Two Aussie blokes riding their BMW R1150GSs from Australia to Europe

Author: Drew Collet

Budapest to Vienna – the end of the road after 26,250kms

Very happy with ourselves as we stepped off the bikes in the heart of Vienna

Very happy with ourselves as we stepped off the bikes in the heart of Vienna

And that’s a wrap folks! For me this epic adventure has finally come to an end, I promised Sophie I would be home for her birthday and although I have missed it by one day I will make her birthday party. I feel naked without my motorcycle, my life as I know it is in a 27kg bag and my bike will eventually make it home by ship, thankfully James and Monica can look after it until then.

What a bike! Brigitta's 17 years old with 170,000kms on her clock and she's taken me 26,250kms across 14 countries without a hitch

What a bike! Brigitta’s 17 years old with 170,000kms on her clock and she’s taken me 26,250kms across 14 countries without a hitch

All 27kgs of my life's possessions for the last 4 months, wrapped up in a $4 gypsy bag

All 27kgs of my life’s possessions for the last 4 months, wrapped up in a $4 gypsy bag

Vienna, Austria (Monica’s home city) was the catalyst for this trip and what a beautiful city it is! Always coming in a very close second to the world’s most liveable city, Melbourne. After spending six wonderful days in Romania I only had three full days to take in Vienna, but with Monica to show me around I feel like I know it and can’t wait to visit again with Sophie. We have many friends and family who now reside in Europe so I can see many trips to come.

The red wine consumed last night has brought on some emotional reflection of our journey. What we accomplished in four months on our motorcycles will only take a jet plane 22 hours. Looking out the window of the plane I can almost pinpoint our journey overland. I’m dressed in my new clothes from Zara in Vienna, upon purchase I noticed it was made in Pakistan and it took me back to the road, riding past huge textile factories producing items for the western world to consume but I’m sure none of the other patrons were thinking what I was…

For us Pakistan has a very different meaning than most

For us Pakistan has a very different meaning than most

Blokes on Spokes was a motorcycle adventure but underneath our desire to ride around the world there was much more to the journey. James and Monica had made a massive decision to leave Melbourne and start anew in Vienna. For myself it was an opportunity to remove myself from our all consuming business and busy life in Melbourne. My business partner Nick and I have been working extremely hard on our business for the past 12 years and I am the first to acknowledge that it has taken a toll on our health and well being. Four months ago I left Melbourne a worn soul: I was searching for something other than the 8-5 slog and have to admit I was concerned that our journey would provoke even further frustration of my work/life balance. In fact it had the opposite effect. The whole experience has been so humbling that I now only feel guilt of how fortunate my life is. I am returning to Australia a new man. I had lost my way in a Western world driven by money and success and forgotten about the most important things in life. Family, love and health come first and everything else second from now on. We left Melbourne in search of good roads, scenery and adventure but I’m returning with no lasting memory of the riding but only of the kindness of people. I am also returning a more focussed businessman; wealth is an absolute privilege in this world and I am lucky enough to have the support and ability to increase it for the future of my children and family.

I cannot thank James enough for the support over the last few years, not only was he my best man at our wedding he was also the brainchild behind our adventure. Months of preparation leading up to our rushed departure proved vital to our success and I will be forever grateful.

Jimmy, on the streets of Malaysia. It takes two to tango, and I wouldn't have made it without his help

Jimmy, on the streets of Malaysia. It takes two to tango, and I wouldn’t have made it without his help

Turkey – Twisting wrists and ocean dips

Turkey is our last destination before heading into Europe and it’s no surprise that our spirits have dropped over the prospect of this journey being over. 10 years of talk and 3 years of planning has lead us to this point and all of a sudden it has become reality: in two weeks I will be home with my beautiful wife and back at work. I wish I had some drama to share about Turkey but the reality is that I don’t. No breakdowns, no army checkpoints and no AK47’s here, just a very calm, peaceful country with a landscape to match.

After our massive effort crossing into Turkey we woke lazily in our border town hotel room with no plans. We changed some money and took advantage of the wifi to research a route. We were so far north we decided to head up to the Black Sea, then cut back across the country through famed Cappadocia, onto some beach time on the Mediterranean, before heading north to Istanbul. We needed to avoid South-East Turkey due to the conflict in Syria so this plan worked well for us. Our hearts sank over breakfast as we cast our eyes out to a cold and wet morning – not ideal on a motorcycle but we had confidence we would soon be up on the Black Sea and the weather would improve. Our spirits lifted 10 minutes down the road with the rain gone and the road drying out we were heading north and the countryside was breathtaking.

2,500 metres A.S.L Smiles all round

2,500 metres A.S.L Smiles all round

More snow capped mountains with exceptional roads weaving up, around and even through tunnels maintaining excellent speed to eat up the kilometres. As we worked our way closer to the coast the GPS took us up and over a range of 2,500 metres A.S.L a quick stop for a photo saw us both with wide grins exclaiming how good the road/scenery was and soon enough we were being lead down some small country lanes upon villages.

Not a bad place to be lost

Not a bad place to be lost

The asphalt turned to dirt but after a quick check of the GPS James explained that it was taking us the most direct route north and that it would remain unsealed but would eventually get us out to the coast.  Given it was only 3pm and excellent weather we pushed on but after a sketchy river crossing we decided to head back, we needed fuel and didn’t have any food.

The river crossing that broke us

The river crossing that broke us

First stop fuel and with our new currency in hand we ordered 2 full tanks whilst working out a rough conversion to AU dollar (much easier than Iran’s crazy decimal point placement!) we established that if you halve the Lira you will get the AUD amount. However it both took us by surprise when the bowser finished counting at 170 Lira! Double checking our conversion rate we quickly learnt that Turkey was our most expensive fuel thus far at $2.20 AUD per litre! Bear in mind we had just left oil rich Iran at 0.39 AUD cents per litre. Had we realised there would be such a difference I would have strapped on some jerry cans to get us a few tanks in! Alas we continued onwards to the coast finding a small town 100km’s inland that looked nice and better still seemed busy enough to obtain beer but after scouting out over 7 different restaurants that couldn’t offer us any over dinner we grabbed a six pack and retreated to our hotel room to consume a couple after a big day. A quick Google found that 83% of Turks consider themselves Teetotallers, explaining the lack of Alcohol consumption or availability.

