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Photo by Gregor Zajac, Poland; Crossing Rothang Pass; India 2011 tour, Royal Enfield 350ccm

Adventure is what you make it

Photo by Gregor Zajac, Poland; Crossing Rothang Pass, India 2011 tour, Royal Enfield 350ccm.



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  #1  
Old 23 Apr 2013
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Post 1World2Go - Munich to Vladivostok

It's been a while now since i arrived at my final destination Vladivostok in Russia,
but i never took the chance to write an english trip report (i'm german).

So here it is, i try to add as much detail as possible for anyone interested in doing a similar route.

The route was this:

Click here for a larger Picture
Click here for an interactive google map

it's been a cold rainy 5. April 2012 when i left my parents home in a small town near Munich to embark on the trip I've been dreaming about for many years.
Job was quit, Flat returned, Friends seen off, all that was left was my Honda Transalp 650, some luggage, some money and the utter desire to explore the world.



Well, i didn't get very far, after 230km, somewhere on the highway in Austria my rear tube exploded!


I had quite some speed (~120km/h) when this happened, luckily i could manage to get the bike on the narrow emergency lane and call the ADAC. To explain what happened, i first have to tell you that my technical motorbike knowledge was 0 when i started preparing for this trip. I had quite a few motorbikes before, but never maintained them on my own. But for this trip i wanted to do everything by myself, so some things i have to learn the hard way...
to make it short, when i put on my offroad tyres (i used TKC-80's btw), i used a 19mm Nut to keep some space between rim and tyre (please don't ask why), that 19mm Nut was gone when i put my toolboxes away for the day. I just thought "hm, will show up somewhere", it did, but inside my tyre was not the location i was thinking of.



Well, after that bumpy start it went a bit smoother, i just weren't lucky with the weather, most of the time it was raining and when i got to Romania it got freezing cold (snow!)

Austria (1 day)
Hungary (2 days)
Romania (5 days)

Bulgaria (1 day)
Turkey (23 days)


The first week i was mostly freezing my ass off, that's why i really hurried a bit to get into Turkey. And yes, in Istanbul weather was getting nice and warm.
In Istanbul i also met Mehmet from the Istanbul Motorcycle Club (istanbul bisiklet motosiklet ihtisas klübü), many of you proably know him. I really loved it there, got some spareparts for my bike that i would most likely not get after Istanbul (rear breakpads) and Mehmet helped me to plan my route. Or i better say he planned my route :P. As Turkey is the most expensive country in the world for fuel (2Euro/liter) i told him to draw me the nicest fuel-saving route through turkey, that's what he came up with:


As you can see on my actual map i followed quite exactly, just in the end i decided to take a more direct route.
The whole turkey trip was great, there was no day were i didn't get offered a free tee.


The highlight was cappadocia, a moonlike landscape in the middle of turkey








Iran (19 days)

After a stressful border crossing (northern border, 4 real officials, 40 others that want to rip you off) Pedro (a fellow rider that i met in turkey) and i made it into Iran. For everyone who want to cross from Turkey into Iran i would suggest to go for the southern border, as that one seems to be much nicer (no ripoffs). The good thing though, we could easily take a very scenic route along the border with Azerbaijan and Armenia (i believe it's called Aras Area)

A short note about money, there are no International ATM machines in Iran, money have to be brought in. Never change with the official exchange rate, on the black market you get about double with your dollars or euros.
Just ask someone that has no relation to tourism about where to find a money exchange.


"Don't enter the grass" was written on a sign at this park. when we asked the guard if we could camp here, he just replied "sure!". After that we got Iranian (0% alc), very good Shisha's, Food, everything, and we were not allowed to pay any cent for it. I could tell a nice story about the outstanding hospitality of the Iranians for every of the 19 days i stayed there, but probably more interesting is that day were i not got treated very friendly.
It was that day when i left Semnan to drive through the Dasht-e Kavir desert. Pedro had a different route (not pakistan), so i was back on my own.

There is basically only one road that goes through the desert, but 3 roads lead to the beginning of that road.

