Friday, 12 December 2008

He Says – A whinge and a gripe

There has been people travelling around the world overland for literally decades and most of these people have done it without a full support team. So why is it that every time anyone hears about our plans the first thing that comes out of their mouth is “Oh like Ewan and Charley?”..... NO NOT LIKE THEM! this question is really beginning to get my goat.

I have wanted to do this before they even knew how to ride. We will not have a support team with us and when we do need help I will not lie about it! We make no claims that we are the first or the most adventurous, just an other in a long line of travellers. If someone were to say to me “oh like Ted S., or Grant and Susan J., Sam M. or any host of other travellers” I would be honoured and say “yes I hope so”. We are travellers, tourists, or "backpackers on a bike", Tam and I have done it by foot now we are going to do it by two-wheels. We are not E and C converts.

I respect that fact that E and C rode their rides (although there is many a rumour about actual riding being only for the cameras). I also understand that a support crew is needed when making a TV show, we would not expect any other TV show not to have a crew. So I have to ask why did these guys have to try and “hide it”? These guys have opened the eyes of the non-biking world to the idea of bike travel, they have increased sales of a particular bike model and assocated high end bling of dubiouse quality (mostly by people that will never leave their comfort zone) both major sponsors of the program. This is in some ways a good thing for all of us. However, E and C are not the first, nor the most adventurous and are definitely not an inspiration to me, nor are they even the first celebrity to travel off the beaten path.

If I had to chose a celebrity, to say inspired me it would be Michael Palin, he has inspired me with out the £30K worth of bike gear given to him for free, and complaining about what they actually had to pay for. Plus most of us save and scrape the funds together we don’t get paid to do this. E and C are not travellers they made a TV show. They rushed though countries as fast as their director told them to, it maybe the editors fault but by watching their program I never got a sense of where they were, only how hard they found things. Hence this is more like big brother or survivor then a travel show. We intend to see as much of the places that we can and meet as many of the peoples we can, we will see as much of the wildlife as we can. We have no intention of doing an entire country in less then a week. Yes (I admit it) there will be places that we will just pass though, this being for money, visa or time constraints, but we will not do this regularly and will lament it every time. If we have to just pass though a place we do not consider ourselves to have travelled there, (do you consider a lay-by in a aeroplane flight a place you have been?)

I travel simply because I love to travel, I just love seeing new things and being exposed to things that are weird to me. I love food and love finding new food that I have never considered. I travel on a bike for many reasons. There are just too many different ways of living to make me not want to at least see them once. The saddest thing to me is a person so scared to die that they do not live, a person so scared of the outside world that they live only though the experiences of others. I think overland travelling is the best way to see the place. The getting there is once again part of the journey and experience. I use a motorcycle simply because I like them. There are lots of other good reasons and these have been discussed copiously by a completely unbiased group of motorbike travellers (note the huge amount of sarcasm in that adjective) on the HUBB. However, none of these reasons have anything to do with a TV show. If bikes were not available to me, I would still want to overland travel.

So please next time someone tell you that they want to travel anywhere by motorcycle, please please do not compare them to a pair of actors! For many people they are the antithesis of what we do.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

He Says - The Fuel Tank Dilemma.

Well the frenzy has died down a bit, and every waking moment is no longer being consumed by thoughts about the trip. I only think about it every 12 seconds (the 10-second mark is historically taken). The web site has stalled a bit, we have the general concept set up, it is just the technical side of thing that turned out to be a hassle, what will work in one browser will not working in the next and vise-versa so much for WYSIWYG programming (the geeks will understand this one). Savings wise we are doing well and are more then on track to make our goals, conservation organisation alliance has not even started. Anubis’s preparations have also hit a slight snag and that is the core of this post.

Although there is great debate over "Do Overlanders really need to carry extra fuel or not". Some saying that there is no real need these day, with petrol (literally) driving the world you can always find some. Others say that sometimes the distances are further then your average bike’s range, so you need it. Still others say that carrying a small jerry can, is all you need to do to be safe enough. I personally think that there is truth to all of these opinions but being a bit on the better safe then sorry persuasion, I have decided to install a bigger tank. This will give us the extra fuel /range when we need it and it will not take up luggage space like a jerry can will.