Turkish tank

Turkish tank

Twisting Turkey

Twisting Turkey

The next day we saw the first body of water since Thailand, The Black Sea. Meeting the coast in Trabzon we continued along the coast to Giresun and decided to settle in for the day checking into our hotel with enough time to walk the town and again look for a bar to sit, admire the view and enjoy a cold one. Again to our dismay we couldn’t find one! More streets were explored and we finally found a very small quiet bar with a couple of people drinking beer, we walked straight to the bar and ordered 2 beers! That was lost in translation so we used google translate to which the bartender google translated back to us that it was a religious holiday and no alcohol would be served assuring us that everyone else consuming in the bar ‘brewed their own’. Defeated, we again bought another 6 pack and retreated to our hotel.

Seaside smiles

Seaside smiles

Cappadocia is known for its obscure natural sites including the ‘Fairy Chimney’s’ clustered around the township, Bronzed age homes can be found carved into the valley walls by cave dwellers later used by early Christian refugees. Hot Air ballooning is top of the ‘to do’ list and we had booked a flight a few days out. Luckily the weather was on our side and we spent almost an hour up in the air admiring the landscape quietly amused by our fellow crew spending more time taking ‘Selfies’ of themselves instead of looking over the edge.

Romantic selfies.

Romantic selfies.

Exceptional morning Ballooning.

Exceptional morning Ballooning.

I however spent half the flight searching for possible dirt tracks to explore on the bikes. Upon return to our hotel we stripped our bikes of panniers and weight heading off with go-pro’s in hand to capture some footage. It rained and we both fell off but I managed to jump my my 230kg bike landing with a bang and we got the photo we were after.

James should be a model

James should be a model

The things you see in Cappadocia...

The things you see in Cappadocia…

Turkey’s tourism industry is at an all time low; recent bombings have not faired well with western media painting a very grim picture and although the peak season is still yet to come operators have quoted figures as high as 70% drop in bookings. This has made a very pleasant tour of the country although at times we have literally been the only people dining in restaurants, as a business owner I know first hand how heartbreaking this can be.

The Underground City, Derinkuyu, Cappadocia

The Underground City, Derinkuyu, Cappadocia

We have been unbelievably lucky with the weather over our journey however the temperature on the Black Sea and Cappadocia had us in our sweaters and I was holding on to some small hope of some final days in the sun before returning to a Melbourne winter. I had visions of a Mediterranean villa on the beach with cocktail in hand that was slowly being crushed with cold wet mountain passes on our way south to the coast.

To our delight, once down on the coast the weather improved with a sunset over the water and a dip to wash off the daily grime. We had been surprised at the development and commercialisation of the Mediterranean coast and as we inched our way through city traffic we didn’t know what to think.

The Mediterranean Sea!

The Mediterranean Sea!

But on approach to Olympos 10 km’s off the highway we knew we were onto a good thing, dirt road leading through affordable beachside accommodation with a backpacker vibe. Keys in hand for a bungalow for the night and a couple of beers around the communal fire pit we lay our heads for the night. 

Its 5pm somewhere

Its 5pm somewhere

Waking to a spotless blue sky we struck our luck at a picture perfect Mediterranean day, we walked the 2000+ year old ruins and ended up on a banana lounge on the beach remarkably early and didn’t move for the rest of the day. Watching the traditional wooden motorsailers come and go I proposed a day long boat trip for the following day and soon had one lined up only in need of more crew for passage – luckily for us we found them around the fire pit that night. Sharing a bottle of Cappadocian red wine we met Manouk from The Netherlands on her Silk Road adventure and Rahul from Istanbul. We have met many people over our journey but only a few who we find a true connection with, the following day out on the boat was truly special with exceptional company and countless dives off the boat into a pristine blue sea.

Back on land we enjoyed some dinner and wine before venturing down the road to one of the considered ‘best 10’ hostels in the world enjoying a few more wines.  Nursing borderline hangovers we shared some breakfast the following morning before saying goodbyes, we all needed to move on. It was time for us to head north to the Gallipoli Peninsula via Kusadasi to check out the ancient city of Ephesus.

Gallipoli was high on the to do list for us, it was the location that Australia lost a nation-defining number of servicemen in World War 1 and we felt a true connection upon the visit. With tourism so slow and the natural beauty of the Peninsula it was surreal that so many lives were lost in such a beautiful place. James also spent many hours working on the Australian television miniseries  ‘Gallipoli’, which really put things into perspective exploring the area and memorials.

After a somber day we were off to Istanbul, a highlight for both of us as it is one of Europe’s biggest cities, 19 Million people reside on the banks of the Bosphorus Straight that separates Asia to Europe.

Istanbul is amazing! With our route taking us through large Asian cities it was refreshing to be back such a liberal environment. To our amazement we found 2 other foreign bikes parked on our one way cul-de-sac we were staying and soon met up for a chat with Brad (South African) and Bruce (Australian) agreeing to meet for a beer at 6pm.

Our mates from trailing the horizons Bruce and Brad

Our mates from trailing the horizons Bruce and Brad

We were taken back that neither of the two had ridden a motorcycle before embarking on their world tour starting from Scotland; a credit to them for making the 8,000km journey to Istanbul safely. With three Australians and a South African the beers were flowing and we talked the night away with tales of adventure. Nursing a quiet hangover it was out and about to check out the famed Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern.

James had a friend from China living in Istanbul, Jean-Marie who very kindly invited us for dinner and drinks in his district on the Asian side of the Bosphorus and we appreciated being away from the tourist centre and to feel the soul of the city.

Back at our guesthouse yet another foreign motorcycle had appeared in our street, 5 BMW’s with foreign plates! Martin from Germany, a photojournalist was on his way to Iran only to be denied a visa on journalist grounds, with new plans of heading through ‘the Stans’. More war stories over more beers took us into the night before retreating in our haze of drunkenness to prepare for our early departure for Bulgaria the following morning  – the best way to reinvigorate after a night on the beers was to take ourselves off for a Turkish bath. Next stop, Eastern Europe…

Hammam- yes it hurt!

Hammam- yes it hurt!

Pakistan to Persia

We’re in Isfahan! It’s Friday morning and James’ wife Monica has just landed. Lucy will join from Jordan later tonight and its a near miracle that James and I arrived at 6:30pm last night. Once on Iranian soil we completed the 1250km journey to Isfahan in 17 hours, through the desert on perfect tarmac with hardly any traffic woes. I could have glued my throttle on at 110km/h. After 2 days in Iran I have finally had time to reflect on the journey thus far and especially Pakistan.

