Latest Update


It has been almost 15 years since this trip but I have finally managed to move the site that was hosted before onto this free site and get all the photos and links working. Thanks for your patience - Gary 

Monday, 17 March 2003 

Well it appears that the travelling continues, although we may have reached our destination - Sydney, Australia. This country/continent has so much to do and see that it may take us the best part of a year out here to see at least a little of it! We certainly didn’t come all this way to just go back to the UK? 

Dom and I have done different things over the past month so I’ll recap on each:


Having met Marianne, a lovely Norwegian lass, in Thailand, he did a bit of travel with her back down to Melbourne. She has a round the world ticket and has already visited Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand before coming down to Australia for around a month. Her trip around Australia incorporated Darwin, Queensland and Sydney before moving onto Melbourne and flying onto New Zealand. Next stop is Fiji and then onto the USA, before ending her 6-month round-trip back in Norway, in April. 

 After a relaxing festive season, Dom got back on the bike and headed south again down to Melbourne meeting Marianne. An opportunity to see the Great Ocean Road again was not to be missed and with Marianne on the back they enjoyed a few days relaxing and taking in the wonderful sites along Australia’s favourite coastline.

 Back to Melbourne, Marianne headed off to New Zealand and Dom headed off to Tasmania. Who knows when they may meet again but as travellers do, I am sure it will be soon.

 The “Spirit of Tasmania”, more like an ocean liner than a ferry leaves from Melbourne nightly headed for Devonport, Tasmania, takes around 10 hours. This luxury mode of transport not only accommodates over 1000 people but also carries the 500 cars that those people drive!

 Tasmania, the largest island off the Australian coastline, is also Australia’s 8th and almost forgotten state. But it is as steeped in history, early settlers were believed to have thought it part of the mainland for a long time. On discovering the Bass Strait, eventually they worked out that they could cut weeks off their journey by not sailing out around the island. 

On his 9 month African adventure in 1997, Dom met and made a good friend of Jason. A born and bred Tasmanian food and beverage manager, he now lives in Penguin, a short distance from Devonport. After not seeing each other for 5 years, it was time for a visit.  

While spending 3 weeks in and around the area, he stayed with Jason for around a week. It didn’t take long to appreciate the relaxed way of life and the wonderful surroundings Tasmania has to offer both in wildlife and culture. Apparently, the best of Australia’s beer comes from Tasmania and the locals certainly know a lot about that! Cascade and James Boags are just 2 of the top export beers that are brewed here. The lifestyle reminded Dom of old Rhodesian/Zimbabwe days, a good old family braai (BBQ) on a Saturday afternoon. These people are very family orientated and have very close-knit families who all live in the same community. 

Now down to the geography and places Dom visited on his bike. Tasmania is very green, has an abundance of dairy, beef and crop farming around the whole region and also a massive timber industry. Mining also generates a large portion of their income with reserves of gold, copper and other rare minerals.

 Directly south of Penguin is beautiful down toward Cradle Mountain National Park. Dom spent a few days riding the lovely winding roads through the valleys and farming regions here. Leven canyon, Hellyer gorge and the Great Western Tiers mountain range offer some fantastic scenery and are easily accessible by motorbike.

Dom covered most of Tasmania in an anti clockwise direction after staying with Jason, which took around 10 days. One of the dangers that stood out was the wildlife hazard on the road at dawn and dusk. Australia is known for this fact with kangaroos, wombats, wallabies and other creatures. In Tasmania it appears that they are more evident, perhaps there is a larger concentration of these animals on this wonderful island. Among the wildlife seen, Dom managed to see his first Tasmanian devil and a rare sight was a duckbill platypus.

 From Penguin the rugged coastline is pretty with some lovely beaches all the way out to Stanley and the most western point of Will North, is home to some of Australia’s largest dairy farming herds. Some of this lush forest area has been cleared for farming but otherwise it is still very wild. Heading south down the Explorers Way, all off road but sometimes good quality, other times deteriorating but manageable. One brave move was to see Tasmania’s highest waterfall, Montezuma, via the 4-wheel drive route. The “short” 16-kilometre journey took over an hour, as the road quality was terrible! Fully loaded with panniers, fuel and camping gear, the rocky road disappeared in front of you down steep ravines and straight back up the other side with a river crossing in between! Getting to the falls was well worth the effort, not that the drought at this time of year could dampen the spirits but the trip back was again taxing and a learning curve. Thoughts of Pakistan come rushing back… 

The south west of Tasmania, home of the massive Franklin – Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is relatively unexplored rainforest area. This very wet area is home to Australia’s largest dams, Lake Gordon and Lake Pedder. They hold 27 times the volume of water of Sydney harbour! The high rainfall in Tasmania accounts for it’s abundance of fresh water and the volume of dams it has. All of Tasmania’s electricity is by Hydo Electric Power plants.  

If you do make it out to Tasmania there is some interesting history surrounding the area of Queenstown. The thriving mining industry, over exhausted by mankind in the late 1900’s, turned a once lush and green region into a sulphur polluted, eroded landscape. The gold and copper rich area was mined to the detriment of the surrounding habitat and even today the Queen and King rivers that pass through this area are so toxic that they are stained orange. Nothing can survive in them.

Having spent a few days in Strahan, where there is a thriving tourist industry, a visit to the newly reopened Abt railway is not to be missed. Originally constructed over a century ago, this railway system was a key element used in the transportation of gold and copper from the mines to the harbour through some of the states wildest wilderness. Due to the steepness of the terrain, this steam rack and pinion railway was built to carry these loads along up to 1 in 20 gradients! 

Another bit of interesting Tasmanian history is that Huon pine comes from these south western parts, known worldwide for it’s boat building qualities. Macquarie harbour, similar in size to Sydney harbour, was once a thriving port when the mining industry was in it’s hey day but now is just a massive haven for weekend sailors.  

Tearing himself away from the wonderful lush, green pastures of the west coast, Dom decided he’d had enough of the wet weather and so next destination was Hobart. This is the capital city of Tasmania and a beautiful setting. The surrounding hills around this area allow spectacular views of the wonderful coastline where you can see miles out to sea, islands and beaches aplenty. This place reminded Dom of Sydney, though it’s minute with a population of just over 100 000 compared with 4 million.

 Life in and around Hobart has plenty to offer. The peninsulas of Tasman and Forestier have some rugged terrain with Port Arthur, at the southern tip, a day trip opportunity. Heading north via Swansea, the Freycinet Peninsula is a splendid place to spend a few days out hiking. There are some wonderful treks out into the hilly area and if you prefer the beach, some of the best white sandy beaches are not far away either. 

North bound, Dom stayed on the pretty coastline and visited the Bay of Fires; the most outstanding feature of this area is the orange granite rock face overhanging the crystal clear ocean below. Here there is a thriving fishing industry and with the beauty of the clear blue sea, many sporting enthusiasts use this area for scuba, snorkelling and spear fishing too. 

Crossing from the east coast, Dom headed back to Penguin and Jason’s house across some stunning scenery. The highlight of the trip back was the wonderful winding roads, superb for motor biking. The roads are something that the whole of Tasmania has an abundance of, whether you choose to go off road or stick to the sealed roads. 

Overall Dom covered 1200 miles (2000 kilometres) and of this around 300 kilometres was off road. 

Once arriving back in Melbourne, he headed back to Sydney for 2 weeks before going to Auckland, New Zealand for a week. This was really just to renew the tourist visa for another 6 months where if he left and returned he would get another 6 months on his current visa. 

Monday, 13 January 2003

Well after almost 8 months, 228 days to be precise and 21 425 miles (34 280 kilometres) we finally reached our destination of Sydney! Yes, our quest to ride motorbikes from London to Sydney has been fulfilled!

Our final stretch from Perth to Sydney was ridden in some extreme conditions, both freezing cold and very hot. We were again put to the test but we were very fortunate that the 1200 or so kilometre stretch across the deserts of the Nullabor Plain were overcast and not the usual 40 degrees plus. The last stretch from Adelaide to Sydney was in comfort as George and Jacqui, Gary's brother and his wife, joined us in a luxury, fully equipped campervan.

We left Perth on Wednesday, 4 December, the day of the solar eclipse and rode south via Banbury and the wine farms of Margaret River before camping at Northcliffe for the night. We visited the Cape Leeuwin, where the Indian and South Oceans meet, but could not spend long at the coast due to the cold sea breeze chilling us beyond comfort!
The thought which lasted was how very dry this region was with the drought taking a strangle hold on much of the landscape. The wine farms are not the expected luscious, green plantations but the dry red earth and wilting vines. It is surprising that Margaret River is such a rich wine producing region, one of Australia's most popular. Our Gore Tex jackets came in handy as the coastal breeze became almost European winterish! We had thought of posting these onto Sydney, thinking we'd not need them in sunny and hot Australia! We soon realised we wouldn't have survived without them!

It was great to spend our first night outdoors camping. It had been months since we'd last camped way back in Europe. Australia is certainly geared up for campers and overland travellers, more so than Europe. We have been very impressed with the lovely facilities at the caravan parks and campsites all along the route and, after Asia, it was a pleasure to get back to civilisation with self-catering kitchens, hot showers, braai facilities and all at really reasonable prices. It is also worth mentioning how friendly the Australian locals are, wherever we spent some time we met some really lovely people. This country certainly has a lot going for it!

We visited one of the beautiful gum and pine forests where the both the most ancient and enormous trees exist around Pemberton. There are 3, which can be climbed so we chose the tallest of the 3, Bicentennial, which stands at some 68 metres. If not the height of the tree, then the hundreds of metal stakes hammered into its side grab the attention at once. But, after deciding to climb this monster, you begin the ascent and before long you are staring down, wondering if you made the right decision! It is certainly worth the journey up to the top as the view from the 2-ton metal tree house is exceptional. It's not for the feint hearted or those afraid of heights though!

We continued along the national highway 1 along the chilly coast through Walpole and Denmark to Albany for lunch. We were going to stay here for a night but with the wind chill factor at around zero we decided to push inland a bit to get away from the cold. We headed toward Mount Barker and camped inside the Stirling National Park.

We were fortunate the following day when, on our way east, a cold front started to push in from the west. In overcast and cool conditions we rode most of the day to reach the lovely coastal town of Esperance. After finishing the daily chores of setting up camp and shopping at the local supermarket for dinner, we explored the lovely coastline around Esperance. It certainly is a lovely little town, surfers enjoying the waves in one of the bays, people walking their dogs over the scenic paths overlooking the 15 or so islands in the bay and other people enjoying the fantastic sunset on offer.
Unfortunately we could only spend a short time in this area, but it certainly could have been a place where spending a week would go by unnoticed.

The Nullabor:

The great Nullabor was ahead of us once we left Esperance and it proved to be some of the most desolate terrain we have ever come across apart from the Sahara desert. It reminded us very much of the Karoo in the Cape region of South Africa.

It took us 3 days to cross the Nullabor from Norseman to Port Augusta, stopping at Ceduna on the second night. With the cool weather conditions, we managed to do some of the longest distances to date on our trip. We bush camped near Madura on the first night and did a record 464 miles (742 kilometres) to reach Ceduna the following day, missing the solar eclipse crowds by just a few days.

The only way to describe the Nullabor is a road heading east with nothing but savannah like bush on the left or right for as far as the eye can see. The cross winds were very taxing: spending 8 hours on the road, laying the bike at 45 degrees to stay upright is not my idea of fun!
One of the "highlights" was travelling along the 90 mile (146 kilometre) straight! It is a section of tar 90 miles long without a bend in it!
The view does change once you reach the coast near the South Australia border but the road doesn't offer much of a view of the Nullabor cliffs or the Great Australian Bight. You have to travel off the road to appreciate a change of scenery and it is spectacular so worth the effort.

Something worth mentioning was the number of cyclists we saw, spoke to and passed along the Nullabor. We saw at least 6 individual riders, spoke to 3 of them and were amazed what these guys were up against! We worked out that what we travel on our bikes in 1 hour takes them at least 1 day to cover. One chap had only 1 leg….so when you are down, always remember that there is always someone worse off than you!

Once we reached Port Augusta, the Flinders mountain range escorted us in towards Adelaide but it was still a very warm and barren stretch. The crosswinds were still very strong so we assumed the proverbial 45-degree position for the day on the bikes, again!
We watched some small fire fighting aeroplanes taking off on the dusty runway to douse a fire high up on the hill, a common sight at this time of year as the hot and dry conditions make the fire-fighters lives a 24 hour job!

It had taken us 7 full days riding to get from Perth to Adelaide, which is about 2 200 miles (3 700 kilometres). Looking back at the Nullabor stretch, I am not so sure you'll catch me there on a motorbike again - ever!
We arrived in Adelaide on Tuesday, 10 December to meet George, Gary's brother, who had braved the 26-hour train journey over from Sydney.


Adelaide was our introduction back to "civilisation"! After crossing some pretty vast, uninhabited, barren terrain, it was a welcome sight! We found a campsite about 10 kilometres out of town and set up camp where we would spend 4 days to explore the city and surrounding areas. The highlights were riding through the mountains north just outside of town and visiting the Barossa wine valley. Adelaide seems like a great place but we did have to get used the different and, sometimes dangerous, way in which the locals drive. Wheel spinning V8 sports ute's seem to be the way forward…

Jacqui, George's wife, flew in on Saturday morning and we started our travels back to Sydney in convoy. George and Jacqui hired a luxury campervan that had a shower/toilet, fridge and stove, etc. so we were able to upgrade our travelling by motorbike to first class! We put our entire luggage including panniers in the van and so didn't have to carry a thing.
It certainly was a pleasure to travel this way and perhaps a little too comfortable to return to our normal rough camping in the future? But we were not complaining by any means!

Most days included a minimum of about 4 hours travel but with a full breakfast in the van and then a well-prepared lunch the time flew by! The evening meals were real home cooking and with a cold beer in hand, we were really living like kings, those tough days out in Pakistan on the bike now long forgotten….

After a wine tasting day out in the Barossa valley where we visited some of the great Australian vineyards of Jacobs Creek, Penfolds and Wolf Blass among others we started our journey east heading for Sydney.

Great Ocean Road:

After a late start from Adelaide on Sunday, 15 December, we drove east over the Adelaide hills and Murray River through another of Australia's many wine regions to reach the picturesque Mount Gambier by sunset. We visited the volcanic crystal blue lakes this area is famous for and enjoyed the lovely green scenery that surrounded us.

The Great Ocean Road lay ahead of us on Monday so we had an early start. It is fairly flat and uneventful in the first section, not quite like Chapmans Peak, but it did get a lot more interesting. We visited the touristy spots including the 12 Apostles, London Bridge and the many gorges, natural hole-in-the-walls and cliffs that are so beautifully contrast against the blue ocean.

George swapped transport with me and I drove the campervan while he and Dom tried as much as possible to get their knees down on the corners through the forests. We drove on to Port Cameron and stopped for the night at Apollo Bay. After sundowners on the beach and a swim those willing to brave the cold water, we headed back to our campsite for a lovely cooked dinner and some Australian beer and wine.

Tuesday, 17 December was a continuation of the Great Ocean Road and this day was more like the Chapmans Peak we know. The lovely winding road snaking it's way up and down the mountains but the road was cut deep into the side of the cliffs that fall to the sea below, perfect for motor biking! Geelong's beachfront was the lunch stop before we navigated our way into Melbourne for 2 nights.


We found a comfortable campsite some 10 kilometres from the CBD with a lovely pool so after checking in we spent some time relaxing and swimming. Paul Healey, a family friend from South Africa now living here, was kind enough to offer us his time and superb knowledge of Melbourne. He drove us around the city and surrounding areas before we had dinner on the waterfront in St. Kilda. The highlight was being driven around the Albert Park F1 track, as it is just a normal road apart from that one weekend in March. The following day we explored the CBD by tram and did a Yara river cruise down to Williamstown and back.

On Thursday we were once again greeted by an awesome sunrise and after an early start we left Melbourne headed inland towards the east coast. The mercury reached into the late 30's and early 40's so Lake Hume was a good place to spend the night. The Murray River runs into Lake Hume and also forms the border between the state of Victoria and New South Wales (NSW). Unfortunately this region is feeling the effects of the countrywide drought so the lake is only at 10% but this didn't stop us from spending a few hours swimming in it. We headed back over the Murray into Victoria up into the overlooking mountains for some sundowners and to watch the most awesome sunset.

The penultimate day was again very warm so after an early morning swim we headed off eastward on the M31. Today the terrain was uneventful, dry and warm so we looked for another lake where we could spend the night. Unfortunately Lake George was off our route so we adjusted and did 30 kilometres off road. But on reaching Lake George we realised that this "lake" was nothing more than an empty basin!

We drove to the nearest town of Goulding and spent the night there before finally heading into Sydney, only some 200 kilometres away, the following day.


The day had finally arrived; we were finally heading into Sydney! Another 30-degree day and we were greeted with some fantastic scenery on entering the outskirts of Sydney. It almost appears that water surrounds the most populated in Australia, no matter the direction you look is the sea, a river or an estuary. The past the airport, which is built into Botany Bay and then we crossed over the majestic Harbour Bridge with the Opera House and Darling Harbour in full view. Wow, this certainly is something I'll not forget for some time to come, this is a beautiful city!


Over the past few weeks we have spent the festive season enjoying the Australian lifestyle in Sydney. We were very fortunate to get tickets to see the Australian symphony orchestra at the stunning Opera House, nothing like a bit of a culture shock after being on the road for so long! It was a superb display of music and an education!

Our Christmas day was a picnic lunch spent in a park close to Chinamans beach with family and friends. The highlight was swimming across the estuary and playing some rugby in the park. This is certainly a change for the better after spending so many cold Christmas days in Europe over the past few years since leaving sunny South Africa.

New Year:

New Year was certainly one to remember as a family friend, Brad, arranged a top floor apartment in the prestigious Kirribilli suburb. The flat was on the water overlooking both the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, the perfect setting for the awesome fireworks display. A superb evening followed with hundreds of thousands of people lining the banks of the harbour, some people had been camping there for a few days just to secure their place! With a population of 4 million, Sydney had certainly had the right idea for a party. The fireworks displays, estimated to have cost some A$5m, were placed on the bridge and on various ships/barges within the harbour. The New Year was welcomed in with some cold Windhoek's and champagne while we enjoyed the huge fireworks that ignited the sky and welcomed in the New Year.

There is not a day that we were not busy during the festive season. There is so much to do here; it's impossible to be bored! We visited the Hunter wine valley for a day as a group, some on motorbikes, some in cars as it's a 2-hour drive along the north coast.
We hired a boat and explored the harbour from top to bottom, it is such a huge place it would take you a few weeks to see it all! We have spent some time enjoying the sea and lovely beaches of Manly and Bondi. We managed to get tickets to see the last day of the last ashes test and it was a memorable one for England with the Barmy Army offering free entertainment.

Itinerary for the past few weeks:

Wednesday, 4 December
Perth to Northcliffe via Banbury and Pemberton, distance 314 miles;

Thursday, 5 December
Northcliffe to Stirling National Park via Walpole and Albany, distance 225 miles;

Friday, 6 December
Stirling National Park to Esperance, distance 260 miles;

Saturday, 7 December
Esperance to close by Madura, distance 419 miles;

Sunday, 8 December
Madura to Ceduna, record distance of 464 miles;

Monday, 9 December
Ceduna to Port Augusta, distance 299 miles;

Tuesday, 10 December
Port Augusta to Adelaide, distance 243 miles;

Thursday, 12 December
Ride around the Adelaide hills area out to Murray River via Hahndorf, distance 187 miles;

Friday, 13 December
Ride out to Glen Elgin and the beach south of Adelaide, distance 62 miles;

Saturday, 14 December
Campervan trip up to the Barossa wine valley, no riding;

Sunday, 15 December
Adelaide to Mount Gambia, distance 303 miles;

Monday, 16 December
Mount Gambia to Apollo Bay on Great Ocean Road, distance 226 miles;

Tuesday, 17 December
Apollo Bay to Melbourne, distance 133 miles;

Wednesday, 18 December
Day in Melbourne sight seeing, no travelling;

Thursday, 19 December
Melbourne to Lake Hume via Albury, distance 265 miles;

Friday, 20 December
Lake Hume to Goulding, distance 249;

Saturday, 21 December
Goulding to Sydney, distance 134 miles.

