Adventure travellers? Overlanders? Are these people freakishly lucky, driven by their dreams of the open road and its challenges, or complete nutters? And, well, is there such a thing as a standard Overlander or Adventure traveller anyway? Actually, I think it’s a daft concept. Our world is made up of complete individuals. You’ll understand my point. The reality of adventure means that every adventurer does it their way, whether they set off planning to emulate someone or not. Not one single adventure is the same as the last person’s.
I know of people who itch to do a Charlie and Ewan, and even more who have been inspired by Ted Simon’s book Jupiter’s Travels. But the reality is that each adventurer is a unique being. They may dream in the same direction but each is affected by the gene pool they come from, the experiences that life has thrown at them and the dreams that are pinballing around inside their minds. If nothing else, those things that make up who they are as individuals, will guide their adventures in a unique way. I think that the main factors that make an overlanding adventure are that the adventurer is away from his or her comfort zone, on two wheels riding through places where adrenaline pops in their veins, and their abilities can be pummelled by the unknown, for a significant period of time.Overlanding by motorcycle has been the dream of a growing number of people since before the Second World War, though few have actually attempted to go out and do the big trip. I suspect that since the first intrepid round the worlders there are less than 700 people who have actually circumnavigated the globe. When you think of the billions that make up the world’s population that’s not a lot of people. More people have been lucky enough to ride the full length of a continent, but even so, their numbers aren’t that great either. Is there a price to pay for having had the opportunity to complete a dream adventure? Too right there is. You can be unlucky and kill yourself. I know of one overlander heading through India on his BMW R100GS who suddenly found himself confronted by two Tata trucks, taking up all of the road space, leaving him nowhere to go. His only option was to head for the slight gap between the two orange painted, gold tasselled and marigold flower strung trucks, and hope that the Gods were on his side. I suppose they were, but it all depends on how positive a thinker you are. He lived, but the trucks took both his legs off; they were sticking out just too far to make it through the gap.
So knowing that this sort of thing can happen, does this make an overlander some sort of freak and a nutter? I don’t know about that, but I do know that a long journey will make you a believer in fate. There are times out there where you know that it doesn’t matter how hard you are trying to keep an eye on what the other roads users are up to, what the goats and the dogs are up to, what the kids doing and where the next pothole is. You just can’t get it right all of the time.I do speak from experience there. My claim to survival fame was a rather large tumble while crossing the desert in northern Namibia. 17 bone breaks, four days unconscious and a well dinged bike being the result. Oh, and after having been through a bunch of hospitals while I was unconscious, a worry that I might have contracted HIV. After all, at that time this area was one of the most Aids stricken in the world. And the prang? It was down to some guy who either wasn’t concentrating on what he was doing or was a visitor to driving in these sorts of conditions. He zipped past me at a rate of knots, leaving me in a huge dust cloud. My downfall was the metre deep hole in the road that was carefully hidden in the opaque, beige coloured fog. Apparently I made the Matron laugh when I woke up. My first questions to her were, “How’s my bike? Followed by, “Is it ok? And “Where is it? To my mind adventure should be a mix of every challenge that can possibly assault your senses. And I mean all your senses. Your sense of sight should be astounded. Your sense of smell should be tantalized. Your sense of touch should come from not only the feel through your handlebar grips, but you should be able to take in such things as the textures and tastes of strange foods. There’s no doubt in India, for example, that your sense of hearing will be hammered, but this land will also allow you to appreciate the sound of silence. The flip side to that coin is the almost eerie sounds from a goat herds pan pipes floating through the mountains around the magical Machu Picchu. Being out on the road makes you feel as if you are really alive. Sure, there are hard times but isn’t there some sort of saying about the hard times making the good times feel even better. And you know, its people that make the world go round. It’s the people you meet who allow you to really learn about the places you are riding through. Without the people you’d be doing no more than floating across the surface of a country. How sad would that be? The other thing about people is the fun a laughter that can be had. Laughter. The international language that needs no words. You might start off your adventure tainted by a few personal experiences and the misused power of the media, but the sheer kindness and open-hearted hospitality of the vast majority of people you meet will rapidly melt any fears and prejudice you might have. Sooner or later every overlander will find him or herself sitting by the roadside waiting from some good person to come along to help with a disabling problem. The other big-time buzz for me is the change from man or woman and motorcycle, to a team that works together without thought. Thoughts are replaced by instinctive decisions. It doesn’t matter whether you are travelling a potholed backstreet in the mountains of Vietnam, the backroads of the Scottish mountains, the sands of the Sahara, of the high roads of the Andes, your bike and you have become as one.
The second you realize this is the moment when you have found one of the most prized jewels of a motorcycle adventure. We don’t even have to leave our own shores to discover this do we. In fact, I think its very much a case of being out on your motorcycle on a long ride anywhere that matters. Adventures on two wheels are simply a mix of the challenges, the surprises, the delights, and spending days on two wheels with all senses singing! If you know this magical mix feelings, you’d probably have a ball out there on the open roads of the world. Those roads will enhance the sensations you already have.
‘When a person rides the long road they discover who they really are, what they can achieve and so much more. The moment a person’s senses are brought alive, an adventure starts to be a success. The travel bug bites hard, but motorcycle travel bites deep.’