It’s fair to say luck wasn’t on our side in Pakistan but then again Pakistan is not a lucky country. After my last post from Nagar Fort our journey to the Iranian border proved to be the toughest 12 days of our trip so far and I’m pleased to say that James and I are still best mates and we have made it across the most difficult nation on route with no injuries or broken bikes.

Approaching the tunnel in Nagar.

Approaching the tunnel in Nagar.

We left Nagar Fort behind schedule and shortly after taking off on the way to the tunnel we needed to pass through, a member of our police escort stopped suddenly and reversed at speed into my bike! I bailed in time to obtain no injuries with the petrol tank taking the blow, leaving a decent dent in it but luckily not leaking fuel. I actually found humour in the whole ordeal given we were under ‘police protection’. James on the other hand didn’t. His blood was boiling within seconds, giving the police a lecture about mirrors and the like. But this incident was just the beginning of it.

Once at the tunnel the Korean engineer denied passage and would only let the bikes through without us on them sparking a frantic search for a truck to load the bikes onto and take them through within the hour. On top of this I had a toothache that had become bad enough to previously warrant a trip to a dentist in Pakistan who prescribed medication.

Pierre would be proud!

Pierre would be proud!

Further on the journey James’ bike broke down, not once but twice on consecutive days with two completely unrelated problems, the second costing us another day. Our planned route came to an abrupt end in Bhakkar with the police escorting us away from our booked hotel to a different police district for us to become someone else’s problem.

Why won't it go?

Why won’t it go?

After 3 hours we solved the problem

After 3 hours we solved the problem

Discussions between police and army officers took place until 9:30pm until we were escorted to a ‘safe’ hotel with security. Safe, but with no vacancy! A brief standoff took place between us and the police before James and I realised the tension was building. To have any luck at all we would have to settle on sleeping on the dining room floor at the most expensive rate paid since Thailand. To make matters worse, the following morning the police escorted us back to the town they originally picked us up from and left us to continue our journey only to be stopped another 60km’s up the road to be turned around again. Another police standoff this time with our new friends from Darwin to Douglas. We eventually made it to Multan and were finally told the information we had been asking for all day – the path we were trying to take was not possible. We were eventually given the right path to take! It was of course the longest route and under police escort all the way.

Colm, a fellow overlander posing with a policeman

Colm, a fellow overlander posing with a policeman

Hands off the triggers boys

Hands off the triggers boys

Arriving at Rahim Yar Kan at 10pm we set off the following day along with our new friends Colm and Eddie. We put in a massive 16 hour day under police escort to Quetta, the journey taking us through Baluchistan, and the arid landscape and 42 degree heat taking its toll on James. He was throwing up at lunchtime and by 2pm I was trying to arrange one of the officers on our escort to ride my bike so we could put James in the escort vehicle and I could ride his bike. I managed to find the only Pakistani officer in the country who couldn’t use motorcycle gears properly.

Policeman in pyjamas riding Drew's bike, when James was too sick to ride himself

Policeman in pyjamas riding Drew’s bike, when James was too sick to ride himself

We eventually arrived at 8pm on friday night, not ideal given we needed to obtain our N.O.C (No objection certificate) to continue west. We already knew that the police would not process our N.O.C until monday morning but what we didn’t know is that we were not allowed outside of our hotel without a police escort! Hotel Bloom Star became home for the 3 nights ahead and all food and supplies were to be ordered through the hotel management and delivered to the hotel. Amongst food and supplies for the bikes we managed to obtain some contraband… beer! Only 4 Australian blokes would pay $US100 for a slab of beer. Ironically it was brewed in Pakistan.

Riding in the back of a police ute in Quetta with some fellow overlanders to get our government permission to proceed on our journey

Riding in the back of a police ute in Quetta with some fellow overlanders to get our government permission to proceed on our journey

Our only view of the outside world - from the rooftop of our hotel in Quetta

Our only view of the outside world – from the rooftop of our hotel in Quetta

Blokes on Spokes meet Darwin to Douglas

Blokes on Spokes meet Darwin to Douglas

It was nice for some new company along the journey

It was nice for some new company along the journey

On Monday morning we were escorted to the police station to obtain our N.O.C’s and after we had tea in about 5 different offices over 3 hours we finally received the document. We spoke to the head of staff about our intentions to leave very early the following day for Taftan. The border closed at 4:30 pm and by our math if we left at dawn ( N.O.C dictating travel during daylight) we could make the border crossing and continue at least 100km’s into Iran. He assured us that this would be possible and phone calls were made. However we shouldn’t have been surprised that at 5:30am we were all sitting in reception ready to go with no escort in sight. It finally turned up at 6:50am and escorted us 1km down the road to another escort! I think I stopped counting at 10 different vehicles. Some had armed guards, others just a driver with a gun. Every now and again a man with a AK47 turned up on his 70cc Moped.

This district couldn't afford an escort car, so we got a 70cc motorbike instead

This district couldn’t afford an escort car, so we got a 70cc motorbike instead

Must not pass the 70cc powerhouse

Must not pass the 70cc powerhouse

We tried to explain to every escort our desire to travel at 80km/h but when the clock struck 2pm and we were not even halfway, our dreams of making it to Iranian soil were over. I had joined Eddie with a bad case of ‘the runs’ but the final kick in the back was James hitting me from behind at 50km/h on a sketchy stretch of road taking us both down. Luckily the sand that caused the accident also broke our fall and no significant damage was done. Still over 100km’s out of Taftan by sunset we continued on in the dark and 60km’s out at a police checkpoint we were informed that there was a 50% chance of continuing onto Taftan and maybe we should stay somewhere else for the night… Thankfully they took us through and we slept in the Police station/local prison for the night. Across the courtyard were at least 50 Afghani refugees housed for the night. The fact that they seek asylum in Pakistan was a bleak reminder for us at how bad some areas in Afghanistan must be.

Racing the sun to Taftan

Racing the sun to Taftan

Fill her up boys!

Fill her up boys!

I'm sure we can go faster...

