|1 Year on the Road.
May 17th is an important milestone for us it marks our first year on the road. To celebrate this we thought we would do a brief round up on the trip so far.
We have had a brilliant journey, made loads of friends and are fulfilling our dream of living on the road and exploring the world by motorcycle. Time to come clean first though, We are in Sydney as I write this. Our time in New Zealand has come to an end and what an amazing time it has been.
When the bike gets here on the 23rd (pending customs) we will start the next big leg of our adventure riding around Australia.
We are about 5 weeks or more behind on our blogs which is a big problem as we are now in a different country. They might come thick and fast for a while because we desperately need to get up to date. Anyway we will do our best, meantime here is an overview of how things are going. Countries visited 19 (incl Australia)
Kms ridden 45000
Speeding tickets 0 (not gloating my time will come)
Punctures 0 (ditto)
Police stops 2 No further action
Bribes / fines 0 (1 tried really hard we just didn’t have any money)
Make Ups 4638 There are definitely advantages to going around the world on something a bit wacky and different. Whenever we stop anywhere people (even non motorcycle people) come for a look or a photograph and because they are curious they ask questions and get talking. Next thing you know you are being invited to stay or they will email their friend who would be interested and it snowballs.
It’s been a great way to meet people and the bike weaves it’s magic and makes people smile everywhere.
Part of its appeal is that it looks like it’s going around the world even when it’s parked in a car park and part is because it looks so different. Loads of people say “I’ve never seen anything like it” A brief overview of the journey so far.
We rushed through Europe a bit crossing it in a month including Eastern Europe. We have toured most of Western Europe before but Eastern europe was new to us, we would have liked to spend more time there but we had visas for Asia ticking and Europe is very expensive at the moment due to the weak pound. This has also been an issue in many other countries and has meant that a significant chunk of our savings has just vapourised in exchange rates and transfer fees which doesn’t help.
When we got to Turkey we started to slow down a little but the ever present Russian visa deadline stopped us going as slowly as we would have liked. This was a big stepping stone as it was where we entered Asia for the first time.
We loved Turkey, it was where the landscape became less familiar and the heat and hospitality ramped up. The Turks were so nice to us and it was a great introduction to Asia and it’s culture.
We would happpily go back there and explore it further.
Georgia and Azerbaijan were both just transits of a few days duration although they were both perfectly nice places in their own right. My enduring memories of Georgia were the warm cinnamon and sultana bread they sold on the roadside, the intricately decorated metal roofs of their houses and the decorated gold teeth in their mouths (very popular here).
Azerbaijan well that would be the cows, bloody everywhere they are just milling about in the road, oh and the roads. This was where they started to get really bad, one border town sticks in my mind with more six inch deep potholes than tarmac.
Kazakhstan was a bureaucratic nightmare to get into and the scene of our first major breakdown when we snapped a driveshaft in the desert heading towards Uzbekistan.
We managed to fix everything up ok but the delay together with visa problems and a small war breaking out between the Uzbek’s and Kyr’s meant we had to scrub Uzbekistan,Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan off our list which was a great shame. We would love to finish this missing piece someday, once we were in Kazakhstan the people were nice, it’s not the most scenic of places as most of the country is covered in steppe (arid scrubby desert) but we had a great time in the north especially Astana which we loved.
The south from Almaty into Russia is more scenic with the mountains of Kyrgyzstan in sight.
Crossing into Russia for the first time we were nervous but our fears were unfounded. The Russians were curious, hospitable and very friendly, it almost seemed that the bigger, uglier and scarier they looked the more friendly they were.
The beauty of the Altai region and Lake Baikal was a real suprise, Siberia just seemed to go on forever and although it has it’s own wild beauty you could ride 500km and it would look exactly the same as where you left. I have never seen so many trees in my life, all conifers or silver birch as far as the eye could see.
Mongolia was a fabulous place by far the hardest riding but so worth it, remote, wild spectacular landscapes mingled with a nomadic culture where horses still rule. Freecamping paradise where you could stop anywhere and camp but expect a 10 year old on horseback to appear from seemingly nowhere to check you out.
We only intended to stay in Japan for a month and ended up travelling around for two and a half. There was so much to see and do there and the people were so lovely we could easily have stayed longer. The only thing that stopped us was how eye wateringly expensive it was there and the encroaching winter and snow.
Our later departure from Japan and the revelation that we could ship to NZ for the same price as Oz meant that it was a no brainer to go there first and enjoy their more comfortable summer before doubling back to Oz in the autumn/winter.