The OEM tank on the Africa Twin is 23l, which gives a range (to dry while two-up-fully loaded) of 195miles (314km) on the nose while on UK highways @70-80mph). This, by the way, turns out to be exactly 4.8miles (7.7km) before the petrol station where you where planning on filling up.

So the search began (well in truth I have been looking at tanks for years) but I digress. Companies like Touratech and African Queens both sell oversized tanks at outrageous prices, African Queens being the cheaper option (slightly) and having the wider range of sizes.

Looking at what was available from African Queens, I realised that I could go either rear-tanks (heck-tanks) or “normal”. The rear tanks have the advantage of having the added weight spread over the bike, which is prefect for rallies. However for touring, the majority of luggage (weight) is already in the rear, thus negating the spreading out factor. Plus the pannier- racks would also have be modified (widened), thereby making the bike much wider, this would defeat all the work I did to narrow the pannier system in the first place. So rear (or heck) tanks are perfect for rallies but they did not meet my needs (this time).

So “normal” style tank it is. African Queens offered the super-tanker size of 56lt (2.5x bigger then the OEM tank), frankly it looks silly, it is way to big and would make the already heavy bike way to heavy. Next choice was 45l, still very big and heavy and I could not see the need for a 400+ theoretical range. Both these tanks have the added disadvantage that you must also change the fairings and seat so an extra expense.

Then I saw a 36l tank at the 2007 HU meet. It looked like a normal tank, the bike was the same size the faring and the seat were the OEM ones, Perfect! The 36l was reported to give a rage of 350miles (two-up-fully-loaded), and the calculated range was still 310miles, good enough! This seemed like the perfect compromise, but at over €1000.00 from African Queens it was still an outrageous price, plus there were still some modifications that I would want done. Maybe jerry cans are the way to go?

Well by the power of the internet, I found the company that actually makes them for African Queens: Boana Moto racing sports. They sell the tanks and will make the modifications that I wanted for about half the price that African Queens wanted for the stock unit. Prefect! Although they are in Italy they speak perfect English and were more then helpful. I placed my order. I was told at the time that the tank will not be ready for about 6 weeks due to the requested modifications. I saw nothing wrong with this, as it was me changing things after all. To my surprise it arrived in about two and a half weeks time. The tank itself was a work of art, although fibreglass (GRP) it was smooth as silk, and the modifications were perfect. The tank is 50% bigger then the stock tank and being GPR weights about half, bigger bonus. The only problem was that I needed to buy a second fuel tap as my OEM tank only has one. Well I emailed Boano simply to ask what size thread they used and they told me that they would send me both Taps that I need free. So far customer service has been outstanding!

Well all was not roses, Honda will not sell me the OEM decals that I needed to make the tank look like an OEM one. And so I had to search all over the place to find a vinyl printer that could make them for me with out charging an arm and a leg. I eventually found a company called The Image Works (UK) that would print the decals at a very reasonable price. They did a great job and now everything is set. All I need to do is paint or get it painted and fit it.

Well still not all roses! Over the weekend I was removing a bad organ (see next post) and so had Anubis in parts, so I attempted to place to new tank on.. It does not fit. My crash bars are too narrow, although it is only by a few mm it is enough to render the bars useless in an off and to make the tank not fit. So now I am searching for more appropriate bars. This was not an expense that we counted on, and neither of us are happy but truly it is only my fault. Their may be a sliver lining, from a company called overland solutions, but that is an other thread if it works out... Stay tuned for He-Says - The Crash bars!

He Says – The Bad Organ.

For years I have heard about this legendary product the Scott-oiler, a automatic motorcycle chain oiler. It had the reputation of being a life saver. Made chains go 20-30k miles instead on 15k miles. I wanted one! Well Anubis came with one. I was truly pleased, and it worked great when I was not commuting or travelling, those few nice weekends that I could get out on the bike when it was warm and sunny and all was dry and nice. I was a pleasure rider only. Well all that changed after our first tour on Anubis. We were in Spain and the dam thing stopped working. I though it was just me and my naivety about the working of it. So I learned and a dark feeling grew in my stomach.. but every one else loves em.. I must be wrong.

