Well we have been back ‘home’ now for about a month and are starting to look back on our trip with a little perspective and seeing it for the first time as a complete entity. To be honest we entered this period with some slight dread, as many overlanders will tell you about the post-trip blues when suddenly the world stops, all notion of onward travel ceases and you are faced with the reality of having spent the pot of gold that paid for the trip just past and the necessary adjustments needed to get back into some sort of employment and more ‘mainstream’ / ‘normal life’ whatever that may be. On top of the you are trying to assimilate everything that happened on the road in a world where most folk have no idea of what you have just been through…
We didn’t really experience too much of this on our previous Pan-American trip. We returned to Northern Ireland, where we spent some time living with Maggie’s mum. We also had a little money inherited from when my own mother passed away plus a small income from the rent from our own house in England so we had something of a cushioned landing. At home things were more or less as they had been when we left, so it was just a question of deciding what we wanted to do next. Eventually we drifted back to work when we felt ready, having written our two Pan-American travel books. This time it is very different. The trip itself has been over twice as long as the Pan-American (38 months against 15 months) and cost a lot more so there is a more pressing need to find employment. Additionally, we are coming home to a country much changed by International events; namely Brexit.
Brexit had a massive and immediate impact on our travels and it happened on day 355 of our trip, which lasted 1164 days in total. Immediately, the pound fell by around 10% overnight on the decision that Britain would leave the EU. Simply put, when we next went to get £100 worth of local currency from the ATM it was suddenly costing us £110! We calculated that, had the pound retained its pre-Brexit exchange rate, we could have stayed on the road for another 80-days (or at least come home with a better bank balance at the end). In work too Brexit has had a huge impact. I worked for Airbus, in their space division and when I left in 2015 the UK sites had a massive workload, most of it European and I just assumed there would be no problem in slotting right back in to the next programme to come along, as we were always looking for skilled people. Now, post-Brexit, it seems that European space programmes are simply no longer being awarded to Britain and the workload is suffering.
Consequently, these circumstances have made us consider working and living elsewhere. I started looking for employment back in June and was successful in attracting interest from firms in Holland and Germany. I had two really good video interviews by Skype (hence the haircuts in the last post) and these were to be followed up by face-to-face interviews on site in each country upon our return. We landed in Gatwick on a Tuesday morning and on Wednesday I flew to Holland for the Dutch interview in Delft on the Thursday. The following Monday I had a UK interview in Surrey and then flew to Bremen for the German interview. So our homecoming was somewhat busy to say the least. Before declaring the outcome of this here are some facts and figures from our journey…
We don’t really have a detailed cost breakdown for the trip but here are some statistics that may be of interest to anyone thinking of a similar trip. We had been slowly planning this trip since the end of the Pan-American ride in 2006. It was funded by some savings accrued over that time + a monthly income from a rented property in the UK.
Duration: 3 years, 2 months and 6 days (1164 days in total).
Distance Travelled: 51,000 miles. Note: on average, for every day riding, we spent three days off the bikes allowing us to really explore our changing environment.
Number of countries visited: 26; England, France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, UAE (Dubai), India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, East Timor, Australia (including Tasmania), New Zealand and finally Canada.
Favourite Country: hard one this… toss up between India and Indonesia all based on the colour, aromas and vibrancy of both places.
Most Memorable Moments:
Every day was truly memorable but a few occasions really stand out…
The Burmese New Year Thingyan Water Festival, the biggest water-pistol fight on the planet. See post – Magnificent Myanmar (or Burma in old money…)
Helping to cook and serve 5000 Biryanis in Singapore with ‘Free Food For All Charity’. See post: Singapore feeding the Five Thousand
Meeting an Orang-u-tan in Sumatra. See post Wild Sumatran Roads
Riding our bikes inside the crater of the volcano at Bromo in Java. See post And Now For Something Completely Spectacular…”
HU 2017 Indonesia on Sumbawa. See post Profile of an Adventurer; HU 2017
The spectacular wildlife encounters in Komodo National Park, Indonesia. See post Way of the Dragon!
