Monday, 3 December 2012

Marco Polo's Camel

Marco went by camel but I am going on a BMW.

Side by side you can see the similarities. Strong, reliable and efficient. Built for following the Silk Road over deserts and mountains or going off road to find a better route. Plenty of space for the traveller as well as for goods. And somewhere to store the water.

The BMW R1200 GS is the classic adventure bike. Ever since Charley and Ewan went "The Long Way Round" it has become the must have bike which other manufacturers have tried to match. 

The one I have is a newer version of the 1150 I rode in Patagonia but is now an old version having been replaced twice since 2009. As you can see it has had a bit of "Kit-tastic" done to it which we will return to later.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Meet the Team

We will get to know them over the next 6 months and get to know them all really well during the 11 weeks on the road. But for now, let's introduce the team. From left to right starting with the back row:

Peter is a Canadian from Arizona who has flown to the UK with his wife Cindy for the training session. (Cindy is taking the picture - thanks Cindy!)

Chris and Susie are riding two up on a KTM (everyone else is on a BMW)

Stephan is from Switzerland and Patrick from France.

Kevin is leading the trip himself. Here he is demonstrating his navigation expertise by pointing to Beijing on the map.

Front row is:

Andy and Nigel who have ridden together on several Globebusters trips including the Trans-Americas.

Yours truly.

Mel, has toured the high Andes with Andy and Nigel and is back for more.

Missing from the picture are:

Ian who works with the police in St Albans. He should keep us on the straght and narrow. (Where were you Ian? Stepped out for smoke?).

Professor Sam from the University of Kent. He will be conducting a phisiological study on the riders during the trip.

Bradley is from Australia and isn't here for the training. We'll meet him later.
Ian, one of Globebuster's regular support drivers, who will be driving the support van.

Looks like an interesting group. Should be fun!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Team Talk - Part 1

This weekend the team that are travelling the Silk Road in 2013 met up for the first time. Globebusters run a couple of weekend get togethers before we go. These are part briefing, part training and part team building.

Briefing covers the essentials of the trip: What to wear, what bike to take and how to preparare it, passports & visas, insurance, health. Despite a couple of years prepaaring for the trip it turns out there is more kit to buy and some of what I have is not recommended. That will teach me for being too keen!

Training this time is First Aid (First Bike on Scene), bike handling and group riding. The weather for Sunday looks to be cold and damp. Pretty typical for Wales and apparently good training for the Pamir Highway and Tibet.

The sessions are run by Kevin and Julia. You quickly realise that they have "been there, done that" and that however scarey it all seems, they are the right people to be doing this with.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Silk Road - The Route

View Silk Road '13 in a larger map

The proposed route is about 11,000 miles from the Ace Cafe in London to the port of Tianjin near Beijing from where the bikes will be shipped home. Along the way we visit the historic cities of Istanbul, Khiva, Samarkand, Lhassa and Xi'an. A mix of tarmac and off-road, hotels and home stays.
Challenging, exciting and a little bit scary .... 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

All the way to China! On your own?

I am not an experienced adventurer. I have done a couple of trips but as Dirty Harry (or was it Socrates?) once said: "A wise man knows his limitations", Traveling overland through countries I don't know without the language or the mechanical skills needed would be truly foolish. Anyway, part of any travel is about the people you do it with, the dynamics of the group, the new friends, the mutual support and the joy of sharing new things.

The trick here is to go in a group that does not stop you connecting with the world you came to see. It is too easy to become inwardly focused and forget that the landscape and communities you pass through are not just a backdrop. Let's call it the "Coach Trip Syndrome".

Route 66 and Iceland showed that in some countries going with a small group of freinds works really well. The risk is lower and help is not far. Experience from Patagonia showed that in more remote areas, group adventure travel works. The guys from Compass were great and the group was fun. Also, when things got as bit "broken", it really helped to have someone who speaks Spannish and drives a Land Cruiser.

The idea for this trip came from Globebusters ( As soon as I saw the route and the names of the places it visited, I knew this was the way to go. As Globebusters say "It's not a holiday, It's an adventure!"

Today I received the joining instructions in advance of the first training session in three weeks time. A chance to meet the rest of the group and find out what I have let myself in for. It is starting to feel real.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The road goes ever on ....

When Graham and I road across the USA the route we took had many attractions. It linked the eastern states and the west coast, traverising the varied geographies of the US from the deserts to the plains. From sea to shining sea (well almost).

But most of all it is Route 66. The iconic route of song and novel. Immortalised by Steinbeck and the Stones. It is part of the story of America. It is "Main Street USA" and the "Mother Road". It is a road that everyone knows.

That laid down the challenge: To ride the world's famous routes wherever they may be.

Next up was Ruta 40, the gravel track that links Tierra del Fuego to the north of Argentina across the wild and remote lands of Patagonia. From the furthest south to Bariloche and on over the Andes to Santiago in Chile.

Next came Route 1 - the Ring Road that joins the scattered settlements of Iceland. Circling the volcanoes and ice caps, crossing the fault lines of the newest land on earth.

And now, the ultimate route. The most ancient trading route in the world. The Silk Road that for thousands of years has joined the civilizations of East and West. The route, or to be more accurate, routes that brought silk, paper and gunpowder to the emerging civilisation of Western Europe and the Mediterranean.

The start and end points of the route depended on who you were, when you lived and what you were trading, But for many years the Chinese end would have been at Xi'an the ancient capital of China and the western end at Constantinople, the richest city of the West.

So that's the route, London to Beijng via Istanbul and Xi'an, Tracing the old way through Turkey, Central Asia, across the Pamirs and the high plateau of Tibet and central China.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Il Mezzo Milione

When Marco Polo wrote his famous account of his travels to China and back no one believed it could be true. The book became known as "Il Milione" - the million lies.

On this trip I am following Marco along the ancient Silk Road to it's start in the old capital of China, Xi'an. But I'm not returning that way. So I only have room for half as many lies. "Il Mezzo Milione". Enjoy.