I’m sure we can go faster…

...because there aren't too many distractions on this road

…because there aren’t too many distractions on this road

Until it all turned to sh&t

Until it all turned to sh&t

As you can well imagine we were ready to move on to our next country. But after 2 days in Iran with it’s near perfect highways, clean cities and western conveniences I now look back on Pakistan fondly. Yes it was hard, but riding a motorcycle around the globe was never going to be easy. Pakistan challenged us from every angle but we kept pushing on, determined to get through it. This is the adventure and the reason we left the comfort of our own country for. We have just returned from a fantastic lunch with our friend Amir’s family in their home in Isfahan, Iran. I am stuffed full and once again overwhelmed by the hospitality. Isfahan feels European and we can easily tell from here on in things will become more and more comfortable. Pakistan, India and beyond will become distant lands but we will hold on to the experience forever. Before I know it I will be sitting in Vienna waiting a flight home….

For interested overlanders, check out Jimmy’s post on Horizons Unlimited about which roads to take and which to avoid

Pakistan – don’t worry Mum, we’re in prison


We are in a Pakistani Prison, it’s 8pm and we are drenched from the storm we have just ridden through for 2 hours in the dark, thankfully we are in the guest quarters and not housed with the hundreds of Pakistani Prisoners. Our friends from Lahore had arranged our stay here only 3 hours ago via telephone – it was a good thing they insisted on taking a local SIM card for our phone.

Pakistan would have been such a different experience without these amazing friends from Lahore

Pakistan would have been such a different experience without these amazing friends from Lahore

Sightseeing in Lahore

Sightseeing in Lahore

We had planned to ride to Besham for the night but after 3 police escorts we were informed that the road had been cut off by landslides and we were not able to pass. In a small police check point hut we tried our best to communicate our desire to stay and continue on the following day but after numerous phone calls to our friends in Lahore it was advised that we return 100 km’s-it was 4pm.

You can't touch this

You can’t touch this

I was clutching at straws, I asked if there was a hotel nearby, could we stay at someone’s house or if we could stay at the Police Station nearby and although the police were trying they their best they insisted we head back. As I was pulling my helmet back on a local man pulled up in his ute and with a handshake and a big smile I explained our predicament and with a brief discussion with his friend in the passenger seat he invited us to stay at his house for the night, the police however insisted we head back. This is the Pakistani way, they are quite simply the nicest people we have ever met, their hospitable nature is at times overwhelming but forever appreciated. This is how we are warm and dry within the safe confinements of the Prison boundary with our dinner on the way watching a Pakistani woman Bollywood dance on a wardens laptop.

Our first (and hopefully last) trip to prison

Our first (and hopefully last) trip to prison

The following morning we awoke to blue skies and a wonderful breakfast waiting for us. With all our gear strung out to dry, we were led to the prison office within the prison walls to obtain wifi access, we needed to touch base with our wives and check the weather forecast ahead. After most of the guards hands were shaken we tried to obtain information about the road condition to Gilgit, phone calls were made and we got the impression all the landslides had been cleared. Smiles all round it was back to the living quarters to pack up and ride back up and beyond. The sun was out, road dry and we were on the way to Besham our first nights destination. The traffic was terrible getting out of the lowlands and we didn’t make it to the foothills until 1pm but the weather was still favourable and our spirits were as high as the mountains we were chasing. Again we were greeted by many police escorts and Armed force patrols but successfully made it to Besham almost half way to Gilgit.

Stunning scenery outside of Besham, under police escort of course!

Stunning scenery outside of Besham, under police escort of course!

We stopped at a hotel for lunch and were informed that the road ahead was still not passible! Apparently a bridge had collapsed and would not be repaired for days, why the Police or Armed forces had not told us this before riding up is a mystery? Accepting defeat we retreated for the night, Jimmy made some friends who again invited us for a great dinner.

An excellent BBQ of beef with friends in Besham (you wouldn't get this in India!)

An excellent BBQ of beef with friends in Besham (you wouldn’t get this in India!)

We have edged our way towards Pakistan with trepidation, we had been warned of the political situation and as an Australian who only reads the headlines I had no idea what to expect, not deterred but cautioned. In fact the Pakistani people are so welcoming it’s beyond comprehension why the media/governments print such headlines. We have spent 9 days in Pakistan and only paid for 4 nights accommodation adding to that we have only paid for 8 meals, the rest has been insisted upon by friends and strangers as we are their guests. I shudder at the thought of a Pakistani arriving in Australia and this experience has reminded me how nice humans can be to one and other. I can’t believe I’m sitting on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border with this revelation. The further we travel abroad the more I realise that no matter what nationality, race or religion all of us are alike. We all have families to love, stomachs to fill and friends to laugh with, or in Pakistan’s case men to laugh with. We have found the culture confronting, with all these very kind gestures of hosting, cooking meals and showing us around but not once have we met any women of the family. Actually we haven’t technically seen any woman since arriving in Pakistan. We see people walking in Burka’s with children, we sometimes see eyes but more often we see Brown burkas with mesh over the eyes.

This photo says a lot - scenery, police escorts, and culture

This photo says a lot – scenery, police escorts, and culture

I fully respect the culture and faith but I do have trouble understanding it, we walk past women in full headwear with their faces turned away until we have passed by, we enter a room unexpectedly to find a woman swiftly turning away. I can’t help but think about how the women feel about this? It is obviously an ongoing women’s rights issue for the Islamic faith and with faith and traditions thick as blood in Pakistan I don’t expect anything to change but it does remind me how lucky we are in Australia with freedom of speech and faith.

I’m finishing this blog from the garden of Nagar Fort in Chitral. One of our friends from Lahore suggested we stop here and what a place it is! Still occupied by the Royal family. For any other travelers passing through we highly recommend spending some time there – get in touch with them on their Facebook page. We decided to head back up and spend a rest day here before our mission to head west to Iran’s border. Again the journey has been full of Police escorts and many Army check point logs completed.

Locals crossing the bridge to Nagar Fort

Locals crossing the bridge to Nagar Fort

Our host, Razi (the prince!) with Nagar Fort in the background

Our host, Razi (the prince!) with Nagar Fort in the background

We had a relaxed day off the bikes yesterday and one of the Princes showed us around with a tour of the Fort, river and small hospital that serves most of Chitral. We rose at 6 am this morning and got away early to make it to Madan in good time, we had agreed to meet our Lahore friends at Amir’s house for a final night together. Our spirits were crushed 15 km’s up the road as the tunnel that we needed to pass through that is still being built was not open for us. We waited until the agreed 12 noon to pass through and then were informed that it was still not possible, Tuesday was the next day it will be open-3 days away! We returned to Nagar Fort for lunch. So now we are officially stuck in Chitral, mind you it could be worse!

Yep - this tunnel's still under construction. 8.5kms of muddy dirt track underground!