Worst Moment:Seeing the little girl die in India. See post Tragedy on the Road East…
Scariest Moment: Trying to pass an oncoming truck in roadworks on an elevated highway in Java with millimeters between the side of the truck and a broken neck had he nudged us over the edge. See post Wild Sumatran Roads: The Ride to Java…
Top 10 Most Beautiful Places that made us go ‘Wow!!!’ (in no particular order and click on each entry to see the relevant photogallery)
Amber Fortress (Rajasthan – India)
Lake Toba (Sumatra, Indonesia)
What We Loved Most:
Every day, being able to make the world what we wanted it to be: At home you are bound by the responsibilities of holding down a job and running a house. Your life is dictated by a fairly rigid timetable of events centred round this and it is further encumbered by a plethora of material things that need care and looking after. On the road life is minimal and stripped to the basics leaving us the ability to order our lives as we saw fit. Don’t like a place? Just move on. Carrying something that isn’t contributing towards the trip? Just give it away. Life is soon pared down to the basics, leaving a lot of time to focus on the things that make you happy and the garnering of beautiful encounters, experiences and meeting simply wonderful people.
What We Disliked Most:
Shipping the bikes: Every time it is different… a different set of documents required, a different set of costs and most of it beyond your control. We hated being separated from the bikes and worrying that something might happen to delay their arrival at the next destination. On a similar note we also hated any protracted dealings with Customs. The entry into Singapore was perhaps one of the most stressy days of the trip (see…
BIKES: 2 x 2002 model BMW F650GS
Note: for details of the bikes themselves please see the reference section here: The Bikes
Norm’s Bike – KP52 VTO– covered 51,004 miles on this round the world trip. Total mileage at the end of the trip: 116,407
What went wrong?:
1 x waterpump & head gasket replaced @ 105,000 miles. I suspect the head gasket didn’t need to be replaced. I had water in the engine oil but no weep from the special weep hole that indicates waterpump failure. The head gasket was replaced but in the subsequent pressure test the waterpump was found to be leaking so it too was replaced. I suspect that it was the cause of the water leak all along.
1 x Radiator cap – was sticking and caused over-pressuring of the burp tank when the engine was hot in Darjeeling. Swapped caps, which confirmed the cap was faulty on both bikes.
1 x leaking fuel pump. This was the bane of my life for many months on the trip. A bit of an unusual one, where one of the feedthroughs on the electrical wires that power the pump had overheated causing the rubber seal to yield and allowing petrol to leak via the feedthrough in the top of the plastic fuel pump. I tried every glue, paint, sealant, putty under the sun to fix the leak and every time the petrol dissolved the fix (I suspect that there is a lot of ethanol / additives in some of the fuels we were using) and the pump leaked again. As the leak was in the pump, which is mounted on the top of the fuel tank, it was only a problem when the tank was full, but this meant that I couldn’t fill the bike at night in readiness for an early morning start on a full tank of gas. Eventually I sourced a replacement second hand pump in Brisbane, Australia and that was the end of the problem.
1 x Speedo PCB capacitor replaced – known problem on the F650 that I’d lived with for quite a while, causing the instruments to flicker when cold/damp. Fixed by Wayne Toll in NZ who was aware of the problem and had the parts.
1 x front wheel bearing set replaced due to wear & tear.
2 x Batteries – started with a Motobatt that lasted from May 2013 for 62,000 miles. Replaced with another Motobatt in NZ due to failing performance / start problems.
1 x mystery fail to start attributed to a dodgy relay that was replaced.
Maggie’s Bike – KG02 FUU– covered 50,439 miles on this round the world trip. Total mileage at the end of the trip: 113,710.
What went wrong?:
3 x waterpumps replaced @ 75,000, 85,000 and 109,000 miles. Not really sure why this bike chewed waterpumps. The third one was attributed to use of a radiator sealant that had fine metal particles in it. Although they fixed a leaky rad, the little metallic particles also worked their way into the waterpump seals and destroyed them.
1 x Radiator cap – as per the other bike – went shortly after the first one was fixed – good job we ordered two caps!
1 x front wheel bearing set replaced due to wear & tear.
1 x broken wheel spoke (front) – replaced by a custom-made part from Retro Classic Cycles, Yogyakarta, Indonesia .
3 x Batteries – started with a Motobatt that lasted from May 2013 for 30,000 miles. This died (dried out) in Sumatra, Indonesia and was replaced by a local ‘Gold Shine’ 12N10-3B lead-acid battery, which lasted for 12,300 miles and died on arrival in NZ. Replaced with another Motobatt.
13 x Oil & Filter changes
2x Air Filter changes
2 x Spark Plug changes
3 x Chain & Sprocket kits.