Then we moved houses I was no longer 1 mile from work .. I get to ride every DAY!! Yay!. Within a week the Scott oiler stopped working. I adjusted it .. it worked.. a few weeks passed it stopped .. I adjusted it .. it worked .. spring hit .. it stopped working…..this pattern repeated it self for the next several months. We travelled again and it did not work at all.. I started to believe that I was right and every one else was wrong. We for 3 weeks travelled though Romania.. the Scott-oiler failed.. my chain was eaten because I did notice until we were too far from anywhere I could get spray on lube for several hundred more miles. The result: Scott oilers don’t work…But how, everyone loves them?

Well now I know … Scott-oilers work just fine.. Just not for all weather riders like overland tourers or even commuters.

Most riders get on there bike when it is warm and sunny and all is nice and dry. Warm and sunny and all was dry and nice. So the environmental conditions are always similar. Scott-oilers are no good for overlanders, they are designed for “similar condition rides".. AKA Fair weather riders.

When the environment is hot the oil is thinner so you drip fast (your tank can go dry in a day). When cold the opposite (oil gets thick and drips too slow = not enough on the chain). When wet your chain is washed of oil too quickly. When cold and wet you run a dry chain (because it drips slow and gets washed off). When hot and wet you get a dry chain and an oily tyre, and off-road you get a nice grinding paste. We (tourers) ride in way to many conditions and need to adjust the drip rate far too often (like several times a day).

I have taken the Scot-toiler off Anubis. I had the feeling that I was removing a cancerous organ. I hated it. It did do two things great: leak oil on my garage floor and give me headaches. It never worked well. I feeling of relief came over me as I sealed the m5 vacuum nipple hole, and ripped out the oily tubing. Now that it has been off for a couple of weeks I also believe that the Scott-oiler messed with my vacuum system (which it “ran” off) enough that it effected performance and fuel economy.

HOWEVER, I love the idea of a feed system so that the chain stays nice and lubed all the time, without (too much) daily checking.
I just installed a new system called pro-oiler ( the concept is much easier (in my mind to deal with).. it is a little 12v pump that pumps the oil at the rate you chose..(nothing attached to your engine at all.. just a 12V power feed) and they have it set up so that the pump is disabled when the wheels aren’t moving so you dont waste oil either. The nicest part is there is a control (on the dash/handle bars) where you can instantaneously (and as frequently as you want), adjust the drip rate for all the conditions that we may face. You can chose from OFF (0 drips/min) to environmental terrorist rates. They have also programmed an off-road setting (which may be 2X the environmental terrorist rates (I don’t know). This gives you the control that is needed, for rides that are not warm or sunny or all dry and nice. It is not as hands off as the Scott-oiler claims to be, but the added control is IMHO the point.

The one thing (so far) that I did not like about the pro-oiler was the oil tank was smaller then I would have liked (175ml), but with their help (information) I modified the Scott-oiler’s 500ml touring tank (which I already had) and that gave me lots of oil… So lets see how it all goes. So far my engine seems smoother and the chain is nice and lubed.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

She Says - Month 2 of Preparation

Not a great deal to update on, as things have slowed down a little. Last night, we heartbreakingly sold Xander’s professional video camera (plus camera bag) to a budding documentary maker from Nottingham. It was a really tough decision to make, but as it’s an item that is replaceable and the £850 it brought in gives us an extra 1.5 months of travel, it was worth it. He can always buy another when we get back home. Advertising cost nothing, so there are options out there to shift important stuff at low cost!

We both have tough decisions to make, as everything we keep has to be sent back to Oz and stored, so will cost money in shipping and space for one of my parents! In my case, I’ve decided to sell my bat detector that I’ve owned since 2002. I was all prepared to finally buy the piece of expensive equipment to finish the system so I can finally use the thing properly, in fact I’d just attended a training course on how to sue the system, when the whole travel idea raised it’s ugly head. The extra money was something that just could not be justified in light of that! Once again, it’s not irreplaceable and if I really want to, I can buy another back home.

I’ve contacted a friend who is a fellow photographer and batter, who might be able to help us sell the bat detector and some of the old camera gear. Xander also talked to one of the camera shops in Brum, who might take some gear as a trade-in for new lenses we want, and I’m getting in touch with other batters to see if anyone’s interested in my bat detector.

I sold about 15 books to a second-hand store last week. Only got £10 pounds for them, and I realised as I left the store that I should have waited to sell them at a car boot sale, but I completely forgot I had other options for selling. Oh well. I know now to hold off on selling any others till we car-boot, although I have some old natural history books that I can try to shift through specialist natural history bookstores.

