I originally set off with my friend, Becky Lincoln, for a simple trip to India, and now, five years later, I am on my fifth continent; I obviously took a wrong turn somewhere.
Here is how it happened. Becky and I originally came up with the idea in November 1997 to travel to India by motorbike, despite the fact that neither of us had any previous bike experience. After a crash course in How To Ride Bikes for complete beginners we got our licenses and a few months later set off on a second hand motorbike - a BMW R80GS - christened Thelma.
We started with £2500 between us, an 800cc bike from which we could only reach the ground with tip-toes and a vague journey plan of heading East until we reached the sea. We traveled through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan finally reaching India after four months on the road. We had numerous adventures along the way including camping rough while bears and wild wolves roamed around our tent in Romania - and this was before we had even left Europe.
Traveling through Iran we had to wear chadors as it's illegal for women to appear in public not covered up with these huge black sacks complete with long head scarves. Putting them on over our leathers felt bizarre, but that's how we had to dress for the month we were there. We drew crowds wherever we went as the Iranians had never seen a woman on a bike before; at one point we were arrested by the security police after a short chase through the town (we hadn't realised they were police).
Pakistan was our favorite part of this trip - a beautiful country with fantastically friendly people - who invited us in wherever we went. The foothills of the Himalayas were a stunning sight as rode through them, and we managed to get to 4800m and still be on a road although surrounded by snow. We had various mechanical problems on the way which we always managed to overcome, partly through luck, a lot of help and a steep learning curve, although due to on-going electrical problems we did end up having to push-start Thelma all the way through India - no mean feat as she weighs quarter of a ton! We spent three months traveling the roads of India - you've not seen anything until you experience the horrendous driving conditions in this overcrowded country.
By this point we realised that we wanted to continue our journey and headed onwards, going through Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore and eventually reaching Australia where we rode across the continent via the outback, where there were only kangaroos and 150 feet long road trains (huge lorries) for company. We worked hard to save money and whilst Becky returned to England to start University I shipped Thelma to Cape Town where I worked for two months and persuaded another friend, Maggie Dunleavy (Ireland) to fly out from the UK and ride through Africa with me.
This part of the journey included the countries of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt - the classic Cape Town to Cairo route with a few diversions. Crossing the Namibian deserts we had an accident where I was injured and unconscious for a while - Maggie's worst nightmare come true, but within two days we were back on the road.
Throughout Africa, the road conditions were the most appalling I had encountered anywhere - mud, sand and dirt being the main road surfaces - we had a few falls but made it through successfully, even managing to cross rivers that came up to the petrol tank.
Some of the highlights of Africa - riding through a herd of elephants in Zambia and swimming with the dolphins off Zanzibar as well as the immense sense of achievement at actually reaching some of the more remote areas after tackling roads that were allegedly impassable - not bad when you can't reach the ground properly.
Arriving back in Europe during winter wasn't a good move, we arrived via a ferry from Israel to Greece and ended up crossing the Alps in a blizzard, before the freezing journey across France in December without the starter motor working.
From deserts to snowstorms in a week.Posted by tiffanycoates at December 17, 2001 03:42 AM GMT
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