New Zealand was always somewhere we were both looking foward to and it met and exceeded our expectations. We have had a fabulous time here and would recomend it to anyone. The scenery is jaw dropping, the people are the friendliest we have ever met and we would like to say thank you to all the people who put us up, showed us around and helped us. It made our stay here unforgettable !
What’s the next year going to bring ? who knows that’s half the fun ! We have already had a nice welcome email from some of the Guzzisti in Oz together with about 30 offers of accomadation and assistance. We are currently staying with Graeme and his family in Sydney until the bike arrives. Graeme found our email from pictures of the Ace Cafe overland day just before we left (I wrote our website address on the front box with a marker pen)
See I have always said you meet the nicest people on a Guzzi !
There are certainly many more adventures around the corner, Oz is vast and has much to offer and then there is South America, the USA and Canada, weather and funds permitting.
We have a 12 month visa (just in case) Australia is a vast country (three times the size of western europe) and it’s certainly going to take some re adjustment of scale after NZ. Mechanically things are in reasonable shape, we managed to solve the problem of the missing outrigger wheel, renewed the piston rings and gave the valves a grind which has pepped the old girl up considerably (all this will be blogged in due course)
I still have a few things I want to do in Oz (mainly painting the tank and sidepanels and fabricating an alloy mount for my alternate oil cooler pump) but it just depends on who we meet along the way. The only slight gremlin is that the clutch is dragging when she’s hot for some reason. I didn’t have enough freeplay on the gearbox arm and I think it might have stuffed the needle roller bearing or something. It’s not a problem during normal riding just a pain in traffic because you can’t select neutral once you have stopped. Doubtless we will get to the bottom of it, other than that she’s running really well. We have broken a few things on the journey but we have always managed to fix them en route sometimes with help sometimes not. The biggest single problem has been the driveshaft snapping, annoyingly this was a problem of my own making.
When I uprated the brakes I mounted an additional brake caliper under the swingarm, this worked well but fouled on the centrestand stopping it folding up fully. Hence why I lengthed the swingarm and driveshaft, with the glorious benefit of hindsight I should have found the next standard length up Guzzi driveshaft and made the swingarm to suit rather than welding two driveshafts together to suit the new length of the swingarm. Hopefully with some help from a friendly Aussie called Mark I might have a one piece driveshaft coming to Sydney that should cure this problem. The shaft is steel so we have always been able to weld it back together to keep us going.
The bike weighs about 450kg fully loaded that’s plus us so it’s been pulling nearer 600kg up mountains, across deserts including a fairly substantial amount of off roading. I am still happy with my choice of motorcycle and the mods we have done to it, most of it works really well. There are things I would do differently, we are over packed and could manage with slightly less. This wasn’t helped by packing in a rush (always fatal) although there isn’t much we have never used. We have thinned a few things out en route but it’s expensive to send stuff home. Our Top Mods in order of merit. 1 The roof and screen,
A few tweeks along the way means we can now ride in light to medium rain with no waterproofs at all and stay dry. In really heavy rain we just get slightly wet so need lightweight waterproofs on.
It also keeps the cold (and hot) wind off us making a massive difference to our comfort and endurance in extremes of weather. 2 The panniers/crashbars
These have worked really well, I much prefer top loading panniers to clamshell ones. Ours come off easily, have been totally waterproof and robust enough so far. The other great thing about them is they are chairs and a table and get us off the floor when we are camping. The crashbars have saved us and the bike from damage countless times. 3. Spare fuel tank
This has prevented us being stranded quite a few times, worth its weight in gold in remote places. 4. Suspension
The leading link forks have performed very well as have the fournales air shocks so far, although one of the front ones has just started leaking some damping oil. (We can swap over to the spares if necessary.) The sprung seat was definitely a good idea and worth the effort. 5. Headlights
Although we try not to ride at night, now and again you get caught out. I have been really glad of the HID lamps when we have been in the dark, they are super bright and a really white light more like daylight. 6. Winch
Although heavy it has earnt it’s keep by dragging us out of the mire quite a few times now. It has also enabled us to get the bike on and off a trailer and a lorry when we have needed a ride with a safe (ish) controlled ascent and descent. We have got two lengths of extra rope now so we can reach an anchor point to attach to. There are a few things that are on our priority list in this our second year. We really want to update and freshen up the website, it’s just difficult to find the time, internet connection and a computer at the same time. Our other priority is to write to some companies regarding sponsorship, our websites are receiving quite a large amount of traffic now so we can give companies some exposure in return. Neither of us want to get too commercial but some support be it monetary or equipment would definitely be a big help to keep us going. Here’s to another year of travelling, thank you for following us, (there are quite a lot of you out there now: views approx, website 36000, flickr pictures 65000 posterous 20000) So take a bow. Kev and Karen aka Guzzioverland