I arrived from New Zealand into Melbourne to be greeted at the airport by my brother, Keith who has lived in Australia for more years than either of us cares to remember and my nephew, Reuben who is on his gap year between school and university. Reuben has travelled from his home in the UK via various European organic farms and is working in a gourmet cake kitchen in Melbourne. The free samples he brings home on a Friday makes him my current favourite nephew. It was a pleasurable but hectic change to be living amongst a boisterous young family instead of the peaceful solitude and tranquillity of travelling on my own. The plan was to buy another motorbike to travel around Australia.
Stunt Rider At the Australian Formula One GP
The bike I chose was called a Mitsubishi Express. It has four wheels, one at each corner to aid stability and a large fully enclosed fairing which is one hundred percent windproof and waterproof. It has controls that can warm or cool the air to any desired temperature which keeps me comfortable even more effectively than the heated handlebar grips I had on the BMW F650GS I rode through the Americas. A huge advantage of the Mitsubishi Express is the enormous luggage space. After living out of two panniers for four years it feels as though I have moved into a mansion.
Ex MotoGP World Champion, Casey Stoner Has Switched To Four Wheels As Well! (Formula One Australian GP Support Event)
Ok, it’s a metal box and nowhere near as thrilling, exciting or adventurous as travelling by motorcycle. After four years of continuous motorcycle travel and becoming a whopping four years older in the process my body finally convinced my head that it wanted a few of the creature comforts befitting my age of sixty one. Protection from the elements of wind, rain, heat and cold was one thing I craved. Smaller things such as carrying a chopping board and a couple of kitchen knives instead of taking forever to slice vegetables with a Swiss army knife on the lid of my camping pan became a dream come true.
Proof That I'm Now Officially Old, Four Wheels, Camping Table, Folding Chairs And A Grown Up Nephew
In the four years of motorcycle travel I had covered 61,243 miles (97,989 km) and gone from Florida, north, up the east side of the USA to Canada, crossed Canada from Nova Scotia to Vancouver then headed to Alaska. From Alaska I turned south to Argentina. The BMW F650GS I shipped from the UK to Miami in 2009 died of old age and general abuse in Cordoba, Argentina so I had to abandon it there and start afresh in New Zealand. It would have been nice to continue the journey on the bike I started with. Riding into my brother’s house in Melbourne on my UK registered bike was something I had been looking forward to. However, economically; buying and selling a bike in New Zealand worked out about the same as shipping a bike from Argentina. I bought a Honda CBR250R which turned out to be a good bike for New Zealand although the riding position wouldn’t have suited me for long distance travelling.
Great Ocean Road Sunset (No Filters, This Is How It Looked)
I was going to travel around Australia in an anticlockwise direction from Melbourne and would be joined by my nephew, Reuben for the trip north to the Great Barrier Reef of Northern Queensland. He was then flying to the USA to work with Camp America for the summer before starting university in September.
Wildlife And My Nephew, Reuben On Anglesea Golf Course, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
A trip to the giant Bunning’s hardware store for timber, storage boxes and a few other bits and pieces followed by a couple of days work building and fitting a bed and the van was almost ready to go. The final job of making curtains was going to take longer as I was way out of my comfort zone trying to figure out what I needed. Browsing around a haberdashery store looking for ideas I discovered that some brilliant person had invented iron on Velcro, the perfect solution for novice curtain makers. Hemming can be done with Velcro, loops to slot a curtain pole through, more Velcro. Keeping the sides and bottoms of the curtains close to the sloping sides of the van was accomplished with regular adhesive Velcro on the van mating up to iron on Velcro on the curtains. It’s my new favourite way of sticking things together and once you start thinking about it the possibilities are endless. A ‘universal’ GPS holder wouldn’t hold my motorcycle GPS unit but a couple of strips of Velcro soon had the motorcycle mount attached to the dashboard. Having prepared and travelled in vans before I knew that one of the skills required was to pack everything so as to avoid any rattles and bangs of the luggage moving around. I expected to be fine tuning the packing to eliminate noises on the early test trips and was pleasantly surprised that I had got the packing perfect at the first try, not a sound from the back. The reality surfaced when my travelling companion Reuben mentioned all the noises from the rear of the van, being deaf as a post I couldn’t hear them! In this instance maybe deafness is an advantage.
Sydney Opera House
I christened my circumnavigational trip ‘The Wrong Way Round’ as six weeks prior to departure I decided to change direction and head west from the UK instead of east. Getting visas and travelling in Pakistan and to a lesser extent Iran were problematic in 2009. There were rumours that Pakistan might stop issuing transit visas through the country due to the danger in the north of the country near the Afghan border. By travelling west and doing the Americas first instead of last I hoped the political situation would improve by the time I got to Pakistan and Iran. I figured that I had the finances for three and a half to four years travel and thought the trip would take somewhere between two and four years.
