Dad’s mid-life crisis presented itself in the form of a Kawasaki ZZR600. Growing up on Pittwater, North of Sydney, anything to do with floating on the water had been the norm for me and motorcycles were never a source of craving. After moving to the mainland (Pittwater was boat access only), Dad’s weekend rides along with my friend Boothy’s insistence ignited the flame that lead to the purchase of my first motorcycle – a Suzuki DRZ400. An ultra-reliable 400cc single cylinder dirt bike that you merely had to suggest the word ‘maintenance’ and it would run another thousand trouble free kilometres.
My training ground was the Watagans National Park, where the art of clutch and throttle control was learnt (never perfected), and the joy of exploring what was around the next bend, over the crest or that faint line in the distance was acquired.
A backpacking trip through the USA turned into a life-long obsession after taking the car ferry from Alaska down to Vancouver Island. The procession of motorcycles on to the ferry followed by six full days of stories of adventures and motorcycle camaraderie had me sitting in a hostel in Vancouver looking at the logistics of motorcycle travel.
My first ‘real’ road motorcycle was a Suzuki DL1000 purchased off eBay from a guy living in Buffalo, New York. While having all of 100kms of on-road experience in Australia, the jump to a 1000cc motorcycle loaded with gear and riding on the other (wrong?) side of the road certainly made life interesting. Nine weeks and some 27,000kms later I had ridden up to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, across to the Icefields Parkway in Canada, down the Rockies to Colorado and out to California and Oregon to ride a lap with my Dad who came over from Oz. I learnt a lot in those 9 weeks, not least being the amazing hospitality of both Americans and Canadians and the wonderful reception when they realised I was Australian.
Upon the expiration of my US visa, I continued my travels by other means culminating in obtaining a role in the booming construction mecca of Dubai. Within a year, the Global Financial Crisis put a stranglehold on the industry and while it prevented a career building some amazing projects it offered the opportunity to pursue the nagging thought about how best to travel home.
There are more than a few hurdles in preparing for an overland trip from London to Sydney, however none presented more of a challenge than the viability of travelling through China. Luckily, with the assistance of Steve Hotson (www.motoexplorers.co.uk) I was able to jump in with a bunch of riders travelling ad-hoc from London to Beijing before going solo the remainder of the trip. Unlike riding through the USA, the ability to pop into one of the myriad of services centres was limited, therefore after a little (perhaps a lot) of research, I purchased a Suzuki DL650. This was trucked down to Melbourne and put in a shipping container to London (while buying a motorcycle in the UK would seem more appropriate, Australia’s import regulations would not allow importation of a UK bike).
Five months, eighteen countries and 40,000kms later I arrived home in Sydney. This trip was absolutely epic and I still consider myself pretty damn lucky to have made it home. England was typified by rolling green hills and consistent drenching rain, Scotland by vast lochs and warming single malt whisky, Ireland with dramatic rugged coastline and pints of Guinness, and Wales by castles and welcoming friends. Europe was unfortunately over in a blink of an eye and I vow to explore it further, the steep and winding mountain passes are something of legend and simply awe inspiring in their grandeur. The Transfagarasan Highway took me off the beaten track in Romania before crossing into Ukraine to be plied with raw pig fat (local delicacy) and vodka. Russia plied me of Euros whenever an opportunistic policeman looked my way.
Kazakhstan slowed me down on the way to Aktobe by ensuring the road conditions were enough to throw me off the bike. Torn ligaments in my shoulder meant a 500km one handed off-road venture to the nearest major town followed by a 2,000km train ride to the other side of the country, and resting while I waited for the others to tackle Kyrgyzstan. China accepted me across the border thoroughly bandaged and braced, and onto the Silk Road all the way to Beijing. While the culture was inspiring, the poverty, pollution and staggering amount of traffic was the real eye opener.
The bike and I flew from Beijing to Bangkok due to the limited 30 day conditional visa allowed upon entry, so a continuous overland trip was unfortunately not possible. Thailand presented empty roads, beautiful scenery, great food and cheap accommodation. Somehow I proceeded into Malaysia without a Carnet and taking all of two minutes (compared to three days into China) to complete the paperwork. A whistle-stop tour of Malaysia had me flying out of Kuala Lumpur to Perth. The longest straight in Australia lead me onto the Nullarbor and around the ‘Bight’ before crossing the Snowys and back into Sydney.
So here I’ve been for the past 3.5 years chomping at the bit to sink my teeth into a new adventure and along comes a gorgeous and willing participant. The idea to ride from Alaska to Argentina two-up has and will present more unique challenges for both Lauren and myself which I look forward to conquering. Unfortunately, unlike my previous trips, time is of the essence and will see us home for the New Year. This has required a lot of planning and research that I will add to our blog in the hope that is helps anyone planning a similar adventure.
Hope you enjoy it…