Getting bitten by the biking bug:
When I scrawled my name down in a competition at the NEC’s Motorcycle Live 2012—I had no notion that it’d lead to winning much more than the runner up prize – a morning’s wobbling on two wheels. The next thing you know, I’d passed my test first time with the Shires Motorcycle Training School and got busy riding Pearl, a F650GS. This, coupled with a two day course with Simon Pavey’s Off Road Skills School in South Wales—I was no natural rider—paved the way for a more challenging adventure, encompassing dirt tracks off the roads less travelled.
What’s been the best moment so far?
A challenge to choose just one. Aside from the interactions we’ve had with folk largely because of the bikes, one of my most memorable moments was the day I started to relax on the ripio. I gave Pearl a handful in third and started feeling a newfound buzz. Something just clicked; I think I had a mini-epiphany..! Off-road riding stopped being my fearsome foe and became a fond friend. Jason’s best moment was drinking in the sight of the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia’s stunning salt flats.
And the worst?
When I unintentionally slaughtered a bird at 45mph on a road in Argentina. The steppe landscape was as featureless as it was flat, we were riding through big sky country yet I still managed to obstruct a bird mid-flight. It flew straight into me, got knocked out on impact and snuffed it instantly. Poor thing, I felt wretched. Jason’s sick-to-the-stomach moment was witnessing the blood sport of a goat being flattened by a reckless support vehicle driver, rescuing our bikes out of the snow. At slow speed, he made zero attempt to dodge this innocent creature whose demise could so effortlessly have been avoided. Grrrgh!
How would you summarise the trip so far?
We’ve ridden 33,000 miles through 17 countries over 21 months to date. Those have been superb. You’ve guessed we’re not exactly in a hurry. We’re merely happy to wend our way up the Americas at a gentle pace and wring out as much adventure along the way. ‘Slowly does it’ keeps us mindful, not just to the places but foremost the people we might have otherwise raced past.
How are you finding the riding?
Hah! Careering over South America’s gravel for hundreds of miles has surfaced some dual frustrations—initially it was the Tortoise and the Hare scenario. What was bone-jarringly punishing for me was assuredly pleasing for Jason. Admittedly I should thank him for his largely unfaltering patience in allowing me to keep pace, even if he does occasionally tell me to “Suck it up, princess.” One day he’ll eat my dust. Jason loves blasting over the slidy stuff, it is fantastic fun. I’ve now developed a riding stamina akin to Jason’s to savour all day in the saddle. It’s biking bliss.
Do you meet many people riding motorcycles?
During sporadic intervals on the road, we’ve met someone and they’ve taken us into their home that is their sanctuary. We’ve transitioned from strangers to amigos, been made to feel comfortable and at ease in no time at all. It’s taken us totally unawares to just how unconditionally kind people are and have been; drawing us into the nucleus of their social circle, friends and family alike. I love it when others especially kids gravitate toward the bikes, are curious to find out more and share in the passion that comes with two-wheeled travel. Even oncoming drivers flash their lights and wave wildly upon seeing us ride past, some go berserk. It’s the people that are contributing most to this trip, without a doubt.
How are you finding travelling together as a couple?
The best thing about riding as a couple is the constant companionship. Two-wheeled travel bestows unexpected experiences upon you daily, phenomenal firsts and vistas that will make your soul sing. We’re very lucky to share all of that. We take it for granted that one can turn around to the other, grin and gawp at something, or yak down the helmet’s intercom for hours. Likewise when circumstances get tough, we’re together to joint problem solve and bounce ideas off each other. Essentially, wanting to see the same countries, travelling by the same means and living out an adventure side-by-side—nothing could make us happier right now. What’s the worst thing you may wonder? The constant companionship! Being with your ‘marvellous other’ 24/7 in often unpredictable and difficult conditions through foreign lands can be a challenge. It’s tested our relationship’s forbearance although we’re improving at recognising one another’s sources of irritation, even when we each become one, hah!
Is the experience better or worse than you expected?
South America has surpassed every single expectation. To Jason’s relief, I never knew I’d love spending more time off-road than on the smooth. It’s always off the highways in backcountry that we’ve been favoured with mini-adventures. Blazing through sandy trails, blasting over gravelly roads, spotting 17 condors soaring over lakes as big as cities or being above the clouds atop an Andean landscape studded with glaciers—you can keep the asphalt. Motorcycle travel is also easier than we anticipated.
How is it different to how you imagined?
As stunning as Latin America is, there are unavoidable towns and cities that make it feel too tourist-magnet and European at times. There’s definitely more paved roads than either of us bargained for, which is sad in a way as it can impinge on that ‘in-the-heart-of-the-wilderness’ feeling when riding through jaw-on-the-floor panoramic landscape.