Looking at this picture i think it makes sense that i decided to take the shortest one.
After riding about 40km with nothing but desert around me i reached a checkpoint. I didn't think of anything bad, so i just asked the guy if i could pass. He looked a bit surprised and asked me to write down my name and sit in his little hut. I should wait he said. After about an hour someone who looked important but couldn't speak english came by, a few phone calls and about 30min later someone with fair english came to ask me some basic questions, who am i, where do i go, where do i come from... ...a bit later i got an escort back to Semnan (i was not happy about that but did not really understand what was going on yet). After getting carried to many different police/military buildings around Semnan, meeting different people that got more and more unfriendly, telling my story all over again, it appeared to me that i'm in some kind of trouble. Yes i was, in the last place they brought me to (i call it the interrogation station), people got really unfriendly, all my electronics got confiscated and i had a 3 hour interrogation with 2 guys from the secret service (at least i believe they were). This was NOT nice, i got asked about every photo on my camera, "where is this", "who is this, name!", "WHY DID YOU TAKE THIS ROAD". I told them what they wanted to know (except for other persons names), 10 times, 1 time was apparently not enough, and my answer "THIS IS THE ****ING OBVIOUS ROAD TO TAKE IF I WANT TO GO THROUGH THE DESERT" seemed not to be understood. At some point, when i was explaining my planned route, they asked me for my Pakistan Visa. Right, that is a valid question as i should have one. And i had one, but it was in my second German Passport (under certain circumstances it's possible to get a second valid passport in Germany). The situation was tense already i really didn't want to show them that i have a second passport. But what should i do, so i showed them. One guy freaked out completely, took my second passport and threw it into the corner of the room. He was angry, he said he has never seen such a thing before. After a bit more "talking" he said he is gonna call my embassy and left. After some time someone came to bring me my electronics, but not that i could take them back, i should put them into a locker. I really thought i'm going to jail now, but luckily another hour later someone told me i'm free to go, and hell yeah i left as fast as i could.
The whole thing took about 8 hours! I forgot to turn on my GPS when i left, that's why there is no GPS track of the road to Damghan.

After checking a bit on the internet it seems like this road leads to one of the most sensitive military zones in Iran, where they have aerospace programs and long range missile tests. Also I've not been the first who blundered into this. The German embassy issued a warning about exactly that road and i found another motorbike traveler blogging about this. If they would put a simple sign on the beginning of this road nobody would take it, but there is none.
"Being a spy suspect": CHECK

Good, the ride through the desert the day after was nice








2 Days later in Yazd i was just writing about the incident in Semnan, a staff of the hotel pointed at me, two well dressed guys standing next to her. Hello again. All my electronics got confiscated. This time they were quite friendly and explained me "you wen't through the desert, it's illegal to take pictures of the desert, we have to check everything". They said this has nothing to do with what happened 2 days earlier. So after all, this was not so bad, i just had to stay longer as planned and all my storages (MMC's,USB's,HDD's...) got infected with viruses. But i'm a programmer, so not a big deal for me

From here on i didn't get into problem with the police anymore, so i could fully enjoy beautiful magical persia












okay enough for now, i will post a followup in the next days, still a few countries to go:

Pakistan (53 days)
China (3 days)
Kyrgyzstan (7 days)
Kazhachstan (8 days)
Russia (6 days)
Mongolia (15 days)
Russia (11 days)
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  #2  
Old 23 Apr 2013
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Thanks for sharing this with us Moritz. Make sure you show me from my best side
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  #3  
Old 25 Apr 2013
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Enjoyed your blog.glad you got out of trouble ok
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  #4  
Old 25 Apr 2013
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Pakistan

...the last day in Iran i stayed at Akbar's Tourist Guest House, it got quite a bit famous for bikers. Akbar is the best preparation that you can get to go into Pakistan. I was not looking forward to do Baluchistan on my own, rumors say it's a dangerous part of the world (kidnappings,travel-warnings from all embassies, taliban...) and i did not know how this escorting stuff works. Do i have to get one on my own... ?
Akbar's advice: go as far as you can without an escort, there is no danger.

That's what i did, i had an very early start and nearly made it to the border without any escort, only the last 10km i got one, which was excellent as the friendly army guy did all the border documents for me, i just had to drive him from building to building (he didn't have his own transport).

Passport stamped, Carnet stamped, goodbye beautiful Iran!