Planning hasn’t progressed at all, we just seem a bit busy right now! Xander has been working away at the website, but we’ve already had a hiccup there, with the web hosting company screwing up the charges, and making us cancel and re-sign for the package because their computer can’t deal with it. Huh?!?! Xander has given up on creating our logo, as he doesn’t feel he can get the look he wants. He contacted fellow bikers on forums to see if anyone else wanted to take up the challenge. One guy has created a very cute picture; however, it’s still not quite what we’re after. I think we’re actually going to have to pay someone for this one! A friend at work is going to see if his graphic designer friend is interested, or can at least tell us what it would cost to design so we know if we can afford it or will have to stick to Xander’s designs.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

She Says - The First Month of Planning

Before going to work on Monday July 6th, I started a list of pros and cons for going on the trip, or staying in the UK for another year and doing UK/European travel instead. Did I really want to give up that opportunity? Europe is a long way away and the opportunity might not come again to see it so easily. All Monday, we had trouble concentrating on work, were emailing each other about the possibilities, and had independently started making preparation lists.

Xander also contacted his parents and asked if money held in trust for him for his first house/wedding present could be used for travel instead, as it’s looking ever more unlikely we’ll get a house! At least it wasn’t just for some frivolous holiday, but a useful career break that would help build experience and employability for both of us. Xander also asked them to help with selling the collectables he still had in the US – an unhappy decision but something we’ve figured would have to happen for a while now.

By the end of Thursday 9th, I think we’d pretty much decided we could do the trip, and my pros and cons list from Monday was now ignored! Xander had made a spreadsheet for us to start trip planning, compiling our two separate lists. I’d started telling people in my office we were thinking about travelling. However, we made a promise we wouldn’t stagnate for the next year, as there were still things to see in the UK and we should enjoy the time we have left. It would mean bike travel as much as possible (considering the rapidly rising petrol prices!), camping instead of bed & breakfasts, and no more pub lunches on days out but grocery supplies instead! So we put this into practice straight away that weekend on a day trip to the Peak District, where we enjoyed salami sandwiches on the roadside for the first time in a long time.

Things started kicking into overdrive after that. Xander’s parents agreed to give us the money. We altered our savings and immediately cut back on unnecessary expenditure – no more takeout dinners! Xander ordered a bigger tank and the pro-oiler, and repadded the bike seat once again. I don’t think it’s going anywhere this time but time will tell! We started really listing all the things we could sell (a surprising amount of stuff!), and I made my first clothing and junk cull (I expect to get harsher!).

Xander launched into making a website for us. We discussed linking with a large conservation organisation so we could do fundraising for a worthy cause, and find good volunteer projects and maybe reduce some daily costs, allowing us to travel for longer. We thought about how to approach an organisation, what would they get out of working with us, and whether this link would help us gain sponsorship for things we need to buy in return for advertising. We realised we had our experience to offer, and publicity through fundraising and media opportunities. We could offer the organisation extra promotion through articles we hope to write and sell as part of the trip. This is something we’ve talked about for a while, since our Spain trip last March and more so with this year’s Romania trip. Xander particularly wants to work on his photography, and this trip would be a great way of finding unique subjects. Great photos would be a nice promotion for any conservation project we worked on, so another thing to add to our credentials!

The lady who told me they travelled on £20 per day said that before the trip, every time they went to buy or do something, they thought in terms of ‘how many days’ travel is that worth?’ to make them decide if it was worth buying or not. Grant and Susan from Horizons Unlimited also noted £20 per day in their talk at the meet. Both concepts, correct on cost or not, are something we’ve quickly adopted. We use it as a bit of a joke (at least for now!) because we’ve been trying to get our heads around whether this is really going to happen or not, and just how tight we have to be to make this a reality. Now that it really does seem to be happening, I think it will become more seriously used!