Dom has since set off down to Melbourne to visit the Great Ocean Road again, as it was so good, and to get down to Tasmania for a visit to an old friend. He will continue to travel for some time to come around Australia while Gary settles down in Sydney for a while.

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has had a helping hand in the success of our lifetime trip. To our sponsors, K&N, HEL Performance, Michelin, NGK, DID and SKF bearings, a special thank you for providing us with world class performance products, it certainly made our life much easier out on the road.

To our family and friends who have been out there supporting us both in the preparation stages and while we were out on the road, your patience, support and help has been greatly appreciated. Special thanks to Karen, Damian, Kelly, Andy, Rulan, George and Jacqui.

A great big thank you to "mom to be" Wendy for the design of our fantastic website!

And to all those people that we have met, both in person, and via the Internet, we have thoroughly enjoyed all of your help and company along the route. It's amazing how many people are travelling or who have an interest in this type of travel. We have had almost 3000 hits on our site, and emails most days to reply to, which tells us that there must be some interest out there!

For all those people with ideas of travelling here are a few words of advice:
Get out there and do it, you'll be amazed at how rewarding all those months and years of planning are!

A Happy New Year to you all in 2003 and we certainly hope you have enjoyed the journey as much as we have!


Tuesday, 3 December 2002

We are currently in Perth, western Australia. We have been on the road 210 days and covered 17 522 miles (28 035 kilometres).

You may ask yourself, wasn't that our last update: Perth and no more mileage! That is correct but when we last wrote this we had yet to get our bikes so it's been almost 3 weeks since we arrived in Perth and only a few days since we got our bikes.

In the past few weeks Gary did an organised trip up to Exmouth (2000km) and back while Dom spent some quality time with his sister, Rulan and husband Andy.

Last week we were notified that our bikes had finally reached port Freemantle, close to Perth and that we could go and collect them. But we were in for a few surprises:

When collecting them the "agent" who had acted on our behalf charged us more to simply unload the bikes from the ship than it did for the entire shipment from Malaysia to Perth (US$260)! Ecu Line are a large shipping organisation but they certainly know how to rip people off! To take our crated bikes out of the ships container cost A$300 per bike and another A$75 to steam clean them. There were a few other charges for administration, etc. so we ended up paying A$550 (US$ 310) per bike just to get them from ship to warehouse, absolutely incredible. Unfortunately there is little you can do to stop this from happening and it's that simple: they had our bikes and we had to pay!

We put this down to experience (it would have cost the same to fly the bikes and we would have had them the next day!) and proceeded with the Australian regulations:

1. Visit the licensing department and got some temporary movement permits (A$13) along with an examination for roadworthiness (A$63);
2. We arranged at the same time to meet the customs official along with the quarantine official (A$94), they can be done independently but it's quicker to do it together;
3. Assemble the bikes and ride them out of the warehouse;
4. Take them for a roadworthiness test at the local testing centre, both bikes passed ok but Dom had to change his chain and sprockets before he went;
5. Pay for the 3rd party insurance for the validity of your UK road tax. On a carnet you are only permitted to use your vehicle in Australia for the validity of either the UK tax disk or the carnet, whichever expires first.

We had expected some costs to enter Australia but not quite as expensive as when they eventually added up to around US$ 725 per bike! (US$ 260 for Malaysia and US$465 for Australia!). Advice: fly!

Once we had done all that we were up and away but it took the better part of 3 days to sort all this out and thanks to having Tommy, Rulan and Andy's Toyota land cruiser for transport, we were able to do it quicker than catching busses or taxis.

Over this past weekend we did a service to both bikes (oil and oil filter change), though Dom adjusted the valve clearance on Maggie and also got his carburettors balanced.

Tomorrow we will be leaving sunny Perth to start our journey across to Sydney hopefully in time for Christmas. The number 1 highway, which circumnavigates Australia, shows the distance from Perth to Sydney at 4500km so we will have our work cut out. It is the middle of summer now and the weather forecast for most regions is in the 30's though some reach the 40's! The south west coast is beautiful and green so we'll spend a few days around Margaret River, Albany and Esperance before crossing the Nullabor Plain, a trek of over 1000 kilometres through the barren outback. From there we meet Gary's brother, George, in Adelaide where he will accompany us back Sydney. Christmas and New Year are not far away, can't believe it's that time again, only seems like a few months ago it was last Christmas, and we'll be spending this in Sydney with some family and friends.

We shall not be updating the diary until we reach Sydney so please bear with us during this transition period of a few weeks, we will be contactable via email as always.

Gary will end his adventure in Sydney and Dom has still to decide what to do, whether to continue his quest to ride around Australia or settle down and find a job…

Tuesday, 19 November 2002

We are currently in Perth, western Australia. We have been on the road 196 days and covered 17 522 miles (28 035 kilometres).

After leaving the wet Cameron Highlands, we were fortunate to have good weather all the way down to Port Klang via Kuala Lumpur. We used the main freeway, which has tolls for all vehicles except motorcycles, which are allowed to go free. The narrow paths that bypass the tollbooths need a certain amount of concentration though!

We stopped off for fuel and were amazed at how technologically advanced Malaysia is. You have to pay inside first or by credit card at the pump before you receive fuel, only then can the fuel you have paid for be pumped. This is also a sign of the security measures these companies have to take due to the high crime rate.

We eventually found Port Klung (on the map there are 4 Klungs; one is an island, one is the nearest town to the port?) and our agents office. As it was Sunday the offices were closed but we found a central hotel nearby, Hotel Embassy, where we stayed for 4 nights. They allowed us to park our bikes inside the hotel lobby, as there was no suitable safe parking otherwise.

The little port town of Klung is not too bad. There are very few foreigners staying out here (about 60 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur) but there are decent restaurants (KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds) and comfortable accommodation available.

We caught a taxi into KL to do the tourist thing and visited the Petronas twin Towers, the highest building in the world so the Malaysians claim. They stand at some 460m and if you try to look up at them from the ground, you are sure to get a sore neck!
There is a free tour up to the 42nd floor where the bridge joins the 2 soaring towers together. We timed our visit to perfection as a monsoon storm was blowing in as we arrived. What was a bright, sunny day soon became a misty, gloomy, dark, rainy afternoon. The buildings that were visible around the CBD simply disappeared into the rain. Look at the photos to see a before and after of the view! Quite spectacular!
Dom and I were standing on the bridge as the storm approached and when the thunder, wind and lightening hit, you could feel the sway of the buildings quite violently. None of the other 30 visitors would venture onto the bridge but we thought it was spectacular entertainment! While we were standing on the bridge, the towers received 2 direct lightening strikes!

Due to the tremendous amount of rain coming down, we decided to catch a movie - our first cinema visit in 6 months! Wynona Ryder and Adam Sandler made our visit worthwhile in the comedy, Mr. Deeds. The shopping mall built under the towers is fantastic and with 4 floors of all the latest gadgets, restaurants and an ADSL Internet café, we spent some more time there before heading back to Klang. We used KL's very modern tube system, very similar to the Jubilee line in London, and then the train to find our way home. It takes around 1 hour from KL central station and runs very regularly.

We used Lucas Yap, the shipping agent recommended on Horizons Unlimited. His work is very professional and he is an extremely helpful guy. The details are below:

Freight Logistics Corporation
Suite 13-09
13th Floor
Crown House
217, Persiaran Raja Musa
42000 Port Klang

Telephone: (603) 3165 5730 / 3730
Fax: (603) 3165 3731

Email: flc@myjaring.net or Lucas' email: lucasflc@myjaring.net
Mobile: (6012) 312 1325

Because so many people have been using him to ship their bikes recently, Lucas has put together a small costing website. Here is the address:


There is some useful information on this including sailing schedule, various charges for Malaysian shipping and general information.

We spent about an hour sorting out the paperwork with Lucas and then a few days cleaning the bikes. Australia is very strict as far as cleanliness of vehicles entering and even fumigates all crates before they depart.

For the Saturday sailing, the bikes have to be ready for customs inspection on the previous Thursday. We spent a few hours crating them on the Wednesday as we were flying out early on the Thursday morning. We followed the carpenters from Lucas office down to the warehouse and within 3 hours the bikes were ready for shipment! The crate sizes had already been decided and are larger than our Nepal ones, but worked out to be 3.5 cubic metres, as shipping is charged by size rather than weight.

The total cost came to US$ 600 for both bikes and this includes the DHL cost of couriering our carnets and the shipping bill to Perth. You have the option of waiting for the customs inspection to take place but the ship bill is only produced after the ship has set sail. This meant we were going to be waiting around for at least 3 extra days.

On Thursday morning at 05:25 we caught the first train out of Port Klang and got to KL central at 06:30. The Malaysians have technology working for them in many ways, no more so than at KL central station. It is a pleasure to walk into this sparkling clean station with overland trains servicing most of Malaysia, brand new tubes serving the city and a TGV service covering the 50 kilometre journey from KL central to KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) in just 28 minutes. This technology we have not seen even in Europe! It's interesting to note the RM 500 (US$ 125) fine notices warning people not to eat, drink or smoke while using these services.

Our flight from KL went smoothly and, after hearing stories about how busy the flights were at this time of year, we were pleasantly surprised to have an empty Malaysian Airlines plane! Dom and I both had 4 seats to ourselves and enjoyed the comfort of catching up on a few movies, while enjoying 1st class service - and a few beers!

Immigration was no problem on arrival in Perth, something we had prepped ourselves for just in case (we only had 1 way tickets). We had acquired our 6-month tourist visas a few months earlier in London and had heard some stories that without a return ticket we would run into problems at the Perth immigration terminal.

It was a breath of fresh air to arrive in Australia, the "first world ness" immediately apparent! Families with children are taken out of the queue to be fast tracked, sniffer dogs are employed to sift out any drugs and the general feeling you get is that of a well-organised government department.
The quarantine laws are also really pushed home with TV screens telling what you can and can't bring in, or what you should declare to the customs officials.

Rulan, Dom's sister, met us with wide smile! The last time we'd seen her was some 6 months ago out of our rear view mirrors back in London on a cold, rainy morning! We have been kindly offered a place to stay with her and Andy, her husband in South Perth. They have recently moved down here after spending some time in Darwin and London.

We have been in Australia for 5 days now and the time has flown by! We have been treated to the wonderful relaxed lifestyle that Perth has to offer. The weekend was spent on the beach and in the rather chilly sea. The summer is just starting and, although it was 38 degrees centigrade on our arrival, it's been in the late 20's and early 30's over the past few days. Perth reminds us a bit of Cape Town; it is quite a windy city but the relaxed atmosphere also reminds us that it is just a big town really!

We have the rest of this week to chill out and be real tourists before our bikes arrive here next Monday, the 25th and we can once again become adventure motorcyclists!
It feels a bit strange having to catch busses, taxi's and trains to get around when all we've become used to over the last few months is jumping on our bikes and heading off with ease…

On Monday we visited Perth for the first time and it's amazing how US like it is! The huge shopping malls, roads in the city are wide with everything modern and well kept.
We visited some dive shops and may sample the local diving around Perth, perhaps Rottnest Island or Rockingham, over the next few days.

Itinerary of the past few days:

Sunday, 10 November
Tana Rata, Cameron Highlands to Port Klang, distance 157 miles.

No other riding apart from a few miles down to the warehouse to crate the bikes.

Sunday, 11 November 2002

We are currently in the Cameron Highlands, central Malaysia. We have been on the road 187 days and covered 17 365 miles (27 784 kilometres).

We have been in Malaysia for 11 days now and to put it plainly; it's nothing like Thailand! The surprise was on entering we were not required to show any paperwork for our bikes, let alone any of the stuff we are carrying! The border we crossed at, Betong, is not the main post but still has a steady flow of traffic through it. The passport control took about 15 minutes and then customs simply asked us what we had and waved us on! The simplest country to enter since departure from London and the border guards said, "We are trying to promote tourism here in Malaysia". So in less than half an hour we were in Malaysia and we noticed a few sudden changes from Thailand:

1. Muslim culture is very apparent, women with heads covered and mosques in every town;
2. Road quality has deteriorated somewhat. Roads are narrower, with many more cars and scooters on them;
3. Drivers are dangerous, almost like from India (perhaps they are also relying on Allah to keep them alive!) They overtake on blind rises, on corners and when you least expect them to! The scooters all ride on the left side of the road making it very difficult for big bikes to do the same. Then they don't expect you to overtake on the right as all the scooters overtake on the left so you have to keep your wits about you;
4. Food has different names here though similar to Thai food, we have had to learn Malay food but, as Indian is also very popular, we managed to eat for the first few days!
5. Things have got more expensive as there are 1st world signs here: big department stores, some decent shopping malls, telecom towers to match any in Europe, internet cafes with ADSL!, etc.

We stayed at Alor Setar for 2 days and tried, without success, to get our bikes and ourselves to the islands of Langkawi. There are no car ferries to this island so you have to check your bike/car in as cargo. The ships sail every night and you collect your bike/car on Langkawi the following day. However, we weren't happy about leaving our bikes for someone else to ride on and off the ship so we decided against going altogether.

Alor Setar is not very touristy so we got a good taste of "real" Malaysia. It does boast having the only ADSL Internet café (in the Pacific centre, 4th floor) we have come across on our trip and the 169 metre Menara telecom tower. It has the closest port to Langkawi but mainly the passenger boats, unless you send your bike/car the cargo route. There are some good cheap hotels but also some really expensive ones around. We stayed at the basic Miramar hotel for MR 35 (£6) and found a good western restaurant close by, the Regency Hotel.

After the Langkawi let down, we rode down to Penang, an island linked to the mainland by a 4 lane, 13-kilometre bridge. The beaches the Lonely Planet raves about are in the north of the island so we rode through Georgetown, the main city on the island, to Batu Ferringi where we stayed at Baba's guest house for 3 nights. The beaches are nothing to get excited about, dirty water with jet skiers, para sailing and a few fishing boats make it unsuitable for swimming.

There are quite a few restaurants aimed at the tourist trade so you are not short on choice! There is also a Nando's close by (a South African chicken franchise) so we felt right at home for a few days!

We did one ride around the island on the western side and it's quite a pretty place. There is a dam and quite a few rural fishing villages on the west, a complete change to the east side that is busy with roads, traffic and a busy city, Georgetown.

We had our first theft of the trip while in Penang, quite a disappointment really. The 2 10 litre bags, which fit onto the side of our bikes, were cut off Gary's bike. They were locked but still some valuable clothes (wet gear, jacket and pants) have made riding in rain since then quite uncomfortable. They are also difficult to replace so be warned, even if your bike is under cover and locked, they are still vulnerable!

After 3 days in Penang, we decided to head up to the Cameron Highlands, a green tea growing region high up above the coast at some 2000 metres. We have been here for 4 days now and been staying at Twin Pines backpackers hostel. It's basic but has hot water and there are loads of travellers coming and going daily so it's quite a happening place! This region is not green without reason; it's rained every day since we've been here but mainly in the afternoons, monsoon season!

We have managed to get out on the bikes to sample the lovely winding roads in the dry and visited the local tea factory, plantations and the highest road in Peninsula Malaysia above the tea estates. Things seem different here to other parts of Malaysia we've visited as this area used to be British and so it's more relaxed up here. The many Landrovers and pubs are signs the British were here!

We've caught up on world news, read many motorbike magazines, watched a few movies/sport during the rainy spells as the satellite TV and VCD player offer you something to do indoors!

Yesterday we spent most of the day cleaning the bikes, preparation for sending them to Australia. The customs guys in Australia are quite strict so all mud has to be cleaned off the bikes and they even fumigate them before they leave Malaysia to be 100 % sure no foreign virus/species enters their soil!

Today we ride down to Port Klung, via Kuala Lumpur (KL) to arrange the shipment of our bikes to Perth on Sunday, 17 November. The bikes have to be checked in through customs the Wednesday before, so we'll spend some time getting wooden crates made up and doing some packing before flying out to Perth ourselves on Thursday, 14th. The bikes only arrive a week later so we'll be in Perth staying with Rulan and Andy, Dominic's sister and her husband, until the bikes are ready for clearance.

Itinerary of the past few days:

Thursday, 31 October
Bang Lang dam to Alor Setar, distance 233 miles;

Friday, 1 November
Short ride around Alor Setar to ferry port for Langkawi, distance 23 miles;

Saturday, 2 November
Alor Setar to Penang, distance 112 miles;

Monday, 4 November
Day trip around Penang, distance 64 miles;

Tuesday, 5 November
Penang to Tahna Rata, distance 178 miles;

Wednesday, 6 and Thursday 7 November
No rides worth a mention, to Brinchang and back;

Friday, 8 November
Daytrip around the tea plantations, distance 47 miles.

Thursday, 31 October 2002

We are currently at Bang Lang dam in southern Thailand, which is about 70 kilometres from the Malaysian border. We have been on the road 177 days and covered 16 708 miles (26 733 kilometres).

We spent another 2 days in Ko Lanta due to some rain that forced us to further enjoy the relaxed lifestyle the island has to offer. The mud roads are quite steep in parts and not suitable for a fully laden bike! We did a ride around the island to visit the Mai Kaew caves. The highlight, apart from getting very muddy, was swimming inside a waterhole in the dark cave. We visited 3 caves that interlink via small tunnels, some of which you are required to crawl through! We stopped off in port of Saladan to see if there was any diving but most companies only start on 1 November. The following day we visited the waterfall close to Waterfall Bay resort. It was about a 2 hour hike through the rubber tree plantations, where we watched the locals making rubber mats.

Since leaving Ko Lanta, we have not done much riding. We rode from Ko Lanta down the west coast through Sikao, Trang and Kantang before staying at Hat Chao Mai, a quiet fishing village in Trang province, where not many tourists visit. We stayed at the only beach resort there, the simple Sinchai's Chaomai resort.
During the 5 days we were there we made some good friends, Marianne and Olav from Stavanger, Norway. They have just started their Asia leg of a 6-month, round the world trip. We spent most days doing daytrips with them around Trang and it's surrounding provinces, which have so much to offer.

On the first evening we were in Hat Chao Mai, we had dinner in the nearby village at a local Thai restaurant and met Amorn Buranachan. He was so friendly and hospitable to us that we felt like we had known him for years! He offered us his time to show us around his "back yard" and we were amazed how much the area around Trang actually has to offer. His knowledge of the area could not be condensed into a guidebook! An electrical engineer by qualification, he spent some time working in Bangkok in that field but a love for nature and the outdoors led him to give that up and move out to Trang. His lifestyle now offers him much more freedom compared to that of Bangkok and he is now a freelance graphic design artist. The Internet allows him to still work in Bangkok but live some 800 kilometres away, what a life!

He took us on 3 day trips:

Libong Island is visible from the mainland and only a half hour longtail boat ride away. It is not very big, has 3 typical Thai fishing villages and a national park. We hired scooters and spent the day riding around the island. There are few, if any, foreigners that visit island around this time of year. We found a beach to snorkel but due to the damage that dynamite fishing has done to a lot of this region, the snorkelling was not worth a mention. It has been 3 years since the protection of national park status was given to this area and there are positive signs that the coral reefs are beginning to regenerate. There is one resort where you can stay overnight and in season it could accommodate quite a few tourists.

The following day Amorn took us on a longtail island hopping tour. We first visited Ko Muk's Emerald cave, a lagoon not accessible at high tide that leads to the most gorgeous beach. To get to the beach you are required to swim through the 80m stretch of sea in the dark, but when you get to the inside of the cave, the view is worth it!
We moved on to some snorkelling spots at Ko Chuek and Ko Waen, 2 rocky outcrops habituated only by the rare protected swallows in this national park. There were both hard and soft corals so the life is abundant. The highlight was seeing a black and white sea snake winding it's way in and out of the staghorn corals, not a sight often seen.
We stopped off at Ko Ngai, a more popular tourist stop in high season, for some drinks and then headed back to Hat Chao Mai before sunset. On the way back we spotted a large turtle swimming on the surface and some jellyfish.

