Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Post traveller

Credit to an unknown blogger...but this sums it up nicely...

The beauty of traveling around the world is that it allows you to get altitude. No, I don’t mean aeroplane altitude.

I mean it allows you to get a big-picture perspective on things, to see the various ways cultures mesh and collide with one another and how the different streams of history have eroded and hardened each country’s social structures into their respective places.

You realise that much of what you believed to be unique in your home country is often universal, and that much of what you thought was universal is often specific to your home country.

You realise that humans are by and large the same, with the same needs, the same desires and the same awful biases that pit them haplessly against each other.

You realise that no matter how much you see or how much you learn about the world, there’s always more — that with every new destination discovered, you become aware of a dozen others, and with every new piece of knowledge obtained, you only become more aware of how much you really don’t know.

You realise that you will never be able to explore or encounter all of these destinations. Because you realise that the more you spread the breadth of your experience across the globe, the thinner and more meaningless it becomes.

You realise that there’s something to be said to limiting oneself, not just geographically, but also emotionally. That there’s a certain depth of experience and meaning that can only be achieved when one picks a single piece of creation and says, “This is it. This is where I belong.”

Perpetual world travel literally gives you a whole world of experience. But it also takes another away.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Epilogue


It's been such a long time,
I think I should be going, yeah

And time doesn't wait for me,
It keeps on rolling.
Sail on,
On a distant highway.
I've got to keep on chasing a dream.
I've gotta be on my way;
Wish there was something I could say.



Back in a cold, over populated world filled with its own self importance is a shock to the system. Where money and status is all that matters and England's reputation as a green and pleasant land has seemingly been lost in the fog of progress.
...

Thinking about what I've achieved. Thinking about what worked.. And what didn't!

The bike.
I was unsure if a genial commuter bike would stand up to the journey I planned. It was and is no accepted vision of an adventure motorcycle as sold by BMW or KTM. But any bike you have an adventure on works as far as I can see. In the end it was reliable. A major qualification for a bike on an adventure. The only issues were a bit of overheating in Siberia after coating the radiator with a mixture of clay, diesel and wet sand. The temperature warning light came on again heading south into the Australian outback in 40+ degrees centigrade heat. My own internal temperature warning light was glowing brightly at the time too! A failed rear wheel bearing that I replaced with the aid of a brick and a socket extension! One replacement set of brake pads and a chain and sprockets fitted in Australia.  

Suspension
Upgrading it prior to setting off was a hugely successful modification that was worth every penny. Coping with the weight I was riding with, over roads and dirt tracks. Gravel and unmade roads.

Crash bars 
A useful platform for cameras. An alternative to the footrests. An anchor point for tent ropes and on one occasion did exactly what they were actually designed to do. 

LED Spotlights.  
Provided illumination in the dark unsurprisingly. but their main purpose was to provide additional reasons for drivers in busy urban areas to notice this lost traveller as I navigated through foreign places whilst trying to understand local signs (or lack thereof). One side still clings on with gaffa tape and cable ties following impact with tarmac and tram track in Russia.

Cable ties and Gaffa tape 
Held anything and everything together when the original fixing failed through neglect or accident. including the right side mirror that suffers from "droop" but held on all the way after the same tram track incident in Irkutsk  

Additional fuel cans 
Were a great idea for the couple of times I needed them. They provided a comforting insurance where fuel was sparse. On two occasions getting me to the next available fuel stop. But a bit of forward planning on my part would have meant they never got used. In which case they would have been a waste of time.. But they weren't so they were worthwhile having.

Camping gear
When a tent becomes your home it's worth having the right one. I bought the biggest tent that I could find that packed up the smallest. By the end it had a few tears and rips. The stitching was failing around the zip. But it did the job. It kept the rain out several times. The mosquitoes out in the Siberian forests and separated me from what I suspect was a bear in the middle of the night on one occasion. I couldn't ask much more from a few sheets of sewn nylon. I left it in a charity shop in Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean road.

Three Season sleeping bag
Warm enough when it was cold and a comfy mattress when it wasn't 



UVA sunshade 
I made copious use of a one metre square sun shade with one pole and a couple of guy ropes in various configurations. As porch extension to the tent or as a sunshade on front of the bike. The possibilities were endless!