Yep – this tunnel’s still under construction. 8.5kms of muddy dirt track underground!

Waiting for our passport details to be entered on the other side of the tunnel

Waiting for our passport details to be entered on the other side of the tunnel

Horse riding at Nagar

Horse riding at Nagar

Nepal – the lowest low to the highest high


I’m sitting in a Italian Cafe in New Delhi. I am enjoying a long black the way it should be and an orange juice to match. Today marks 2 months on the road and I thought I would treat myself to a ‘Melbourne’ Breakfast, mind you in Melbourne I don’t need to argue with a Rickshaw driver over an agreed $2 for the near death experience through Delhi traffic. I must confess that I’m a useless traveller and if I didn’t have James here to keep me on the straight and narrow I would have already spent the trip’s budget on beggar handouts and expensive western meals. I did however enjoy my meal and after 2 months of eating locally on the road I feel I have deserved it – let’s hope this meal won’t contain ‘Delhi Belly’

India has been intense and we were both pleased to cross into Nepal to be greeted with better roads, more reserved people and a cooler climate. When James and I ride in Australia we consult google maps and try to find the best roads for motorcycles, twisting and remote. Nepal was a highlight for us and on the first night we employed the same tactics. The main highway across Nepal runs along the southern border to India and we were determined not to use it, the other road above it looked more ‘interesting’ and given it wore the same colour and thickness as the highway what could go wrong?

Jimmy and I on our dirt day before finding the swing bridge

Jimmy and I on our dirt day before finding the swing bridge

We woke to yet another beautiful day had a healthy serving of Dal Bhat and headed off towards the road we had decided upon in the North. By morning tea we arrived in a village with wide-eyed, open mouthed Nepalese unable to process our presence. The road in was narrow, sections unsealed but we assumed it was a bad section and given the maps elusion it would improve. Jimmy tracked down a local who could speak English and managed to obtain information for the road ahead. I recall the advice was “very steep, go slow” and “swing bridge but ok”. I was in a good mood and felt ready to tackle anything so we pushed on, the road quickly deteriorated and fell away to a track that I would have been happy to spend a weekend on my dirt bike back home, the problem was I wasn’t on my WR450, I was on250kg of BMW! The day proved to be very challenging – we both dropped our bikes and with local help and our bikes striped of luggage managed to cross the swing bridge just wide enough to accommodate our width.
We finally arrived at the next town on the map, parched and hungry at 3pm! We had spent 7 hours on the bikes and covered 70 km’s.

The bridge was just wide enough to accommodate the bikes.

The bridge was just wide enough to accommodate the bikes.

These locals helped carry our gear across the bridge after we got the bikes across.

These locals helped carry our gear across the bridge after we got the bikes across.

We decided to head back down to the main highway the following morning to head towards Kathmandu, James’ wife Monica was flying in in 3 days and we needed to be there! A local had tipped us off that Highway 6 into Kathmandu was the road to take, newly made with many mountain range passes and only cars and motorbikes were allowed, no Tata Trucks! Highway 6 is the best road we have ridden so far abroad, perfect tarmac that twists its way up and down mountains for over 160km’s. If you visit Nepal be sure to take it.

We didn't want to come off on this road, it was along way down

We didn’t want to come off on this road, it was along way down

The perfect road- Highway 6

The perfect road- Highway 6

James and Monica had a romantic hike for 2 booked months out and I was keen to leave the lovers to it and take my own little adventure. I made some enquiries about ‘The Highest motor-able pass in Nepal’ and found that Muktinath, 3800 meters ASL was possible. In typical Drew fashion I obtained the Mustang national park permit on the day of departure and hit the road. Muktinath was only 170km’s away, easy! Obviously highway 6 had given me a false sense of security. After a long wait at the fuel station for fuel (fuel in Nepal is still hard to find after the loss of fuel supply from india last year) I was away – I covered 65km’s within the first 45 minutes then the road simply disappeared! It was like a magical act Nepalese style, you pass through Beni and then nothing apart from a track containing loose rocks the size of soccer balls. The scenery however was incredible upon every turn I caught a sights of snow capped mountains. I met Pieter from the Netherlands on his solo adventure – livetheride.me. Pieter was on his way down and we had a brief chat about the road to Muktinath, his first response was that ‘it gets a little better’ but when we parted he gave me a cheeky smile and said ‘actually it gets worse’. I continued on and did the math and realised I couldn’t make it all the way – Jomson would be my goal for the night. I arrived at 5pm, checked into a hotel had a cold shower and proceeded to dress myself in almost my whole wardrobe to stay warm.

The landscape on the way up was like nothing I had seen before

The landscape on the way up was like nothing I had seen before

Deepak having a rest over Kagbeni.

Deepak having a rest over Kagbeni.

I ventured out for a meal and realised that I had checked into a pretty average hotel and found a much better one for a meal and some great company. I met a few foreigners on week long hikes, I felt a little lazy informing them that I had ridden my motorcycle all the way! As usual our journey prompts conversation and I was soon sharing stories with others, Deepak from Kathmandu joined us and I quickly realised he was a keen motorcyclist and had been up to Muktinath a few times and had even organised ‘The Mukti Ride 2016‘. Deepak invited me to join him the following morning for breakfast and then ride to Muktinath – he had a room already booked at the Bob Marley Hotel!

Hotel Bob Marley. It was cold and I never experienced the 'Real running hot shower'

Hotel Bob Marley. It was cold and I never experienced the ‘Real running hot shower’

A small village before Jomsom

A small village before Jomsom

I don’t know how to describe the journey up to Muktinath, what was an uphill dusty battle all the way to Jomsom became a quiet ancient dry river bed plain, we took a path less travelled across the pebbly bed and the scenery was breathtaking, so was the altitude! We were to ascend another 1000 meters to Muktinath and we needed to hydrate, stop more often and try not to increase our heart rate, not that easy on a motorcycle in the Himalayas! Luckily Deepak’s Royal Enfield broke it’s throttle cable, fortunately he was carrying a spare one and we stopped for almost an hour at 3000 meters to replace it, I was very pleased to offer tools and assistance needed to complete the job. We made it to the Bob Marley Hotel just as it started to snow and after checking in Deepak suggested we ride up to the Temple another 300 meters in the snow! We spent a good 45 minutes up at the temple in the snow which I was not dressed appropriately for, I don’t know if it was the temperature or the altitude but it all was a little too much and I wasn’t feeling great, we returned to Bob Marley and Deepak ordered me hot water and a garlic soup that worked wonders. Now as the name suggests the Bob Marley Hotel lives up to its Rasta name and it was fully booked, we met many people from all over the globe who had completed ‘The Pass’ a 12 day intense hike and immediately got along and ordered countless rounds of beers and ended up playing Black Jack until 11pm. The following day I wasn’t feeling great I think I had finally caught James’ cold and obtained altitude sickness in the same sitting, I’m sure the previous nights antics didn’t help either!