How is it better?
The spontaneity of it all I think. We wake up never knowing what’s in store for us, who or what we’ll encounter. Individuals we’ve met randomly are opening our minds to a planet of different perspectives. Argentina’s people have left a lifelong impression on us; we’re possibly becoming the most contented and friendliest versions of ourselves. It’s the most satisfying way we’ve travelled to date, overwhelming and grueling at times—but it’s the balance of high highs and low lows that somehow feeds the soul all the more. We’re thriving on it—it’s addictive.
Any regrets about how you’ve done it?
Due to the cargo ship’s availability we arrived in South America’s autumn/winter that proved nippy at best and numbingly cold at worst. It’s a tall order packing minimum clothing for all seasons, tons of tech and camping equipment; fully laden bikes are a pain to pick up and we drop them pretty often. Jason would opt for soft luggage next time round.
What were you initially most afraid of?
I had trepidation about having a major ‘offy’ on Pearl whereas in the back of Jason’s mind, he dreads giving up an adventurer’s life on two wheels and returning to his old one.
Where’s your favourite place that you have visited?
Could we give you our top five instead? Choosing just one is nigh on impossible; in no particular order:
- the Antarctic Peninsula (purest place on the planet);
- Cuyabeno Reserve, Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador (at one with Pachamama, Mother Earth);
- Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia (most surreal landscape to date);
- Cordillera Blanca, Huascaran National Park, Peru (spectacular if you’re a glutton for glaciers);
- and Iruya, Argentina (stunning Latin American backwater village).
What item can you not live without?
I’d say our handmade ‘beer can’ stove as I can’t function without a good cuppa, and Jason wouldn’t be without his Thermarest sleeping mat; he can face anything when not deprived of a decent night’s kip.
What item do you wish you had but haven’t taken?
A Leatherman Charge multi-tool. Of all the items that are double duty, this item trumps everything else out of the water; we could have used one umpteen times over..!
Once we’ve had our fix of and fussy out of Central America, we’ll wend our way through Mexico and into the States—staying on the west coast and to the mid-west. Canada will be up next and then it’s all the way to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, all things being equal. If bodies and budget allow, who knows, we may carry on, continue to stay on the Earth’s surface and ride all the way home!
What made you decide to take this journey? What’s your motivation?
Two wheeled travel finds you free from walls and windows, which leaves you vulnerable—it paves the way towards spontaneity and excitement. Fortunately, this has become true for us, a pair of wanderlust seeking Brits from Nottingham. We honestly didn’t think twice about swopping the life conventional for the ride of a lifetime. We’re now homeless in the traditional sense—home is where the motorcycle is—without off-spring and free from the 9-5 job; what better time to embrace some life-changing adventure.
But why did we as a couple, stable in our jobs with a cottage in the country, jack it all in? Like Jason, I guess sometimes I too felt a little encumbered; enduring the unchanging routine of work, rest and making some imaginative short-lived play before thrown into the repetitive cycle once again. Clinging to the hope that this wasn’t as good as it gets, we opted to sell the house—it’s only when you’ve liquefied most of your assets and pack your life up into a few boxes do you rightly reap the rewards. The sacrifices made are more than worth it.
We decided on the Americas because neither of us had been before. A Passage de Carnet isn’t necessary to travel in the Americas and most of the countries we’ll be riding through are fairly stable politically; a perfect starting point in which to get a taste of motorcycling adventure. We’ve scuba dived the globe over fifteen years together—it feels good to diversify, integrating our passions into something fresh. Spending time with people from all walks of life, sinking into a place and different lifestyles draws the biggest appeal from the trip for us. That and anywhere there are big open spaces in which to go off-grid without having to rely on public transport or organised tours.
Jason has twenty-five plus years riding experience on me; before 2012 I’d never ridden anything other than a bell-jingling donkey on Blackpool beach. Perfectly contented as a pillion, I entered a competition at a national biking event but won so much more than the runner up prize; a morning’s wobbling on two wheels. As tentative as I was, I never looked back. In four months, I went from zero to ‘Lets go!’ and passed my test first time thanks to the unfaltering patience of my instructor.
In the saddle, you’re as free to let your mind wander as your wheels are to roam. Overland travel draws on a newfound freedom that allows you to be in the present moment, as opposed to wishing your life away on a Monday morning to Friday afternoon as we sometimes do; not because you dread every waking minute at work but out of choice, where would you rather be and what would you be doing? Wherever and whatever that is, I can vouch that pursuing a passion for the world in the spirit of self-governed adventure, travelling by unsupported and self-sufficient means—no one can remove the exultation on your soul for which that will bring.