The 3rd day was spent away from the coast as we headed into the tropical forests and mountainous region east of Trang. The Khao Pu-Khao Ya national park and Khao Banthat Wildlife reserve have a number of rivers running through so some 10 massive waterfalls are located in and around the park. We visited 2 of them, Ton Te and Kachong. Ton Te has a 45-degree, 100m rock face that the water glides down and into a lovely pool so we spent a few hours swimming there. After lunch we moved up to Kachong falls, somewhat different in that the water falls vertically so the current created is quite immense. It took some effort to swim up the narrow channel, as the current is strong and the channel deep.
This area is really beautiful and hiking is another option available, as there are camping spots at the top of the mountains.
Amorn gave us 3 days of his time and did not ask for a penny! He is a great ambassador for Thailand!

Anyone wishing to contact Amorn for information on bird watching, jungle trekking or anything Eco-Friendly:

Email: amorn_b_chan@hotmail.com
Telephone: +66 01 3673302
Address: 121 Mu. 6 Tumbol Bangpoa, Kantang, Trang, Thailand, 92110.

That evening we had a few too many Thai beers (Singha, Leo and Chang) so the following day was a bit subdued as we tried to nurse our hangovers.

We left Sinchai's resort yesterday after saying our goodbyes to the friends we had made and hopefully we'll be meeting them for Christmas and New Year in Sydney, which is only a few weeks away…. can't believe it's November already!

We had planned to reach Langkawi Island but, after a late start and wanting to visit Bang Lang dam on route, we decided to stay another night in Thailand before entering Malaysia.

Yesterday we rode east through Trang to Phatthalung on route 4 before turning south and into Hat Yai. After stopping for a drink we joined route 43 and then route 408, arriving in Na Thawi. Routes 42 and 409 from Na Thawi to Yala offered some lovely hilly, winding, well-tarred road and so are worth a mention should you visit this area on a bike. From Yala it's a 140 kilometres to the Malaysian border post of Betong. We stopped off for the night at Bang Lang dam, which is well worth a stop. The accommodation is set up high overlooking the dam wall with a pool and good restaurant. It is a somewhat more expensive to what we've become used to in rural Thailand but the rooms are very comfortable with air conditioning and hot water showers.

As we are about to enter Malaysia, it's quite sad to be leaving Thailand. We've been here for 2 months, visited some awesome places, and done some world class diving, met and made some great friends and ridden nearly 6000 kilometres on some fantastic roads! If you have a taste for travelling then we certainly recommend Thailand, an all-round great place to spend some time whatever your time or budget allow.

Itinerary of the past few days:

Tuesday, 22 October
Trip around Ko Lanta Yai, distance 48 miles;

Wednesday, 23 October
Visited waterfall, about a 2 hour hike;

Thursday, 24 October
Ko Lanta to Hat Chao Mai, distance 125 miles;

Saturday, 26 October
Daytrip to Libong Island;

Sunday, 27 October
Daytrip by boat to Emerald cave and 4 islands;

Monday, 28 October
Daytrip to Ton Te and Kachong waterfalls, distance 122 miles;

Wednesday, 30 October
Hat Chao Mai to Bang Lang dam, distance 261 miles.

Monday 21 October 2002.

We are currently in Ko Lanta, an island off the west coast of southern Thailand. We have been on the road 167 days and covered 16 152 miles (25 843 kilometres).

We spent another day in Phuket before heading to Khao Lak, some 120 kilometres up north on the west coast. We got in another few hours of snorkelling around the point off Karon beach of which the highlight was seeing a large female cuttlefish lay and insert her eggs far into a rock for safety. We must have watched her for about 15 minutes and we could actually reach out and touch her without her getting too stressed. It was sad to leave Karon, as the snorkelling is world class!

It was interesting to meet up with Ralf and Caroline Koebler on our last night in Phuket, a German couple who have been on the road for 18 months now on 2 new Honda Transalp 650's. They have done over 50,000 kilometres and spent most of their time in Australia and New Zealand before shipping their bikes up to Singapore. They are now on their way to Europe via Asia and perhaps Russia if not the Middle East.

We rode up to Khao Lak on Wednesday where Brian, the manager at Phuket Divers informed us that there weren't enough divers for our 3 day liveaboard trip to the Similan Islands. We were disappointed but as the season is only just starting now it's understandable. The best time to dive the Similan Islands is in December up until April and we were simply too early. However, after checking into some simple accommodation at Happy Lagoon on the beach, we headed for dinner at a beach bar. There we met another dive instructor, Nigel and he told us they were doing day trips out to the Similans most days. It was at 12pm and after 4 beers that he told us that they would pick us up at 7am!

On Thursday morning early we left for the Similan Islands by boat and arrived there around 4 hours later. The sea swell was quite bad so it took a little longer than usual. We did 2 dives, first at Elephant Head and the second at Turtle Gulley with lunch in between. The dives were superb and worth the long trip, it's a pity we would only spend one day there! Like the rest of Thailand, the water was crystal clear and the life similar to what we had experienced in our other dives. The only thing different was that we saw turtles for the first time and a few different species of Angel (Emperor and Regal) and Butterfly fish (Raccoon).

We left Khao Lak the following day to move down to Krabbi. We briefly stopped off in Ao Nang but decided it was too touristy and we continued down to Ko Lanta, an island south in Krabi province. The marine national park off Ko Lanta was the reason we came as it is a popular diving spot but we found out upon arrival that we were too early to dive here yet. We caught 2 flatbed car ferries to get to the south island; the north island doesn't offer any accommodation. It is then a 20km drive along a dirt road to get to the national park. We found Waterfall Bay Resort, built close to a quiet cove; it has accommodation to suit all budgets. We have a large bungalow built high up on stilts for a few pounds a night. The travellers here are friendly and we've met 2 great couples within a few days of being here: Mark and Kate, Ducatti and BMW motorbike owners themselves, were from Nederland, Colorado and Markus and Sonja, who also live in London, are from Austria.

Ko Lanta is a quiet retreat off the beaten track and has a lot to offer. It is somewhat different to the other islands we have visited in that it has a strong Muslim community; some 95% of the population here are Muslim. The diving, in season, is up to the usual high standard that most of the Andaman west coast islands have to offer here in Thailand. The island is not very developed so the thick forest is ideal for hiking and getting away into the hills. There are a number of scenic waterfalls and even a gypsy village on the eastern side of the island.

We have been here for a few days now and it's a refreshing change from the normal touristy spots we've visited. Most tourists come from Krabi by boat, as there are no tourist buses that visit. Yesterday we took a boat trip out to Ko Rhok, an island visible on the horizon about 1 hour away by speedboat. It's a small island with only a few tents for accommodation if you wish to stay overnight but it has little else. There we snorkelled and enjoyed a day in paradise with its white sandy beaches. We even found several hermit crabs and raced them up the beach.

We will probably be spending a few more days here before going on further south. We also may consider coming back to Thailand after entering Malaysia as we have a renewable visa but we have to leave the country in order to renew it.

Itinerary of the past few days:

Wednesday, 15 October
Phuket to Khao Lak, distance 77 miles;

Thursday, 16 October
Daytrip out to the Similan Islands diving;

Friday, 17 October
Khao Lak to Ko Lanta, distance 174 miles;

Saturday, 18 to Monday, 21 October
On Ko Lanta, no travel apart from day trip to Ko Rhok.

Monday 14 October 2002.

It was with great shock that we read the news of the death of Bracken's John Hill. He was not just an employee at Bracken but one of the most knowledgeable and helpful motorcyclists we were so fortunate to have known. Anyone who had any dealings with John will agree, that no job was too small for him to undertake. He spent many an hour helping us with our trip preparations and it is a tragic loss to the motorcycle touring fraternity. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and the Bracken team in London.

We are currently in Phuket, southern Thailand. We have been on the road 160 days and covered 15 901 miles (25 442 kilometres).

We have spent the last week in Phuket, further enjoying the wonderful island lifestyle Thailand has to offer. Phuket is Thailand's biggest island and is accessible by road over Sarasin Bridge, which allows you to cross the Khlong Tha Nun channel. On the West side of Phuket is the Andaman Sea and on the east is the Gulf of Thailand.
The beaches and clear water are superb and among the best in the world we have come across. We are staying in Karon, not too touristy with a beautiful beach. Phuket also offers easy access to many of the best diving sites around this area, among them the Similan Islands, Ko Phi Phi and even Burma Banks (Myanmar).

We haven't done much on the riding front, getting from Ko Sumui to Phuket took only a day and since then we've been enjoying what Phuket has to offer. We caught the ferry from Thong Yang on Sumui at 9am and got to Don Sak around 11am. We don't quite know how but they managed to fit all 50 cars and a few scooters on board.

We then rode west through Surat Thani, continuing along route 401 before leaving it to join route 415, south to meet the coastal route 402 into Phuket. This area is tropical and so, very similar to that of Ko Sumui, huge forests with farming the main industry.
The roads were quite busy and the drivers gave us a few hair-raising moments but we managed to avoid any problems, arriving in the touristy Patong area around 3pm. We drove around this area and considered staying there but it was a bit too touristy so we continued south down to Karon where we have been for a week now.

Over the last few days we've done a few rides around the island to see the various sites, visit the beaches and really see what's on offer here. The main activities seem to be water related: scuba diving, parasailing, water skiing, jet skiing, etc. There are quite a few big motorbike shops offering some lovely road bikes. You can get anything from a CBR 400 to a GSX 1300 for around 10 - 15 pounds! We may hire one this week to get our road skills back on track…

On Wednesday we met an interesting American/German guy, David. He has been driving a similar route to us over the last 1 and a half years but in a Mercedes truck he's converted into an all terrain camper. It is massive, weighing some 10 tons, and can hold over 1000 litres of diesel so you can imagine the size of it! His wife, him and his 6 year old son have travelled from Germany down through North Africa, then back to Germany and through the Middle East to Bangladesh. They then shipped their monster to Malaysia and have since driven up through Laos and Vietnam before coming down south again. The "unimog" type vehicle goes almost anywhere and has such great clearance that even small river crossings go unnoticed. On the back they have a Suzuki DR 350 and a 3-man boat with a 7hp motor! There isn't much place they can't get to with these 3 modes of transport! They also plan to get to Australia but the cost of shipping is rather expensive.

We finally met up with Goose and Lucy on their way down to Malaysia. They are from the Uk and, after shipping their BMW 1100 to South Africa, have ridden through Africa and then across the same countries we have. They are now in a rush to get to Melbourne by Christmas so rode all day down to Sepang to see the motorcycle grand prix, before shipping their bike to Perth and riding around Australia. Lucy has residency so they are planning on settling in Melbourne when they reach there.

The snorkelling here is fantastic and you almost feel you are scuba diving as the life in the water is equivalent. We did a few hours off Kata beach close to Phoo Island and saw huge moray eels, butterfly and angelfish, triggerfish and sweetlips but the rare powder blue surgeonfish was certainly a highlight. We are still learning all the ocean life so it's a steep learning curve right now. Dom bought a chart and so now we can tell the difference between all the colourful life on offer. It is easy to get them mixed up!

As the snorkelling is so good and the water so clear, the visibility is around 20 metres, we decided to book an overnight scuba trip to the Phi Phi Islands for Friday and Saturday. This is where the The Beach was filmed and so a pretty popular destination. The islands are around 3 hours away by boat but the trip we went on incorporated a dive at Shark Point, around 1.5 hours away.

We left Chalong; Phuket's busy port at 9am on Calypso diving's boat, Greta. She is well equipped specifically for diving and can hold 25 divers at one time. No sooner had we got onto the boat with 10 other divers, were we in the water at Shark Point. This is simply a rock sticking out of the water in the middle of nowhere! The diving was superb, loads of life to see and the water warm and clear. The highlight was seeing 2, 3 metre, harmless leopard sharks, one asleep on the bottom, the other floating past us like we didn't exist.

We did 2 more dives close to the Phi Phi islands (Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley) and began to realise why this area is so popular among divers. The life under the sea is incredible and with little currents, warm tropical waters and harmless creatures below, Thailand certainly has to be one of the worlds best dive sites on offer.

The 4th and final dive of the day was in the bay of Phi Phi Don and was at night. There was not much out at 7pm but we did manage to see some 2m great barracuda out to feed as well as a few large red crabs, cuttlefish and some sleeping groupers.

We spent a few hours looking around Phi Phi Don, the only habitable island, before returning to the boat to sleep for the night. Most of the other divers chose to sleep on the shore but for only a few hours we decided to save our pennies and chose the boat. The mosquito's, heat and rain took their toll on us and we didn't get much sleep but we enjoyed our night on the water anyhow.

On Saturday there were 3 dives, one was a repeat of previous day but there is so much to see you miss a lot the first time. The 2nd was down to a large sunken car ferry, King Cruiser, which sank back in 1997 due to a misjudgement on the captain's part. The story goes that he did it for the insurance and is still locked up today! The ferry sits in around 30 metres of water but we only the 3rd and 4th decks are accessible. The 3rd deck is where the cars park and the 4th the captains cabin. It was our first wreck dive so pretty interesting, though the life on board was not as abundant to that on the natural reefs we'd dived previously.

The last dive, our 7th over the 2 days, was at Koh Doc Mai. This is a large limestone rock sticking out of the sea with very little around it. It is an island but not habitable due to the steepness of the rock rising up to around 100 metres. It is similar to that under water in that the rock goes down steeply to the ocean floor at 30 metres. But on the wall there is a great deal to see with little cleaner shrimp, large moray eels, triggerfish, lionfish and many many more.

We arrived back on Phuket at around 5pm and were quite exhausted so went to sleep very early after dinner.

Yesterday was the first day we've had monsoon rains since arriving so we woke up late and spent most of the day indoors, watching the grand prix at a pub. We tried to find the Motogp but couldn't get it on any of the stations so had to settle for the F1.

Today we did rent the Honda CBR 400's and had a fantastic time on them! We rode up from Phuket Island onto the mainland and visited Khao Lak, the closest launching point for visiting the Similan Islands. We popped into a diveshop and found out about trips out there for later this week, they sound really good so we may be relocating up there for a few days of more world class diving!

We did a roundtrip on the CBR's on route 4 past Khao Lak then turned eastward onto the 401 and then down through Phang Nga and back to Phuket. Phang Nga is a very mountainous area surrounded by limestone peaks. It's also home to the Phang Nga National Park where there are several popular islands, one of which is called James Bond rock, made famous by 007 in The Man With The Golden Gun. We covered around 330 kilometres on the thoroughly enjoyable, lovely Thai roads.

We will be spending tomorrow in Phuket before heading up to Khao Lak and the Similan Islands for a few days. Then it'll be a southward journey taking in Krabi and slowly making our way down to Malaysia.

Itinerary of the past few days:

Monday, 7 October
Koh Sumui to Phuket, distance 233 miles;

Tuesday, 8 October
Karon beach down to most southern point of Phuket Prom Them, distance 21 miles;

Wednesday, 9 October
Karon beach up along coast to Surin beach, distance 40 miles;

Thursday, 10 October
Karon beach up along coast to Kamala beach, distance 52 miles.

Friday, 11 October and Saturday, 12 October
Away diving on Ko Phi Phi islands;

Monday, 13 October
Hired CBR 400 roadbikes and did a 330km roundtrip via Khao Lak and Phang Nga.

Sunday, 6 October 2002

We are currently in Koh Sumui, southern Thailand. We
have been on the road 152 days and covered 15 506
miles (24 810 kilometres).

We have spent the last 2 weeks enjoying the wonderful
island lifestyle Thailand's Koh Sumui has to offer.
It's difficult but somebody's got to do it..

We have been staying at Lucky Mother, a well situated,
comfortable and reasonably priced hotel with bungalows
equipped to suit most. Most of them are made of wood
and cater for couples with built on bathrooms and
double bed. We managed to get one of the concrete,
larger, single bed options. The staff here have been
extremely friendly for the duration of our stay and
we'd like to say thanks for making our stay in Sumui
such a special one!

On the night we arrived it was the monthly full moon
party, held once a month on the night of full moon
obviously, but not in Sumui - on the nearby island Koh
Pha-nang. The boat trip was a bit rough, 40 party
seekers joining us on the 400 hp half hour trip across
the bay. Once we arrived we realised how big this
event actually was: there were at least 5 000 people
spread out on the beach with music playing out over
the bay. Needless to say we had a good party and
returned to Sumui at 7am the following morning,
getting to see an awesome sunrise on the way home!

Our family holiday was one to remember for many years
to come. On Monday, 23/9, Gary's sister from London,
Kelly and brother and his wife from Sydney, George &
Jacqui arrived in Koh Sumui after spending a few days
in Bangkok. On Tuesday, 24/9, Dominic's brother,
Damian arrived from Perth (having spent a few weeks
there after leaving Kathmandu) and wife, Karen,
arrived from London.

They all stayed until Saturday, 28/9 and thoroughly
enjoyed their stay on this wonderful little piece of
paradise. Most of the time was spent lazing on the
beach but there were a few activities, which are worth
a mention:

For 2 days the girls (Karen, Jacqui and Kelly) did
what girls do best, go shopping, get beauty treatments
and massages and generally relaxing on the beach or by
the nearest pool.
The guys (George, Damian, Gary and Dominic) hired
offroad bikes for some muddy fun! If you ever come to
Koh Sumui and enjoy this type of thing we can
certainly recommend it! The bikes cost only about GBP
8 per day and petrol is very cheap. This is such value
for money as you can have a whole day of fun for
GBP10! We hired them from S.P.'s, a shop 1km north on
the main Chaweng beach road. A local Africa Twin (AT)
owner, S.P. runs the bike hire centre and is a keen
motorcyclist himself, having done a lot of touring on
his AT.

The island has some lovely dirt roads to offer and
they take you up high into the mountains (600m above
sea level within 10km) for the most spectacular views.
Most of the region is where local farmers grow their
crops (coconuts, mangosteens, avocados and bananas).
They use these roads to get their crops to the
markets, so you have to keep an eye out for their 4x4
vehicles. The roads are relatively quiet though and
apart from the farmers there are some tourists
sightseeing in jeeps too.

The bikes we hired were Honda XR 250's, superb for
this type of terrain. There was the odd thrill and
spill but nothing is really breakable on these bikes.
Damian managed to put the bike into a cartwheel on a
leafy, muddy section but, apart from a bit of
bruising, he was fine and the bike only lost its
mirrors. 2 full days were spent exploring the islands
little known dirt roads. The maps don't have mention
of many of them so you simply have to try one and see
where it comes out. Be warned though, that the terrain
is pretty hilly so in the rainy season the mud can be
quite slippery and descents are not for the feint
hearted, as George found out a few times!

Other days were spent lazing by the pool at Karen and
Damian's hotel, the lovely Coral Island Resort away
from the busy centre of Chaweng. We did some
snorkelling around the local bays and found some
fantastic underwater life including moray eels,
colourful butterfly and angelfish, the odd puffer fish
and parrotfish. The best snorkelling is in front of
Chaweng central, where there is a natural reef about
500m offshore.

Thank you to Karen, Damian, Kelly, Jacqui and George
for coming out here to see us. We thoroughly enjoyed
your company and it was certainly a highlight of our
trip so far! Thanks for all the hard work in arranging
spares, computers and other important stuff for us. We
wish Damian lots of luck in London; he's been with us
since the beginning but will now be looking out of an
office window rather than over the front wheel of his
bike! All the best..

After 5 days, the family were gone and so the week
ended with a bit of an anticlimax. To get our spirits
up we booked a scuba diving trip to Koh Tao, where the
diving was said to be world class. It certainly lived
up to its expectations and the diving was superb! The
speedboat journey out to Koh Tao was 90 minutes, we
passed Koh Pha-nang on route and the sea was quite
calm. We stayed on the Dive Point live-aboard, a large
boat equipped specifically for diving with all
equipment, including a compressor to refill tanks. The
staff were extremely helpful and knew the sites well
so diving was a pleasure and very relaxed. We did 5
dives in all including a night dive but the highlight
was Chumpon Pinnacle, where the visibility was at its
best and very busy with sea life! A first for us was
seeing 2, 3m grey reef sharks at close range!

In the past few days we've done a bit of sailing, we
rented a hobicat and took it through its paces out in
the bay. It was a bit of a steep learning curve but
well worth the effort. We also hired the Honda XR
250's again for 2 days, as that is such good value and
thoroughly enjoyable! Other than that we have just
chilled out and enjoyed having the beach and sea at
arms reach!

