FAQ and Media Release
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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.
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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
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
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
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
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
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
of times we returned to Australia while the motorcycle was being
shipped to another
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.
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
from the frame at any time as the bottom end has not needed repair nor
has the gearbox been opened. More details on the
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
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.
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
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
Q6. How have you afforded to travel 10 months of every year for 13
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
on our first crossing of the continent, through The Democratic Republic
of Congo where we would regularly drop the motorcycle a couple of
times a day, through exhaustion and slippery conditions. Other
challenging dirt riding occurred in Tanzania,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.