FAQ and Media Release

Quotations from this selection of questions and answers, including associated links, can be used for media releases without prior permission.
The questions are based on what we have been asked and answered over the years by the media and people interested in the trip.
Should you have any further questions please email us. (link at bottom of page)
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Q1. Did you plan to visit all the countries of the world when you started travelling 13 years ago?

A1. No. The trip was initially intended to be 6 months, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, just myself, but while in Malaysia I heard of a new motorcycle rally in Thailand, was having a great time, and suggested to Kay that she should join me for a month in the middle to attend that rally. At the time we still had two children in school and one at university, so Kay's mother looked after them for the month Kay joined me. This became the same pattern during the second 6 month trip from Bangladesh to Greece, when Kay joined me in India and Pakistan for a month about half way. By the end of 1998 our children had completed school and were independent to the extent we felt we could leave them to look after themselves in our house, in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, while we travelled full time. It was about this time we started thinking of visiting as many countries as possible leading up to the 100th Anniversary Celebrations of Harley-Davidson manufacture, which was to be held in the USA in 2003. By the time of the celebrations the motorcycle had visited 143 countries and rather than calling that the end of the trip we started planning to visit the remaining 50 unvisited countries of the world, but as they were dotted all over the place, most were islands, it took a further five years to finish the ride to every country of the world, using the same motorcycle.

Q2. How often do you go back to Australia to see family and friends?

A2. During the thirteen years of travel from February 1996 to February 2009 we have been back to Australia about 15 times, a little more than once a year, mostly to catch up with our children and mothers who are still alive. We try to be home at Christmas, but often the timing had to be weather related, when it was often too cold to be riding, or avoiding the wet season across Africa. On average we have been overseas for 10 months of each year and back in Australia for the other two. The motorcycle has only returned to Australia once, after the 100th Anniversary, late in 2003. We felt it should do a loop of our homeland as it had then visited 70% of the rest of the worlds countries, but had not been ridden around Australia. Normally when we returned home we stored the motorcycle overseas, waiting for our return to the same location to continue on its journey, but a couple of times we returned to Australia while the motorcycle was being shipped to another country.

Q3. Would you use the same motorcycle again?

A3. We have been very happy with the performance of the Harley-Davidson, but, like most things, it isn't perfect. I don't think there is a perfect motorcycle to ride all the different types and quality of roads, handle the variety of oils and petrols you need to purchase in different countries, that is easy to ride in different traffic conditions, carrying the weight of your home. The Harley performs well on asphalt, a cruiser, but can be a little rough on dirt, although its low centre of gravity and long wheel base give a better ride than might be thought. The belt drive has been our most consistent repair, lasting on average 50,000 km's, but we carry two spares and can now fit them roadside if one breaks. The engine has been rebuilt twice, just the top end, lasting about 250,000 km's on each occasion. So far it has not been necessary to remove the engine from the frame at any time as the bottom end has not needed repair nor has the gearbox been opened. More details on the motorcycle's mechanical performance can be found in the summary.

Q4. Have you had any sponsorship?

A4. We approached a number of sponsors after we arrived in Europe, having ridden there from Australia and received mixed responses. By far the most beneficial support has come from Morgan and Wacker, Brisbane, Australia, the Harley-Davidson dealership from whom we purchased our motorcycle, and who has provided us with spare parts at cost price and mechanical advice for free. Seconded by Dunlop Tyres who provided tyres, free, delivered, to anywhere in the world for a number of years, but the arrangement sadly lapsed some time ago. We were also given heated vests by Widder, stainless steel mufflers by Staintune which are still on the motorcycle having lasted more than ten years despite the hammering of rocks on poor African roads. Whilst Harley-Davidson, the parent company has not provided any sponsorship directly, many individual dealers have generously provided unsolicited support, anything from a T-shirt, a service for the motorcycle, use of their workshop, or offers of any necessary work. Unfortunately no-one came up with any cash, that had to be provided by ourselves.

Q5. What tyres have you used?