Somewhere above Muktinath.

Somewhere above Muktinath.

Following Deepak through a village at 4000 meters

Following Deepak through a village at 4000 meters

Deepak was heading to Upper Mustang National Park, as a foreigner I needed to obtain a permit at a cost of $500 U.S.D and couldn’t justify it although it did sound amazing – Upper Mustang had remained untouched even by the Nepalese until 1992. The weather made the decision for us, snow had fallen all night making Deepak’s journey too risky solo and I was not feeling up to it, instead we rode up another 500 meters from Muktinath cracking the 4000 metres A.S.L. I made the call after my 3rd drop to give up, my bike was just too heavy and the strength needed to right it too much at the altitude we were at. We descended to Kagbeni for the night and parted ways the following morning as I just simply needed to descend to lower ground and take a day to recover. I returned to Jomson and beyond back onto the dusty, rock ridden pot hole mess of a the road that eventually finds tarmac at Beni. The journey down was painfully slow, energy levels low and I pushed my bike too hard and ended up with my first official puncture in my rear tyre 12 km’s out of Beni. Repair kit on board but no pump! I was not in the mood to remove the rear wheel, flag a lift into Beni for air and back out again instead I rode at 15km’s for an hour to finally find air in Beni. I also needed fuel and eventually obtained 4 litres at 2.5 times the market rate! I was pleased to be reunited with tarmac and stopped for a dip at some Hot springs that lifted my spirits to get me back to Pokhara.

Tired but happy.

Tired but happy.

Sitting in Delhi waiting for our Iranian Visa’s I have fond memories of Nepal, some days broke me but most were amazing. The people are very kind and much more relaxed than Indian’s. My adventure to Muktinath has wet my appetite for more to come in Pakistan.

India, where anything goes – 9236kms


The last day of Myanmar was amazing, twisting backroads through gorgeous countryside overlooked by mountain ranges. We were also allowed to motor ahead of the van for most of the day giving us the freedom we all needed and are used to. The Myanmar/India border road takes us by surprise as no longer are there countless Buddha images but Christian Churches. Passing through on a Sunday morning, we are taken back by well dressed folk on their way to church with bibles in hand. As we work our way to the border we all become anxious about another dreaded border crossing taking hours with many people, pushing and spitting their way to the front of the line. We couldn’t believe we’d arrived at the border as there was literally no one else there – passports were stamped and I was even asked where I would like the stamp to be in my passport. I was offered some local fruit by the immigration official and most of the delay was our government official making chit chat with the border control.

We were waved good-bye as we crossed a metal bridge, moved back to the left side of the road and entered India with smiles across our faces; until the smell hit us!

I don’t know what came first, the smell, the dust or both?

“Welcome to India”  the border control guards offered with AK47 riffles in hand, “passports please”

We were then sent in search of the Immigration office for official forms and stamps; we actually almost drove right through the town before locating it. A nice man with good english dressed in a Ralph Lauren t-shirt and jeans took our documents and we all had a lovely time in a gazebo whilst he happily stamped. Then it was off to Customs to have the bikes inspected and approved. We all crossed the border together so this process took some time. Having never been to India the first thing that hits you is the amount of people! I knew there were a lot but was taken back at the figure of 1.5 BILLION. There were simply people everywhere and the contrast from Myanmar was indescribable.

We finally stopped for lunch and were astounded by the attention!

“Excuse me sir, where do you come from? How much your bike worth?”

Every time we stop we're instantly surrounded by hordes of men

Every time we stop we’re instantly surrounded by hordes of men

Smiling faces crowding around our bikes

Smiling faces crowding around our bikes

These 2 questions always come first, then how much fuel they consume, could they take a selfie with us or better still be their friend. At first I quite liked it, the Burmese are so shy they often retreated with conversation but the Indians are far from shy; Jimmy left his bike for 5 minutes to enquire about our first hotel room and came out to find a guy sitting on his bike!

We just can't but help heading for the mountain roads in India

We just can’t but help heading for the mountain roads in India

Look really closely at that road in the distance. Freakin' awesome

Look really closely at that road in the distance. Freakin’ awesome

The countryside however is absolutely stunning and we can feel how close we are to the the Himalaya’s – the road into Imphal was magnificent with little traffic and tight corners. We did however leave too late and ended up off the mountain range as the sun fell which left us with 2 options; stop in nowhere land or push on in the dark for Imphal. Now apart from Jimmy no one else had ridden in India before and the tales soon became reality as we were facing oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road, push bike riders carrying loads, cows and worse pedestrians that could only be seen at the last second.

The ominous Tata truck. Best to know your place on the road

The ominous Tata truck. Best to know your place on the road

In India you don’t need indicators, stop lamps or low beam head lamps. All you need is a fucking loud horn and high beam headlamps! The theory seems to be if you want to get around someone you hold your horn on and pull out into oncoming traffic, if there are vehicles coming towards you keep going but turn your high beams on – that way you blind the person coming towards you at speed, move on and let them jam the anchors on without being able to see and it’s all sorted! Thankfully we all made it to Imphal in one piece and all acknowledged that we won’t be travelling at night again.

We finally found a hotel most of us were ok with, checked in and went for a beer – until we realised that Manipur is a dry state! We laid our heads for the night.

High on the hill was a lonely goat herder

High on the hill was a lonely goat herder

We awoke late without a plan the following morning and between cursing the annoyingly slow wifi and trying to decide what to do for the day we decided at noon to part from our group of travellers and move on from Imphal; the town was more like a city and any appeal we had hoped for had worn off. We headed towards the Northern mountain ranges based upon distances and thought that Kohima would be a nice town in the mountains to stay. We were quickly realising that towns in India were actually more like cities.

Riding through the streets of Guwahati

Riding through the streets of Guwahati

We located a hotel that had a lock-up for our bikes and met a nice Australian- Matt from Sydney working in Nagaland as a researcher for Sydney University. Over a dinner at a fantastic traditional Nagaland restaurant we were educated by Matt about the conflict in the area since 1946 and made sense of the military presence we had come across.

