“In August 2005. Simon Roberts, a freelance Graphic Artist set off…to Kathmandu, Nepal”. Everyone has their own reasons for setting off on a trip like this. The death of my wife Julie from cancer in 2002 certainly played a huge part in why I left that August. We’d traveled far and wide around Europe – our final carefree trip together had been in 2001 to Morocco, “the nearest far-away land”. A wonderful experience. She died twelve months later.
You slowly get used to the idea of traveling alone. At first, the thought of sitting in miserable East European Hotels – alone – after years of traveling together was something I simply could not contemplate. But slowly, you thumb through old guidebooks…peruse old maps …rekindle old ideas…and something bites you. You feel a shiver go through your body and “The Trip” is born.
What follows, dear reader, is what I would call the Illustrated draught of the forthcoming book ‘The Road to Kathmandu’.
As I’ve mentioned already, I soon realised that material was unfolding before my very eyes – incidents…landscapes…characters…and I needed to record it somehow. Photographs were not enough and a scenario had often gone by the time I’d pulled up and got my camera out. Draw it! That was the answer. So, I would often spend evenings in cafes sketching that day’s ‘visuals’ and putting loose cartoon strips together. I’d found the perfect pastime for the lonesome traveler.
Day 1. Bristol to Calais…
The cartoon should tell it all. Every biker knows that smug feeling of superiority that comes over you when you roll off a ferry. You are the free spirited biker. No 4x4 with 2.5 kids for you. No. No saloon car and caravan..just the wind in your hair and the glint of sun on your sunglasses as you ease your way through the backpackers down the ramp…and on to foreign soil. That is – unless your starter motor fails.
click here to see the full story
A hotel near the Rhine.
Dull and overcast - as was I. I'd envisaged a picturesque hotel on the banks of the Rhine for my first overnight. Alas, as would so often be the case, this was not to be.
"Hotel? I thought he was roughing it?". I know, I know, but I felt I needed to er, ease myself into life on the Dusty Highway. But, no riverside Biergarten for me. No flirtatious blonde serving wench. No jovial BMW v Triumph banter. Just a 'schnitzel und bier' in a dark and smoky bar.
Colditz. 'Well-known in Britain for its 16th century castle where Allied prisoners were held during WWII and whose daring escapes later became the subject of a TV series' states the Lonely Planet (LP). The boy in me had to go. I'd lived in Germany for seven years and am somewhat embarrassed about the fact that I'd never been to East Germany. The time had come to put things right. And not before time - in the eyes of the 'Hotel zur Post' restaurateur.
Many hours of rain soaked Autobahn riding had me crossing into former East Germany later that afternoon. I'd expected a monotone landscape but found a surprisingly green and colourful scene. It wasn't long, however, before I had my first encounter with a Trabant....
The cartoon below depicts my visit to Colditz. More or less. I am an Artist and, therefore, in possession of an Artistic Licence and I'm not scared to use it....
But, rest assured dear Reader, I will not be illustrating every single day of this journey and promise to be in deepest Transylvania in the cold shadow of Dracula's Castle within two pages.
click here to see the full story
For more in depth analysis and 'Question Time', click on MORE (below).
These early days were just that. Early days. The bike felt overloaded. The starter motor had already let me down and I was questioning my choice of bike. Choice? I'd had no choice! This was the bike I'd bought many years before for just this kind of trip. A 1989 BMW R100GS. Winner of Paris Dakar rallies. It was the right choice. A little long in the tooth but a machine that could be repaired by back street mechanics in Lahore,Pakistan....Little did I know.
But, despite these fears, I felt light. Free. It was all so simple compared with the previous six months of preparation... Equipment... Finances... Visas...Inoculations... All I needed to do was to get up, pack the bike, and ride off. Simple. It's a cliche, I know, but I just felt SO alive! The Road to Nirvana? Maybe.
"So, why Kathmandu, Si?"
OK. The Overland Route to India. The Hippie Trail. The Silk Road. Too many Capital Letters? Probably. As a boy, I'd always been fascinated by the illustrated travel journals. The mystical East. Moustachioed men clutching knives under their robes..Seductive women clutching men under theirs... Sun, Heat and Desert. Not much of any of these in Sutton Coldfield in the late 60s. OK. There was the Asian Grill restaurant. But even so. It was the desire to ride from my own front door to the vast spaces of Iran and Pakistan that called me... The Caspian Sea. The Persian Gulf. The Khyber Pass...."Roberts! Are you daydreaming again? See me after the lesson."
Got a question? Email me at email@example.com
HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!
"The calendar is magnificent!"
"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"
We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!
Next HU Events
- Germany Autumn: Oct 23-26
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- Aus NSW: Oct 31-Nov 2
- South Africa: Nov 13-16
- NEW! USA Virginia: Apr 9-12, 2015
- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
- Canada West: Aug 20-23, 2015
- USA California: Sep 24-27, 2015
- Aus Queensland: Sep 24-27, 2015
- USA North Carolina: Oct 8-11, 2015
- Aus Perth: Oct 9-11, 2015
Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!
Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).
"Inspiring and hilarious!"
"I loved watching this DVD!"
"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."
Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.
What others say about HU...
"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA
"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada
"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia
"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders
10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!
NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!
Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!
What turns you on to motorcycle travel?
Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!
New to Horizons Unlimited?
New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!
Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.Read more about Grant & Susan's story
Membership - help keep us going!
Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.
You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.
Books & DVDs
All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.
MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!
Story and photos copyright © All Rights Reserved.
Contact the author:
Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.
Hosted by: Horizons
Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!