5 x sets brake pads.
5 x Front tyres:
- 1 x Bridgestone Battlewing – Home – Dubai.
- 2 x Metzeler Karoo 3’s – Dubai – Chiang Mai (Thailand), then 2ndtyre on to Darwin
- 2 x Heidenau K60 Scouts – Darwin – Christchurch (NZ), then 2ndtyre on to home
8 x Rear tyres:
- 1 x Bridgestone Battlewing – Home – Dubai.
- 1 x Metzeler Karoo 3 – Dubai – Jaipur (India)
- 1 x Vee Rubber – Jaipur – Chiang Mai
- 2 x Metzeler Karoo 3 – Chiang Mai (Thailand) – Singapore, then 2ndtyre on to Darwin
- 3 x Heidenau K60 Scouts – Darwin – Melbourne, then 2ndtyre on to Christchurch (NZ), then 3rdtyre on home.
No real complaints about the road performance / grip of any of the tyres we used. The Karoo 3’s have a dreadfully short life (about 5000 miles on the rear) as did the Vee Rubber, a Thai tyre and the only replacement we could get in India.
In summary the two bikes were superb. Great performance (will cruise at 60 – 70 mph all day), economy (60 – 70mpg) with no major breakdowns and nearly all of the problems listed above were simply due to age / wear and tear.
Accommodation is one of the biggest costs of any trip and here is a breakdown of our accommodation by the number of nights spent at each type of shelter…
|B&B / Hotel / Apartment (paid)||649||Out of Europe and all the way through Asia.|
|Camping (paid)||239||We left our camping kit at home in Europe and procured camping kit in Australia for use through there, New Zealand and Canada, where other accommodations are astronomically expensive.|
|Tour (paid)||25||We were required to join guided tours through both Iran and Myanmar, which included accommodation as part of the overall package.|
|Family & Friends (free)||142||All the wonderful people who hosted us at their homes across the world, from cousins and friends from home who live overseas to people who followed our website and kindly offered us shelter and hospitality along the way.|
|Workaway / House-Sitting (free)||109||Workaway / House-Sitting was where we worked or house-sat in exchange for free accommodation and sometimes food.
Taking the total of the paid and free nights accommodation (less the tours), our average spend on accommodation worked out at £17.80 per night.
4) HEALTH & FOOD
In general we both enjoyed improved health throughout the trip and had zero colds / flu for the duration. I lost a little weight as we find we don’t snack so much when travelling, which is also a more physical activity so you are burning up the calories every day. I suffer from a Hiatus Hernia and found I was able to reduce my medications for this again due to a more active lifestyle (and not drinking so much wine!).
We had one major health scare when I found a lump in my groin in Thailand. We had fantastic treatment at the local hospital in Chiang Mai, where I was promptly examined and scanned. It was traced to a side effect from taking Malaria tablets, which can cause inflammation of glands and lymph nodes. We decided to abandon the tablets and worked on preventing bites instead by using insect repellant / mosquito nets / wearing long sleeves etc.
To be honest insects proved to be but a minor inconvenience in Asia. There are a lot of flies in Australia and we got eaten alive by sandflies in Queensland. However the worst country of the entire trip for insects was Canada, where we provided free breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper, with snacks in between, to just about every winged critter from coast to coast.
We had zero gastric problems / food poisoning etc, over the entire trip! The food from end to end was awesome! We really enjoyed eating / trying the local food and although we didn’t camp through Asia we did carry our kitchen kit so cooked where possible, when staying in apartment style rooms, using local ingredients. In India we went vegetarian for the entire 4.5 months except in Kerala and Goa where we also had seafood.
5) THE FUTURE
Everything is now back in the UK. The bikes are MOT’d, taxed and insured and we have enjoyed a wonderful round of catching up with friends and family both in Stevenage and back home in Belfast, where we had a wonderful reunion with my wee sister Gina, her hubby Robert, my nephew Ryan and niece Becky. We missed everyone terribly and it was great to come home and feel the love!
So the interviews are all concluded and, with great deliberation, we are opening a new chapter in our journey through this life as we move next to northern Germany to start a new life in Bremen.
Thank you all for following us and watch this space for what happens next…
There is no specific photogallery for this post but I have updated the photogallery page with a favourite snapshot to lead you into each gallery, indexing the entire trip from start to finish. Click here to see everything… Photogallery