The idea came to me while I was bumping along on a muddy unpaved road during a 12 hour bus ride through the Tibetan region of China. Enormous snow-capped mountains held my eyes captive from beyond the windows of the bus, the kind of mountains that inspire daring ideas. At the time, I had been traveling for almost 3 years. I still loved life on the road but was beginning to feel a bit jaded. Trying to shake the shame that this brought me, I began to think of a way to break the spell, up the ante of adventure but also do something meaningful. That was the day I came up with The Plan
Ride a 35 year old Royal Enfield motorcycle 6,000k through India and Nepal, then ride it to Spain 15,000k (9000 miles) and raise $25,000 for charities in the process.
Meet Bala. She is a 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet. She will be my travel companion, my trusty steed, my Rocinante. She was born in India in the 70’s (Never ask a lady her exact age) but the engine that powers her is of an engineering design that has basically not changed since the 1950’s. No fancy technology, no fuel injection, just one big hog of a cylinder surrounded by cast iron. Her name, Bala, is an old Hindi/Sanskrit name that means “powerful”. Coincidentally it also means “bullet” in Spanish. So she carries in her name something of her origin as well as of the place she will eventually call home.
Is a motorcycle that was engineered over 60 years ago, with a top speed of about 65kph (45mph) a practical choice to ride from India to Spain…over mountains, through rivers, across deserts? No. Not at all. Will she break down? Yep. Do I know heaps about mechanics? Nope. Will it be hard? For sure. Is it even possible? I’m about to find out.
When you begin a long and challenging adventure with someone, you learn to love that person, to depend on them for company, for support and for encouragement. You also sometimes want to kick them in the arse and leave them on the side of the road. And so it goes with Bala and I. She’s a firecracker. She’s a rock. She’s an incorrigible teenager, a sassy old lady, and an attention seeker. She is loud and demanding, determined and loyal, obstinate and argumentative. She is Marilyn Monroe AND James Dean.
Unfortunately I had to give up the idea of reaching “The Stans” by passing through Pakistan and China. Pakistan is not so keen on letting Indian registered vehicles across the border these days, and China will only let you pass if you pay $1500 to a guide that will accompany you 24 hours a day for the 6 days t take to reach the Kyrgyz border. So unfortunately I had to cheat a bit and Bala and I flew from Delhi to Bishkek Kyrgyzstan and will head overland from there. Iran is also a wildcard…hopefully I get the visa. If not we cross the Caspian Sea by ferry from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan.
I’m a 34 year old citizen of the world who has been on the road for several years in search of Life’s diamonds and pearls. CLICK HERE to read more.
If you think this is a cool idea and if you want to see me succeed, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE show your support by helping me to reach my goal of raising money for some important causes. If you donate more than US$50 I will send you (or anyone you want) a postcard with your personal message on it from somewhere along the way. Donate in your friend’s name as a gift!…imagine their surprise to get a postcard from you that was mailed from Azerbaijan or Nepal! CLICK HERE to learn more how you can donate
HOW CAN I FOLLOW YOUR PROGRESS, TO READ STORIES AND SEE PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP?
Very easy. To the right side of the screen towards the top you will see an option for “EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION”. Enter your email address there, click “Sign Me Up” and then check your email, you will have an email you must open to confirm your subscription.
HOW LONG WILL THE TRIP TAKE?
I can only guess. But I plan to be heading out of India in April or May of 2014 and imagine I will take about 3 months to reach Barcelona. In the meantime I am busy dodging cows on some road in India somewhere.
HOW MANY COUNTRIES WILL YOU PASS THROUGH?
Depends on a few things but let’s say 15 to 20.
HOW MANY MILES/KILOMETERS WILL YOU TRAVEL?
Again, it’s just a guess and the variation depends on visas and routes but I would say that in total (including all the road in India and Nepal) it will be between ten and twelve thousand miles (16,000-19,000 kilometers)
ARE YOU DOING THIS ALONE?
Essentially yes… but there will surely be people joining along the way. Bala can take one passenger so I will pick people up that I meet who want to join us for parts of the trip. There are also a few other riders who are interested in joining but nothing is certain.
WAS IT EASY TO FIND AND BUY A DECENT MOTORCYCLE IN INDIA AND TO REGISTER IT IN YOUR NAME?
The short answer is: Not at all. But I will soon post a very detailed description of the process along with advice so that others who want to do the same thing can benefit from the millions of hours I spent searching web forums, dodgy motorcycle markets, and bureaucratic offices of India for answers. (so subscribe to the blog if you want to get that post)
WHY NOT DO IT ON SOME MODERN MORE EFFICIENT MOTORCYCLE?
I will not tell Bala that you asked that question. Is a motorcycle that was engineered over 60 years ago a practical choice to drive from India to Spain…over mountains, through rivers, across deserts? No. Not at all. Will she break down? Yep. Will it be hard? For sure. But will it be more of an adventure? YES!!!
DO YOU HAVE ANY REAL MECHANICAL EXPERIENCE?
Nope. I grew up around motorcycles so have some general knowledge but I will be learning a lot over the next months. As Bala is a “vintage” bike I am going to be doing a complete engine rebuild with the help of the guys at Vintage Rides in Delhi so that when I leave India Bala will be in tip-top shape.
WHAT KIND OF GEAR ARE YOU TAKING BESIDES CLOTHES? (Asked by Guri Singh)
I will have to take lots of spares as well as tools to fix most issues. Out of India it will be hard to find some parts so I will be carrying with me extra clutch plates, cables, tubes, filters, gaskets, a bike pump….and a flask of whiskey for when none of those other things can save me. Once leaving India I will also be traveling with a tent and sleeping bag as I will surely be spending a lot of nights camping.
IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER QUESTIONS YOU WANT ANSWERED ABOUT THE TRIP FEEL FREE TO LEAVE THEM IN A COMMENT AND I WILL ADD THEM HERE ALONG WITH THE ANSWERS.
UPDATE: Mission Accomplished! After 5 months on the road, 12,000 kilometers, and 20 countries, I arrived in Barcelona! It wasn’t long before I was planning my next adventure, which I have already begun. You can read more about that here.