Pakistan (53 days)

Entering pakistan with my second passport (i was a bit anxious that they would not find any other visas/iranian exit stamp on that passport) was no problem at all. people welcomed me very friendly and the customs inspector's interest was only to serve me tea and everything else i would need.
Someone told me i need an escort and after about 30min waiting a small motorbike arrived. They followed me to the next checkpoint 10km away, i had to fill my data into some very old books (very interesting, you can see who else crossed these checkpoints) and off we were again, wait, WE is not correct, when the escort started their motorbike, benzine was squirting all over it. No other transport around, so they sent me off alone. First i was unsure if it would be a good idea to do that road that everybody talks about being dangerous without an escort, but after a few km i realized that it's all just desert, no traffic, checkpoints every 40km, nothing to worry about.
Other checkpoints always asked me "where is your guide", after giving a shrug, they let me continue. I reached Dalbandin, the first bigger town in Pakistan, in the evening. It's been a 700km day and i was happy that i did not have to stay at one of the checkpoints or Zahedan (many other travelers had to, because they got slowed down so much by the escorts).
Some police guy who was hanging around at the hotel handed over the very first i had since i left turkey. cheers!
Police and the guy from the Hotel were not too happy that i arrived without escort, so they organized one for the next morning. Another early start at 6am i found these guys in the parking lot smoking *something*:



The road from Dalbandin to Quetta was very bad, you have to be careful with sand-dunes on the road, potholes and SPEED BREAKERS! I expected a lot when driving 80 through the desert, but not a speed breaker! it was completely unmarked, i would even say invisible :confused1:
Well, it was there because 50m further was a train track crossing the road. But i couldn't see that track either. So i learned that even a 240kg transalp can fly

Escorts were friendly but annoying, as they changed every 20km and you always had to do a picture with them.


The End of the day we arrived near Quetta, security got more serious, tank-like vehicles and pickups with 6+ fully armed guards each were escorting an iranian bus and me into quetta. We couldn't take the normal way, as there was a shooting on that road. A teacher and one of his students got shot an hour before. After we made it into Quetta i was suddenly free to go. I eventually made it to hotel bloomstar were i stayed the next 4 days. (i had to get a NOC for the next leg. Some paper that basically tells other police stations to plan my arrival and take care for my security).
I enjoyed the days in Quetta, people were friendly, food was good. there was just that blast 500m further from were i was walking that reminded me of the stories of Quetta being dangerous. I just saw a lot of pickups coming my way with blood-covered people on their trunks. First i thought this must have been a big accident, but as it turned out, someone (they have so many conflicts over there that they don't even know which group did that) fired a rocket into the bazaar, killing at least 2 and injuring several others.
Things like that seem to happen on a daily basis over there, sad, but don't be afraid if you plan to go there, this violence is not aimed against foreigners, just stay away from crowded places and you should be fine.



The days after Quetta were the hardest for me, on the first day the escorts made me drive 13hours (nowhere secure to stay they said...), most of the time over 46 degress. i run out of water that day, got dehydrated and had to drink the water from the checkpoints, which was just some ?rainwater? in dirty clay jugs. on the same day i got explosive diarrhoea, could not keep any food or water longer than 10minutes, my fingers were dotted with bubbles from the heat and i was overall feeling terrible. In Multan even my transalp got problems with the heat, 52 degrees in non-flowing traffic was too much. I also had a short visit from the ISI, asking why i would stay in THIS hotel. After i told them *notverypolitelyasiwasfeelingsobadandhatesecretser vice* that they should ask their friends from the police/army... ...they left *puh*. It's all a longer story, but i eventually made it to Lahore (took me 5 days), where the escorts finally stopped and i could cure my body.








Till here my Pakistan experience was interesting, adventurous, but definitely not nice.
After feeling better i got in contact with Omar and the other members of the Pakistani Biker Club and Pakistan should reveal as my favorite country on this trip.

Sorry for the long texts, next post will be less text, more pictures. KKH!

China (3 days)
Kyrgyzstan (7 days)
Kazhachstan (8 days)
Russia (6 days)
Mongolia (15 days)
Russia (11 days)
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  #5  
Old 25 Apr 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hellcoder View Post
Sorry for the long texts, next post will be less text, more pictures. KKH!

Hi i love your long texts. It gives me the feeling of being there with you. Thanks so much
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  #6  
Old 25 Apr 2013
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Very nice report, thank you for sharing!

That road from Semnan to Moalleman looks like the most logical route. I remember I started to go down there, but there is a sign. I think it's in Persian only. I can't remember if I understood the sign, or if I asked someone, but I definitly got the imprssion I shouldn't be on that road, and went round the long way.

Looking forward to the next installments
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Old 26 Apr 2013
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After spending some time in Lahore and Islamabad, i continued my way up north.
What should come next was the best part of the whole trip. The famous Karakoram Highway, completed in 1979 with a total length of 1300km the KKH is a highway along the mighty Indus river, surrounded by 3 massive mountain ranges, Hindukush, Karakoram and Himalaya. It has been built to connect Pakistan and China.



What looked like a very nice highway in the first few km,



...turned soon into even more fun
















Nice clean blue glacier water flowing into the mighty Indus river, KKH Pakistan


Short 40km escort because "there are many murderers!"