Today we did a ride, one of the few, when we went to
visit the aquarium, bird and Tiger Park, which are all
located in one venue. The aquarium is not that
impressive and the bird show was ok but seeing 5
Bengal tigers up close is something to remember.
Unfortunately we didn't manage to see these creatures
in the wild in India and Nepal, so had to resort to
seeing them behind bars! They are massive creatures
and when standing on their back 2 legs, reach over 10

Tomorrow we are, sadly, leaving Koh Sumui to go down
towards Phuket, Krabi and slowly make our way down to
Malaysia. We still have another month on our visa here
so hopefully it will be as good as it has in Sumui
further south!

Itinerary of the past few days:

Sunday, 22 September to Saturday, 5 October
Spent this time on Koh Sumui, no rides worth a

Sunday, 6 October
Did a tour of the south of the island around Lamai,
distance 49 miles.



Saturday, 21 September 2002

We are currently in Koh Sumui, southern Thailand. We
have been on the road 137 days and covered 15 506
miles (24 810 kilometres).

It became a bit of a struggle to reach Koh Sumui in
time to meet our family due to more fuel pump
problems, which plagued us! Read on and find out…

On Sunday the 15th we continued our journey north from
Lampang to reach Chaing Saen by 4pm. The winding back
roads via Chae Hom to Wang Nua along the Mae Nam Wang
River were superb! The surface is new tar and so
cornering was at nothing less than 40 mph, though the
corners are quite sharp. From Mae Khachan we took
route 118 to Ban Dong Ma Da to Chaing Rai and then the
national highway 1 for a short time. The final few
kilometres to Chaing Saen are ‘A’ type road leading to
the little town and the river alongside it. Laos is
across the river and only a few kilometres up the
river is the Golden Triangle, where the Mekong divides
Burma (Myanmar) from Laos and Thailand.

We took a long boat (powered by no less then a Toyota
Corolla 1600 twin cam motor!) that powered us over to
Laos for some shopping. Tobacco pipes, handcrafted out
of Yak bone seemed to be quite popular on Laos as
Opium smoking is somewhat of a favourite hobby there!
The boat then went onto the Golden Triangle a few more
kilometres up river. China is only 250 kilometres
further up the Mekong River, so in effect, there are 4
countries very close together at this point. All 3
countries were very green at this time of year due to
the monsoon rains and the Mekong was in full flow.

We spent one night in Chaing Saen at JS Guesthouse but
it’s not really a touristy town. We had to go to the
River Hill Hotel for dinner. This seems to cater more
for the tour groups who visit and the food was quite
good though expensive.

Monday the 16th was the beginning of our southerly
journey back down through Thailand. We wanted to do
the road along the Burma (Myanmar) border all the way
from Mae Hong Son but were short on time so only did
part of it. The back road we chose was via Mae Salong,
Muang Ngam, Mae Ai and Fang to Mae Sun. We then joined
route 107 and continued down through Mae Taeng to
Chaing Mai. We stopped at an Elephant training centre
just outside Ban Mae Na but we were too late for the
daily show (9:30 and 10:30 am only). We had planned to
reach Chom Thong, 100 km south west of Chaing Mai, but
we got caught in a huge storm that drenched us and was
so dark at 4pm we considered stopping for safety! The
water filled our boots up and the roads became part of
the flood plain!

Chaing Mai is a beautiful city, the 2nd largest in
Thailand and has a country feel to it rather than a
city. There are quite a few tourists around and so
they are also well catered for; Internet café’s,
western food, English is widely spoken and the Thai
people are very friendly and hospitable as in most
places in Thailand.

On Tuesday 17th, the road out of Chaing Mai toward
Chom Thong on route 108 was very industrial, busy and
not that pleasant. Once past Hot, we turned west to
pass through the Op Luang National park, headed for
Mae Sariang and the road was once again back to the
tropical Thailand we had become accustomed to. The
road from Mae Sariang, running alongside the Burma
(Myanmar) border is certainly a highlight worth
mentioning. The road is fantastic, though the surface
is not as good as other roads we’d ridden, it offered
lovely grand prix type sweeping corners and hill
climbs over the green rolling terrain. It is
rainforest so there were patches of rain but also
plenty of sunshine in between. Some of the roads had
been washed away from the monsoon rains but we only
counted about 3 or 4 places affected.

Riding south along the Mae Nam Moei River (Burma
border) has a slightly different feel to the rest of
Thailand. There are Burmese and Karen hill tribe
villages alongside the road and you can feel a
different vibe to the area. The men walking along the
road (mainly farmers) are all smoking a pipe, wearing
traditional colourful throwovers and their rurul
villages are thatched with leaves rather than grass.
We didn’t really stop at any of these points but you
could sense something was different about these

The best part of the road was from Tha Song Yang to
Mae Ramat, where the road is absolutely empty, almost
the width of 2 cars for each lane and the tar brand

There were many Police checkpoints along this road too
and our panniers were searched on more than one
occasion by heavily armed guards. They were all
friendly and we’re still not sure what they were
looking for? The border with Burma is not far away so
there are no doubt goods being illegally imported.

We arrived in Mae Sot in the dark and with a little
difficulty found Mae Sot Guesthouse in the main
street. There is little signposting in English so it
wasn’t that easy to navigate our way around. We did
find a Canadian/Thai restaurant in the main town that
served lovely food but it looked like the only one of
its kind in this little village. If you come across it
try and Burmese Duaeng Din coffee they serve - great!

Wednesday the 18th was another day of mechanical
trouble with Maggie (Dom’s bike) this time. She
started her niggles by just cutting out at irregular
intervals. We only managed to leave at 12 pm, as she
simply wouldn’t start! At this stage we did not know
what the problem was. If a fuel pump is faulty, like
any electrical gadget usually it’ll either work or
not. Maggie seemed to be ok then not, so it was a
process of elimination. We managed to get going and
then after cruising at 60 mph for a few hours, she’d
just cut out!

We rode from Mae Sot through Tak, Kamphaeng Phet,
Nakhon Sawan and Uthani Thani and stayed in the rather
large town of Chainat (though the Lonely Planet guide
for Thailand fails to mention anything of this area
south of Khamphaeng Phet to around west of Bangkok).
Again English wasn’t the best way of communication but
we eventually found a hotel suitable and it had a
restaurant on site with good Thai food.

With the fuel troubles we were having with Maggie we
tried to find decent in line fuel filters to replace
our current ones that have been on the bikes since
Turkey. This was another impossible task without
actually showing up at a bike shop with your bike! We
did find some but they were either too small (for
scooters) or too big (for cars).

On Thursday the 19th Maggie continued her cut outs and
it was becoming a cause of concern due to the problem
troubleshooting. If it was the carburettor, we’d have
to seek professional help, as it wasn’t really
something we wanted to tinker with (very delicate
process). We struggled on, sometimes stopping for 10
minutes to let Maggie sort herself out: This seemed to
solve the problem of flooding or starvation?

We managed to ride from Chainat (motorway 340) to
Phetburi via Sulphan Buri (route 321) and eventually
making it onto National Highway 4, the main route from
Bangkok to the south of Thailand. It did take a long
time due to the mechanical problems and about 20 km’s
from Phetburi we stopped right outside a “big”
motorbike shop, not something you see very often in
Thailand. We decided that this was fate and we had to
take Maggie into this workshop for a check. The owner
of the shop, Charoen Narake, was an very friendly and
experienced mechanic. You could see by the bikes he
was working on at the time: there were several big
bikes on the shop floor including a Suzuki GSX 750, a
Honda VF 750 and a KDX 250. His English was very
broken but after 20 minutes his colleague, Kija
Iamsuwan, showed up. He spoke great English and was
extremely helpful to our cause.

He showed us Charoen’s trophies that he’d won over the
years as a motorcross rider and also the broken bones
in his body! Kija was more of a touring rider and had
a BMW K100, which he later brought to the shop to show

Within 2 hours they had stripped Maggies carburettors
off, cleaned and reassembled them. Dom took her for a
ride and she seemed right as rain so we paid for the
work and thanked them profusely before heading for
Phetburi, some 20 kilometres away in the dark. Only 2
kilometres from the shop Maggie stalled again! The
problem was still not fixed!

We managed to get to Choh Klao hotel alongside the Mae
Nam River and parked the bikes inside the courtyard
undercover. We decided to swap fuel pumps on our bikes
as this could only further eliminate what was on our
minds: Fuel pump!

After swapping the fuel pumps the following morning,
the suspect item on Shalastic (Gary’s bike), we rode
out of town heading south and 1km from Phetburi,
Shalastic gave up! The 2nd fuel pump had gone at only
24 000 miles (38 000 kilometres)!!

As we had already used the spare we had carried from
London, we were now down to 1 good fuel pump for 2
bikes - dilemma! We tried riding the bike but she cut
out regularly and, as we had over 800 kilometres to
reach Koh Sumui in only a few days, we had to make
another plan. We bypassed the pump by joining the
inlet and outlet so that the fuel flows directly from
the tank to the carburettor, but the maximum speed you
can do like this is only 30 mph on a downhill. Uphill
is a problem as you try to keep the revs down the bike
simply cannot get enough fuel and so cuts out. We
limped alongside the road to the next town but decided
we needed to do something about this.

Alternative plans started to develop and in the next
coastal town, Cha Am, there was a Budget car rental
office. We planned to hire a van, put the bike on the
back and drive to Koh Sumui with the other rider
following behind. We pulled into the train station,
asking for directions, and managed to bargain with one
of the local taxi drivers to put Shalastic on the back
of his van for Thai Baht 4, 000 (about US $100).
Within half an hour we were on the road again, Gary
inside the cab with 2 Thai locals and Shalastic on the
back and Dom following behind on Maggie, who was
running perfectly.

The route from Cha Am to Surat Thani was a main
highway and not very interesting but then it’s a
quieter road to Don Sak.

We got to Don Sak, the vehicle ferry port to Koh
Sumui, in the dark at around 9 pm. The driver found us
a suitable hotel to stay at that happened to be right
next to where the ferry leaves at 7am for Koh Sumui.

Early on Saturday, we managed to get onto the half
full, 7am ferry to Koh Sumui and in 90 minutes, we
were on the island. It had not seemed possible just 24
hours earlier but we had managed to do it!
There were still the 20 or so kilometres to get across
from Thong Yang to Chaweng but we managed this with
only a few cutouts. Sumui is quite hilly and with the
fuel problem still apparent, the bike didn’t take
kindly to the uphill sections!

We found the Lucky Mother bungalows, as recommended by
Lonely Planet, and settled in. This resort is very
central but affordable and favourably placed for most
things: shopping, beach, watersports, restaurants and

Koh Sumui is a favourite tourist destination and so it
has become quite commercial over the past few years.
The main street in Chaweng, the centre of all the
restaurants, travel agencies, markets, etc. is quite
crowded at most times of the day though it’s out of
season now and not so busy. The main road is parallel
to the lovely white sandy beach and is a few
kilometres long.

Tomorrow we have a day to ourselves before Gary’s
family arrive from Sydney (brother George and wife
Jacqui) and London (sister Kelly).
On Tuesday Dominic’s family arrive from Perth (brother
Damian) and London (Damian’s wife Karen).

They are here for 5 days for a holiday and to bring
some necessary spares (laptop, fuel pump, etc!).

We are looking forward to a good family holiday, as
it’s been a few years since some of the family have
seen each other!

Itinerary of the past few days:

Sunday, 15 September
Lampang to Chaing Saen (Golden Triangle), distance 185

Monday, 16 September
Chaing Saen to Chaing Mai, distance 172 miles;

Tuesday, 17 September
Chaing Mai to Mae Sot, distance 280 miles;

Wednesday, 18 September
Mae Sot to Chainat, distance 200 miles;

Thursday, 19 September
Chainat to Phetburi, distance 204 miles;

Friday, 20 September
Phetburi to Don Sak, distance: Shalastic - 26 miles,
Maggie - 374 miles;

Saturday, 21 September
Don Sak to Koh Sumui, distance 26 miles.

Saturday, 14 September 2002

We are currently in Lampang, northern Thailand. We
have been on the road 130 days and covered 14 065
miles (22 504 kilometres).

After just over a week in Bangkok to sort out a few
things on the bikes (tyres, service, etc.) it was time
to head out into the wonderful countryside that
Thailand has to offer. We had around 2 weeks until
some family arrived to visit for a holiday and we were
meeting them in Koh Sumui, a lovely island in southern

Thailand has been having the worst floods for many
years with the north and northeast the most affected
areas. This is exactly where we had planned to visit
for the next two weeks so we were a bit apprehensive
but decided to go anyway.

Early on Tuesday, 10 September, we left Bangkok and
rode up to Ayuthaya. It’s only a short distance from
Bangkok but trying to find an alternative route out of
the capital is not easy. Motorbikes (there are
thousands of scooters) are not allowed on their main
expressways. Signposting is mostly done in Thai for
the alternative routes and there are not many of them.
It took us the best part of an hour to reach the
outskirts of Bangkok and then only another hour or 2
to reach Ayuthaya.
Ayuthaya is a historic Siam landmark and used to be
the capital of Thailand with many ancient temples,
wats and buddas all set within a natural moat (made by
the Lopburi river).
We hired bicycles and rode around town to visit some
of these. The river was very high due to the rains in
the north and a week later, we read in the Bangkok
post, burst it’s banks submerging the town in waist
high water. Our timing had been perfect!

The following day, Wednesday, September 11 – there was
little sign of the significance to this day where we
were. We continued our journey to the northeast
through Lopburi but the road we chose had been closed.
The Lopburi River had broken its banks and parts of
the road were covered in excess of 2 metres of water.
We had already crossed some of the flooded roads but
eventually the road up ahead had been closed. We had
to go back to the main highway (which had a large
bridge over the river) and bypass the river before
joining our intended route some distance further up.
We continued up to Chaiyaphum to stay for the night.
On the way, however, Gary’s bike was struck with
mechanical problems.

Honda Africa Twins have a known fuel pump defect (as
most travellers on Africa Twins we have spoken to have
agreed) but Honda refuse to admit to this. The
Mitsibushi units fitted as standard are not of a high
quality and so at only 25, 000 miles (40, 000 km) the
one on Gary’s bike had given up. As we knew this
before leaving London, we have carried a spare along
the way. A simple swap out took only an hour or so and
we were back on the road. Dominic did approach Honda
before we left London and asked them if there was
anything we could do about the fuel pumps, as our
bikes were still under warranty. Honda failed to
impress us and simply said there was nothing wrong
with the fuel pumps they supply on their bikes.

Just before reaching Chaiyaphum, we were witness to a
dog who should have been a cat of 9 lives! After being
struck by a car approaching us, he was bounced and
rolled several times on the tar, then pulled
underneath. The woman driving, distraught, had driven
off the road and stopped but the dog simply got out
from under the car and ran off appearing not to have
been affected at all!

The following day (Thursday, 12th) we continued our
northeasterly bearing and began to realise why
Thailand is so popular among touring motorcyclists! We
rode from Chaiyaphum along route 229 to Kaeng Kuip,
and then we took a backroad to Khow Kaen. The
countryside reminded us of Southern Africa:
Green-rolling hills, wide, well-tarred, empty scenic
roads and good sunny weather.

We had to use a highway, number 2, to cross the Nam
Phong River, but even the main route to Laos was
covered in a foot of water. We managed to cross by
riding in the wake of a passing vehicle, this makes
the level drop and so easier to ride through.

We spent this night in Udon Thani, a town that
developed overnight from the deployment of thousands
of US troops to join the Vietnam War. The air force
base is massive and on entering town our attention was
drawn to 2 fighter jets taking off.

The northeast of Thailand is not frequented by many
western travellers so reminded us of our Iran days.
People are extremely friendly, hospitable and
inquisitive but English is rarely spoken. There is
much memorabilia from the Vietnam War on sale in shops
(Tom Cruise type glasses, fighter jet helmets, dog
tags, etc.)
A highlight this day was visiting the local Internet
café, something of a find in the northeast! It was
full and after spending about 20 minutes, the power
suddenly disappeared and so all of the 20 computers on
the network died! This is an ideal scenario to paint a
picture of how northeastern Thailand is “real” Asia
(reminds us of Africa!).

On Friday, 13th, we continued up towards the Laos
border on the road to Nong Khai and Vietiane (Laos
capital) but, before reaching the border, we turned
west at Ban Nong and headed toward the Mekong River.
We reached it at Si Chaing Mai and continued along to
Chaing Khan. The Mekong River is the border to Laos
and can only be crossed by road at Nong Khai. The 120
km section along the river to Chaing Khan was
fantastic on a bike! The rolling hills, winding
corners and roads with very little traffic reminded us
again of Natal!
On route to Chaing Khan we began to realise the extent
of the floods. The most troubled was the province of
Loei. We found villagers stranded, their houses under
up to 6 foot of water! The communities get together in
these times of trouble and help is never far away.
Boats are busy carrying supplies, people and their
rescued belongings to safety while pumps are employed
to relieve the situation.
We arrived one week after the worst so things had been
in a far worse state. The Bangkok post reported
hundreds dead and thousands homeless.

Passing through Loei on route 201, we then used route
203 west and stayed at Dan Sai just off this route.
Floods had subsided here though aid was still being
given out at a community meeting when we arrived.
This small village, where English is simply
non-existent, it took us almost 2 hours in the dark to
find somewhere to stay. Eventually we found
T-Guesthouse, which had been under 4 feet of water
only a few days prior to our arrival. It took another
miracle to find something to eat as everything closes
very early in these rural towns. The local market,
usually the last resort to find food even refused us!
We resorted to the local “hot dog” type stand on the
side of the road. As communication was reduced to hand
signals and animal noises, we decided to order what
the last customer had. The food wasn’t too bad but the
chicken looking things turned out to be mashed fish

Today found us headed in a westerly direction towards
Thailands 2nd largest city, Chaing Mai. We didn’t
quite make it Chaing Mai as we stayed off the main
highways to thoroughly enjoy the lovely, well-tarred,
wide, quiet back roads. We could finally test our new
tyres out in the 60 mph corners – fantastic!

We stayed in Lampang, just south east of Chaing Mai,
at the lovely teak Riverside Guesthouse. They have
bikes for hire and so plenty of parking for motorbike
tourers as well as a wonderful friendly attitude
towards bikers.
It was here that we saw our first western tourists
again as the north is a more accessible and well
travelled area. The river Mae Nam Wang runs through
Lampang and had burst its banks a few days earlier in
the large town. It had subsided but was still pretty
high on our arrival.

Tomorrow we plan to head further up north to the Golden Triangle before we head back down south along the Burmese border to our destination of Koh Sumui by the 20th.

Itinerary of the past few days:

Tuesday, 10 September
Bangkok to Auythaya, distance 45 miles;

Wednesday, 11 September
Auythaya to Chaiyaphum, distance 257 miles;

Thursday, 12 September
Chaiyaphum to Udon Thani, distance 151 miles;

Friday, 13 September
Udon Thani to Dan Sai, distance 234 miles;

Saturday, 14 September
Dan Sai to Lampang, distance 191 miles.

Saturday, 7 September 2002
We are currently in Bangkok, Thailand. We have now been on the road for 123 days and we've covered 13 287 miles (21 259 kilometres) on our bikes. We spent our last day in Kathmandu ,over a week ago now, on mountain bikes enjoying what the Kathmandu valley has to offer. Unfortunately the traffic is quite bad in this area so the offroad sections were really enjoyed, away from the hustle and bustle of cars, trucks and busses. It's not easy to find the biking routes and we stumbled upon a temple on the river where the daily cremations were being held. We joined some other tourists and watched the process of stacking a pile of logs, very similar to that of making a braai, and then laying the deceased relative on top of this. Then it's a simple lighting process and away you go! There were 3 bodies at various stages of the process so we managed to get a full picture. This area is very sacred to the Hindus and even though this is happening around the corner, still people are bathing themselves 100m downstream! Quite bizarre really!

Dom and Gary flew with Royal Nepal airlines to Bangkok early on Monday morning. The view of the Himalayas was short and a tad obscured by cloud but it's amazing that when you consider that you are at 29 000 feet and you can see snow capped peaks at that same level! Damian flew Thai air in the afternoon, he has since gone onto Perth to visit his sister, Rulan for a few weeks in Australia before coming back to Thailand for a week and then onto London.