Riding gear. A RST Pro Series textile jacket and IXS trousers with removable lining and plenty of air vents meant I could cope with sub zero temperatures over the Alps and the extreme heat of the Australian outback in mid summer.

Shark flip front helmet
A fantastic aid to communication. A cool open face lid when cruising through towns and warm countryside. Full face protection from the elements and suicidal insects at speed.

Wulf Trial boots 
Gave me the flexibility to be able to walk when needed and the confidence of a well protected motorcycle boot when asked.

Gloves 
Two pairs of gloves both lightweight Dri-Rider ventilated for the hot regions and the full Halvarssons all weather gloves in colder climes.

Android phone
The "all in one" adventure riders tech tool - GPS mapping via the maps.me app, eMail, phone, book reader, camera, video camera, translator, blog writing tool, online hotel and flights booking. Currency converter and online banking.  All from one device. Charged from a 12 volt connector on the bike. It was invaluable.

Guesses at distances and dates.
guesses at arrival times at borders for visa applications worked out about right. I waited in Georgia for my Azerbaijan visa to start. But arrived at Kazak and Russian borders as visas were due to start and i didn't have to race to exit borders before they expired.

Tyres. 
A pair of Heidenau K73 tyres were fitted prior to departure. The rear was replaced early in Turkey by a TKC80 which provided all the confidence I needed on the rough roads and dirt tracks of Kazakhstan. The front lasted all the way to Vladivostok over snowy mountains, Hot summer roads, gravel and dirt tracks, fields! and melted tarmac, finally arriving in Vladivistok under a deluge of rain. The replacement Pirelli MT60 lasted a lap of Australia. A MITAS enduro rear fitted in Darwin, I fully expect to last until the end of time!  

Money 
My budget proved sound to the end. Carrying $2500USD saw me across Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia. Exchanging the last few "bucks" in south Korea. A credit card took up the slack for shipping costs and air tickets. While I didn't live extravagantly there was room for a couple of (by comparison) luxurious accommodations along the way. 

Books. 
28 books ranging from Autobiographies to science fiction and fantasy novels provided the literary inspiration and escape into worlds beyond our own on starry nights reading by torchlight away from civilisation surrounded by the natural world.

Me! 
I didn't break or fail. Apart from a few bruises to limbs and ego nothing was damaged. My anticoagulation was simply not an issue. my mechanical heart valve merrily ticked away. My INR remained manageable throughout despite the scenes of unimaginable horror painted by the nurse in the anti-coag clinic before I left.

What didn't work or failed.

Electrical gadgets suffered the worst.

IPod
My trusty old "wheel" ipod died of lcd failure. A cheap mp3 player   replacement survived until the last days of travel before giving up on providing and usable volume.

MUVI action cam 
Failed after the charging socket detatched from the circuit board in Italy

Power bank. 
One charger fell victim to the same issue. A replacement survived the journey.

Android tablet (x2) 
The first suffered the same charging port failure. A cheap replacement cracked the screen.

HP notebook Laptop.
Survived intact and was used to edit YouTube videos until the sound card failed. It is still serviceable and this update is being written on it. So it's a semi fail. 

Charging cables! 
For phone and tablets. I've lost count of how many. They are fragile little things that don't take much abuse.

Air bed 
Failed early on. But after a while mother nature provided a comfortable sleeping bed once I got used to her curves and bumps

Wood burning stove
Junked after realising that pile of sticks and logs on a fire will do the same job without the need for any equipment other than want the natural world provides.

Non sterling charges: cost?? 
don't want to think how much I've paid on non sterling transaction fees for debit or credit card purchases or cash withdrawals.

Australian quarantine. 
…enough said at the time. Suffice to say highway robbery is not as lucrative

My spelling and grammar let me down frequently. But getting the story across is sometimes more important than correcting my own basic English failings

...

Like an the best stories, life goes on. I don't know where is going to go or how is going to end but there's more chapters to be written yet.