Landslides happen on a daily basis, KKH, Northern Pakistan


Water brings life, nice green valley at the Indus river, KKH, Northern Pakistan


Beautiful mountains, KKH, Northern Pakistan


Happy kids near Hunza Valley, Northern Pakistan



Phenomenal view of the Hunza Valley from Eagles nest viewpoint


Reaching Ladyfingers (a mountain shaped like a ladyfinger) Basecamp


Baltit Fort, Hunza, Northern Pakistan

I could think of a worse place to have some for my birthday. With a lot of Chinese booze and some nice Pakistani friends i spent the night on the helipad of the Prince of Hunza. Living most of my life in urban areas, i think I've never really seen the star sky before. No lights around would disturb that view, i tried to make a good picture for hours, but was unable to capture the beauty of the night :/



After Iran i thought people could impossibly get even more friendly, the Pakistani proved me wrong. As soon as i entered the mountainous area, i could not pay for anything anymore. If i stopped somewhere for food, even the person that invited me did not pay the bill. It was the Friend of the unknown person that paid for both of us. Being very confused someone explained me they all think like that: "A friend of my friend is also my friend"...

One day i stopped somewhere on the road to change my riding gear (temperatures go up and down, had to get rid of my thermo underwear), a Pakistani motorbike gang came along and reallllly wanted to do something nice for me. But there was no food place or anything, so they insisted to give me money. I was not able to refuse. There are not many foreigners around these days, i guess they were really happy to see me there.

Another day...
...yes, could tell a dozen more stories about the hospitality over there, but let's continue with some more pictures...


Approaching the Attabad Lake (Hunza Lake), 9km North of Karimabad, Northern Pakistan


Leaving the passanger landing dock, Attabad Lake, Northern Pakistan


The Attabad lake is the result of a natural desaster about 3 years ago.
What Wikipedia says:
Quote:
The lake was formed due to a massive landslide at Attabad village in Gilgit-Baltistan, 9 miles (14 km) upstream (east) of Karimabad that occurred on January 4, 2010.[5] The landslide killed twenty people and blocked the flow of the Hunza River for five months. The lake flooding has displaced 6,000 people from upstream villages, stranded (from land transportation routes) a further 25,000,[6] and inundated over 12 miles (19 km) of the Karakoram Highway.[2] The lake reached 13 miles (21 km) long and over 100 metres in depth by the first week of June 2010 when it began flowing over the landslide dam, completely submerging lower Shishkat and partly flooding Gulmit.[2] The subdivision of Gojal has the greatest number of flooded buildings, over 170 houses and 120 shops. The residents also had shortages of food and other items due to the blockage of the Karakoram Highway.[7] By June 4 water outflow from the lake had increased to 3,700 cu ft/s (100 m3/s).

Getting my bike on the boat was hard work and quite a bit tricky, but look at that car! Some guy told me there are already 10 cars on the bottom of this lake, i was not surprised!


"Passu Cathedral" they call this mountain. This is my personal favorite picture i think, but standing/riding there was even better. The Chinese put some fresh nice tarmac on the other side of the lake.


On the way to the highest border crossing in the world @4700m


China showing off, i would assume the border is exactly where the tarmac starts

I should write a bit more about my carb problems, but have to go now. maybe next time. cheers.


China (3 days)
Kyrgyzstan (7 days)
Kazhachstan (8 days)
Russia (6 days)
Mongolia (15 days)
Russia (11 days)
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Old 8 May 2013
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Wow amazing story how did you continue and what did you change on your carberator high up at 4700 meters? How come you could go from Pakistan to Kirgistan without a chinese visa and guide? We want to here more
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Old 12 May 2013
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China (3 days)

A few weeks before i entered China there has been a successful huge drug smuggle passing this border, for that reason the customs guys at the first checkpoint were crazy rigorous, they even found my secret $$$ hiding place in the bike (had to unscrew some stuff!). Funny side note, the guy that found my ~600$ looked at me with a 50$ note in his hand and was about to put those into his pocket (the way he looked, he really thought it would be okay to take a bit), but before i could say anything, one of the other guys (4 soldiers were searching my bike) slapped his hand and told him to put it back.

After about 3 hours of waiting and checks at about 0 degree @4700m (air is so thin up there that they bring oxygen pillows for the older people) i could finally continue to the immigration which was still another ~100km away.

My china guide was already waiting, after we finished my immigration, my guide tried to get the bike in, but customs closed already, so i had to park the alp in a warehouse for the night. Not a big deal, next morning we left for the last hundreds of km to Kashgar where the KKH ends.


