Kevin Sanders' latest R1200GS adventure crosses into China
Touring & travel
12 June 2009 09:29
Motorcycle adventure travel specialists Kevin and Julia Sanders have crossed the Torugart Pass and entered China on their research expedition for the inaugural London to Beijing GlobeBusters adventure tour that takes place in 2010.
Along with teammate Mark Hamilton, the British couple – both founders of GlobeBusters Motorcycle Expeditions and also holders of Guinness World Records for Fastest Circumnavigation of the World by Motorcycle and the Trans Americas by Motorcycle – celebrated as they rolled across the Chinese border on their GSs. The GlobeBusters Team has already covered over 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometres) since leaving from the UK on 28 March and it has been one of their most challenging rides to date.
“Tajikistan was one of the most wild and remote places we have ridden,” said Julia Sanders. “We arrived too early in the season and some passes were covered in deep snow! It was a matter of paddling the bikes through deep ruts of packed snow and walking them across frozen sections of dirt road. Then, in the lower sections of the mountains we hit the rainy season and had three deep river crossings to get through, as well as two landslides!”
In Tajikistan, the route took them along the Pamir Highway and with special permissions from the Tajik Embassy in London, they headed into the Wakhan Valley – the southernmost point of Tajikistan – where only a narrow river represented the border with Afghanistan. Not unexpectedly, the military presence was high and there were regular checkpoints, as drug smuggling is rife and local Afghans will stuff goatskins full of narcotics and float them across the river each night.
After such a long journey, the GlobeBusters team is understandably relieved to have entered China, as Kevin Sanders commented: “Until you are actually in, you are never quite sure whether all the planning and preparation for getting into China will actually come through. There is always that possibility that the Chinese could close their borders at any time, so it was a great feeling to ride away from the checkpoints with all the formalities completed.”
Riding foreign plated vehicles in China was virtually impossible until the Chinese changed the rules in 2007 and even now, routes have to be pre-approved by Beijing and a Chinese guide is assigned to you. With the guide, the GlobeBusters team has several weeks of riding ahead, heading south to Tibet and then down to the Yunnan province which is on the border with Laos, before heading back north through Chengdu, Xi’an and Beijing. Entering Tibet will be another landmark for the team, as few motorcyclists have visited the region in recent times due to political difficulties.
“We’re now at the start of the second stage of this trip and we have just had a tiny insight of riding in China,” added Kevin. “It is utter madness in the towns – you cannot ride how you would back in Europe or the USA as there are absolutely no rules and everything and anything can happen or appear on the road at any time from any direction. You need the reactions of a fighter pilot just in order to survive!”
The team's timing is fairly tight because they have to get back to the UK before the end of June to then go to BMW Motorrad Days in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where they are giving a talk about London to Beijing 2010. After this, they will fly off to Alaska to start their 19-week Trans-Americas 2009 trip – the longest supported motorcycle journey in the world along the Pan American Highway from the top of Alaska to the tip of Argentina.
Any rider wanting to join GlobeBusters’ inaugural London to Beijing Silk Road East 2010 trip for real will now have to wait until 2011, as next year’s voyage is already full, with a waiting list. The route for
2011 travels through Europe, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and the Wakhan Valley, Kyrgyzstan, China (via Tibet, subject to permissions).
The approximate dates are the last week in April to the end of June
2011 (ten weeks), with a guide price of £16,500 / €20,000 / US$26,000.
The prices include two motorcycle guides, support vehicle, all local guides and support vehicles, all Chinese permits and licences to ride a foreign plated motorcycle in China, hotel, bed and breakfast or camping, route notes and GPS points, return ocean freight to the UK or a major port in the USA. Call +44 8452 304015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.