A5. The motorcycle has used Dunlop road tyres for the entire trip. These have proven to be excellent, have given few punctures, no blowouts, suffered no damage despite hard abuse. Being road tyres we deflated them, down to half their recommended running pressures, for traction and smooth running on some dirt roads and over rocky terrain. We have also inflated them heavily to carry our overloaded motorcycle. Despite this abuse they have never let us down. Even though Dunlop ceased to sponsor us with tyres a few years ago we have continued to use their product as it has provided excellent service.

Q6. How have you afforded to travel 10 months of every year for 13 years?

A6. This is perhaps our most consistent question, often asked by young backpackers, to whom we smilingly reply. Work hard from now until you reach our age, save your money, and there should be enough to travel around the world, at least as a budget traveller. The answer is fairly true of our circumstances, however we did not know what we were saving for. But there are two ways of making money, earning it, and not spending it, so perhaps as importantly we have tried to remove all at home costs from our expenses. Our house is rented, giving us income. We have some small investments that until the recent economic downturn were performing quite nicely. Sometimes it is suggested we are quite rich, financially, to which we again semi jokingly reply. We were when we started the trip. It is also commonly asked how much has the trip cost. This is something we haven't kept records of. I guess we would view it as asking someone, how much they had spent in the last 13 years living, as that is how we now see our travelling, just another way of living.   

Q7. What was the most dangerous situation you encountered?

A7. Apart from just riding a motorcycle in traffic, in dozens of different countries, which is definitely the most dangerous aspect of our trip, we have been mugged twice, threatened at gunpoint once, and even though we travelled through many war zones, areas of civil dispute and countries under military rule, we never felt threatened at those times. We were first mugged in Brazil, on Copacabana Beach (28/5/02), at night. Our own fault, we had read of its dangers but had forgotten and taking our short wave radio onto the sand to listen to the news, three men approached us, one demanded money at knife point, and whilst I wrestled with him, another held Kay, and the third relieved me of my wallet. It was all over in a matter of seconds, with them escaping along the dark seashore. The second incident, in Ethiopia (23/2/06), in daylight, in a reasonable area for the capital, Addis Ababa, a man walked a little close to Kay, quickly reached over grabbing her necklace and ran off into sidestreets with me ineffectually pursuing him. Where we felt most personally threatened though was crossing the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Central African Republic (5/12/00). It was late in the day and we were met by military and police personnel at this tiny border crossing that would rarely see any foreigners crossing. The government hadn't paid wages to its public servants for over a year and the military official confronting us seemed to be either intoxicated or on drugs. When he demanded a payment for allowing us into the country, effectively a bribe, something we have refused to pay the entire trip, believing it only leads to more corruption and hardship for the locals who are constantly fleeced, we refused. He instructed his subordinate to load his rifle with ammunition, which he did, pointed the rifle at us, and proceeded to count 1. 2. 3. indicating he would shoot on three. Luckily, or I would not be telling this story, the command to fire never arrived, and having played his final card the officer left, not to return. We settled into the police compound, camping for the night, and were allowed entry to the country the next morning, after obtaining a receipt for any charges.

Q8. What is your most favourite country?

A8. There are too many great countries to pick just one. None can be the best for everything, so we have a few favourites for certain things. Loving wildlife, we pick Argentina (28/9/02), for marine life. Imagine being able to walk through a colony of almost a million nesting penguins, or sitting on your hotel balcony looking out over a harbour and being always able to see the spout of a whale as over 600 come there to calve each year, or walking through a harem of hundreds of elephant seals, as close as you dare to the enormous bulls. Tanzania (27/2/00), is our favourite for terrestrial animals. Nogorogoro Crater and the Serengeti are amazing places to see rhino, elephants, giraffe, wildebeest, or any of the great plains animals of Africa. For motorcycle scenery and riding we loved, Norway, New Zealand, and the north west of the USA and south west of Canada, for amazing contrast Iceland, desert scenery Libya, isolation Australia, and sheer diversity and intrigue India.

Q9. You passed through many countries at war, were you concerned?

