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Your expert advice is needed! I'm working on a documentary and we are due to film in the Middle East in the next couple of weeks. We have 2 weeks and will probably finish in Jerusalem. My producer wants us to visit Petra in the desert on the way. I have never ridden before, nor visited the Middle East, so I have some questions!
1. What is a realistic distance to cover in 14 days or per day on a motorbike?
2. I have read that some countries do not allow motorbikes - does anyone know any more about this?
3. If travelling through the desert, do you need specialist equipment on the bike, or is it possible to use one that will also cover roads as well as sand and rougher terrain?
4. What sort of permits/licenses would we require?
5. Is there anything else screamingly obvious I should be aware of?
Thanks very much for your help I look forward to your replies!
"Is there anything else screamingly obvious I should be aware of?"
Well, generally, it is best, when spending thousands and thousands of dollars to:
1. start the planning before you leave to start shooting.
2. have a bit of an idea about what you want to spend all that money on.
3. Comprehend that coordinating machines and transport and filming abroad is really quite difficult and takes genuine organisation skills.
I mean, really; are you serious? "a few weeks"?
You might want to say where you are starting from, and where you are going to, how many people, what support vehicles you have, are you intending to go into Israel, who is riding the bike(s), and for what purpose. People will be able to answer you more precisely then.
But "a few weeks" is too late. Borrow a local's bike for a few scenes and pretend your star rode it across the country: that's what the travel documentary crew I met in Vietnam did.
I'm sorry if i have offended anyone, I started on this project yesterday so am doing my best to become an expert on everything as soon as possible but believe me it is a monster task! As yet we do not have dates to go out, it could be as many as a few months notice (fingers crossed) which is why I was so vague. I was also vague about the journey as i have no details and was lokoing for someone experienced to maybe suggest a route they had done before, as I have never been out there and have no idea what is achievable. I have no idea whether it is possible to hire bikes out there (perhaps this is the wrong forum as you guys seem to have your own?) which is why I'm asking for this advice. All I have in my brief is to prepare a route involving the West Bank as our celebrity wants to travel to/through it on a political journey, which is why i had so little detail to offer you. All I was after is for someone to say 'I tried to do Cairo to Damascus but they wouldn't let me do X or couldn't cross Y'. Or for someone to confirm which countries allow you to use motorbikes as I've heard conflicting views and am very confused. I apologise again for any confusion, I'm doing my best here and just thought I might be able to get a little help here...
Yeah, deliciously curmudgeonly that contribution eh? You could almost hear the haughty sniffing.
1. Have you looked at the weather? It is getting pretty hot for a human being to be on a bike in the ME, never mind a celeb.
2. You have found the right place. Everything you need is on this site.
3. Make sure you understand what a "carnet de passage" is. This takes some preparation and money.
4. Look through recent editions of the e-zine, and find people who have just passed through the area. Write to them individually. Usually overlanders are keen to help, (but lack net time).
5. Hiring a bike in the poor world is very hard to do formally. You might find a local who would lend you one though. Crossing international borders in the ME with someone else's bike is out of the question.
6. Have a look on the communities page of this site and see if there is one in your region. Tell them your situation. They're dying to help.
7. You are not going to ride on sand through the desert, only on road. So prepping the bike is not really your problem. Any bike will do, within reason. And maybe your celeb wants to make a statement with his/her choice of bike?
8. You are, I presume, going to have support vehicles for this for the crew? So in practice, the celeb is not going to genuinely ride the route: he/she will always choose the a/c cabin with friends over the dirt.
9. The detail of border crossing are usually tucked away in people's stories, so get reading. As well as the stories hosted here, there are loads more stories to be found on the links pages.
10. I will write to a friend who has made biking films. He would be more use to you than I (and a lot less grumpy).
11. Buying a bike, getting a carnet and flying the machine to the region will take at least a month.
12. Otherwise, maybe you can find a overlander in the area who will lend you the bike in between border crossings?
13. Chris Scott's book on adventure biking is an excellent intro to the subject.
Just thought of something else: filming in this region is full of security complications. Have you contacted the relevant embassies? This will not be short process. Maybe with Israel, I don't know, (I wouldn't be surprised if they laid the whole thing on for you, with the --ahem--relevant script rights, of course) but certainly not elsewhere.
It is quite possible for you to have all your kit taken off you at customs if you don't have formal permission. You can't just bring in loads of cameras in ally boxes through customs.
And you can't travel from Israel to any of the, so-called, Arab countries.
The crew I met in Vietnam had a full-time minder from the state assigned to them (for whom they had to pay of course). They had to find diversion tactics in order to do the politically sensitive commentry without him.
I don't know if this will help you or not but you can rent a bike from Turkey. Riding from Istanbul to Syrian border might take a day if you are expert.
visit the following link. They are really reputable. May cost you a bit lot but as far as I see money is not your issue.
link is: www.rentabiketurkey.com
Here is a bit more about the show which in hindsight I should have explained much earlier (only I've only just had this brief confirmed hence all the confusion!) The gist of the show is that our celebrity has chosen this region to do a journey of a lifetime, so he's well aware of what he'll be faced with. He will basically be taken somewhere and told to make his way somewhere else, probably Jerusalem so he will have to travel through the West bank.
