Michnus and Elsebie are – PikiPiki Around the World
Michnus and I chat all the time online but have never met in person, we have a very similar mindset to travel and one word describes it…SLOW!
Michnus and Elsbie have been on the road since 2010 and traveled thru 34 countries to date, me on the other hand on the road for one year less and 37 countries…told you they were slow travelers, so lets learn what it takes, how to do it and how life is that many people dream of.
Michnus will tell you straight up what this trip is and is not – The aim is not to set records or to rush just to get the stamps. We are not the highway asphalt type, we love the backroads, the dirt roads and roads less traveled, the out of way places where tourist never go. Eat local, really dig into a place. We want to rub shoulders with the world, see the amazing places around the globe and get some first-hand experiences of other people’s cultures.
Tell me first about PikiPiki, what does it mean?
PikiPiki is the Swahili word for small motorcycle, mostly used in East African countries. Since we are Africans we thought it quite app to use for our story.
Do you think a good unique name for a website/ blog is important to stand
Not necessary, but a unique name that is relatively easy to remember or have a connection with, would be beneficial. The contents on a blog are of much more value than the name.
How long have you been on the road?
We actually started on-off overlanding in 1994 with a 4×4 and saw the error of our ways later on and switched to motorcycles. Over the years we did trips around Southern Africa. Our decision to start an extended trip happened in 2010. In the beginning, we had to fly back home every now and again but in 2015 we managed to hit the road permanently.
How many countries/ miles have you traveled since you left home?
Not sure about the miles as we aren’t really occupied with that, but my best guess is since we started in 2010 around 150,000km or so. Countries visited so far are less than 40. Damn, looking at that maybe we must hit the gas a harder, we are spending too much time in a country.
You are a very accomplished photographer where did you learn your skills and any tips to give to budding photographer/ adventure riders?
Thanks so much for the compliment, but I really still feel like a complete noob. I started with a point and shoot Nikon in Africa and soon realized although a good camera, it did not allow me to take the photos I wanted. Every time we go back home I would have thousands of photos but the majority were rubbish. The real “holiday” type look. The stuff you won’t even show your mom. I got fed up as photos would always be our memories and when we get dementia at least we have photos to look at. I had to make a plan and learn the dark-art of photography.
Over time and with mirrorless getting better, I just devour any photography article I could find on the internet. How to take photos, how to edit, every how to article I could find.
It helped that traveling throws a photographer into so many different situations that you have to learn all the types of genres available. Sports, landscape, portraits, etc. I take photos every single day. The practice helps me quite extensively.
That said, today learning how to edit photos are just as important as learning how to take an excellent photo. I saved on our Pinterest account, thousands of online articles about photography which I am sure might help budding Adv photographers.
The Best advice I can offer is to try and take photos every day and read up on photography, the web is flooded with good articles. Or better yet invest in a personal course.
****If you didn’t know Michnus won Adventure photo of the year for 2018 in the Horizons Unlimited contest and will be featured in the 2019 Calendar with the photo below, from Peru
You are now on DR650’s but didn’t start out on them, what were you riding
before and why the change?
We started with BMW Dakar 650’s as we already owned them. In 2004/5 when they came out BMW was as today, well represented in South Africa with a good dealer network so we settled for them. Africa is unfortunately not kind to bikes and we started to get issues with water-pumps, fuel pumps, etc in Malawi already. By the time we got to Europe the BMW’s were well-worn and not looking good. In Africa, dirt roads are in abundance and we rode most of the way up Africa on dirt which took their toll on the bikes.
The bikes are stored in Germany as we did not want to start the Americas with old, maintenance demanding bikes. With some research and advice from Earths-end aka Mick and Tanya on Advrider, we decided to use the DR650’s They cost a bundle less to run and maintain than a BMW or KTM.
How did you pick the bikes you felt were right for RTW travel, what was your thought process?
Let me phrase it this way, essentially we wanted something that resembles the likes of a LandRover Defender or a Land Cruiser overland vehicle but in motorcycle terms, good solid, reliable, heavy-duty bikes, not looking good race bikes. We needed bikes that could ship for less than say the cost of a BMW, for example. Cost and ease of maintenance was key. And if all fails and we have to kick the bikes into a ditch and walk away we did not want to abandon a $20,000 bikes.
We also wanted lighter bikes. Even our Dakars weighed too much. Doing a trip for a week on a bike around your own country is easy. Go get stuck in Turkana, Copper Canyon or Namibia with a heavy loaded bike and you will curse yourself for using a big bike. Weight is important and especially if you really ride off-road and enjoy the out of the way roads. They say with skills you can keep going when you are on your big bike, but after a few drops in a riverbed with ankle-deep sand, that is a different story. The only thing I would love to have on the DR’s are fuel injection.
Do you have a dream bike that isn’t your current bike – if you had an unlimited budget?