Australian Wildlife (Photo by Reuben Tomlinson)
More Australian Wildlife. Me, A Crocodile And Somewhat Recklessly No Fences Between Us
It is extremely difficult trying to work out in advance how much lengthy trips are going to cost and how long they will actually take. At my age it was reasonable to assume that most of the places I went to; I wouldn’t be going back to so it was important to see as much as possible in each country I visited. Unlike younger travellers I didn’t have a job to go back to or a realistic prospect of re-joining the workforce. My plan was to live as cheaply as I could within my own comfort zone to make my money last as long as possible. Before setting off on the trip, when asked how long I thought it would take I replied that I didn’t really know but that the longer the trip took; the more I would be enjoying it. For the majority of the trip I had no time schedules and this was my favourite way of travelling. I travelled when I wanted to for as far as I wanted to, stopping if I came across an interesting place and staying until I was ready to move on. Visa expiry dates, the boat around the Darien Gap from Panama to Colombia where there are no roads and the occasional aeroplane ride were the only deadlines I had to adhere to.
Discovering That The Greenpeace Ship, 'Rainbow Warrior' Was In Cairn's Harbour Made My Day
As it turned out my estimate on how long my money would last wasn’t too far off the mark. I travelled for a total of four years and four months, a little longer than my guesstimate at the planning stage of the trip. My estimate on the duration of the trip was way off though and I only managed to get half way around the globe before running out of money. The world turned out to be far bigger than I thought it would be and I quickly settled into a very sedate pace of travelling. Finances unfortunately dictated that Australia was going to be my final country.
Red Dirt Road In The Northern Territories
To assist anyone planning a similar trip, this is how far I went and what it cost travelling from 2009 to 2013. I was probably spending a similar amount to most riders I met on the road although there were a number who were spending considerably more and some, particularly the intrepid Nick Jones (www.talesfromthesaddle.com); who were spending considerably less. My most economical period was the weeks Nick and I spent together in Guatemala. If only I had stuck to his spending regime I might be travelling through South East Asia now instead of attending to the maintenance of my neglected house and garden in England!
Uluru At Sunset (AKA Ayers Rock)
Duration: ............................................... four years, four months
Distance Travelled: .................................. 75,200 miles (120,320 km)
BMW F650GS through the Americas ......... 56,098 miles (89,757 km)
Honda CBR250R in New Zealand ................ 5,145 miles (8,232 km)
Mitsubishi Express van in Australia ........... 13,957 miles (22,331 km)
A Ninety Mile Straight With Imperceptible Corners At Either End!
USA and Canada
Eighteen months in the USA and Canada including shipping the bike from the UK, flying me from the UK, a return flight to Costa Rica to renew my USA visa and a return flight to the UK to have a well deserved holiday from the holiday in the United States. Total = £23,098 ($35,739) or an average of £1283 ($1986) per month.
Mexico and Central America
Thirteen months in Mexico and Central America including taking me and the motorbike on the good ship Stahlratte from Panama to Colombia. Total = £7541 ($11,668), an average of £580 ($898) per month.
Fourteen months in South America. Note that Chile, Brazil and Argentina are considerably more expensive than the rest of South America. Total = £7964 ($12,332), an average of £569 ($880) per month.
Three months in New Zealand including flying me from Santiago and buying then selling a Honda CBR250R. I opted to buy from and sell to a dealer rather than spend additional time buying and selling privately which would have saved some money. Normal day to day living and travelling costs were lower than the USA but getting there was expensive. Total cost = £8313 ($12,862), an average of £2771 ($4287) per month.
Four months in Australia including flying myself back to the UK, buying and selling a Mitsubishi Express van. The Aussie dollar was at a record high while I was there which helped to make Australia the most expensive country I visited despite all the free and legal camping. Total cost = £13,686 ($21,176), an average of £3421 ($5924) per month.
Spreading the cost of the long haul flights to and from Australia and New Zealand over a relatively short time helped to make these countries more expensive than the Americas. New Zealand was probably cheaper than the USA for normal day to day expenses such as camping fees, food and fuel whilst Australia was very much more expensive.
My Nephew,Simon Racing A Go-kart At Phillip Island With Part Of The MotoGP Circuit In The Background
The total cost of the trip from the UK and back again was £60,602 ($93,797), an average of £1165 ($1804) per month. This figure does not include the cost of the BMW F650GS I started the trip with. Compared to my current bank balance this looks like an absolute fortune but it is about what it would have cost me to live cheaply in the UK. If I had returned to the UK from Argentina and not travelled to New Zealand and Australia the trip would have been cheaper than staying at home! More than half the trip cost was financed from renting my house out with the balance coming from savings originally earmarked to buy a pension. So there you have it. It is cheaper to ride a motorcycle around (or part way around) the world than to stay at home watching TV. So what are you waiting for? As one of our politicians, Norman Tebbitt once said, “Get on your bike”.
I cut my time in Australia short in order to see my Brother in Law, Richard who was in the final stages of his battle against a brain tumour. He was given a year to eighteen months to live and survived for three years so he fought well and got to see his children grow up a little more than we all expected. Richard accompanied me on various motorcycling exploits over the years, either going to spectate as the professionals roared around the track or as I struggled to keep up with the pack in amateur enduro and sand race events. He even took my sister on their honeymoon to Egypt while I was competing there in the Pharaoh’s Desert Rally. Despite having no pillion footrests, they ended up riding my Yamaha Tenere rally bike around the country after I inevitably crashed which resulted in my retiring from the rally with a broken hand.
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