We stayed near the airport for 2 nights so as to be close to the customs/cargo area where we would have to spend at least a day to get our bikes back to normal. It took us the whole day of Tuesday to get our bikes out of the airport. The main problem is not knowing where to start or in what order to proceed. It's quite a frustrating process in that there are many touts outside the customs office only too willing to help but we've heard stories of them requesting 100 pounds after they've done so! In order to avoid the confrontations we decided to do things ourselves. We arrived before 9am and only managed to ride our bikes away at 5pm.
The customs procedure is pretty straightforward but it's knowing the sequence of events to follow:

1. First you have to split the airway bill if you have more than one bike shipped together. This is done at the Customer Service Centre, 1km south of the domestic terminal. The original document is provided (we only had a photocopy from our agent) and stapled to some other papers.

2. Then we went to the Personal Effects customs office. Here we had a tout help us but we soon ditched him when he asked for our passports outside at a dodgy looking table. But as he'd shown us where to go we found a customs officer, who willingly asked us to sit in his waiting room while he filled out some paperwork - about 5 pages for each bike! He asked for our passports and carnets. The carnets were only used for the engine and chassis number, they were not stamped at all. This took close to 3 hours sitting in his waiting room as he had to get his superior to approve his work. Among this paperwork was the Thai temporary vehicle import "white paper" (you sign to say that if you do not re-export the bike within the time stated you are liable to pay 500 000 Thai Baht - US $ 12 000 import fee!).

3. Then it's off to the Manifest Dept. Don't ask me what they do but there was some stamping and signing of our paperwork.

4. The final step is to pay the airline for the clearance fee and service. This amounted to TB 545 (about US $ 13) for each bike. You get 3 days free storage, which we hadn't exceeded but it's about US $ 100 per day if you do store a bike there for longer than that.

5. Once the customs official had re-approved all this paperwork, we headed for the warehouse located a further 1km south of the customs offices. You can catch a motorcycle taxi for about TB 10 (US $ 0.25) but have your wits about you!

6. Outside the warehouse we visited the office and presented our paperwork. This is again approved by their officials then passed onto someone who takes it into another office located inside the actual warehouse. Here it is delegated to one of the many forklift drivers cruising about the place.

7. In the meantime we handed in our passports in exchange for a security pass and entered the warehouse to find our long lost bikes!

8. Once they were delivered by forklift, to a nice spacious area within the warehouse, we started the uncrating process. The local workers there were really good and when we needed some extra help lifting the bikes up to assemble the front wheels they were only too keen.

Eventually we rode our bikes out of the airport with smiles on our faces! The whole process is a longwinded one but with a little patience it's not too bad. The airport staff, whether working for the airline we used (Thai Air) or the government (customs) were very helpful and never once complained or held out their hands for money.

After this taxing day we had an early night and then on Wednesday we moved into central Bangkok. The simple 20 something kilometres into the centre took us almost 3 hours to cover as the Expressways don't allow motorcycles on them. In order to find the equivalent roads taking you in takes some time, a lot of patience and a compass! We didn't have a decent map so it was guesswork but we eventually found a great place to stay with safe parking for the bikes. It's in northern Banglampoo close to the river next to the infamous Shanti Lodge, Sawadee Guest House.

The next 2 days were spent looking for spares for the bikes. We caught a boat into town, a reliable "taxi" service used by most of the locals to go to work. We managed to find good quality Castrol oil and so took an afternoon to change our 10 000 km old oil. The next day was spent not looking for the actual parts but a reputable shop, which would cater for our bikes. The average bike here is a 125 cc so nothing like our monsters! . We needed tyres quite desperately as our wonderful Michelin T66's had eventually come to the end of their life. We found 2 shops, which were pretty good, but only 1 could provide us with what we required. A pretty informative website on bike shops in central Bangkok was all we used: http://www.geocities.com/bkkriders/shops

It has a map of the area and also a description as to what the shop specializes in.

The first shop we used, Riders Club could only get some motorcross knobbly tyres but we decided to look elsewhere. We found Dynamic Motors, also recommended on Horizons Unlimited, but his service is shocking. He did eventually come through but not without the (far too often) occasional nudge. Yong, the manager, promised us we could come the following morning at 9 and the tyres could be fitted. Only 1 set of tyres appeared after we had removed both wheels from both bikes. We had to get the old tyres removed and new ones put on at the car tyre shop adjacent, we had to catch a cab to the other side of town to get the wheels balanced and we did all the labour! However, this is Asia and we were glad to have new tyres provided in just one day. The Michelins we were on, the reliable T66's were only being delivered in November!
The shop we had the tyres balanced at was on the other side of town but the attitude of the owner is worth a mention! He is Pirot and runs a warehouse of specialist bike tyres (we are sure that he supplied
our tyres). His company details:
481 Santiphab Road
(02) 2227535
If anyone is looking for tyres in Bangkok in future we suggest you go straight to him. He can supply, change and balance them for you in one location and his price will be much cheaper too.

So now we have new rubber: Bridgestone Trailwings on both bikes (TW47 front and TW48 back). They are a bit knobblier than the Michelins but with the monsoons and floods aplenty at this time of year, they may prove very handy! The front page of the daily Bangkok post is full of floods here and floods there so who knows what's in store for us up north should we decide to venture up there this week.

Yesterday evening, after the bikes had been sorted out, we could finally be tourists again!

We tried to find Patpong, the world renowned red light district of Bangkok but instead stumbled upon Soi Cowboy, a smaller version. We met Brian, a US expat, who took us to a show at one of the local go go bars. Here you feel a little uncomfortable for the first few minutes, but once you realize what's going on it's not so bad! The Thai girls that work in the bar literally throw themselves at you but once they realize you are only there to watch the show they are very friendly and are quite interesting to talk to. There are as many working girls as there are customers and half of them perform on stage while the others tend to the customers. This then changes every half hour.

Today we visited Gary's distant relation, Lorraine out near Bagna on the road to Chomburi. This is an area where the expats live so is a completely refreshing change from the centre of Bangkok. It has huge houses, golf courses, wide-open spaces and we even spotted a monitor lizard soaking up the sun! It was a bit of a nightmare to navigate the Bangkok traffic but was worth the journey just to see how things operate on the roads. Once again the expressways were out of bounds but we managed, with Gary driving and Dom navigating on the back. It's very hot and humid here now and with the traffic lights taking between 5 and 10 mintues to change it was in the bikes best interest to switch off during stops to avoid overheating! We were treated to a lovely lunch and a swim and then we returned to the centre of Bangkok.

Tomorrow we'll be full blow tourists taking in some of the wonderful sights this place has to offer, temples, grand palace, etc. We have also yet to see some Thai boxing so may do that on Monday night before deciding what to do over the next 2 weeks (flooded northern Thailand or a sunny beach somewhere.difficult decision!)

Our itinerary over the last few days:
Sunday, 1 September
No motorbike riding but 40km's on the mountain bike.
Monday, 2 September
Flight to Bangkok
Tuesday, 3 September
Spent the day at the airport getting the bikes out of
the customs warehouse.
Wednesday, 4 September
Relocated to centre of Bangkok, short ride from
airport to town, 26 miles.
Thursday, 5 September
Changed oil on bikes, found bike shop and ordered
Friday, 6 September
Spent the day changing tyres.
Saturday, 7 September
Day trip out to Bagna, 39 miles.

Saturday , 31 August 2002
We are currently in Kathmandu, Nepal. We have been on the road for 116 days and covered 13 207 miles (21 131 kilometers). We spent a total of 8 days in Pokhara just to chill
out and enjoy the wonderful, relaxed surroundings (it is at the foot of the Annapurna range of the Himalayas).

Our motorbikes were put to rest and we swapped them for mountain bikes to take in some of the hilly terrain around the area. There is a company called Raniban Mountain Bikes (bikes@raniban.com or +977 61 22219). They are not far from the center and they offer top quality bikes (Marin/Giant,etc.) at reasonable rates. They also had a guide who was great at finding the steepest and muddiest paths! We did 2 rides, one out to Sarangkot high above Pokhara where we had fantastic views, between the monsoon clouds, of the Annapurna range. The other ride was along the route where the Shangrila Airways plane crashed into the side of a mountain while we were staying in the area. We visited the site where 15 foreigners and 3 local people were killed. It was truly horrific and our sympathies go out to the families who have to endure this terrible tragedy. We did one motorbike ride out on the road to Baglung. It was raining and wet but after a few days of this kind of weather we decided that we had to get out and do something! A South African tourist, Greg joined us on a bike he hired locally whilst on holiday. The bike, a Yamaha XT250 was not in good condition with smooth tyres and no back brakes! Greg soon found out the hard way that this bike was not suitable as, while we were crossing a stream, he braked hard behind us and lost the front wheel coming down quite hard. The bike was ok but he fractured his ankle with an immediate swelling arising! We lifted him back to town while Damian rode the hired bike cautiously back. He had his leg cast in plaster Paris and still had to fit the bill for the damage! A warning to anyone hiring a bike when on holiday!

We departed Pokhara late on Sunday, the 25th August hoping to reach Kathmandu before sunset, as it was only 200 kilometers. However, we were in for a bit of a surprise as, due to the monsoons playing havoc with the roads (landslides, mudslides, bridges being washed away, etc.) we were stopped soon after Mugling. A very recent landslide that was still in progress blocked the road ahead. Boulders the size of a small car were still tumbling down as we joined the locals spectating from a safe distance. It would be some time before a bulldozer would arrive and only when it was safe to do so, would he start to clear it. This could take anything up to 5 or 6 hours, so we decided to take the alternative route, firstly heading south from Mugling and then east parallel with the main road alongside the famous Royal Chitwan National Park. This route was good to begin with but once we started to head north again to join the main road we entered the mountainous Mahabharat range. The road was a mix of very windy, narrow stretches of mud, broken tar and gravel. The monsoons have really taken their toll on the road. We managed to stay upright the entire way but due to the fading light and mist it was a difficult task. Once we reached Daman it was a better road to Kathmandu and we eventually arrived, exhausted, in the tourist area of Tamel with the help of a local taxi at 11pm.

We have now been in Kathmandu 6 days of which Wednesday was the biggest day for us! It was the day we sent our bikes from Kathmandu by aeroplane! Dom and Gary's bikes are going to Bangkok and Damian's to London. Damian has decided, for personal reasons, not to continue traveling by bike from Nepal so will be in Thailand for 1 month before flying back to the UK. His wife, Karen will be visiting for a week from 21 - 28 September and they'll fly back together. He crated his bike, which will sit in storage for one month in Kathmandu, before going to London.

The crating process:
Dom and I rode our bikes to the airport (Damian did everything beforehand at his agents office and his bike was put onto the back of a truck) as normal following our agent. A carpenter had been to visit us at our hotel and gathered some measurements for the crate, which was ready at the airport when we arrived. It was a fairly smooth process and took about 3 hours in total from when we drove into the customs gate, to actually seeing the bike disappear into the warehouse in a box! The people at the airport are extremely friendly and only too keen to offer help where it is needed. They obviously don't see too many overlanders on motorbikes so are intrigued to see what we are going to do with these machines!

Once you have driven the bike onto the base, about 5 inches longer than the bike and twice the width, the front wheel is taken out. There are 6 local guys holding it up off the ground and it's placed on its forks onto the base. Then it's strapped to the base using a ratchet type strap, one at the front and one at the back. The tyres are let down, the fuel drained, our panniers placed into position and tied down and the front wheel strapped to the side of the bike. Before any of this is done the local customs officials do a thorough inspection of everything that's going into the crate. Once all this is done, the carpenter puts the sides and top on the crate and away it goes into the warehouse. It is carried by the local guys, 4 each side and up and away!

The paperwork is something that takes some time to sort out and the agent is busy carrying your carnet and passport back and forth while the bikes being packed.
The details of Dom and Gary's agent:
Ishowar Bhatta
New World Link Export
Arcadia Building (1st floor)
Email: newworldlink@hotmail.com
Phone: 268539

Ishowar was great throughout and very thorough about the whole process. We were a little nervous putting our bikes on a plane, but the process is quite simple and Ishowar made it that much easier with his professional attitude. He has done many bikes before and it showed in the way he handled things.

Damians agent:

Universal Air Courier & Cargo Pvt. Ltd
Kashmir Takiya
Durbar Marga
URL: http://www.dpeinternational.com
Email: dpenepal@wlink.com.np
Phone: 223643

Kishor is an extremely knowledgeable person and with 15 years experience in this business it shows! His managing director, Kiran Shrestha and Badri were all very helpful in the process of sending the bike to London. They are a large organization and are responsible for many of Kathmandu's exports. Damian met Kishor in Pokhara, as he spends some of his time there.

After the bikes had been left safely in the hands of the airlines we headed back with a feeling of relief to the hotel.

Over the last few days we've been out to dinner with the respective agents, who were only too keen to show us a bit of Kathmandu, the real stuff rather than the touristy stuff. Dom and Gary were treated to some traditional Nepalese food and then a men's only club where Nepalese women show off their talents! It's all pretty tame compared to the Western society we are used to!

We have also hired mountain bikes and did some cycling today. Kiran from Universal was very kind in offering to take us up to Nagarkot in his van, saving our legs from an exhausting 30km, 800m ascent to the wonderful gem of Nepal. From here we managed to see most of the Himalayas and then we descended down some rugged offroad to Panuti and onto Patan.

Tomorrow is our last day in Kathmandu before we fly out on Monday. Our bikes follow us on the afternoon flight so it'll be another day at the airport on Tuesday uncrating and assembling our bikes in Bangkok.

We have not quite decided what to do over the next few weeks but we may either head north toward the Laos border in a bid to see some of Northern Thailand, or head south and spend the time on the beach before Karen, Damian's wife, and Kelly, Gary's sister arrive in Bangkok for a weeks visit.

Our itinerary over the last few days:
Sunday, August 18 - Tuesday, 20 August
In Pokhara, no riding.
Wednesday, 21 August
Short ride out towards Baglung, cut short by Gregs
crash. Distance 36 miles.
Thursday, 22 August - Saturday, August 24
No motorbikes, a few mountain bike rides though.
Sunday, 25 August
Pokhara to Kathmandu. Distance 238 miles.
Monday 26 August - Saturday, 31 August
No riding of motorbikes apart from to the airport. A
few mountain bikes rides.0.

Saturday, 17 August 2002

We are currently in Pokhara, Nepal. We have been on the road for 102 days and covered 12 933 miles (20 693 kilometers).

Our pc has blue screened (no go Joe) so we will be unable to provide any photos till we get another in Bangkok in a few weeks. Please bear with us till then.

Since leaving Mcleod Ganj in northern India, we went further north on the road to Leh but only got as far as Manali. It reminded us of the KKH in Pakistan as it's a very similar road winding it's way up the Beas river into the mountains. After Manali the tar ends and we attemped to do a roundabout trip across the east and down to Shimla but due to the rainy monsoon season the dirt roads stopped us in our tracks - a huge waterfall which we couldn't cross safely - so we turned back. This area also heads up into Kashmir so we decided not to venture up to Leh which was another option.

We rode back down the same route the following day to Shimla where Gary had another puncture! We met a Danish cyclist who was doing Leh to Shimla over a few weeks and he got a puncture at the same time. He had hoped to reach Shimla that evening but after we left him we climbed a huge pass up to Shimla and we are sure it took him a few days to reach it!

Nijababad was our next stop in India, a dirty, busy town bustling with the usual livestock and people. The humidity is not something to joke about in these regions and without aircon or an airfan little sleep if any can occur!

We came to a decision that we'd rather enter Nepal via the Western border of Mahendranagar than spend another 2 weeks travelling south into India and then north towards Kathmandu. India was not doing us any good: the food is too spicy, the constant dice with death on the roads was getting us down and the rain/humidity don't help the situation.

We spent 3 days at Corbett Tiger Reserve in Northern India, which boasts over 100 tigers, but, due to it being the monsoon season, it was very wet and we didn't manage to see the tiger we'd hoped. We did however use the time to relax and enjoy a different side to India. The jungle is very thick here and we did a 4 hour walk in the rain to see some of it. Unfortunately the view was obscured by low cloud, something we have become accustomed to now, but it didn't obscure the beauty of the park.

The manager, Surinder Pal, was a really friendly chap and, as the only guests at the Corbett Ramganga resort (www.ramganga.com), he gave us 100% of his time. The food and staff were fantastic and the resort has a wonderful setting. We even played cricket against the staff but sadly lost 3 - 0 to some very good players! We departed Corbett in good spirits after 3 superb relaxing days.

We only spent 11 days in India in total but were glad to enter Nepal after that. Nepal is a lot cleaner, the roads not as congested with people and livestock.

The border crossing didn't take long and we stayed the night in the nearby town of Mahendranagar. We ran out of time to continue any further due to discovering another puncture (no. 3) to Gary's bike though this time it was front wheel. While Dam and Dom fixed it, Gary changed money, did the customs stuff and gathered info. for the journey ahead.

The following day we rode into Bardia Natural Park, another wildlife sanctury with around 70 tiger, elephant, rhino, many types of deer and loads more including crocodiles!

We stayed at Bardia Wildlife Paradise, a local resort run by a family. Krishna is the manager and Shanka, his brother, an experienced local wildlife guide.

We spent 2 days here on our quest to see a tiger. We did a day walk with Shanka as our guide, into the jungle, quite taxing due to the heat and humidity but very enjoyable all the same. We managed to get within 10 metres of 2 rhino enjoying a local watering hole. They weren't impressed by our presence and soon moved off into the thick jungle.

We saw all but the actual tiger on this day: We found the tracks, only a few hours old, the tiger faeces, teritorial markings, claw scratings on the trees. We even heard the monkeys sounding the alarm that one was in the area but it wasn't to be. After setting off at 7am we arrived back at camp around 6pm tired, hungry and hot. It was a great experience but now it was time to get on with life!

We rode to Pokhara yesterday, a 600km trip which took most of the day but the roads in Nepal are fantastic. Once we turned off the main road from Butwal, the road became narrower as it wound its way along the river valleys upward toward the Himalayas. The views from the road are fantastic though we were running out of light so couldn't really stop to enjoy them! The last 35 kilometres we rode in the dark but it was not as bad as we had thought.

We are going to stay in Pokhara at least 3 nights hoping to do some mountainbiking here. It appears though on a closer inspection that people cycle from here to Kathmandu. We may end up going to Kathmandu on our motorbikes and then flying back here. This way we can ride bicycles over some of the most beautiful off road the world has to offer. We have yet to find out if it's possible this time of year though...we'll chat to a local tour operator who was closed today.

Our itinerary over the last few days:

Tuesday, 6 August
McLeod Ganj to Mandi. Distance 100 miles.

Wednesday, 7 August
Mandi to Manali. Distance 164 miles.

Thursday, 8 August
Manali to Shimla. Distance 163 miles.

Friday, 9 August
Shimla to Nijababad. Distance 211 miles.

Saturday, 10 August
Nijababad to Corbett Tiger reserve. Distance 151

Sunday, 11 August
No riding, day off at Corbett.

Monday, 12 August
Ride offroad round the area surrounding the park.
Distance 52 miles.

Tuesday, 13 August
Corbett to Mahendranagar (Nepal). Distance 154 miles.

Wednesday, 14 August
Mahendranagar to Bardia National Park. Distance 97

Thursday, 15 August
No riding, jungle walk in pursuit of the tiger...

Friday, 16 August
Bardia to Pokhara. Distance 299 miles.

Saturday, 17 August
No riding, checking out the little town of Pokhara.

Sunday, 4 August 2002

We are currently in Mcleod Ganj, northern India. We have now been on the road 91 days and covered 11 541 miles (18 467 kms).

Our last 2 days in Pakistan were quite warm and humid as we headed south to Lahore before crossing over the controversial Wagah border that is currently closed to local people. We tried to use the new US $ 1 bn motorway but as motorbikes are banned (but remember that these are 125cc), the police were not interested in letting us on. We had read that other motorcycle travellers had used this fantastic, 6-lane highway but we were unfortunate to run into the highway police at the entrance. We should have made it from Islamabad to Lahore within 3 hours; instead we had a 100-mile detour back to the old road and so only reached Lahore at 5pm.