A9. Even if a country is at war, it is usually only in a small area where the fighting is occurring, not right across the country. When we crossed the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country was divided into three areas, the government held area, plus two rebel held areas to the north. At the time, the two rebel held areas, where we crossed, we considered to be safer than the government held area. The rebels were fighting against government corruption and whilst fighting was occurring along the bordering areas we passed well away from those areas and saw no signs of war. There was however destruction along our route, destroyed and looted buildings, from the Lords Resistance Army, who had only left the area a couple of months earlier. The same situation occurred in Iraq. We entered the safer, almost autonomous, Kurdish region in the North, crossing over and back from Turkey, and again saw none of the fighting that was occurring further south in Iraq. Perhaps the most dangerous situation we encountered was where there was tension leading up to a civil war or a coup. This happened to us in both the Central African Republic and in Cote d'Ivoire. There was open civil unrest against the governments of both countries, tyres were being burned on the roads and there were many roadblocks, where government officials were demanding money or goods from locals and ourselves. Both these country's governments, soon after, collapsed under pressure. Perhaps Liberia and Sierra Leone were the most dangerous countries we visited. Fighting had been occurring in both for a long time. Sierra Leone was officially then at peace but the United Nations hadn't yet moved into the region bordering Liberia, where we needed to cross and whilst fighting was in a lull in Liberia there was a tenseness and erupted not long after our visit. During the visit to Afghanistan, again there was a lull in the conflict. Whilst fighting was still occurring in the south suicide bombings hadn't yet come to Kabul. In Somalia, we only visited the more peaceful region of Somaliland and again avoided the worst of any conflict. It is hard to realise that life in these war torn countries still goes on as best and normal as possible. People still go to work, the fields are tended, what food there is is prepared and eaten, people survive as best they can, there is little choice.

Q10. Have you had any accidents?

A10. We can recall the motorcycle only being dropped once on asphalt, but more than a couple of hundred times in sand, mud and on bad gravel roads. That is not to say that occasionally I just wasn't paying attention and just overbalanced, and it went down when stationary, but the only real dropping occurred in Brazil (16/5/02), when in rain, and crossing a joint road rail bridge, the road and railway tracks joined together. Although slowing, the motorcycle crossed the first track, lipped on the second one and followed it, resulting in us going down, quite heavily, but only at about 40km an hour. Unfortunately Kay hit the asphalt hard, her glasses gashed a cut above her eye requiring five stitches by the local geriatric doctor who could hardly see let alone his shaking hands. We both had bruised hips and shoulders and Kay also had grazed knuckles, having removed her gloves earlier to stop them from getting wet. A day's rest fixed most of the ailments. The only actual accident was in Afghanistan (19/8/05), when a car came around a corner on my side of the road, swerving towards the road edge to avoid an accident he clipped the rear pannier tearing off its catch and I ended up skidding to a halt in gravel. The driver didn't stop, and after a bit of recomposure I pursued him and reported the matter to the local police, who were excellent in their dealings. Off road, the motorcycle is a little heavy and whilst it performs well with about half to two thirds inflated tyres deep sand regularly brings us down, as does mud. A significant part of the motorcycle's time had been spent off road. Whilst we don't look for off road challenges we also don't baulk at riding on them if there is something to see or we need to get somewhere. To cross Africa, East to West, it is necessary to travel extensive distances on dirt, a few thousand kilometres at a stretch. The worst roads we have ridden were on our first crossing of the continent, through The Democratic Republic of Congo where we would regularly drop the motorcycle a couple of dozen times a day, through exhaustion and slippery conditions. Other challenging dirt riding occurred in Tanzania, Yemen, Cameroon, Iceland, Guyana and Brazil but was not limited to these places as much of the world's interesting places are only connected by poor quality dirt roads and in Australia (9/5/04), it was necessary to build a snorkel to raise the air intake, for the carburetta, to cross a number of water crossings.

Q11. Have there been any attempts to steal your motorcycle?