Landscapes still nice, but perfect tarmac too, very enjoyable, wouldn't there be the fact that you have to stick with your guide...
...but seeing it from a positive side, i finally got some pictures from a third person perspective.





my stay in China was too short to say a lot, but compared to my first time in China (Yunnan), people in this province seemed to be a lot more friendly, i even got invited for dinner from a young waiter!

I guess you guys are interested in the following facts for my China crossing:
Time needed by the Guide to organize everything: 1.5 Month
Visa: I got my Visa in Islamabad, was not that easy, you have to show a lot of stuff and they made some mistakes in the beginning, but finally i got it (never say you cross with your own bike)
Guide: stays with you all the time when driving, but sometimes they might give you a bit of distance. I say "they", because apparently it's not possible for a guide to be a guide and drive a car at the same time, so i had to pay a driver too.
Company used: newlandtravel, in general i can't complain, but i think there are cheaper one's (not a lot cheaper though).
One thing i really did not like was the included visit to some big Jade shop. This was pure advertisement (they get their commission), but i got free food and internet and didn't buy anything, so i probably shouldn't wine too much. It's just that i really really hate having a Guide ...and being carried to partner shops is one of the 1000 reasons why.
Total cost: For the 3 days including hotels (no other bikers to share the costs with): 1700$

I understand everyone who thinks it's crazy to spend that amount of money for a 3 day crossing, but it was key to my planned route, no alternative ways exist. I don't regret it, it's quite a unique route that I've done on this trip, allowed me to see Mongolia too


Kyrgyzstan (7 days)

After exiting China without too much hassle, i arrived at the gates of Kyrgyzstan. This border was fun, i arrived in the middle of nowhere, not having seen anyone for the last 30km, at a locked wooden gate.
Hello? Anyone there? *honk, scream, jump* *silence*

30 minutes passed until i saw someone in the distance slowly walking in my direction. He opened the gate, not saying anything, pointed out that i should follow him to a old soviet-style building, he took my passport and 1 minutes later i was free to go, "Welcome to Kyrgyzstan" were his first and last words.
I think that was my fastest border ever.

Nowadays most counties don't even need a visa for Kyrgyzstan anymore, but i was there about a month before they waived the requirement.
Which is okay, because i had a great time with the Kyrgyz Ambassador in Islamabad. Before handwriting my visa, for ~2 hours he told me stories about prostitutes,alcohol and some lake that magically looses water.


The weather seemed like it wanted to give me a nice welcome too, but 100m before the thunder started (i could see it), the road turned right and i was in dry nice sunshine




the bike was not running fine for the last few hundred km, on neutral it often died, i thought it might be a problem with the carb, so i let some friendly maintenance guys clean it, apart from an ant there was nothing noticeable wrong. Problem wasn't fixed, i asked then if it could be bad petrol, they laughed and answered "Kyrgyzstan no petrol, only donkey piss".
Good, problem understood, so we could continue having some booze.






Nice park near Bishkek

Kyrgyzstan is for most people in the world (not the HU crowd...) a totally unknown country, but it's beautiful, full of mountains, people are great and food is delicious. I really had a good time there (supermarkets had three big fridges full of different , quite a difference to the Islamic countries i crossed before)

That was not my last time in Kyrgyzstan! Highly recommended!


so long...
Moritz


Kazhachstan (8 days)
Russia (6 days)
Mongolia (15 days)
Russia (11 days)
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  #10  
Old 12 May 2013
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Great story. So now people from germany or the uk can enter kyrgistan without a visa just arriving at the boarder?
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Old 12 May 2013
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yes
------------------------------
From July 24, 2012, visa-free regime of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan within 60 days, is valid for citizens of the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vatican, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Hungary, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Canada, Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, United States Of America, Finland, France, Croatia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Sweden, Estonia, Qatar, Brunei Darussalam, Bahrain.
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"Keep going the excellent work you are doing for Horizons Unlimited - I love it!" Thomas, Germany

Lots more comments here!



Five books by Graham Field!

Diaries of a compulsive traveller
by Graham Field
Book, eBook, Audiobook

"A compelling, honest, inspiring and entertaining writing style with a built-in feel-good factor" Get them NOW from the authors' website and Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk.



Back Road Map Books and Backroad GPS Maps for all of Canada - a must have!

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 R80G/S.

Susan and Grant Johnson 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 all over the world with the help of volunteers; 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, or ask questions on the HUBB. 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.




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