Traditional Naga dish #smokedpork #India #atewithourhands #adventuremotorcycling #bmwgs

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India is going to be epic, we have 10 days to get to Nepal (Kathmandu) to meet James’ wife – let’s hope we get him there in one piece!

Burma for Buddha – 8152kms

54 million people live in Myanmar and 95% of the population are Buddhist which means most people have their own Buddha. There are Buddha images in Pagodas and temples,  Buddhas in parks, on top of hills, in shops and anywhere else you can find space for one.

Buddhas. Lots of them

Buddhas. Lots of them

There are sitting, standing and lying Buddhas. Assuming one person has 2 Buddha images each that would put the current amount of Buddha images in Myanmar at 108 Million and I think we have seen most of them!

Yep, this Buddha's a big one

Yep, this Buddha’s a big one

This should be no surprise to us – we knew we needed to take a tour across Myanmar and our guide Pure is doing a fantastic job of ticking the highlights off the list. We are staying in 5 star hotels and being led across the country with easy and trouble-free travel. But we are adventure motorcyclists and we left our comfortable country to explore the world for its soul and really get an insight into other people’s lives.

I am not a religious man and neither is Jimmy so we have no interest in Buddhism; what we are interested in is the people of Myanmar and how they live and interact and simply survive.

Passing the passers by

Passing the passers by

The best experience of Myanmar has been out on the road with the people – it is one of the reasons we love motorcycling so much. We get to see mother and father on small scooters holding their newborn babies without helmets enduring traffic of overloaded lorries, buses and cars. We see many people riding on roofs of buses and trucks ducking to avoid low branches and bridges, women walking with oversized dishes upon their heads to sell on the roadside, men riding old bikes with corn cooking on the rear by coals. Young boy Novice Monks walk in line accepting donated lunch along the roadside.

Novice monks receiving their food donations

Novice monks receiving their food donations

This is the real Myanmar. The women are shy and dress in traditional wear often blushing when making eye contact with us. The men are strong but gentle and they love our bikes; it is often the first thing that draws their attention.

Notice where his feet are

Notice where his feet are

Small children stare at us, older children wave from roadside stalls. We have seen small children working with their parents carting water in tanks, young ladies serving food and others herding cattle along a roadside. Hard men in ditches digging up concrete in thongs with bare hands. The land is barren  and sections of the country seem almost unlivable – but life exists.

Hard at work

Hard at work

The people of Myanmar have had it tough over the years, war and military rule has restricted and stalled their prospects but their recent move to a democratic society has lifted the cloud from overhead and they’re smiling all over, working hard at whatever it takes to improve the country and life. This is why we are travelling across the land, we will cross the border into india in 2 days time free ourselves from a restricted tour and be away in search of more of the world in front of us.

Thailand to Burma (Myanmar) – 6119kms

We did the math before deciding a route through Thailand and decided it was better to head to Ko Lanta Island on the west coast for some R & R before heading straight up to the north of Thailand to our border crossing at Mae Sot into Burma. Ko Lanta is an island off the west coast of Thailand and based upon our research seemed to be the island to stay on not to touristy on the south end and we could get the bikes over on 2 ferries at the cost of $2 each. We were surprised at the amount of tourists but ended up happy on the south end in a great little beach side resort to enjoy our first official rest day. It was difficult to leave Ko Lanta but we were happy to be back in the saddle and once back on the main land our next leg took us through Khlong Phanom National park with perfect tight corners and limestone mountains literally leaping out in front of us, not the longest road but given our constant freeway journey since landing in South-East asia it lifted our spirits. We made it as far as Phetkasem to find a hostel within walking distance to the beach and lay our heads for the night.

True love...

True love…

Koh Lanta's National Park. Could be worse

Koh Lanta’s National Park. Could be worse

Up bright and early for a swim we made good time the following morning taking us through to the east coast, the distance surprising us as the land is so narrow only a small 70klm’ls from west to east. With a quick consult of the map we realised Bangkok was unachievable but a small town on the east coast that Jimmy and Monica had stayed last year would work and we ended up staying in the exact room they had shared months earlier. Next stop Bangkok for a much-needed battery charger for Jimmy’s camera, given our little interest in city traffic we exited as soon as possible to meet with Bangkok Police on a motorway only for cars and trucks and we were instructed to turn around and ride against oncoming traffic to get off!

Stuck in traffic on the outskirts of Bangkok

Stuck in traffic on the outskirts of Bangkok

Our breakfast restaurant in Kamphaeng Phet

Our breakfast restaurant in Kamphaeng Phet

Our chef at our breakfast restaurant in Kamphaeng Phet

Our chef at our breakfast restaurant in Kamphaeng Phet

Our breakfast in Kamphaeng Phet

Our breakfast in Kamphaeng Phet

Matt who we met over a few beers had recommended a road south of Mae Sot that weaves its way to the largest waterfall in Thailand high in the mountains in Umphung a 170klm journey taking us up about 2000 m with stunning scenery and views through to a much-anticipated Burma. Jimmy and I had a huge amount of fun on the way up over 1000 bends leading us into Umphung to a much deserved beer and given our lack of private space we decided to splash out at $8 a night on a room each.

Lunch off the beaten track enroute to Umphang

Lunch off the beaten track enroute to Umphang

The road to Umphang

The road to Umphang

We left Umphung in search of the waterfall, we had heard that one could only make it with a local tour company but given we ride adventure bikes that wasn’t going to stop us! We made our way out to the national park and proceeded to buy tickets to get in but to our disappointment they wouldn’t less us in on our bikes. We consulted the map to locate a smaller waterfall 30 klm down the road and decided to try our luck, the paved road came and went and we ended up along way off the beaten track onto 15 klm’s of dirt, mud and ruts that eventually broke the forces of gravity with us both dropping our bikes at low-speed. We dusted off our pride and headed back in disappointed to not have showered in a Thai waterfall.

Getting dirty whilst trying to find a waterfall

Getting dirty whilst trying to find a waterfall

 

 

Off the beaten track

Off the beaten track

Blokes Off Spokes #blokesonspokes #adventuremotorcycling #thailand #bmwgs

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With all the dirt riding in the morning the concentration needed for the journey home wore us down, the road was awesome but not consistent in condition and you had to stay alert to avoid any mishaps. A short stop at the halfway point found some other big bikes, BMW’s and a few Harley’s why you would take a Harley along this path astounded us but we soon learned the Harley rider owned Bangkok Harley Davidson so I guess he didn’t have a choice! Great to meet other riders on the road, always up for a chat about our journey.