A11. We left Australia with a motorcycle alarm system, a disk lock, and a motorcycle cover, all of which we still rely on for security. The cover hides the motorcycle, removing its appeal, the disk lock stops it from being pushed away although we have heard reports of lifting the wheel onto a skateboard, and the alarm, probably the most beneficial tool gives us warning and gives the offender fright. The alarm has often been triggered in the middle of the night, whether by a cat sitting on the seat or an attempted theft we never know, but we have been aware of two attempted thefts. One was in broad daylight in the Ukraine (28/7/99), when three guys attempted to remove the motorcycle cover to steal our luggage. In Georgia (9/5/99), there was an attempt to steal our friend's motorcycle, shackled to ours for safety, his panniers were emptied and our motorcycle cover cut in two places before our alarm scared away the offenders. Considering that we often park the motorcycle on the street overnight it is surprising that we have never lost any belongings or the motorcycle itself.

Q12. What are your plans for the future now you have visited every country?

A13. As there was no initial aim to visit all the countries of the world with the one motorcycle, the fact that we have now done so hasn't affected our real reason for travelling, we just like to travel by motorcycle, and intend to continue to do so while ever we, and the motorcycle, are capable of doing so. We plan to ship the motorcycle from New Zealand to Europe at the end of February, returning to countries and places we liked on our first visit, or to see places we missed. Our travelling is likely to be a little slower, less focused on an achievement, more oriented to travelling with others and attending rally's in different countries, but we still like time to ourselves. The areas of the world we wish to return to are Europe, North America, South America and southern Africa, a large chunk of the world perhaps, but we missed so much on our 13 year reconnoitre, now we would like to have a good look, which we expect to take at least another five plus years. We estimate the motorcycle has ridden just 1% of the worlds roads leaving plenty of scope for the future.

Q14. Have you and Kay travelled together the entire trip?

A14. Kay has travelled with me for 180 of the 193 countries in the world. While our children were in school she missed about 10 months of travelling, staying at home to look after them, and again when our interests diverged in the Philippines (2-18/12/04) I travelled alone, reuniting for a short time in Japan (10/4/05), before finally travelling full time together again from the U.A.E. It can be a difficult life on the road, and what the future holds can't be known.

Q15. Do you travel with other motorcyclists?

A14. Apart from the casual meeting up with and riding together with other motorcycle travellers we meet along the road we have also pre-organised to ride with a number of people. The first was in India (3/2/97), with Ron, a friend from our home town in Townsville, whom we later travelled with again on two other occasions. Often travelling in different directions, having diverse interests, different financial capacity, not to mention different personalities, sometimes hinders longer term riding with others. We are also quite independent people and not always easy to travel with but we have had a number of great encounters, both from casual meetings and organised, and looking back rarely did we not enjoy any of these experiences, but it would still represent less than 10% of our travelling time. We have also been on one organised motorcycle tour, to Bhutan, a country difficult to visit not on a tour, and while we quite enjoyed the trip, we are unlikely to repeat the experience, but never is a long time.

Q15. What is your background in work and motorcycle experience?

A15. I bought my first motorcycle in 1971, at 18 years of age, a Honda 90 trail, and never having been on a motorcycle before took it into the forests near Canberra, the city where I was attending university, and proceeded to smash its headlight against a tree on the first day. Whilst the motorcycle lasted a couple more months it endured a street accident before following a washout to a pile of logs where the front forks were wrapped around the engine. My second motorcycle was a little luckier, a Honda 175cc trail, followed by a Suzuki 250cc trail, then a Yamaha DT 250 Trials. Kay and I met at university, were married in 1974, worked in the public service in Canberra, and enjoyed motorcycling on weekends before moving to a small hobby farm near Boorowa with our first child in 1979, dropping out, late flowering hippies. We continued to ride motorcycles on a succession of three small farms over the next ten years before, now with three children, travelled around Australia in a Coaster Bus motorhome towing a small caravan for eighteen months, finally settling in Townsville and starting a SCUBA diving business. There had been no motorcycles in our lives for about five years and as our children were getting to the age of learning to drive we thought it better to buy a new motorcycle rather than a new car as our second vehicle. The Harley-Davidson we are now riding was purchased new in early 1994, the first road bike we had owned. We had owned another Harley-Davidson, a 1939 model, for a short while back in 1972, with the intention of restoring it, but restoration didn't eventuate, but perhaps it was that encounter that prompted the second purchase. 