My job is to find out what sort of transport and accomodation is available in these places and what good point are en route so he can get the best from local knowledge and an experience of the political situation out there. My producer was dead keen on him doing it all on a motorbike which is why I've posted here. With this knowledge I can now tell him it will take a lot of planning and unless we can buy/borrow one locally to do a stretch not crossing borders, it will be pretty difficult.
We're also currently trying to find local fixers and contacts to make sure we are doing everything above board and keeping ourselves safe at the same time, but it's a mammoth mission!!!
So I thank you again for your advice, I just need to speak to as many people as I can who have been in the area to work out exactly what is realistic and safe to do. I did post on the Middle East board, but I don't think I've had any replies yet!
"it will take a lot of planning and unless we can buy/borrow one locally to do a stretch not crossing borders, it will be pretty difficult."
How about contacting a company that does biking tours? This is the usual way TV companies operate. There are a number of guys who spend their lives doing distance tours and would be only too happy to lay a ME tour on for you.
Otherwise, perhaps there are specialist tour operators in the area who would do a bespoke tour for you.
The cheapskate option would be to get a traveller to help out. Throw me bundles and my Honda Transalp, my fluent arabic and travelling knowhow will be there in a week.
The border crossing question is, as you have gleaned, your big obstacle to borrowing locally.
But really, such a tour, involves you flying out there, booking all the hotels en route, driving the route, making local contacts etc beforehand.
As with all things, what you can do will almost certainly come down to your budget.
Buying bikes at home, flying them out with all the correct paperwork (carnet de passage), then bringing them home again will not be the cheapest option, but likely to be the most in your control here in the UK.
What experience does your celeb have on a bike? I assume they have a license? They may have their own ideas on what bike they want to ride. I detect a certain amount of MCgregor fallout in this decision. Remember that they were already bikers. It is not as comfortable as going by four wheels, so they must be happy with the bike.
They should certainly test ride it before departure and especially if they will be carrying luggage.
I would echo the advice to stay on the tarmac, or at least stick to well marked gravel roads unless your riders are comfortable with more. Will it be 2-up on one bike, or a bike each? If the latter think small - something in the 600-650 cc at most. If the former you may want something more powerful.
If buying here and shipping, you may want to get in touch with Overland Solutions (advert on this site) who have lots of experience with bike preparation for such a trip.
Like my friend Simon, for a nice wedge of cash and a few expenses, I would be more than happy to accompany and provide some project management help. I grew up in the middle east and also spent a few months in Israel many years ago. I'd jump at the opportunity to return there!
Seriously though, if you really want to do this, and have no experience, I would get some professional help to minimise your risks.
Thanks for your reply. The whole motorbike idea came from my producer who thinks it might be fun so I was drafted in to do the research on it to find out if it is realistic. The general consensus frfom here seems like the best and most controllable way (if a little pricey) is to take their own bikes out. Which leads me to my next point which is the celebrity concerned is out of the country so i have no way of finding out for a while if they have a license which would poo poo things right from the start. but I had to check it out so I can provide information on how easy/difficult it would be. I have been assured that there is a specialist in the Middle East coming on board on this project next week, which will help me reams as I'm trying my best to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can, but it's taking a lot of time and want to make sure I get this right.We will also have a fixer out there too as we will be crossing (or attempting to cross) various boundaries and it is vital we have a local guide/expert as we would be extremely unwise to go out unguided. As for the motorbike, thank you all for your advice, I may well be back in due course if it turns out our man in question has been riding them for years. If not - a pushbike it is!
If it does turn into pushbikes I have a friend who has been around the world by bicycle recently, and spent a fair amount of time in the Middle East doing it. I am sure he would be willing to provide advice on that. He is a journo but I wouldn't hold that against him
Hi Claire (and Simon and richard)
I'm from Israel and can give you some ideas on the subject.
unfortunatly this area is very complicated politically and has the 3rd world way of looking on things, so:
1)It is not recomended to start in israel. stamping your passport with our stamps can get you in trouble when you get to the Syrian border (which can be entered only from jordan or turkey)
2)You are not allowed to ride a bike in Jordan!
only if you get a special permit and while crossing. get the info from the Jordan embassy in the uk. so renting a bike in jordan cant be done.you need to come by land from syria or egypt-i'm not sure about entering from israel.
3)you can not rent a bike in israel! (only a 50cc joke)I once had a contact from a producer in belgium on such a mission and what she did was that she contact the israeli bike club and hired a bike privetly from one of them (it was a silver bmw 1150 that had to fit the continuity of the script- a journey started in europe)http://www.motorcycle.org.il/ ask for Toovya he is no.1.
4)getting to the west bank has to be carefuly pland. there are a lot of military zones from both sides and in some places riding on an israeli registered bike is a risk. you need to coordinate all route with the local forces.
in jerusalem it is much easier but that also has to be coordinated in advance (meaning, a fixer)
5) i think of someone that can be of advise to you, his name is Zadok Yehezkely i do not know him personaly, but he holds the arab and west bank desk of Channel 10 TV here, he rides a bike and knows a lot on this subject. i belive that maybe a chat with him can open the trip to eaven a better ideas. try to find a contact to him through Ch.10.
6)wating for mor Q.
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