The Long Ride Home
21 December 2012 08:30
In 2009 Nathan Millward set off from Sydney, Australia on an old Australian Post bike called Dot with the hope of one day reaching England.
Over the following nine months he rode 23,000 miles, through 18 countries and at a cruising speed of less than 40 miles-per-hour.
What separates this trip from most is that it was done with two days of planning and preparation, with little use of maps, a pair of welding gloves and no proper gear.
In his own words: ‘It was a simple case of jumping off a cliff and hoping you can fly.’
Why did you do it?
It was one of those now or never type scenarios. I was in Australia with a visa that was just about to expire so I had to leave and get back to the UK. I had toyed with the idea of travelling on a small bike before and so when this opportunity came up, I knew I would have to at least give it a go.
To be honest I had been out there for a girl and it hadn’t worked out. So I just wanted to disappear for a while.
When did you realise what you had got yourself in for?
The very first day I rode out of Sydney it all kicked in. I had everything I owned in a box on the back, no clue how I was going to get back to England, how long it would take or how much it might cost.
It soon dawned on me that I was going to be very much alone. There would be no one to call if I broke down and no one to pick me up if I fell off, just me and Dot against the world.
At first that feeling was massively daunting but it soon became a serious addiction. I was really excited just to be giving it a go, knowing all I had to do was ride a long way and not worry about much else.
Why not a GS?
I hardly had any money and I didn’t know anything about mechanics so I needed something cheap and reliable. The CT110 just seemed like the perfect choice.
In a weird way I think it’s good not knowing anything about engines. To me, the more you know the more you worry, listening for noises and changes in vibrations all the time, whereas I just rode the thing oblivious.
I met a guy in Pakistan on a GS; he said if he ever had any major mechanical issues then he would have no choice but to ship it home. Whilst I could get my air-cooled postie fixed anywhere, even drop a new engine in if I needed to.
Was there a time when you thought sod it?
Riding towards the Indian border from Nepal. The traffic was crazy, I lost all confidence in my riding ability, didn’t trust my instinct anymore and just thought ‘what the f*** am I doing here? I want to go home.’
But ‘home’ was still 10,000 miles away. So I didn’t have any choice but to man up and just get on with it.
Any difficult people?
There was a border guard when leaving Kazakhstan who shut me in a room and demanded two hundred Euros or else he wouldn’t let me leave. I sat him out for four hours until he got bored and let me go.
When exiting Ukraine, the border guard there gave me a two hour strip-search of all my belongings as he suspected I was smuggling drugs out of Pakistan. Other than that I rode 23,000 miles and not one person tried to rob me or beat me up.
Strangers helped me fix the bike, they fed me, they waved at me and they gave me a push, even when I got stuck down a ditch.
Was it all worth it?
Definitely. There were times when I wondered what I was doing and why I was doing it. Even afterwards I questioned whether it had been a good idea or not.
Looking back on it now I am glad I did it. It has made me more resilient and more inclined just to give things a go and see how they turn out.
Recent developments are that I’ve ridden the same bike across America. I just got fed up with people asking what I was going to do next so I put the bike on a plane, flew her to New York and rode her across.
I think that’s the problem; once you start you never really want to stop. Dot is still going, so hopefully Alaska next year.
Nathan Millward's book, Sydney to London... The Long Ride Home is now available exclusively at the MCN Shop for £9.99 with free postage.