The route has been planned, visas obtained, bikes serviced and kit packed. Global Motorcycle Guinness World Record™ Holders and Founders of the motorcycle adventure travel company, GlobeBusters, Kevin and Julia Sanders, are now en route with their epic motorcycle adventure from the UK to Beijing, China.
The journey will last for three months and traverse 14 countries, the centre piece of which will be the Asian ‘Stans’ and the vast hinterlands of Western China, as the couple trace the tracks of the ancient merchant route, The Silk Road.
Accessing China with foreign motorcycles ridden by Westerners is extremely uncommon, and to independently traverse China from West to East in this manner is a journey that is rarely achieved.
But this is not just a journey of personal exploration. In keeping with the GlobeBusters tradition of carefully researching each and every overland adventure expedition that is offered to motorcyclists, the UK to China adventure is a reconnaissance mission for GlobeBusters next project. 15 motorcyclists will join Kevin and Julia in 2010 to take part in the first GlobeBusters London to China Expedition.
The London to Beijing trip will be the toughest long-distance overland ride that Kevin and Julia have attempted they will be riding through countries with significantly less infrastructure and in places that are much more remote, with seriously extreme terrain at prolonged higher altitudes.
It includes some incredibly isolated areas along the way, like the Pamir Highway in Tajikstan, which runs along the border with Afghanistan and is the world’s second highest international highway, with many stretches being over 4,000 metres altitude. To travel this remotely, they will be self sufficient – camping and cooking for themselves along the way – and then when in China their aim is to stay south, travelling through the old Tibetan provinces, although this is still all subject to the permission of the Chinese authorities.
GlobeBusters will operate the first London to Beijing Expedition in 2010, starting in April. All details can be found on the www.globebusters.com website.
After the huge amount of preparation for the trip from London to China, it was great to get on the bikes and finally head eastwards from the GlobeBusters base at Ystradgynlais in South Wales. We had decided to start the ride at the Touratech Travel Event on March 28th and the crowd there gave us a terrific send off.
That afternoon, the ride as far as London allowed an opportunity to shake down the bikes and check that all was loaded properly and working well. After an evening with some of the GlobeBusters Trans Americas 2007 riders, we caught a ferry and settled down to crunching long miles in Belgium and Germany.
This part of the ride was a great opportunity to get into the riding rhythm and a chance to unwind from the work of the previous few weeks while getting into mental shape for the vast distances ahead. We’re both pretty excited about the ground breaking journey that we’re on, but mile (or kilometre) munching really helps to focus our minds on the day to day of a long trip.
Julia and myself are riding two R1200GS’, one is an Adventure. Both bikes have Touratech luggage and other essential bits and bobs which will protect the bikes when we hit the pistes. We’re travelling reasonably light, but have packed all we need for the mixed terrain ahead, particularly once we leave Europe.
The first few days were pretty straightforward as we rode from Belgium and into Germany. Once into Austria though, we left mild and sunny weather behind, which was replaced by the aftermath of a lot of heavy snow. Austria does have some of the best mountain scenery in Europe, but trying to ride through them when the high passes are covered in snow can be quite a challenge! Having tried a few in the Innsbruck area, we settled on the main roads to get us into northern Italy before diverting back into Austria for a night in Spittal before crossing the border into Slovenia.
Slovenia is much more rural and although the roads are great, with challenging twisties and beautiful forests, we had our share of fun with thick fog and truck dodging! Leaving Slovenia behind, we entered Croatia and took the long road down to Albania which runs alongside the Adriatic. The views from this busy road are truly awesome and rest breaks were taken with incredible coastal seascapes as an accompaniment to our snacks and drinks.
We were curious about Albania. This is a country which has only emerged in recent years from a fairly oppressive regime and stories of banditry and aggro for the traveller abound. However, much has improved and we didn’t see any sign of trouble, although the advice is still to only stop for the night in decent sized towns. A sign of Albania’s troubled past are the numerous concrete ‘mushroom’ fortifications which are littered around the countryside. Each is only large enough to take one or two people and was Albania’s first line of defence during the Cold War.
But time was pressing and resisting the urge to explore this remarkable country, we turned our wheels towards Greece for a long ride which took us across the Turkish border in good time to reach the end of the first stage of our journey in Istanbul, just one week after we left the UK.
Istanbul was our first rest day and waking up to the sight of the Blue Mosque and the sound of the wailing Minarets calling the Muslim faithful to prayer is something that will stick with us for a long time. East really does meet west here, with a secular Muslim culture contrasting strongly with the very Western security preparations for a visit by President Obama.
We’re now heading deeper into Turkey towards Cappodochia, aiming to reach the border with Georgia by next weekend. The first stage is over and the real challenge of our journey has started!