Do you ever find yourself staring at an aeroplane high in the sky and wonder where it's heading? I'm doing it a lot.


Things that spring to mind right now about the memorable bits. Crossing the Alps. A month in Italy and dark skies in the Tuscan hills. A week in Tbilisi. The crossing of the Caspian sea. The arrival in Khabarovsk after riding the trans-Siberian highway. the intense heat of the Australian outback. The great Ocean road. All of New Zealand! the Grand Canyon and Route 66. There are many many many more that will keep me dreaming of further adventures for many years to come. 

Excluding flight distances(approximately 13,650 miles) I covered a total of 25,454 road miles. 

I hope this blog has been entertaining, informative and even amusing at times. I've tried to write in a way that I hope has provided some insight into my thoughts and  experiences during this adventure.

I don't know know where the next chapter starts. I hope to add more as time reveals its plans to me. But for now - Thankyou for getting this far with me. "Moving on"

Ciao for now

Mark  


Thursday, 31 March 2016

To JFK and the hop across the Atlantic

It's not over, but it's close. 

London calling.
Just another big city to get out of asap. Hopefully reunited with my trusty motorbike.
I've missed my faithful travel partner. Sending it home from Australia was absolutely the right thing to do. But my journey has been lessened without it. I became just another tourist. Just another rental car on the road. Anonymous as a world traveller. The bike parked at fuel stations, cafes, camp sites and hotels was always a source of conversation. Always an illustration  of wonder and sense of adventure at the journey.

Very sad to say that this HUGE adventure is in its closing stages. I can't begin to imagine how I'm going to cope with going back to life/work and the fact of not travelling onwards continually. That I guess is something I will have to come to terms with.

I didn't set out on this journey looking for answers to unknown questions and consequently I haven't found any. I have though generated a few questions about my own life and where I go from here. With the sights and experiences I have had over the last 12 months I think my perspective has been irrevocably altered.

You are not what you own.
All the trivial things that tie us down. The obsession with personal belongings. The unimportant things that gain a higher than deserved  level of of our attention. The things that stop us from exploring everything the world has to offer and brings our focus into a narrow margin instead of raising our eyes and seeing the world for what it is and not what is reported as being. 

There are lots of fabulous, amazing and wonderful experiences to grasp hold of. Switch off the news and find your own answers. They are not in the biased views of the news reports that attempts to bring a sense of community where it is divided by cultural differences and political opinions. Different people see things differently that is inherently human. Trying to pretend we are all the same is not going to work. Russians whole heartedly believe their own country is stronger and safer than any other. So do Koreans and Australians... 
New Zealand is!

Local news gives a local bias to its reports. The UK is no different. The BBC is no less biased on its reporting than the Russian news agency.

London. It's bank holiday. It's raining. It's windy, It's grey. Obvious security at Heathrow. Trains delayed due to bad weather.It's England at the end of March. Ho hum.

A hotel near the shipping agents and my bike is available for collection on Tuesday. It might just be a damp ride north.


English breakfast. Well you just have to don't you! Sun shining on the river Thames.. Guess it's not so bad.

My bike is 'mostly' as I left it.. A few extra dings, a couple of extra scratches. The crate arrived damaged. It looks like it's been on its side at some point. But nothing dramatic. 

Putting the front wheel back in and the mirrors and screen and it started first time.


The battery had not been disconnected but was still fully charged. The oil was at minimum (another indication of not being upright?) The tyres were low on air but other than that the signs of long travel are evident and I love the used patina of the bike now.

The sense of crowds is huge. The feeling of people everywhere is overwhelming. The M25 is busy. Constant 50mph variable speed limits. Cameras everywhere. No one cares that my bike is returning from a huge adventure. No one notices the travel stickers. It feels like I need a neon sign pointing out what I've achieved. But instead I'm anonymous. Just another bike on the road. Just another bloke who obviously can't afford to run a car.

The weather is kind and cool spring sunshine accompanies me on my journey north.
Arrival at home is less appealing. It's not a place that makes me happy. No where else to go. No moving on to something new. Just back to the real world. A lack of adventure and a loss of freedom. 

Things need to change. This is my next challenge.