The plan has been long in hatching and slow in execution. For the last couple of years we have talked about doing this trip but finally, with Sascha finishing studying and me reaching a point in my job where I was happy to have a change of scene, all has come together.
We are setting off from home with the intention of getting down to South Africa. Once there we'll take a rain check and decide what looks to be the best move next. We've got about 10 months to make it there before Sascha flies home and I continue alone... If all goes to plan the route should take us through Europe, Turkey, Iran, UAE, Oman and Yemen and then into Africa through Djibouti and head South from there.
Having been working recruiting students from overseas to British Universities for the past 6 or so years, I have been lucky enough to have a job that nourishes my passion for travel. My other great passion (apart from Sascha of course!) is for vintage motorcycles. Combining the two is, if logic follows through, the finest thing I can spend my time doing. Previous big trips have included riding a '58 Bullet back from India and taking a '97 Bullet to the Sahara in Morroco. My experience of Africa has so far been quite limited and I'm really looking forward to finding out more...
I came to travelling a bit later than Rich with a trip a few years ago around Asia. Suffice to say I am not the hardy outdoors type so managed a fair few injuries, misshaps, robberies and a lot of moaning. Since meeting Rich I have discovered the joys of sitting pillion on a motorbike but steer well clear of the mechanics. So with all that in mind you may (as I am) be asking why am I doing this trip? I feel that as my experience of Africa has been limited to the news and I want to find out another view of things.
The two of us nearly ready to go...
Is a 1955 Royal Enfield Bullet, made in Redditch and for most of its life an inhabitant of Liverpool. This makes it a scouse bike, what that means in bike terms, I'm not too sure. Time will tell. The first question for many would be, why choose an old bike? I shall spare the cod philosophy I may usually spout forth about this but in simple terms in my mind there are several distinct advantages to travelling with an old bike:
1. It's cheap - parts are cheap, it was cheap to buy and you guys with a new BMW just think how much money you would have saved on your carnet if your bike had a value of 500 quid
2. I know how to fix it. That could turn out to be a rash statement as the trip progresses but suffice to say I can fix it better than I can a new bike with such horrors as electronic engine management sytems
3. It goes slowly. This of course to many would be a major turn-off but I'm travelling to meet people and see places, not to race. And slower is safer..
4. Old bikes open doors. It's pretty amazing how much more interest and hospitality you get with an old junker compared to a modern plastic rocket. Somehow too it blends into the environment more in developing countries. It is still worth way more than many will earn in several years but that's a scale more can relate to than a bike that many wouldn't be able to afford in a lifetime
5. Breakdowns are fun. Yes, really. Thought I'd leave that to last as it may seem the least convincing part of the argument. Some of the best experiences I have had and most I've got to know people travelling have been through breakdowns.
That's pretty much all on the bike. For those wearing vintage bike anoraks it's best to just say that the bike has been very modified and looks like something the cat has dragged in. Mail me if you are interested in it more than that and I'll happily bore you for hours..
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Dammit! Delays galore. Everyone says that in planning a trip such as this preparation takes a lot longer than you expect and they are not wrong... From packing everything up at home and cleaning it up to rent out to sorting out the paperwork and getting the bike in order all has guzzled up precious money and time away....
Our scheduled departure was back at the end of October and now a month later we are still here whittling down our travel budget. The Iranians have not yet obliged us with a visa and the bike is having more teething problems than Jaws as a child. Hmmm.. maybe I should have suspected that resurrecting a 50 year old bike that has been off the road for more than 20 years and preparing it for a two up trip through Africa would be a task that would take slightly longer that 3 weeks. But still, if it weren't for a strong sense of optimism we wouldn't attempt such ventures would we? Actually, all on the bike was sorted fairly early on. It is just that is has shown itself to be a keen smoker and really reluctant to break the habit. No amount of fettling and new parts has persuaded it that giving up is the best option. Normally one could live with a little wisp of smoke tailing us from the exhaust but this machine has a real 40 a day habit and the thought of slating its thirst with a pint of oil a day seems a bit over the top. We had been planning to carbon offset our trip but at this rate instead of purchasing a few trees we would have to be investing in the entire treelife of Borneo.
Still, we remain optimistic and all going to plan we should be off this weekend. Sorry to those friends we haven't managed to catch up with before leaving. Hopefully the next posting will be from Turkey in a couple of weeks' time...
The noble steed itself in its natural habitat, the workshop, being dismantled for the umpteenth time. Not looking too good to depart in a couple of days' time!
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- NEW! Aus NSW: Oct 31-Nov 2
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 13-16
- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
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