Q16. Have you formed any lasting roadside friendships during the trip?

A16. We have a list of about 300 people we send out regular updates of our trip to, about every six months. Most of those people have been met along the road. Some are motorcycle travellers, some aren't, some were just short encounters where we seemed to hit it off quickly, others the relationship developed over extended contact or repeated encounters. Many of these people have invited us to their homes, some we have stayed with and others we hope to in the future. The internet had made keeping in contact easier, otherwise friends would easily have been lost. There seems to be a community of motorcycle travellers around the world, and we often hear of people travelling for years before we get to meet them, or vice versa, and with web pages we often know more about them from their web pages than our encounters.

Q17. Has travel changed the way you look at the world and yourselves?

A17. Most people only have the media view of the world, or a small inkling from a holiday overseas, but to have had the opportunity to visit many places in depth our travels have indeed changed our view of the world. Perhaps the biggest influence on us is minimising waste. When so much of the world has so little, so little they can afford, less even to waste, we have become minimalists, selectively only buying what is necessary, wearing clothes to destruction, eating food to completion. We have also learnt that almost all of the worlds problems are directly associated with overpopulation. The more people, the more greenhouse gasses. The more people the more demand for forest products. The more people the more fish, animals, vegetables that need to be grown, placing more demands on nature's shrinking resources. We are also more aware of, although not necessarily more tolerant of, different cultures influence on our way of life. We have learnt not to judge nor put our values on other cultures, but don't feel some other cultures offer us the same respect.

Q18. Will you write a book of the experience?

A19. While we were off the African coast, and again in the Pacific Islands, waiting for vessels to ship our motorcycle to the next island country, we started writing a book, it is now 80% written, but will need extensive review and editing.  It has been designed as a coffee table book, short story style rather than a travel log, but now that we are travelling again we would prefer to be riding than writing, so it might be a while before it is published. Sorry if you are hanging out for the book.

Q20. What was the most difficult country to visit?

A20. North Korea, and Iraq were always on our impossible list. After a fortunate encounter with some travellers in Madagascar, who advised of a possible way for getting into Iraq, we had decided to leave North Korea as our last country, but another chance encounter had us heading for Taiwan and South Korea with still seven more countries to visit. It was in South Korea that an opportunity arose for a brief but possible ride in the North and after a bit of pushing by the local Harley-Davidson dealer and luck we spent two days in North Korea, with the motorcycle.

Q21. Have you given a name to your motorcycle?

A21. After about ten years of travel we decided to name our motorcycle. It had always been referred to as the motorcycle. Have you packed the motorcycle. Should we wash the motorcycle. The motorcycle needs a bit of maintenance. So we thought, rather than changing its name, and not being too creative we named it formally as The Motorcycle.

Q22. Nicknames are common amongst motorcycle riders, have you adopted any?

A22. We are about as adventurous nicknaming ourselves as our motorcycle but recently I have started introducing Kay as RG. This started as a joke when we were discussing our different roles. Kay is often required to walk difficult sections, like ankle deep mud, or help push the motorcycle through deep sand, and occasionally is needed to help push The Motorcycle backwards, providing the Reverse Gear, RG. I have been called many different names, some not worth repeating, but the one that most sticks is The Preacher, or just hey Preacher. Not sure if I talk too much, or try telling people what to do, but I like to think it refers to my preference of dress colour, black.

Q23. You don't look like the typical image of a Harley biker, no leathers, no tattoos, is there a reason for this?

A23. Leathers are a great look, even practical on shorter journeys, but are heavy and not too waterproof meaning they missed the cut for our luggage. Tattoos, never really made an impression, along with body piercing, perhaps it was the upbringing, perhaps the age, or most likely doesn't suit our image. The beard has been on the face for 35 years and is easy maintenance on the road. Kay's long grey hair and my lack of hair come with age, hard earned, and require little maintenance, again less luggage. Perhaps the main reason for our Western, more conservative look, is also the reason for our Eastern, more radical appearance, the world is full of different cultures, incredibly diverse, and we don't wish to offend.

