This guest article was kindly contributed by Look around the Globe’s Marta and Łukasz.
We both have loved exploring and discovering the world, never sitting in one place, always traveling and organizing our small trips around Europe, but if someone had told us years ago that we would soon be riding bikes on every continent, we would have thought they were crazy.
I thought I would be working in an office till the end of my days, using holidays to travel. Lucas was always thinking outside the box, so with his inspiration and lead a journey beyond my wildest imagination was born.
The hardest step to take on a new adventure is walking through all the fears, rational and irrational. We had to differentiate the negative public opinion of places from the sometimes surprisingly different reality. Now, we prefer to check out the place and form our own opinion.
The small decision about our first big trip to the Americas and a risk we took changed our lives into a riding dream. We are now riding around the world and love the world for how it is.
Riding as a couple, swapping places has became our style of choice. This is not typical for long trips, especially with a BMW 800 GS. Every day we prove that it is possible to pack “the smaller version of a house” and carry everything for two on one bike. That ride is possible thanks to a guy who is 166 cm (about 5’5″) tall and a lady who is sometimes a rider with her man on the pillion.
The bike fits us both, and after so many kilometers together we have learned how to hold it even with a lower suspension on difficult gravel or sand. There are no excuses that it is too hard, everything depends on the preparation of the bike, thorough thinking, thorough organization with packing all the stuff, and of course a state of mind.
Obviously, there was an idea to ride on two bikes, but we decided to try it on one and see if we could manage it while challenging ourselves with totally different lifestyle.
Sharing responsibilities on the way while riding and trading places on one bike turned out to be a perfect solution for us as beginning overlanders. That solution enables us to travel comfortably, but in the long run the pillion rider does need to move to the front seat.
Riding two-up gives us more flexibility on the road with managing any kind of issue, making the border crossings shorter, giving the option to ride when one of us is tired or even something as simple as going shopping while the second one is lubricating the chain.
The teamwork goes well and even if we have totally different personalities, we realized that our journey is more exciting and interesting because of diverse insights. It was a challenge before, until we understood that every topic should be quickly discussed, and if the opinions are different a solution needs to be determined fast. Better to be focused on the task of surviving and taking things easy than to waste time on changing opinions and arguing about how or what to do.
It took us some time to come to that conclusion, but finally we understood that we are on one team with the same objective.
Preparations and packing the bike for two
Before we started riding, our knowledge about fixing the bike was very basic; we are not mechanics and even now we are still at the fundamental level. We asked some BMW specialist friends to give us short lessons before the first journey, and so subsequently small problems with the bike were handled by us on the road.
Up to now we haven’t had many major issues which would be impossible to resolve. Every time we prepare a trip, we improve something with the bike and set it up accordingly for service along the way.
The journey wasn’t always so colorful and without issues on the road, as we came back home twice on a trailer (luckily just from Europe) following accidents. As people say, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” so here we are now preparing for our longest trip and yet trying not to recall rough times. That is a part of the adventure, and now after a few failures we know it’s just included in the package.
Packing on a bike for two was not a big problem from the beginning. Every day brings a new experience that teaches us how to minimize the baggage even more. Meticulously chosen spare parts, some warmer clothes, decent camping stuff, electronics, spare tires and many different items leave surprised that we manage to carry it all on one bike.
We have a rule that anything taken should be multipurpose, smartly designed, best quality, and should make life easier. Using everything every day makes you realize how short everything lasts with daily wear and tear. After using certain items in such extreme conditions some of them have failed. Having quality gear and equipment that guarantees longtime use instead of changing it on the way is a priority. Looking for replacements on the way always turns into a big nightmare.
People on the road, favorite places, atmosphere and our experiences
The life on a road every day provides so many diverse and extraordinary experiences and emotions. Every place is special and we both can perceive it in a different way. While describing some places, we can say they are created by the people who are present there and the captivating atmosphere that we feel around them. The moment we arrive at a destination we became a part of a newly created nature’s picture.
While traveling it is much easier to realize that the world operates by universal rules and we all tune in to a common language. When we talk about the bikers’ community and their support on our trip we can say that they create a part of our adventure. Good people attract the good ones, and people with passion find those who share their passion.
We regret very often that we can’t spend as much time somewhere as we would like getting to know the culture and customs, as every place has a different story, something new, interesting, unexpected and sometimes not that easy to understand.
One of our favorite destinations is Peru. It is one of the most spectacular places to travel on a bike, like paradise for bikers with every climate zone, from jungle to desert, even through the high Andes. The altitude is 5,000 meters and the sea is within 5 hours. Of course, it was a crazy idea, and we finished it with a huge continuous headache for two days, but it was worth it.
In Central Asia, although we traveled quite fast there—we did 15,000 km in 21 days—there was time to feel the Asian vibes from the local people, as they are so open and kind to everyone. And there we had another proof that the plan is just a theoretical thing and the reality could change it easily: two of our planned borders were closed and we had to travel 700 km extra, which ruined our day-by-day plan and prevented us from exploring a few places we had planned to see.
In South Africa one month was not enough time to see the most interesting places, so we extended our permission twice just to stay there longer, which, as they officially said, won’t be possible and comes with consequences. But there weren’t any—or we were just lucky. Going twice to the border with Botswana and coming back 400 km with new visas just to spend more time with people and explore the country with the motorcycle community means that it was a special place.