We were going to try and get across the border that afternoon but as the border closes at 4pm we had no choice but to spend the night in Lahore. We found it to be quite an interesting city and we had dinner at the top Kabana Hotel, a well-known chain throughout Pakistan.

On route from Lahore to the border it was quite hectic with animals, people, taxis, bicycles, tuc tucs and other road users almost blocking the road at times. It was not without event as a cycle rickshaw rode side on into Damian, removing a few spokes from the rickshaws

It took us 4 hours to cross the border into India; strange as we were 3 of only 5 people crossing at the time! The officials on both the Pakistan and India side really took their time though everything was done in usual military style.


Our entry into India was without any hassle and the road from Wahgah to Amritsar is lined with lush green farmlands for the first few kilometres. Amritsar is very populated and so it took us a while to find a suitable hotel to house the bikes. We were eventually led, by a friendly cycle rickshaw rider, to a hotel with a courtyard, not far from the Golden Temple.

Once we had settled in we visited the Golden Temple, a Budda shrine built in 16th century that occupies a large area in the centre of the old town. The highlight in the centre is the Hari Mandir, a gold-plated, 2-storey marble temple. The inside of this huge enclosure houses the Pool of Nectar, the size of 2 Olympic swimming pools, where the Sikh pilgrims religiously bathe themselves.

We followed the busy procession through to the Hari Mandir and were amazed to see how much money was being put into the tithe box. These people are not wealthy by any means but the notes could not be put into the box quick enough!

The following day we headed up north toward the Himalaya region leaving Punjab and entering Himachal Pradesh province. The monsoons must have hit this region while we were trying to navigate our way north; the road was hardly visible at times, covered in a foot of water! We had been hearing of the drought that Western India had been suffering but this was surely the day the droughts ended! The rivers were flowing strongly but they didn't pose us too many problems. There were times that their overflow covered the potholes but we managed to survive.

We rode up to Pathankot before turning east to Dharamsala and further up the climb to Mcleod Ganj.

As well as having a strong Tibetan culture, Mcleod Ganj is the official home of the Dalai Lama. There are many maroon-robed monks around and it certainly doesn't feel like we are in India! It is also a favourite area among travellers, many seem to have been left here since the 60's! A real hippie paradise!

We have met a few interesting people and among them a Swiss couple travelling around the world on a Triumph Tiger, Marcel and Flavia Wolf (http://www.tiger-club.ch/weltreise) They have been on the road for 14 months now and covered our route including Scandinavia and the Eastern block. They are following a similar route to us down to Australia but will spend a lot more time than us in each country. After that they will be doing South and North America before considering what to do after that. Their entire trip should last around 4 years, our little adventure seems nothing in comparison!

If you wish to contact them you can email them on: m-f.wolf@gmx.net

We have had a few days here to soak up the laid back Tibetan atmosphere but we'll probably head on our way tomorrow to a similar area north of here, Manali.

Itinerary of the last few days:

Thursday, 1 August
Islamabad to Lahore. Distance 299 miles

Friday, 2 August
Lahore to Amritsar. Distance 38 miles.

Saturday, 3 August
Amritsar to Mcleod Ganj. Distance 132 miles.

Sunday 4 and Monday 5 August, no travelling.

Wednesday, 31 July 2002

We are currently in Islamabad, Pakistan. We have now been on the road 85 days and covered 11 047 miles (17 675 kms).

We are back in Islamabad after spending a total of 9 days around the Karakoram Highway (KKH) area. Northern Pakistan is a tourists dream come true. Hiking, white water rafting, mountain biking, polo, crystal clear lakes, snowcapped mountains all around, etc. It's such a pity we didn't see any tourists on our route, as there are clearly no problems here. Many people have stayed away from this beautiful region because of the "problems" close to this area (Afghanistan and Kashmir) but we were only greeted with smiles and hospitality

We continued our trek from Chitral (last update) eastward towards Gilgit over the Shandur pass (3800m) but as the road quality deteriorated, we slowed. It was a full days ride from 5am till 6pm and we only managed to get to Phandar, 130 miles from Gilgit. The first 50 miles was good tar road but after that it was gravel, rock, sand, dust and more gravel! It took its toll on us as we got our first puncture (Gary) and Damian removing a pannier after contacting a rock, bringing him down. The rocky bed offers 2 tracks made by the jeeps, the left tight against the rockface with little room for the left pannier and the right track sometimes a few centimetres away from a 50m sheer drop to the river below. The aluminium Touratech (www.touratech.de) panniers are made for this type of terrain and after some panel beating, no shortage of rocks about to use, we continued on.

After a good nights rest in a simple guesthouse in Phandur, we continued the rocky, dusty trek to Gilgit. The roads in these areas are in constant repair. There were many areas where the road has had to be reconstructed over a different route due to the landslides. The roads are quite busy with local farmers using their tractors, cows and goats dotted along the route and local jeeps ferrying people about. So it's not just the road quality that you have to pay attention to: you come round a corner, concentrating 110 % to keep you front wheel in the rocky rut, and the road comes to an end, or there's a cow in your path, or a tractor, or a Caterpillar reconstructing the road. It's these things that demand your attention in order for you to stay upright! Oh and then don't forget it's a 50m-drop down a cliff to the river…

Anyhow we survived this "wee" challenge and reached Gilgit in one piece. The bikes didn't seem to bat an eyelid at the conditions (covered in dust, chains making all sorts of strange noises, being run at redline temperatures for most of the 2 days); they came through with flying colours, again! The last 40 miles before Gilgit is good tar so we enjoyed being back on the black stuff again!

At Gilgit we joined the official Karakoram Highway (KKH) for the first time. Heading north for the Chinese border we didn't seem to come across many petrol stations so we rode up to Sost, 90km from the actual border but officially the last immigration post on the Pakistan side. Still we had not seen any fuel so asked where the nearest petrol station was and found out that the one 5km north of Sost had run out of petrol. So we had to backtrack 100 kilometres down to Hunza to get fuel. This is known as one of the best places to ride a bike so it was a pleasure to ride the road over again, then back up to Passu for the night. We just managed to fill all 3 bikes before the last of the petrol in Hunza ran out: if we'd been 5 minutes later we might not have been so fortunate to visit the top of the KKH!

In Passu we stayed at Shisper View Hotel; a simple, friendly guesthouse. The manager, Sultan (www.twinadventurers.com/photos/Sultan.jpeg) , is a really friendly, hospitable chap and entertained us with his in depth knowledge of the area. His cousin, Abdul Kasim (shimshal20022002@yahoo.com) is a local tour guide and he gave us some useful information about the Shimshal region. Unfortunately the area has been hit by the lack of tourists this year and he, along with most of the tour operators in this region, has to seek other work to substitute their income. Email him if you are a keen hiker as there are some fantastic hiking trails of which he will be only too keen to provide information about.

We rode up to the top of the Khunjerab pass to the border of China the following day. The mildly cool conditions in Sost turned to snow and sleet at the top and we had all our winter riding gear on, something we have not had to take out since we left Austria months ago!
The Khunjerab national park has some wildlife but we only managed to see 2 of their rock rabbits: orange furry creatures about the size of a domestic cat. There are many animals that live here including snow leopards apparently.

It was a brief visit to the top due to the freezing conditions, at least we thought it was cold: we were amazed to see the locals building a border post barefoot at the top!

We rode back down to Passu and stayed another night at Shisper View Hotel so that we could walk up to the Shisper Glacier close by.

Although it appeared close to us from the KKH, the glacier took us over an hour to reach. We spent an hour walking around on the magnificent piece of solid ice. It certainly is an amazing feat to come face to face with this ice age phenomenon. On the way down, boys will be boys; we found a huge cliff face off which to roll large rocks down into the river below. The sound of a 50kg rock bounding its way down the mountainside certainly makes you feel tiny! We did hear and see some "natural" erosion of the glacier heating up and shedding some large ice blocks.

After Passu, the glacier and the wonderful Karakoram mountain range we started our journey south back toward Islamabad. We stopped in Gilgit to have a bite to eat, fill up petrol and change some money. We stopped off at Younas hotel and restaurant, just off the KKH on the road into Gilgit across the road from the Shell service station. The friendly English speaking owner, Khan Yasin Mohammad, was only too pleased to help us, as his tourist season has been almost non-existent up till now.

If anyone wants to visit this area (he will tailor a holiday for you whatever your interest - sport, hiking, jeep expeditions, etc.) you can send him a letter for information:

Khan Yasin Mohammad
Younas Hotel and Restaurant

Telephones are not that reliable but there is a contact number: (Pakistan code) (Gilgit code) 55681 and fax is 53776.

After lunch at Younas we got to Dasu by sunset and stayed at Kyber Lodge Hotel on the river Indus. This place has a good shop if you want to buy local guidebooks, T-shirts, posters, etc.

The KKH on this stretch is very demanding and requires a lot of concentration, as the effort to take this road over this area is immense. The road winds its way in and out of the rock face only allowing you to do around 35 mph at best. The road also gets busier the further south you go with local trucks and cars using the road frequently.

The next day this winding road continued, like it would never end! It certainly is beautiful but takes a lot out of you so be warned, take it easy and enjoy it rather than try to rush it.

We then made it to Islamabad via Abbottabad and the shortcut to Murree. The road from Abbottabad to Murree deserves a mention as it climbs its way high up into the clouds! It is a massive pass that didn't even register on our maps but it certainly is beautiful! The KKH head south from Abbottabad over the Salhad pass but we took the shorter route via Murree. It is a good road though can be quite busy with local tourists and trucks alike.

Today we are in Islamabad, Dom has got his shiny new screen so fitted it to the bike ready to attack those Indian roads with a vengence!

Tomorrow we will be heading to Lahore where we'll enter India the following day.

Itinerary of the last few days:

Thursday, 25 July
Chitral to Phandar. Distance 228 miles.

Friday, 26 July
Phandar to Gilgit. Distance 127 miles.

Saturday, 27 July
Gilgit to Passu via Sost. Distance 227 miles.

Sunday, 28 July
Passu to the Chinese border and back. Distance 158

Monday, 29 July
Passu to Dasu. Distance 252 miles.

Tuesday, 30 July
Dasu to Islamabad. Distance 220 miles.

Wednesday, 24 July 2002

We are currently in Chitral, Northern Pakistan. We have now been on the road 79 days and covered 9935 miles (15 900 kms).

Since leaving Islamabad a few days ago, we have started our ascent up the Hindu Kush Mountains before we head east toward the Karakoram mountain range (and the Karakoram Highway - KKH) toward the Chinese border.

We rode out of Islamabad on the road to Peshawar (close to the Afghanistan border) before turning north on the road up to Chitral. The quality of the road is not too bad but there are many potholes and a lot of vehicles using this road. However, once we had turned off the "main" road it became a lot quieter.

We reached Dir by 6pm and spent the night there. Dir is a small village set up on the slopes of a mountain overlooking the fertile valley below. Here we found some beautifully hand crafted knives, just one of the many items made to precision by the talented artisans this area has to offer. Excellent quality handmade pine furniture and steelwork seem to be some of the mainstream industries here, along with farming.

After Dir we headed further up the road over the Lowarai pass, an ascent up to 3100 metres over some rugged terrain. There is quite a bit of traffic using this route; HIACE taxi's ferrying people, lorries transporting goods and jeeps taking tourists up to the mountains. The Mastuj River winds its way down the valley and the road snakes its way up alongside it. There are many rock falls due to the heavy rain that falls during summer. We were lucky not to come across any blocked sections but are told to expect some further up this road.

It took us 5 hours over only 95 miles to reach Chitral, another village similar to Dir but much larger. It has an airport that is usually busy with tourists in summer. Since September 11 though, not many tourists have ventured out here this year. We are some of the few and so we have been treated to some great hospitality that would normally be shared out to hundreds! It is compulsory for foreigners visiting these remote areas to register at the local police station. On our visit this morning we found out just how badly September 11 and the Afghan war has affected the tourism in the region. Local tour operators who would normally be booked out at this time of the year are sitting around with little to do, and worse little money coming in! We had a look at the figures of years past (displayed on a wall chart) and there are usually 1000 people who visit here in summer. This year it is probably not going to top 100!

Tomorrow we head up toward Gilgit, though we will spend at least one night on the way there as it's too far to do in one day. We have been told by local sources that Phundar is a great place to spend some time: trout fishing and hiking being what most tourists usually spend time doing there.

The "road" officially ends just north of Chitral so we will be doing the 250 kilometres or so to Gilgit over nothing but jeep tracks. There is no tar from here onward and so it may be a few days before we reach Gilgit. The Shandur pass at an altitude of 3800 metres has to be crossed so we are in for some interesting riding over the next few days!

Itinerary of the last few days:

Monday, 22 July
Islamabad to Dir. Distance 215 miles.

Tuesday, 23 July
Dir to Chitral. Distance 95 miles.

Sunday, 21 July 2002

We are currently in Islamabad, Pakistan. We have now been on the road 76 days and covered 9625 miles (15 400 kms).

Since leaving Quetta on Wednesday, we have had a few challenging days on the bike.
After asking the local police, other travellers and reading our lonely planet guide we decided to use the "shorter" route from Quetta to Dera Ismail Khan, rather than the 200km longer route to Dera Ghazi Khan.

This route is relatively quiet and a good road from Quetta to Zhob. We had to cross a number of sections where the tar ends and there is a dirt section to the next bit of tar but it is usually not bad. From Zhob however, things changed as the weather played a part in the terrain. This region is a vast, mountainous desert and the riverbeds are frequent but we hadn't seen any with water flowing before leaving Zhob. But when the clouds open things change drastically. Almost every 5kms the riverbeds are very active with brown, muddy water streaming down the shortest route. Some of them are small and easily negotiated but others are knee high.

It took us about 3 hours to cover the first 50 kilometres outside Zhob and eventually there was a river we couldn't cross and it would be dark soon. We camped close to the river, hoping that by morning it would have subsided and we could easily get across it. By morning it had, and we continued on our route to Dera Ismail Khan. After crossing the same river 3 times in the first 10 kilometres, an early morning wake up and shake up, we rode out of the most dramatic gorge. There were steep overhanging cliffs and mostly in the shadow at that time of the morning, very scenic.

The "surprise" was yet to come, however, as the tar ended only a few kilometres into the days ride. This time the gravel, sand, mud and river sections were more demanding. It was also heating up at around 30 degrees by 9am and, as the riding became more physical through riverbeds, mud and sand, we began to feel quite fatigued. In 4 hours we covered just 60 kilometres with the odd topple every so often. Dom had one spectacular mudslide where he completely detached a pannier and flew through his front screen, removing it entirely. A new one is on its way from London via Karen and DHL so hopefully his bike will be "mended" soon. It's not comfortable riding at 100 km/h without a shield from the wind!

After that taxing day we reached Dera Ismail Khan, nothing more than an Oasis town alongside the Indus River. It is very warm here with the mercury reaching the high 40's during the day.

The next day was a nice break from the previous as we headed up north to Islamabad. The map suggested close to 600 kilometres as we departed at sunrise, but it was closer to 500 by the time we arrived by 3pm. Islamabad almost stands out of Pakistan as it is not like any of the towns we have visited. Instead of there being a busy city centre, everything is spread out into grids with each little community having it's own set of shops, restaurants and hotels. It's actually quite a nice break from the poverty stricken areas we have encountered up till now. There don't appear to be any main routes passing through it, where passing trucks push their thick diesel pollution into the atmosphere. It is a quiet, almost rural "town" with what appears to be not much going on. It is also amazingly "cool" in the middle of summer, humid but not the 40 degrees we have almost become accustomed to over the last week.

Tomorrow we head up to the Karakoram Highway (KKH), one of the worlds engineering wonders, a road built to join Pakistan with China. It starts just outside Islamabad and runs for over 1000 kilometres gaining nearly 4000 metres in altitude. It is carved out into the cliffs beside the Indus and Hunza rivers. Landslides and rock falls are frequent as a result of the earth tremors in the region. The road is constantly rebuilt and so it's course changes almost on a daily basis.

It is what many motorcyclists and cyclists alike travel from far and wide to come and ride. If you come to Pakistan and don't do the KKH then you are missing out on a part of Pakistan you will regret for a lifetime!

Itinerary of the last few days:

Wednesday, 18 July
Quetta to river outside Zhob (Fort Sanderman).
Distance 280 miles.

Thursday, 19 July
Outside Zhob (Fort Sanderman) to Dera Ismail Khan.
Distance 95 miles.

Friday, 20 July
Dera Ismail Khan to Islamabad. Distance 293 miles.

Wednesday, 17 July 2002

We are currently in Quetta, southern Pakistan. We have now been on the road 71 days and covered 8957 miles (14 331 kms).

We spent a day in Bam, an oasis town close to the Iran/Pakistan border and usually the first (those
travelling from Pakistan to Iran) or last (those travelling from Iran to Pakistan) tourist town visited
in Iran. We visited Arg-e Bam, the remains of a city built out of mud and inhabited by some 13000 people back in the 17th century.

On Monday we left early to get across into Pakistan at the border of Mirjaveh. The Lonely Planet states that the border is open from 7am to 8pm so we thought we'd get across in the afternoon, stay in Taftan just across the border and this would allow us a full day on the road without the hassle of a border crossing then trying to get to Quetta. However, perhaps just in summer - we don't know, the border on the Pakistan side is closed from 1pm till 4pm (immigration) and customs from 4pm till 6pm. It took us an hour to get through the Iran side and we arrived at 1:30pm on the Pakistan side to find that they were asleep for "lunch". We made good use of the time and changed some money, there are quite a few
changers offering a good rate, then had lunch at the "restaurant" at the border.

At 4pm the officials were awake and working again so we breezed through immigration. Heading onto Customs for the final hurdle we were told that they had just gone off duty and would be back at 6pm!

Anyway another 2 hour wait and finally we were able to check into the only hotel, the run down PTDC, and get some "rest". This hotel is government owned so right next door to the customs office. It is expensive at more than US $ 10 each and there was no electricity or running water! Taftan is not more than a squatter camp of a town in the middle of the desert! We do not recommend doing the same thing if you are doing this route.

It would probably be better to stay the other side of the border, perhaps in Zehadan or closer if you can. We met a Swiss couple that did this and got through the border at 7am in 2 hours with no such problems.


Quetta is another milestone in our trip, we spoke about this town many years ago and finally we are here. It's a long, hard struggle to reach it from Iran due to the vast desert that has to be crossed. Most people do the 650 km sandy haul in 2 days but we decided to put ourselves and the bikes to the test and do it in one. It's the best part of 50 degrees centigrade in places now in mid summer. It was probably the hardest thing we have done on a motorbike and took us from 6am to 6pm to complete. It was also the longest day we have had on the bike so far at 401 miles.

The road is single track from Dalbandin, about half way and so when trucks or busses are coming the other way you have to get off the tar as the biggest vehicle takes preference! The drivers are not aggressive and do slow right down for you, flash lights and wave a friendly greeting. We met a few Pakistan truckers and were amazed at the pride they take in their vehicles. They decorate them like Christmas trees with jingling chains and some intricately painted art on every square inch of metal.

There are a number of police check points along the way, perhaps 10, but we were only asked to stop 3 times for passport checks. The officials are very friendly and it appears there are no problems in this area.

We eventually got our weary selves to the Marina hotel at about 7pm. They insisted on us driving our bikes through the front door and putting the bikes into the courtyard within the hotel complex. This was not as easy as they made out! Riding a 250kg motorbike up 3 steps and through a normal door takes a little skill! They did provide a door laid over the steps that we could ride up so it proved to be a little easier than first thought.

We have noticed a change in the Pakistan people compared to the Iranians. Although they gather around you when you stop, they seem more interested in you than the bike. If you move away from the bike, rather than stay with the bike and ogle at it, they will move to where you are going.

Today we decided to have a day off as we've been on the move for the last 5 days without a break, covering 2500 kilometres.

There is some maintenance to be done on the bikes with oil and tyre pressure checks as well as changing of chain and sprockets of Gary's bike.

Tomorrow we continue north up toward Islamabad, parallel to the Afghanistan border. It is probably a good 2 days before we reach Islamabad where we are looking forward to the beginning of the Karakoram Highway (KKH), 1600 km of breathtaking road climbing it's way up to the Karakoram mountain range. We are told this area has the most roads above 4000m in the world and thus it's a motor bikers paradise!