My absolute favorite bike is my BMW HP2, I love that bike since the day I bought it. And measured in today’s terms I think if BMW could just evolve the bike a little bit, it could have been a tremendous Adv bike. It weights the same as the old 650 Dakar. But as an RTW bike, nope, that shaft will fail at some stage and the maintenance is high as with most BMWs.
If I had an unlimited budget to buy and convert a bike for RTW travel I think either a 230CRF or a 701. If KTM just fixed and evolved the old 640 they could have had THE best dual-sport RTW bike today. Or better yet, started the 690 off as an Adventure bike first then enduro platform.
Where is your favorite country to ride and why, and which other two round
out your top three?
So far Namibia and Peru, runners-up, Angola and South Africa. Not because it’s my own backyard but we have so many Adv roads it is never boring.
Is there one particular road or track that stands out above all the rest?
The Doodsakker in Angola which we rode in 2007 and on this part of the trip the Lake Turkana loop between Ethiopia and Kenya. There’s way more but to try and choose is actually quite difficult.
A dream location to ride to that you have yet to visit?
Mongolia, Russia, the Stans and rest of South America….
Scariest moment on your travels?
When the Egyptians gave us two days to get out of Egypt for overstaying our bikes or we had to pay 1500us or forfeit our bikes. Long story but we had to park the bikes in Egypt and fly back home for Elsebie to get a knee operation after a fall in Sudan. We tried everything to convince the Egyptians that we did everything legal to store the bikes. They just shoved a middle finger up our noses and said two days to get out or pay and lose the bikes. We rode like hell through the Sinai from Cairo and nearly did not make it due to the roadblocks. And then had to fight a border official who saw the potential for a lucrative payoff.
Most memorable day?
Damn, there’s so many. In Murchison Falls, Uganda we were able to ride in a national park game watching from our bikes. Yes it was stupid, there were buffalos, elephants, lions, hippos around close to us. But to be so close and part of it all was incredible.
Do you think more people should travel and why?
Absolutely! Travel breaks down perceptions of other nations, cultures, races and beliefs. It broadens the mind, and teach people to deal with stuff they do not normally deal with. It is prickling to leave the comfort of the home to travel. How can you live an entire life on this one planet and not at least try and go smell the flowers on the other side of the pond?
Top 3 tips for a new rider?
1) Buy the best gear you can afford. Skin grafts and torn ligaments are
expensive to fix.
2) Start with a small bike and go for riding classes, on road and off road, it is
the best protection money can buy. Ride as much as possible, daily if you can.
3) Keep the ego in-check, it is easy to fall for the must-have-the-biggest-best-
fastest bike trap.
When you aren’t riding what do you do for a job or used to do for a job?
My career started as a financial advisor but later on we started to buy properties for rental. At the same time, we started ATgear – All-Terrain Gear which manufactured motorcycle travel gear. We sold that about 5 years ago to travel more permanently. But as things go, we can’t sit still and the property rental is as boring as
batshit so we have to do something.
What does the word ‘adventure’ mean to you?
Exactly what it says in the dictionary – Not riding to the corner shop or a quick trip to Starbucks but going places where you might even say to yourself we might just be doing something utterly stupid right now, but also having fun, learning, seeing and experiencing something new. An adventure is an exciting experience that is typically a bold, sometimes risky, undertaking. Adventures may be activities with some potential for physical danger such as traveling, exploring, skydiving, mountain climbing, scuba diving, river rafting or participating in extreme sports.
Any countries you regret going to?
Not really, but if I had to pick one, Egypt. They won’t see me again but that is
just my personal feeling.
Is there a fun fact that we don’t know about you?
My PHD in talking shit. And it gets worse when drinking beer…
Do you see an end to your travels, if so what will be your plan going back into ‘real life’?
I doubt we will stop travelling. We will have to at some stage maybe slow down and adapt to travelling 6-9 months of the year and 4-6 months at one place working on our new venture and focus on our properties. But for now that we still have time and health we can work while travelling. We kept contact with the motorcycle and outdoor industry since we sold ATGear. How else, we became friends with so many players in the motorcycle and related industry world wide over the years.
Late last year we decided to start a new outdoor brand venture while still travelling. It is all still in the product design phase so hopefully early next year we could launch some new products to the motorcycle, outdoor and photography industry. The biggest challenge now is to work and design while travelling. It keeps us quite busy and has its own unique difficulties. Since we use products everyday and we can see what lasts and what not, there are always new ideas to improve, or a design for a new product that creep into the head. And what best to use and test it ourselves? The products are however not related to our old company.
At first, we hope to supply the American, Canadian, European, Australian and South American markets. Unfortunately, I can’t say more as we are in the process with brand registration and the products are still being design tested.
If I wanted to get more Pikipiki is they other social media I can follow you?
For more interviews and a small look into the life of some inmates make sure you check out the Interview Series in the forum that has been running since 2007 – you can find it here