).
- Rather than sitting here working a dead end job for ages to afford it all (which nearly killed me last time I did it) I have some cash invested for such an occasion. It should amount to approximately £6000, to which I will then be adding a number of months of work, however long it takes to plan really. I envisage this being anywhere from 4-6 months. So an approximate total of £6000 + £5400 to £7800 = approx. £11.5k to £14k. This is before buying any bike. Judging by the costs of an XT660 atm I could, if I must, sell the SV and the difference, if any, would not be vast. Or I could use some of that cash to buy the bike and keep the SV for when I get back.
- Judging from a post on here recently, someone asked if $30k would be enough for a RTW including a large number of 'First-Tier' countries as a sub-section on here lists them. Most replies suggest it is plenty, even despite going through Europe, USA etc. So if I can reach the upper end of my projection, £14k = $28k so I'm getting the feeling this should be enough for Africa?
* The Work:
- From my previous experiences of travelling, though admittedly not under my own steam, I know that I can get fed up of constantly moving on, packing up, etc. etc. In other words, I am likely to want to stop from time to time, partly to rest, partly to make local friends and soak up the culture of a region in a way you cannot when you are only passing through.
- Therefore I plan to work in any number of ways while I am out travelling. The principal option is to teach English. I have a TEFL certificate and 6 months experience of solo-teaching classes of 70 13 year olds in China. My thought is that I could apply for local teaching positions if/when I decide to stop somewhere. Although I do not expect to make money from this, from what I have read so far and my experiences in Asia, I could expect to be given food and accomodation. In other words, though not earning I would not be chipping in to the cash reserve, I can stop for free and benefit the local schools while getting to make friends and explore one area in a little more depth.
- Volunteer work on any number of other schemes would also be a viable option.
I guess that is it so far, I am currently spending most of the time when I'm not working reading instead. Just soaking up any and all information I can, on bikes, budgets, visas, vaccinations, countries, so that I can think it all through when I'm at work (which requires no mental exertion so I can still perform fine
Just wanted to post it all up really, for one it helps me take an objective look at how far I've got (not far really
). But I would welcome any and all tips you may have, I'm sure there are considerations I have not yet thought of and that in some areas I am being a little naive or even arrogant (my guarded assumption that I'll be able to pitch up anywhere and teach for instance). Thanks in advance for anything you guys and girls may have to offer
p.s. apologies if that is an unreadable wall of text, I tried my best to categorise it!
p.p.s. hope this won't anger the forum gods by being in the wrong section. Short of splitting it into loads of separate parts I couldn't find a better place!