Itinerary of the last few days:

Sunday, 14 July
Kermãn to Bam. Distance 125 miles.

Monday, 15 July
Bam to Taftan. Distance 365 miles.

Tuesday, 16 July (longest day on the bikes so far) The
hardest day for sure!!
Taftan to Quetta. Distance 401 miles.


Saturday, 14 July 2002

We are currently in Kermãn, south-eastern Iran. We have now been on the road 68 days and covered 8066 miles (12 906 kms).

In the past 2 days we have covered 675 miles (1080 kms). Due to our visa problems we are moving quite quickly to get to Pakistan before our transit visa expires in 2 days time (16 July).

We got up at 5am and rode south all day from Esfahan to Shiraz where we arrived at sunset. We had planned to be at our destination at just after lunchtime to avoid being on the road in the heat of the day, which is between 2pm and 6pm when it's like an oven! However, a detour over some mountains due to roadwork led us to a police check that took up an hour's precious time. Once we had left that behind we pressed on but were again stopped by the police in the town of Yasuj. Here the police didn't seem to appear to know what they were doing? We were asked for our passports and then asked to follow an officer, who had our passports, to the police station. At the station another officer took our passports and asked us to follow him. This went on for some time before we were taken to a unit on the outskirts of town and asked to wait again. This process of following police cars around and waiting for goodness knows what, took up the best part of 3 hours. To add to the problem, there were no English speakers who could tell us what we were being held for. Eventually we tried to explain that our visas were limited and that we had to be in out of Iran and enter Pakistan within 3 days. We still had a long distance to cover in order to make it in time and their "game" was not doing us any favours! They agreed to let us go but took details of our passports and we carried on, but in the heat of the day, something we had planned for by getting up at 5am!!

On Saturday we got up even earlier, at 4:30am, and rode to Kermãn. We weren't stopped at any police checks and arrived at 3pm, avoiding the heat as planned. The Iranian drivers kept us on our toes with their erratic driving. There were a few close calls including a bus pushing us off the road but we managed to keep our cool. We crossed the Daryãche-e Bakhtegan desert from Shiraz to Sirjan, which took us 2 hours, riding at 100km per hour so you can appreciate how big it is. In places it felt like a sauna and the bikes heating up in the mid summer conditions but not showing any signs of fatigue at all. It certainly is a pleasure to ride these machines in such conditions as now we begin to appreciate just how robust and hardy they are. Since entering Iran 8 days ago we have covered 1722 miles (2755 kms), 2 of those days have not included any riding! It has been tough going but quite enjoyable all the same, we are certainly learning things about how the body copes under such conditions: little sleep/food, heat in excess of 40 degrees and the Iranian drivers making sure you have to concentrate 110% while on the bike.

Tomorrow we have an easy day from Kermãn to Bam, which is around 200kms. We'll spend tomorrow doing the touristy things around Bam as it will be our last day in Iran before heading for Taftan and Pakistan the following day.

Itinerary of the last few days:

Friday, 12 July
Esfahan to Shiraz. Distance 315 miles.

Saturday, 12 July
Shiraz to Kermãn. Distance 360 miles.

Thursday, 11 July 2002

We are currently in Esfahan, central Iran. We entered Iran on Saturday 6 July so have been here for almost a week now. We have been on the road 66 days and covered 7391 miles (11 826 kms).

After leaving Dogubeyazit, the last town of Eastern Turkey, we entered Iran at the border of Bazargan. There were few hiccups and we were through the border within 2 hours.

We noticed an almost immediate change upon entering Iran. The people are extremely friendly to tourists and make you feel at home at once! They are not trying to sell you anything and they do not want anything from you, they simply want to speak to you and learn about where you are from and what you are doing in their country.

We rode east to reach Tabriz, one of Iran's biggest cities, a good days ride from the border. Here we spent two nights hoping to extend our 5-day transit visa for at least 5 days, hopefully a few weeks. Within a few hours of arriving in Tabriz, we had made a few friends. Hassan, Majid, Mojtaba and Salman invited us to join them for dinner on the second night. We obliged and, 6 up in a traditional Iranian Taxi, the Paykan, we headed out for the night. They refused when we tried to pay for anything and we had Iranian pizza followed by drinks in the park close by. The hospitality is overwhelming when you consider how little these people have. Unemployment is very high and many people live on the breadline, yet they are so friendly!

After leaving Tabriz, with no visa extension, we decided to try Tehran on the advice of the foreign affairs officials in Tabriz. En route to Tehran we spent a day at Gazvin, a bustling little town close to the mountains. The next day we did a day trip up to Alamut, a small village up in the mountains. The roads are awesome for a motorbike, twisting their way up over the pass and down into the valley in which Alamut lies. Here we visited the ruins of the 11th century Castle of the Assassins, set high up on the mountain overlooking Alamut. The castle is aptly named because Hasan Sabbah, Ismaili cult founder, doped candidates who wished to join him against the then rulers of Iran. They were then sent on missions to wipe out the opposition. We were treated to a royal visit as some 8 local historians joined us up to the summit where the ruins now remain. Afterwards we were invited in for tea and cherries, one of the many fruits produced in the summer by the village below. The region has only 3 months of summer when they harvest their abundance of fruit (apricots, cherries, rice, peaches, etc) and the population swells to some 5000. In the harsh winter this area is almost uninhabited, with only 200 people remaining in the village. The rest seek work in other parts of the country, mostly in Tehran.

A 6am start the next day saw us reach Tehran at 9am and we eventually found the foreign office, after negotiating the Tehran rush hour traffic that reminded us of being in an arcade game! Lanes are not really adhered to in Iran; taxis, small motorbikes and local cars simply change lanes at will, finding the most aerodynamic way forward whatever the direction! We certainly had to have our wits about us on the motorway, as a car moving 3 lanes in about as many seconds is not uncommon!

After almost 3 hours of pleading unsuccessfully for a visa extension with the government officials at the foreign office, we decided to get out of Tehran. Tehran to Esfahan is usually a good days ride at some 500 kms, but as we departed at noon, it was a long day for us. There is little in between Tehran and Esfahan so we rode non-stop through the heat of the day to reach Esfahan after sunset. This has been our longest day on the bikes so far, 400 miles (640 kms), and probably one of the most taxing too! But, as our 5 day transit visa was about to come to an end the following day, we had to no option but to try one last time in Esfahan to extend it or face the unknown at the frequent police road blocks.

This whole visa saga has left a sour taste in our mouths and so here's a word of advice on anyone hoping to visit Iran: Get a 30-day tourist visa!!

We have spent a day in Esfahan, half a day extending our visa at the (only!?) helpful foreign office and the other half sightseeing. Esfahan used to be the capital of Iran years ago and there are many palaces and monuments showing this, which are well worth a visit.

Unfortunately our time has been cut short in Iran due to our visa complications. We had hoped to spend close to a month here but now we are forced to leave within 10 days. The people are so friendly, it is extremely cheap (petrol is 6 US cents per litre) and there is much to do and see but it's not to be for us.

Tomorrow we will head south to Shiraz, where we'll spend a day, then we move east to Kerman, Bam and Pakistan over the border within the next 5 days.

It has been enlightening to be able to visit Iran as we had heard so much about it. The roads are extremely good and the scenery picturesque. It is one of the few countries with such a variation in climate: In the north toward the Caspian Sea, it is warm in summer but very cold in winter. Here there are fertile valleys, where export quality fruit is grown and the Alborz Mountains are snow-capped throughout summer. Much of Eastern Iran is uninhabited due to the deserts, which take up most of its countryside. Tehran, in the centre, is the capital with 12 million people. In the south the Persian Gulf offers a coastal climate and has ports busy ferrying oil out to much of the world.

Itinerary of the last few days:

Saturday, 6 July
Dogubeyazit to Tabriz. Distance 199 miles.

Sunday, 7 July
No riding, day spent in Tabriz.

Monday, 8 July
Tabriz to Gazvin. Distance 303 miles.

Tuesday, 9 July
Day trip from Gazvin up to Alamut. Distance 144 miles.

Wednesday, 10 July
Gazvin to Esfahan via Tehran. Distance 400 miles -
Longest day so far!

Friday, 5 July 2002

We are currently in Dogubeyazit, staying at Murat Pension. Dogubeyazit is the last town before Iran and we had planned to leave early this morning for the border. However, due to Dom having his credit card cancelled for some unknown reason and Gary being a bit sick, we will go to Iran tomorrow morning. We have now been on the road 60 days and covered 6233 miles (9973 kms).

After leaving Tatvan on Lake Van, we rode up to the top of Nemrut Dagi, another similar named 2500m volcano to the one we saw a few days ago, that towers over Lake Van covered in snow. This region is really mountainous and from the top you can see many snow capped mountains all around the lake.

We found a crystal clear, volcanic lake up in the huge crater of Nemrut and camped under the stars for the night. It was quite cold up on the mountain but extremely beautiful.

We must have eaten something suspect over the last 2 days as Dom and Gary have had some tummy troubles but nothing to stop the hardy type!

Yesterday we rode up from Tatvan to Dogubeyazit, mostly alongside Lake Van. The roads were great, lovely tar with very few potholes and we were able to sit at a comfortable 100km per hour most of the way. On approach to Dogubeyazit, Mount Arrarat towers up into the clouds above the dwarfed town. It is largest mountain in Turkey at a staggering 5137m.

We met a Swiss couple from Bern staying at Murat who are doing a similar route to us by camper van. They will also be entering Iran tomorrow but their itinerary is somewhat different to ours, as they'll be heading up north to the Caspian Sea within a few days.

Itinerary of the last few days:

Wednesday, 3 July
Tatvan up to Nemrut Dagi. Distance 55 miles.

Thursday, 4 July
Nemrut Dagi to Dogubeyazit. 185 miles.

Friday, 5 July
No riding, stayed at Dogubeyazit.


Tuesday, 2 July 2002

We are currently in Tatvan, camping alongside Lake Van in Eastern Turkey. We have made up a few days by riding all day over the past few days so now have a few days on hand to catch up with servicing the bikes and visiting the sites around Lake Van before heading for the border of Dogbayzit later in the week to enter Iran. We have now been on the road 57 days and covered 5981 miles (9570 kms).

We spent 2 days in the Cappadocia region and enjoyed the history the region has to offer. We stayed in Göreme and hiked through the Rose and Dick valleys. The area was apparently used in the filming of Star Wars due to its alien rock formation appearance. The area has had numerous volcanic eruptions to form what are now hundreds of mushroom shapes of rock. There are some tall, some short, some fat and some thin. The region is well known for the ancient Christian churches and underground dwellings that people travel from far and wide to see. Many years ago when the Arabs forbade Christianity, Christians were persecuted and so they took their religion underground. There are 2 cities built underground into the lava around 35 metres deep. There are also many churches built into the mushroom like rock. The Christians painted the most exquisite emblems of Christ among others. Most of the faces on these were destroyed by the Arabs but for a few.
The area is popular with hot air balloons and so at 6am you are woken up with their engines pumping flames into the balloons. It's quite an awesome sight to see at just after sunrise, silhouettes of half a dozen balloons floating over the strange formations.

After leaving Cappadocia, we spent the longest day on the bikes so far. We covered close on 600km to reach Nemrut Dagi. We were up at 6am to arrive at 6pm halfway up this 2500m mountain. The temperatures are well into the 30's now and with the tar heating up the air, probably closer to the 40's out on the road! Our route took us through some lovely authentic Turkish towns of Pinarbasi, Karamanaras and Golbasi, though we didn't have much time to stop and appreciate them.
We were stopped by the police again for speeding! The Turkish seem to have the most up to date equipment and they had a beautiful colour digital photo of Dominic in their on board computer with 100kph below it! Fortunately we managed, again, to talk our way out of the situation and another TL 40m each (GBP20) fine! The national speed limit is 70 kph (45mph) but you don't often come across the signs.

Nemrut Dagi is well known for the huge statues that were carved out of limestone and erected at the top of this great mountain. However, an earthquake had the upper hand and a few years ago the statues were damaged, causing the heads and various other parts to fall onto the floor. They are currently trying to resurrect these to restore them to their original state. The heads alone are around 2m in height and must weigh in excess of 300 kilograms.
We rode up to summit to see the sunrise at 4:30am, along with 10 other minibuses of local tourists who had come to do the same thing. The view is spectacular, overlooking the great volume of water the Euphrates carries to the sea. It is quite chilly up at the top so it's advisable to dress warmly if you are to do the sunrise bit.

After the early start watching the sunrise we rode all day to reach Tatvan on Lake Van. This lake is huge and reminds us of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe due to its size.
The roads are getting progressively worse with potholes and gravel sections becoming more prominent. The military roadblocks are also every so often but we have yet to be stopped by one of them, they simply wave us through.

Today is service day for the bikes as we have covered almost 10 000km since leaving London 2 months ago. We will be changing the oil and oil filters and cleaning the robust K&N filters that we have been sponsored.

We met Joseph Pichler and his wife, Renata, at the campsite in Tatvan. He is an extremely well travelled individual with not much in the world he hasn't seen by motorbike. He was very interesting to chat to and gave us a lot of advice for our trip regarding Iran and India as well as general advice on where to go and what to see.
His current trip is from his home in Austria via Turkey, Iran, Kazakhstan and Tibet to Beijing in China. He has some great sponsors of which one is KTM. He has the new 640 equipped with some Touratech equipment.

We will visit Nemrut Dagi (another one!) today. It is alongside Lake Van where there is a hot spring as well as some other interesting things of an historical nature. From there we will make our way over to the Iranian border of Dogbayzit.

Itinerary of the last few days:

Saturday 29 June
No riding, 2 hikes around Göreme in Cappadocia.

Sunday 30 June
Göreme to Nemrut Dagi. Longest day so far - distance 391 miles.

Monday 1 July
Nemrut Dagi to Tatvan. Distance 274 miles.

Friday, 28 June 2002

We are currently visiting the Cappadocia region and staying in Göreme in central Turkey. Since leaving Kusadasi we have followed the picturesque coastline until turning inland this morning. We have now been on the road 53 days and covered 5316 miles (8506 kms).

After leaving Kusadasi we visited Bodrum, where Damian had some news that he had to return to London to sort out some paper work. Damian spent 6 days back in London, though it took him the best part of 2 days to fly back to London then back to Bodrum.

Dominic and Gary, after doing a scuba dive with Balci diving in Kusadasi, got quite sick and had to spend a few days in bed to recover from the flu like symptoms they had. We can only put this down to poor hygiene on the part of the scuba diving company. Anyhow Damian was back in London and Dom and Gary were in bed so not all was lost. A bit of sightseeing was done in and around the Bodrum peninsula. Dom and Gary did a boat trip for a day and rode around the peninsula for a day on the bikes.

Once Damian arrived back we pushed on to Fethiye, which is about 250km further down the lovely Turkish coast. This was similar to Bodrum in that it's purely a boating paradise with little room for beach activities.

Our trip has had some influence from the World Cup in that we have at least something to talk to the locals about. Turkey reached the semi finals, the best ever performance by them in the World Cup. The Turkish flags have never been so prominent, they can be seen on t-shirts, car windows, restaurants, even the motorcyclists have them attached to their bikes!

Our Turkish is coming along well and we can now greet, ask how the person is, say thank you as well as goodbye and a few other phrases we have learnt along the way.

Here is our short Turkish phrase book (spelt as spoken - we have yet to learn Turkish symbols!)

Merhaba - Hello;
Nassilsen - How are you?
Eem - I am well
Tish a ker e durum - Thank you
Lutfen - please
Guzelle - Beautiful ) These 2 go together
Bayan - woman )
Istirim - I want
Tam depo - full tank
Hessap - bill
Gule gule - Goodbye
Gune Afrika - South Africa

And last but not least (though we have not used it often enough…)

Ruyalaramin Kadinusm - You are the girl of my dreams!

We seem to pick up phrases almost daily and the locals are impressed when we speak to them in their own language.

Whilst in Fethiye we did an off road daytrip up Baba Dagi, a mountain almost 2000 metres above sea level. It is a paradise for Para gliders as the view it offers is breathtaking. We could count more than 30 thrill seekers in the sky after watching them launch themselves off the almost sheer drop down to the Mediterranean. The mountain overlooks Ouldeniz, a beach only a postcard can depict - absolutely fantastic! The sea is turquoise and the beach like one from the Caribbean.
The off road on the bikes was incredible, about 30km climbing from sea level up to the top.

Yesterday, after some visa considerations: we have to be in Iran before 10 July with our current visas issued in London, we decided to put in some mileage and get as far as possible in the next few days. We left Fethiye and travelled down the coast to Olympos, where we stayed at the friendly Cemil Pension. Cemil Köylüoglu is an extremely friendly guy and the food was excellent!
Cirali is unique in that it boasts one of the few natural methane gas discharges in the world. The gas seeps out from the cracks in the rock face and ignites naturally once it's exposed to oxygen. The flames are visible for miles and burn constantly 365 days of the year attracting tourists worldwide.

Pushing on along the coast we travelled past Antalya, touristy Manavgat and Alanya staying close to Anamur last night. The roads along the coast are quite hard work but really enjoyable. They remind us again of South Africa as they are built into the cliffs like Chapman's Peak close to Cape Town. They did take their toll on our concentration though, as they wind their way in and out with nothing but the sea down below, sapping the energy and requiring a few caffeine stops to keep us going.

Today we covered more than 500km, our longest day so far, to reach Göreme in the heart of Cappadocia. With a 6am start to counteract the heat, we drove down the coast almost to Adana before turning inland to reach our destination at 6pm. Some say this is a holiday but days like this are damn hard work - the enjoyable type though!!
We passed through Mersin and Tarsus before heading inland via Pozanti and over the Caykavak pass at 1600m. This area is very mountainous with 3 snow-capped volcanoes visible - Melendiz (2963m), Göllü (2143m) and Erciyes (3916m).

Today things seemed to have changed quite a bit on a few fronts:

Weather: The humid coastal temperatures of the past few weeks are now cool and cloudy conditions with snow capped mountains close by;

People: The beaches with local and foreign tourists have changed to less wealthy, rural inhabitants. It's not uncommon to see a family of 4 on a moped!
The locals are very hospitable and friendly. Wherever we pass or stop we are always greeted with smiles and inquisitive looks, people only too keen to learn about where we are from and what we are doing!

Vegetation: The bananas, tomatoes, cherries, olives that thrive in the humid coastal conditions have now changed to maize and potatoes.

We seemed to have cracked the local traffic police. They appear on almost every corner outside a town waiting for some summer pocket money from some unsuspecting tourists. We were pulled over for overtaking today and after submitting our passports to the officer, he demanded Turkish Lira 40 million (20 British pounds).
Showing little cash, we pleaded poverty with only visa cards as our source of finance.
After some chit chat about the football, us in broken Turkish and him in broken English we went away paying only TL 10 m. Who knows what we are in store for next time!

We hope to visit the Derinkulu underground city tomorrow among the other touristy things this exquisite area has to offer before moving further east on Sunday via Lake Van.

Itinerary of the last few days:

Monday 17 June
Kusadasi to Bodrum. Distance 123 miles.

Tuesday 18 - Sunday 23 June
Stayed in Bodrum with one-day trip around the peninsula. Distance 67 miles.

Monday 24 June
Bodrum to Fethiye. Distance 157 miles.

Tuesday 25 June
Daytrip around Fethiye (Baba Dagi and Oludeniz). Distance 57 miles.

Wednesday 26 June
Fethiye to Olympos. Distance 168 miles.

Thursday 27 June
Olympos to Anamur. Distance 205.

Friday 28 June
Anamur to Göreme in Cappadocia. Distance 325 miles.


Monday 24 June - Turkey

Following Karen's departure last Sunday we spent one more night in Kusadasi. On Monday we rode the 130km to Bodrum and arrived around lunchtime. Dom and Gary have been quite ill with a throat infection that we think has something to do with the diving they both did in Kusadasi. They've been recovering for a few days while Damian flew back to London on Tuesday to sort out some official business. Dom and Gary went on boat trip to one of the Turkish islands and have been riding around the area on their bikes.

Damian rejoined the group on Sunday night in Bodrum and they rode to Fethiye on Monday. The area is very mountainous with snow on the tops on the mountains. It's quite a change from the terrain of the last few weeks.

