“Its the not the Destination, It’s the journey” Ralph Waldo Emerson – A mantra that is all too commonplace amongst travelers around the world, however, it’s also about the friends you make along the way.
Everyone has stories about the people they meet, be it in a hostel or local at a hole in the wall restaurant; but what happens when you meet someone just as crazy as you are and then spend the next 2 months in the most challenging places on the planet with the most unsuitable machines? This is the story of an Australian rider on a Suzuki GSXR600 sport bike and a Japanese rider on a 125cc Honda Monkey bike taking on the toughest terrain in the world, together but not together.
Having travelled approximately 50 countries on my GSXR over the past decade, my next challenge was to ride from Australia to India; starting in Vladivostok, Russia through Siberia, across Mongolia, the Altai, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan along Afghanistan, into Pakistan and finally into India.
A route that is regarded as a top tier challenge by many overlanders, this would be even more so on a motorcycle more at home on a race track than in high altitude valleys (funnily enough, this bike started life as my trackbike!)
Mongolia was always going to be the first big challenge as the country is renowned for having minimal infrastructure making it an adventure riders paradise. Coupled with next to no off-road experience, it was trial by fire making my way through trails with deep sand into the capital of Ulan-Bataar.
At the guesthouse here, while I prepped for what lay ahead of me, I struck up a conversation with Yosuke, a rider from Japan who was headed to South Africa on his little Honda Monkey but vaguely headed the same direction through Central Asia.
As we got talking, I started sharing my route notes with him as even though I don’t like planning ahead, I had done enough research on road condition to know what routes I would be taking across Mongolia that would allow me to have a challenge but also work within the constraints of my bike.
We briefly spoke about a particularly tough section 2 days ahead but made no commitment to stick together when we set off on the same day, yet separately.
Yosuke covered more ground then me the first day so it was a surprise to receive a message from him saying he would wait for me before tackling the dreaded Uliastai to Altai route across Central Mongolia.
That day we started off as strangers but every 1 hour it took us to cover 10km in unimaginably tough conditions, we became closer ending the night short of our target, setting up camp as a storm rolled in; In the cold and dark of the night, I shared what little food and water I had with me as his plan to have 2 biscuits for dinner didn’t sit right with me.
From that point on, we had an unspoken bond for 2 months riding through rain, hail or shine (or gravel, mud and snow as we crossed Wakhan Valley in the Pamir Mountains). We never acknowledged that we were riding together and did our own thing, only stopping to agree on what was for lunch, quietly admit to each other how stupid our bikes were for this ride and since it made sense to share rooms, who would get the mattress closest to the power-point (if we were so lucky to have power).
Riders from around the world on big adventure bikes, were always surprised to see a sportbike and a Monkey together slowly crawling their way through muddy ruts and sandy trails. There couldn’t be a more peculiar pairing but the passion for our bikes and taking them where we dreamed of going connected us.
A bond that may never be broken despite a possibility we may never meet again and one that was only briefly acknowledged when partings ways in Central Asia and a tear that was quickly wiped away.