Mae Sot was surprisingly big and initially I was keen to check it out but soon learned that it was a typical border town and mostly consisted of retail trade with Burma. A good night sleep with an early start to cross the border into Burma the following day and meet up with our tour.

Sydney to The Sunshine Coast – 2830kms

Sydney was a significant stop over for me as my wife Sophie is currently living in Darlinghurst on tour with ‘The Sound of Music’ and I was keen to spend some quality time with her, we are also lucky to have some good friends living up here and what better way to spend Australia Day than on Coogee Beach with a beer and JJJ hottest 100 in 28 degree sun. Dad and my brother Tim flew out to Melbourne late Australia day and I have never seen my dad so happy to be swimming in the ocean.  So that left us with both our partners and Ryan to spend the next 3 days roaming Sydney’s haunts. James and I spent a frustrating day trying to obtain final gear needed for the bikes and luggage in particular a top box for me as I had left Melbourne without one due to a lost key! I ended up organising one in Brisbane to pick-up passing through enabling me to spend the final day with Soph.

We had our worst departure yet out of Sydney, late to see Sophie off and with Ryan off at the doctors to have a sore elbow looked at we didn’t end up getting away until 2:30pm. This coincided with a massive thunder-storm to see us out of the city limits no sooner than 2 hours. Intended destination was Coffs Harbour through the ranges but we ended up with only enough time to make it to Port Macquarie straight up the Pacific Highway a good day to utilise the Sena bike to bike communication gear to keep us from the monotonous straight road and varying speed limit. A good nights sleep in the tent we were away early for a big day Destination Byron Bay and given James’ recent ‘surprise marriage’ I proposed a plan for a belated Buxx Party in the party town on the most Eastern tip of Australia and organised a motel room close to the action.  Turned out to be a massive day of riding in total 601km’s and it was a good example of why not to fall behind, we had a blast but the day wore us down. Ryan was doing exceptionally well to keep up with us given he has only had his licence for 6 months! Upon arrival in Byron it was off to town for a feed, beers and the rest needs to stay with lads – we did however find ourselves at the back of the crowd in the beach hotel acknowledging the fact that we were not quite as young as we feel.

We rose the final day nursing a slight hangover, although I think James was putting on a brave face! A couple of coffee’s and breakfast had us away with a quick stop at the Cape Byron lighthouse for some happy snaps, and a glimpse of a pod of dolphins off the shoreline – a reminder of the beauty of Australia and how lucky we are to call it home.  We left Byron for our final leg through to Minyama on the Sunshine Coast QLD to stay with a very good friend Simon, travelling the long way up and over Mount Tamborine we realised that chasing the sun around the world could be harder than first thought with temperatures rising and humidity you could swim in. A quick detour past a bike shop South of Brisbane put a smile on my dial obtaining my much needed top-box, better than the old one and with working keys! James’ Monica had already arrived from Sydney and we were welcomed to the Sunshine state with a dip in Dave and Simon’s waterside pool and a cold beer.

The following day Ryan flew to Melbourne leaving James and I to get down to business, we had ONE day to create the bikes and get them into Freight Customs and onto a plane. Next stop Malaysia!

 

 

 

Bike Preparation

Both James and I are taking our 12+ year old BMW 1150gs’s with us, each with well over 100,000kms on the clock. Although well maintained I’m sure many other Adventure riders would consider them too much of a risk for such a journey. I purchased my beast over 5 years ago replacing a Ducati 750 Monster; I was sick of getting to the end of the asphalt with the only option to turn around and head back to the big smoke. I didn’t want a glamour machine like my monster anymore and my budget at the time could only just stretch for an 1150GS. Rough around the edges but with a good heart it made it from Brisbane to Melbourne easily and with a fresh set of rubber I started to get to know the big beast. It didn’t take long to realise just how well these bikes handled and I’m still convinced that I can outride the Monster on it. I fitted the remus cat eliminator and muffler to get a note and some extra torque down low.

The clutch started to slip about 10,000km’s into my ownership and I fitted a new clutch kit and slave cylinder. Being a vehicle mechanic I have completed all the repairs myself; the is clutch is a big job but not hard. I was surprised to find the set-up and clutch plate location on the input shaft was somewhat questionable. The new clutch plate fitted the input shaft well and we all agreed that with new splines on the plate it should be serviceable for a while yet.

But it is in the back of my mind whenever I ride – I hate knowing how my vehicles work and the possibilities of failure but I also believe in the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach – I cannot make 16 year old bike ‘new’ and it has served me so well for the last 5 years. With all this in mind I still need to be realistic about this journey – my haphazard approach may be ok for a long weekend ride to the Snowy Mountains, but given I have the skills and a workshop I have just ordered the following parts from BM Motorcycles in Ringwood Vic and plan the have them all completed by Christmas.

  • Engine, Gearbox and final drive oils.
  • 2 new spark plugs
  • Valve clearances.
  • Alternator Belt
  • Final drive bearing and seal
  • New fuel pump and filter
  • 2 Air-filters
  • 2 Oil Filters
  • New battery
  • Quick Release fuel lines for neat fuel tank removal

About 5 years ago James was home for Christmas (he worked in China for a few years) and needed some wheels.  I lent him my GS to get around town and a few days later I was receiving photos of my bike in some of the best locations in Victoria! Upon return he was raving about the GS. When I found a similar example for sale on the net a few years later I emailed the link to him just to stir the pot a little. 5 minutes later he was on Skype asking me to go and buy it for him! It was a much better example than mine with full service history and only 2 owners. It was also the twin spark model. So when James returned from China there was a 2003 GS waiting for him at my place. We soon had it registered and starting venturing beyond the city limits together.

The first time I took mine on a dirt adventure was on a return leg from Eildon to Melbourne, I decided to follow as much dirt as possible and managed to drop it on the first tight corner; I lost the front wheel in some soft mud and down I went ripping off my left pannier and almost losing the bike off the side of the track. I was lucky enough to rite it again and rectify the pannier mount – hats off to Lachlan from MTD panniers and luggage as the pannier mounts can easily be repaired on the roadside. I was pleased I had dropped it early in the ride and I continued to push hard enough throughout the day playing caution when the front wheel was carrying weight.

James’ is planning to replace most of the same parts as I will be, we are hoping to find time in the first week of January.

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