Q24. What was it like for Kay, as a woman, travelling through strict Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan?

A24. It is always best to move through different countries as a tourist trying to learn their culture rather than trying to teach ours. We would both try to adopt a more conservative dress to be more accepted, and were better received for it. To have a western dressed woman walking the streets of Iran would likely be seen as offensive as having a woman grocery shopping in a skimpy bikini at our local supermarket. Each society has what it considers appropriate dress and as a visitor it would be inappropriate not to dress accordingly. Kay purchased a full encompassing chador with head scarf on her first visit to Iran, wore a loose flowing skirt over her jeans in Pakistan and an abeya, a long loose cape in Saudi Arabia. Whilst uncomfortable at times, and a little awkward getting on and off the motorcycle with flowing robes we certainly received more favourable reactions from locals than had Kay been dressed inappropriately.

Q25. When will your retire the motorcycle?

A25. In a perfect world we will all retire together, Kay, the motorcycle and myself, at a time long into the future. Unfortunately the world is not always perfect but we see no reason to replace our motorcycle, and there seems no reason to replace Kay, so maybe the world will be a little perfect for us for a while longer.

Q26. Do you ship or fly the motorcycle between countries?

A26. We prefer to ride between counties, land borders are far easier.  We had early decided to minimise shippings by riding to as many places a possible, or to take the shortest possible shippings, hopefully by regular ferries, but there are almost 50 island countries in the world and the continents are not all linked so we have needed to fly the motorcycle ten times and commercially ship it about 20, mostly within the last two years. Then there were regular ferries, small dinghy's, punts, dug out canoes, coastal freighters, and sailing boats, across the many bridgeless rivers and between small islands. Our most unusual flights were between Kiribati and Nauru in the Pacific Ocean, and shipping between Cape Verde and the Canary Islands off the West African Coast where the motorcycle was the only freight on a container vessel and we were the only passengers, bunked in the owner's cabin. The most precarious river crossing was with the motorcycle strapped to three dug out canoes in the Congo (29/11/00) which was again necessary for the crossing into the Central African Republic on the 5/12/00. The most dangerous ocean crossing, and indeed the most dangerous time of the whole 13 years was the crossing from Gabon to Sao Tome and Principe (21/8/06) where seated on a small boat we were almost overturned by a large wave.

Q27. What was your most embarrassing experience.

A27. In Angola we were lost and stopped to ask a truck driver for directions in a small town. He was sitting in the cab of his truck, looking a little serious, then a wry smile came across his face as his concentration turned to us. In broken English he gave us directions, and just as he finished the head of an attractive lady rose up from alongside him. She was not impressed with our interruption, looking quite serious, and as a knowing look passed between the truck driver and myself I realised we had interrupted a roadside liaison with a local prostitute in the middle of performing oral sex.

Q28. How has international motorcycling changed in the 13 years you have been travelling.

A28. When we started travelling there was no internet, no easy access to information, or whether others had done similar trips. The adventure started by grabbing a Lonely Planet book, a motorcycle, a bit of imagination and individual problem solving, and heading out on a bike ride. Thirteen years later there is, in our opinion, too much information, too many opinions. It seems like everyone who has travelled by motorcycle is doing a blog, has written a book, is now running escorted tours, or has a web page dedicated to international travel by motorcycle. The other thing that has changed is the commercialisation of a previously hobbyist endeavour. Companies like Touratech saw the opportunity early, Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman's trips have added to commercialisation, taking along full media, their "adventures" were more of a sponsored media marketing exploit than a trip by two motorcyclists, the DVD and book all prearranged rather than a result of experiences. Horizonsunlimited's needing to finance their web page run rallies, do advertising and sell DVD's, telling people how to do the "Motorcycle trip of a lifetime". We are not opposed to this development but find it has taken a large part of the individuality from international motorcycle travelling, bringing a conformity to the gear, motorcycle, and mode of travel. A nice mix, about eight years ago, where information and not commercialisation were the main aim of web pages is where we liked it the best.