Sunday 16 June 2002 - Turkey

We have just spent a week on the beach at Kusadasi, a coastal resort about 100km south of Izmir on Turkeys' west coast. We have now been on the road 41 days and covered 4220 miles (6752 kms) and are currently staying in Kusadasi, a coastal resort on the west coast of Turkey.

The past week has been an almost complete break from travelling. Karen, Damian's wife, has been with us for just over a week. She has not seen Damian since his departure from London so they are both very happy to have been able to spend some quality time together. It may be some time yet before they see each other again with Iran, Pakistan and India on the horizon!

We travelled south from Ayvalik through Izmir to Kusadasi and found a very good hotel after some bargaining. We have been staying at Emek Pansiyon for the past 10 days. It is a clean, well-kept, self-catering block with a lovely pool and very hospitable owners. We each have our own en suite rooms with fridges and, as this is the first time we are staying in such luxury, we are not sure we want to leave just yet!

We have done some maintenance on the bikes thanks to Karen bringing out some necessary spares. Damian and Gary have both replaced their front brake disks (bent by disk locks back in London) and the long awaited Öhlins shock has been fitted to Gary's bike.

We have had a few day trips out from Kusadasi as there are a few tourist attractions close by. Half a day was spent visiting Ephesus, the largest Roman ruins dating back hundreds of years. These were not as impressive as first thought, quite expensive and took all of 2 hours to see.
Another day was spent at the Aqua Park, which was great fun! As the mercury has not dropped below 30 degrees centigrade since our arrival, each day has had some water activity be it snorkelling, diving, swimming, boating or the like. The rides at the aqua park were another way to enjoy what seems to be Turkeys' abundance of water! There has been no rain but yet people seem quite content to wash the streets and top up pools to their hearts content.

On Thursday we did a day out on the boat, across the huge bay in which Kusadasi is situated. The boat was quite spacious, fitting about 30 people quite comfortably. The highlight was stopping in a quiet, unspoiled cove and doing some snorkelling. Though this coastline doesn't seem to have much sea life, we did manage to see a few colourful wrasse, an octopus and the odd rock cod, tucked under the algae covered shelves.

We did a daytrip out toward Cesme across the bay from Kusadasi on Friday. The weather certainly seems to be heating up and on the road the temperature was around 35 degrees. We stopped at a remote beach for some snorkelling and Dom thought he'd turn around on the beach itself! While turning around he got stuck with the back wheel spinning deep into the sand. As he signalled to the others not to join him Gary followed and got even deeper! Anyway with a few helping hands: Karen and Damian pushing from behind, we managed to launch the bikes back up to harder ground.

Dom and Gary did a scuba dive early on Saturday morning. There is a small reef about 1km off Kusadasi that is at about 5 metres under the surface. There was not really much to see but a fairly large grouper did appear for a few seconds.

The beach as Kusadasi is where we have spent a lot of time over the past 10 days. The weather has been superb, as has the talent, which daily lines the beach! Our tans have never looked so good! This resort seems to be filled mostly with local Turkish holidaymakers but there are a few European tourists about. It is not yet high season so perhaps that is all about to change?

Next week Karen will be back in London and we will continue our journey south to Bodrum and continue along the coast.

Itinerary of the last few days:

Thursday 6 June
Ayvalik to Kusadasi. Distance 167 miles.

Friday 14 June
Day trip: Kusadasi toward Cesme. Distance 97 miles.

Other than that, no real travel as such but about 100 miles of odd journeys around this area.


Wednesday, 5 June 2002 - Greece/Turkey

We have finally made it to Asia after spending nearly a month in Europe. We have been on the road 29 days and covered 3815 miles (5629 kms) and are currently camping close to Izmir on the west coast of Turkey.

Our last few days in Greece were really great and we met some interesting people and visited some great places.

We spent another day in Cavalla and then took a ferry to the Island of Thassos, just off the coast from Cavalla. In Cavalla we met a friendly Greek guy, Giotis, who recommended spending some time on the island of Thassos because, being an offroader himself (he has a Honda 600R), it's paradise for it's off roads. Thassos is beautiful and popular with tourists who enjoy the crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches. We camped close to the beach and spent a half-day swimming in the crisp Aegean Sea. The other half was spent doing some fantastic off road inland on Thassos Island. Here we found miles and miles of unspoiled rocky roads and we loved every minute of it. It had its thrills and spills but nobody actually crashed though there were some close calls!

After Thassos we moved further eastward, catching the ferry from Thassos to Kermati and rode to Alexandrapoulis. Here we camped quite close to the town but met a local biker, Telis, who invited us to have a few beers with them at their motorbike clubhouse that evening. They provided us with some great information regards travelling to Turkey and some maintenance for our Africa Twins.
Telis seems to have specialised in this and you can check out more on his site: http://www.telis-xrv750.cityslide.com


We then travelled to Istanbul on the new motorway, which has been built to accommodate the Athens 2004 Olympics. It's a great road and compared to some of the others we encountered in Greece, probably the best we've seen.

Our first real border crossing was a breeze and we had to provide our carnets for the first stamp. After about 45 minutes we were in Turkey without any hassle.

On our way through Turkey, we had our fair share of corrupt policeman. The first "offense" was for speeding (we were travelling the same speed as the locals but only we were pulled over!) about an hour outside Istanbul. Here, 2 well-equipped policemen with brand new BMW bikes pulled us over and told us we had been speeding and the fine was 80 million Turkish Lira each (GBP£1 = TL1, 000,000). On opening our wallets this was immediately reduced to 20 million. No tickets were issued and the money simply went into the officer's pockets. They then proceeded to drive off, obviously to go and do a similar thing somewhere down the road to some other poor unsuspecting tourists like us!

Once we arrived in Istanbul, we realised the change from 1st world Europe to 3rd world Asia. Every corner was met with some local trying to sell you something! Istanbul was quite a nightmare to find accommodation by motorbike. After asking several locals, who included a siren driver escort by a policeman who got lost, we were eventually rescued by a local friendly Africa Twin rider, Alisan Yargici. He led us to a friendly hotel in the heart of Sultana met, the touristy part where our friends Clive and Mandy were also staying.

The Best Hippodrome hotel we stayed at is very reasonably priced; biker friendly and we certainly recommend it to anyone visiting Istanbul. They insisted we park our bikes right in front of the hotel and they were well cared for and guarded 24 hours.

After settling into our spacious 3-bed room including bathroom, the best accommodation we've had in weeks, we met up with Clive and Mandy for dinner.

The next day was spent site seeing around Istanbul where we visited the Hagia Sofia mosque, one of the largest of it's kind. We also saw the ancient underground Roman Basilica cistern, which was a secret water storage system many centuries ago.

Istanbul is not Mediterranean; most people go out and eat early. By midnight things are very quiet but for a few tourists about. After dinner it's custom to smoke a shish (hubbly bubbly) in Turkey. As some of us had not done this before it was quite a funny experience to watch! Check out the photos of the "novice" shish smokers.

We visited the Bosphorus, which separates Europe from Asia and crossed the bridge the following day on our bikes. In the evening we did a boat trip up along the Bosphorus up to the bridge and back.

After leaving Istanbul behind, we spent 3 days there; we caught the ferry to Bandirma. The 2-hour crossing was in a large, high-speed ferry that would usually take 5 hours. It is relatively cheap at TL 24 million (US$ 24) and almost like an aircraft with business class and economy class seats.
We drove down to Canakkale and caught another small ferry to Eceabat across the Dardanelles, where the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand army core) troops were deployed in the 1st world war.
We visited ANZAC cove, where they had landed all those years ago and where so many died trying to take control of the Gallipolis peninsula. There are numerous cemeteries for both the ANZAC and Turkish troops paying tribute to all who gave their lives for their countries.
We found many Australian, New Zealand and South African tourists in the area and stayed at the backpacker lodge they were at in Eceabat. It was great to socialise among them with no language barrier for a change!

We continued south yesterday, down towards Izmir, where we'll meet Karen, Damian's wife, on Saturday.

Today we are going to visit the ancient Acropolis about 50km from our campsite as part of a days sightseeing in this area.

Tomorrow we will continue south closer to Izmir and hopefully find a cheap hotel in which to spend a few days at the beach. We also have one days maintenance to do on the bikes before Karen arrives on Saturday.

We will be spending a week close to Izmir while Karen is here with us and perhaps visiting another Greek Island (perhaps Kos or Rhodes) if our visas permit!

Itinerary of the last few days:

Tuesday 28 May
Day spent at Cavalla, no travel.

Wednesday 29 May
Ferry to Island of Thassos, off Cavalla. Distance 96 miles, mostly off road.

Thursday 30 May
Ferry back to mainland at Kermati. Rode Kermati to Alexandrapoulis, distance 104 miles.

Friday 31 May
Alexandrapoulis to Istanbul, distance 208 miles.

Saturday 1 June
Tourists in Istanbul, no riding.

Sunday 2 June
Short day trip to Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, distance 30 miles.

Monday 3 June
Ferry from Istanbul to Bandirma. Rode to Canakkale and then ferry to Ecebat. Distance 175 miles.

Tuesday 4 June
Eceabat (ferry) Canakkale to Ayadak. Distance 122 miles.

Monday 27 May 2002 - Greece

We are currently in Cavalla, 200km east of Thessalonica in Greece. We have been on the road for 21 days and covered 3041 miles (4866 km).

After leaving lovely Sorrento below Naples we headed around the peninsula via Amalfi. This area is truly a gem in Italy's geography. It was only some 50 miles but took us almost 2 hours to get around the narrow coastal roads. It reminded us of the Cape coastline in South Africa, similar to navigating your way around Chapman's peak.

After leaving the West coast, we headed east toward the ferry port of Brindisi. We stopped briefly in Matera to see the Roman village of Sassi before making camp just outside in a rye grass field due to the lack of campsites close to the ferry.

It was an early start (6am) to get to Brindisi and we managed to get onto the daily 10:30 sailing without any hiccups.
We didn't realise this would take up most of the day but found it a good time to enjoy some relaxation. The ferry arrived at Corfu at 6:30 pm and then finally at Igoumenitsa at 8:30pm.

We found a campsite on the beachfront and spent the night in Igoumenitsa as we had run out of daylight by the time the ferry made it to land.

Friday was spent mostly on the bike as we headed east, closer to Turkey. Most people do the Igoumenitsa to Thessalonica ride over 2 days but we found it possible to do it in one. The road crossed over the Voria Pindos Mountains to Grevena so there were some lovely scenic passes. After Kozani toward Veria, the road had some lovely 50mph sweeping corners.
Once we had navigated our way through Thessalonica with the kind help of a few locals, we found a campsite on the beachfront 30km south at Epanomi.

We chose to have a day at the beach for Damian's birthday and chill out to enjoy the sunshine. We managed to wash the bikes, do a little maintenance and catch up on some other necessary chores (washing clothes, communication).

On Sunday we continued our journey eastward and arrived at Cavalla, some 200km east of Thessalonica, at around 5pm. We are camping right on the beachfront away from the town centre. We caught a taxi into town last night for dinner and did a bit of sightseeing. This town is used as a port to ferry people to and from the popular Greek islands, of which some are visible from the shore.
Today we plan to visit the Internet café for a few hours and enjoy our time on the beach, though it's not the 30 degrees we were expecting!

We hope to be in Istanbul by Saturday the 1st to meet up with Clive and Mandy, who will kindly be bringing out some spares for us.

Itinery of the last few days:

Wednesday 22 May
Sorrento, around the peninsula, to Matera. Distance 223 miles.

Thursday 23 May
6am Matera to Brindisi and the day spent on the ferry to Igoumenitsa. Distance 95 miles.

Friday 24 May
Igoumenitsa to Epanomi (south of Thessalonica) Distance 280 miles.

Saturday 25 May
Spent the day at Epanomi. Damian's birthday spent at the beach, no travelling.

Sunday 26 May
Epanomi to Cavalla Distance 122 miles.

Monday 27 May
Spent the day at Cavalla, no travelling.

Tuesday 21 May 2002 - Italy

We are currently in Sorrento, Italy close to Naples. We have been on the road for 15 days and completed 2320 miles (3700 km). Sorrento is a small village located south east of Naples out on a peninsula.
We have been in Italy a little longer than planned due to its unexpected diversity. We have found it to be a really diverse and interesting place with beautiful beaches, lovely mountains and lush green landscape.
This is ideal landscape for both the motorcyclist and cyclist. We spent some time both in Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. On our way south toward the eastern port of Brindisi we spent most of our time on the scenic back roads. Some of the passes we crossed over included Mandriola and Carnaio, which both rise to above 1250 meters. These roads are a popular attraction to the local riders too and they kindly greet as you pass.We were going to spend a day to catch up with the Giro di Italia (Italy's version of the Tour de France) but we were always one day ahead of their schedule. We followed the route and passed through the town of Orvieto where the 14th stage finished.
We stayed 40km north of Rome at lake Bracciano and used that as a base to do a daytrip into Rome to do the touristy thing.
In between thunderstorms we managed to see the Vatican City and the Coliseum. From Rome we headed further south to Sorrento, just south east of Naples where we are now. The peninsula is really a beautiful setting with loads of tourists about. We had sundowners on the edge of a cliff overlooking the horizon and the most awesome sunset we've seen for a while (no such thing in London!).
There were 3 cruise liners hugging the coastline and heading further onward. We watched them approach as the sun set, then saunter off into the dark, their lights glimmering off the water.We spent a day site seeing around Naples. We rode up the pass to the top of Mount Vesuvius and walked up to the crater. From the top you can overlook Naples and see where the lava flowed down the mountain towards the sea. Pompeii can also be seen in the distance, this is the most famous of Vesuvius eruptions back in 79AD.
We then visited Pompeii, 66 Hectares of roman city buried by ash for hundreds of years by one of Vesuvius eruptions. This has recently been discovered and they are still excavating parts to show it as it was. The Roman roads still bear the scars of where the chariots wore into the cobbled streets.The surrounding area of Naples is typical Italy: narrow cobbled streets filled with lively locals, scooters (no helmets) dodging in and out of busses and cars and everyone soaking up the sunshine dressed for the summer.The Italian drivers deserve a mention! We have had some narrow escapes and luckily survived all the hair-raising incidents around Italy. The motorway sections were probably the most stressful so be warned if you are in Italy on a motorbike - have your wits about you!!Our stay in Italy has been a highlight of our European leg and we've all vowed to come back to explore more of it. We head for the east coast tomorrow to board the ferry at Brindisi bound for Igoumenitsa, Greece.


Thursday 16 May 2002 - Italy

We have now been on the road for 10 days having left a cold and wet London on 7 May. We are currently in Italy staying close to Meldola in a village called San Colombano, west of Florence with the Venezia family. They have kindly opened up their home for us to use as a base to tour Italy from. It is about 2 hours south to Rome, an hour to Florence and half an hour to the east coast.
We have come through France, Germany, Austria and are currently in Italy having completed 1629 miles so far. We caught the euroshuttle channel train to France at 10am and were greeted by warm sunshine in Calais.

France: (2 days)
We headed east across northern France and camped in Sedan just north of Reims along the river Meuse. Our route through France was mainly on the back roads through some beautiful scenery. This included the Ardennes Mountains and the Meuse valley.

Germany: (2 days)
We entered Germany on the 2nd day when crossing the Rhine river below Strasbourg.
Our second night was spent camping on the banks of the Rhine. The following morning we headed south along Lake Constance and up toward Munich to pick up our carnets. We ran out of daylight looking for a campsite close to Munich so we slept in a forest about 40km outside Munich! We found the ADAC (German Automobile Association) to be very friendly and helpful. Once we had our carnets in hand we started to head south towards the Alps and Italy.

Austria: (1 day)
The pass we chose to cross the Alps on via the ski resort of Obergurgl, south of Innsbruck was closed. We had to backtrack by 50km and used the motorway to enter Italy.

Italy: (4 days so far)
We have been in Italy for 4 days now. We spent 2 nights camping next to Lake Garda and stayed there for a day to relax. The weather was good and we did some swimming though the water is not warm yet.
We moved on to Pisa for one night and visited the leaning tower in warm sunshine, the first real warm day since beginning our trip. Then we headed for some lovely Tuscan mountains and went over the ski pass of Passeo dello Calla (1296m). We are really learning and loving the twists and turns on the bikes. Our confidence grows daily on how low we can go!
Now we are staying at the Venezia's house in San Colombano. They have been very kind to offer us the use of their house as a base so we'll probably be doing a day trip or 2 from here to explore the lovely Italian countryside over the next few days.
Today we are catching up with our washing, communication, bike maintenance and enjoying the lovely sunshine!

The bikes are running very well and have performed effectively in a variety of conditions we've encountered. There have been long 80mph motorway sections; alpine ski hairpin passes as well as the odd bit of off road riding. The weather has also varied from sunshine, rain and freezing conditions in the Alps.

The brakes seem to be the most prominent component this week when descending the passes. We may need to get some extra front brake pads, as the weight we are carrying seems to be using them relatively quickly.

Here's a breakdown of the past 8 days:

UK - France - Germany - Austria - Italy

London to Sedan (France) distance 274 miles

Sedan to Rhine river (Germany) near Colmar distance 215 miles

Rhine to Sarburg (Germany) near Munich distance 290 miles

Sarburg to Bicht via Munich distance 70 miles

Bicht to Lake Garda (Italy) via Innsbruck (Austria) distance 290 miles.

Day "off" spent at Lake Garda. Short ride of to explore, distance 40 miles.

Lake Garda to Pisa via ski resort of Abbetone distance 223 miles.

Pisa to San Colombano (Venezia's house) distance 227 miles.



Tuesday 7 May 2002 - London

Departure day, at last!

After what seemed a lifetime of planning the big day has finally arrived. All the hard work we have put in seems to be paying off at last. All the modifications we hoped to complete on the bikes on the last few days has been finished (weld larger side stand plates, brake pad changes, etc.) though Damian and Dominic had their work cut out in the last day with a few hiccups.

A great big thank you to all who were involved in the organisation of this trip. A special thank you to Karen, Rulan, Andy, Kelly, Clive and Mandy. Your hard work is greatly appreciated in making our trip a success.

Clive and Mandy - thanks for the top t-shirts!

We will be heading over the channel today and entering France at Calais hoping to be somewhere close to the German border tonight via the Alps. From there some lovely scenic roads heading toward Munich to pick up our carnets on Friday and then down to Italy at the end of the week.

We look forward to all communication we receive out on the road from today but please accept that we only respond after a few days. We will try our best to respond to all mails received.


Thursday 14 March 2002 - London

Damian has finished his contract IT work and is concentrating his efforts on the web site and trip promotion. Dominic and Gary will finish work at the end of March and be handed a big "to do" list for April. In the meantime, evenings are filled with Internet researching and gathering vital information for the trip. The web site is beginning to take shape as we prepare to approach our potential sponsors.

The remaining work still to be done on the bikes includes:

  • upgrading the rear shocks to the Öhlins gas/oil type; both the front and rear
  • full service before we leave on a test run
  • change tyres, chains and sprockets
  • fit the autocom communication systems
  • start the paperwork for our carnets (temporary vehicle importation documents)
  • start the visa process: India first, then Pakistan, then Iran and only in that order!
  • rebuild (software reload) the small laptop which we will be taking with us.

We are in the process of ordering and arranging dates to have the required work on the shock absorbers done. A complete Ohlins rear unit is on order and will be fitted by ourselves in mid April. The front shocks will have harder, stiffer springs fitted and the oil changed to a higher viscosity. This will improve the handling and reliability of the bike.

We will be doing a 3-4 day test run towards the end of April. This should simulate our departure day (bikes equipped and fully laden) so we can identify any outstanding problems or areas we can improve on.

All 3 of us are in the current process of having the various mandatory and optional inoculation injections. This process takes 3-4 weeks to complete. We started the vaccination process with three months to spare, allowing for mandatory gaps between various injections.

Damian will be putting on a suit and tie to approach some sponsors next week. So this weekend we'll have to take some more "portfolio" photo's to upload onto the web site Our web site is our CV.

Two other travellers, David Broughton and George van Waldburg, are also leaving London on a similar adventure, around the time we are leaving. We'll be meeting up with them in early April to make contact with them and exchange ideas.


Copyright 2001.