We remember the first time there we experienced that Africa is not always as hot as it’s generally known—sleeping in a tent in sub-zero temperatures and scraping ice inside our tent in the morning was a quite interesting experience that we totally didn’t expect.
Baja, California, all of Alaska, and some places in the U.S. are perfect places to relax, pitch a tent and enjoy nature peacefully, the ocean, the desert, cacti, tundra, and green, dark forests.
The same with windy Argentina, the perfect place for camping and spending time just listening to nature. There is one thing we realized we should be careful with: the wind, as we realized that funny signs with bent trees are not a joke, because a few times the side wind knocked down our bike parked on the road.
Bolivia and the famous Salar de Uyuni as the world’s biggest mirror is the most spectacular place in the whole world to ride and feel free, riding in the sky.
During maybe two hours of riding there our bike was covered with a 1.5 cm layer of salt. After exploring that exciting place, we were less excited washing the bike carefully a few times and washing off ourselves, trying to remove the salt from our gear. But we’d go there again if we had the chance!
Thinking about colors, it’s obvious that we need to tell about Canada, Banff, landscapes in Patagonia and the color of water in Zanzibar or in Mexico on the Yucatan; they are hard to describe with mere words.
The same with talking about powerful water seen in many episodes, like waterfalls in Argentina and Brazil or glaciers in Argentina or Alaska.
Nature being an artist made us crazy and we stopped many times to take in its beauty. The same goes for animals when they block your road, like curious giraffes on our way in Kenya, when they start to run behind you howling, like few elephants in Uganda or when bears walk next to the front wheel in Canada.
With every single place there is a story we want to tell. Mostly a very nice one, as we got generally positive vibes on the way and people created the wonderful ambiance.
Many times, the first impression doesn’t mean anything at all. For example, in Sudan or Egypt.
Sudanese authorities first refused us a visa, which made us angry and skeptical about the country. Finally, we got it, and when we reached Sudan, the people totally changed our negative opinion into a fantastic one. They were different that the rest of the people in a few countries we passed riding through Africa: extremely helpful, open minded, with smiles, welcoming us with open hands, even apologizing for a situation we met in their country (as there were protests and small demonstrations, and the lack of fuel). Even in situations like the line at a petrol station sometimes a few kilometers long they showed us the best side of humanity: we were always in front and privileged as guests in their country.
Egypt, another case, many stories we heard about paperwork there. The border is not easy, that is true, but it’s a kind of challenge and possible to succeed. Comparing Egypt to other places is quite interesting but it is a safe country in Africa now. They try to keep tourists safe and we had to get used to having police around protecting us. As it was our last country in Africa it was hard to say goodbye and come to Europe after that.
There are other interesting stories with changing countries. The circumstances, especially in Africa, change every day. Today the border is open, but tomorrow it might not be. That was in Kenya and Ethiopia; we arrived and there was no option to cross the border immediately. It was a matter of time. In Africa, patience is a virtue.
Border-crossing between Nigeria and Cameroon was kind of lucky; we knew it wouldn’t be easy, but a random meeting with a man who was a quite high-up person helped with all things which would be impossible for an average traveler.
There was no option to change the direction or go anywhere else then and we know from other travelers that the normal waiting time could be about a month—but it only took 24 hours with special transportation by the sea to another country for our bike. Once again, it was all about being lucky.
Camping and animals
Talking about the adventure and being overlanders, making the trip as a budget one we cannot forget about camping. It’s indispensable when traveling on bike and a kind of seal of the adventure, which we really love.
We camp when it is possible. It’s a kind of survival training, when the conditions are not perfect, you are going under the trial of overcoming your own fears and weaknesses. Especially when talking about sleeping with grizzly bears, scorpions, snakes or for example lions around.
We slept with grizzlies in Deadhorse, knowing about it, next to the river. When we arrived there at 3 a.m., we did not even feel tired after 16 hours of constant riding, because the sun was still shining, and we were so happy about reaching our destination. Pitching a tent was allowed us to hide from ugly mosquitoes, as there were such big black clouds of them there! And being so excited we weren’t afraid of bears, but of course we left food far away from the tent.
Camping wild is an exciting experience with thousands of stars above our heads, but better to do it smart and not be surprised.
It was different with the lions: the less you know, the better you sleep. We didn’t know about it and finally the next day local people told us that all these people running around with guns were chasing a lion. Okay, that is a part of adventure and in some parts of Africa you get used to people with guns, the same in a few jungle countries in South America—they are saying hello with machetes, but it’s their tool to survive and it’s not dangerous or frightening.
Obviously, we can talk about our motorcycle adventures, the world, about emotions and wonderful people or places for hours. One adventure is chasing another, and after 4 years of riding we still keep discovering and exploring the beauty of travel and the life.
Each of our experiences marks a page in our book of life’s adventure, sharing the best things we have ever done. Sharing the story and experience with people all over the world gives us the power and gets our motor running.
It’s really working both ways, we show people the world and prove that everything is possible even when you only have basic experience, and they give us the strength for riding by sharing their stories, how they started their own journey and how our adventure is inspiration for them. That feeling is fantastic: we know that the traveling virus is spreading.
We wish everybody safe and smart travels with good people along the road.
Marta and Lucas