So, a month on and where are we at? Xander has the bare bones of the website ready to launch, having bought the domain name and hosting package over the weekend. I’ve created an uber-spreadsheet detailing all the things to do, buy, sell, plan, etc. I even have the beginnings of a planning timeline, as we need a plan of action. We immediately sold the old panniers, seeing as the trial run of the new panniers at the HUUK meet went really well. That went straight towards buying the new tank. We’ve sold some old camping gear we replaced last year, and a remote control boat a former work colleague left when he moved. So we’ve already made £55 - that’s 2.75 days travel! ;-) Anything sold in aid of the trip has to go into our new ‘no touchies’ savings accounts. We’ve got extra money thanks to Xander’s parents. We’ve got the savings and cost-cutting under way, cleared our credit cards, got the new tank nearly paid off, and still managed to bank a little extra savings after pay day. Nice one!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

He Says - Why the Africa Twin

Why the Africa Twin? There is more debate on about which bike to take travelling then there is any other debate in the entire rest of world. The main reason for this is that there is no correct answer it is completely subjective and truth is any bike can do it BUT every one has their own reasons and think they are right. Of course we are right by choosing the AT, every one else is wrong, okay not wrong just not right, well not .. “not right” but…. ahh bugger it..

All makes of bikes have strong points and weakness, each and every bike is a compromise. The bike you chose is depended on what compromises you are willing to make and which ones you are not. So back to the question of why the Africa Twin. The answer is simple.. it is a simple bike and I love it. I love the ride I love the looks and feel.

I will play fair and discuss the negatives first. It is way way too tall for my pint size pillion to ride alone, so I have to do all the riding (wait is this a negative?). It is only a 750, so is a little on the low power side for two-up touring, this means we have to go slower (slower means we can see more.. again is this a negative?). It is rather heavy by today’s standards, which means I have to work hard to ride it sometimes. It is a bloody big bike! The Africa Twin is known to have a few faults including rubbish fuel pumps that need to be tossed out and replaced, the rectifier can fry, and the worst of the bunch is the out-put shaft is unforgiving of a too tight chain and will strip. The Honda OEM seat was created by an S&M fanatic that was dating Satan at the time. I am sure there are more negatives but I cant think of any more, and as all who know me know I hate to concentrate on the negative aspects of anything.. Oui you! Keep your mouth shut!..

The up sides of the Twin:

It looks amazing. I love the feel of it…yeah okay I already said this.. moving on

It is not the best Dual sport, I would give this to the Tenere’, it is not the best big rally dirt bike, (KTM Adventure gets that). It is not the best long-distance tourer (don’t know maybe BMW GS, or Goldwing??), it is far from the best roadbike (way to many to chose from), not the fastest (does the hyabusa still hold this title?). However the AT can jump from road to dirt without down shifting, on the dirt it is my skill not the bike that holds us back, it can sit on the road for hours on end and keeps going, it is fast enough to scare me. So all in all it is not the best at anything, but it is the best do anything bike.

The Africa Twin is an “old technology bike”, runs on carburettors! There are only two bits of electronics on the bike, the trip computer that is really only useful as fuel gauge, and the rectifier/cdi. The latter two are solid state.. so they are either working or not end of story. This means that I can fix most things, and if I cant the local mechanic in some small town probably can. The more modern bikes may be lighter, faster, more efficient.. but you need a computer science degree to change the spark-plugs… do they even have spark plugs? I wont even get into the fuel mixture controls, I have a screw.. they have a computer chip. What about idle, I have a tumb-screw.. the new bikes have a ahhhh… satellite controlled positronic brain for all I know. I have hydraulic disk brakes, some new bikes have ABS.. if a sensor goes pop in ABS.. bike stop, bike no go till new chip is mortgaged . If my hydraulic brakes go pop.. I have no brakes.. but I can still go forward (notice I did not say stop going forward). There are hundreds of examples where the Africa Twin is behind the times, but this means it is simple and when travelling the KISS principal is key, it means that MacGyvering is possible, it mean we can fix things and it is unlikely to cost 6-million dollars.

Less of a driving force was the plethora of toys available for it, if you can think of something you want for it, someone already has though of it and is selling it. I made many of the toys for the bike, but this is predominantly because I am a tinkerer and cant stand not to play. It is an illness but I like it.

Finally it is a Honda. I have been riding bikes since I was about 8 years old. I have owned everything from a Triumph to a Suzuki, to a Harley to a Yamaha and several Hondas. I have found that of all the bikes I have owned you can abuse a Honda and it will keep going… I have never found this on any other bike. (yeah yeah your is good too mate, but we are talking about me here..). Honda reliability is not just a advertising slogan.

She Says - The HUUK and the Idea

We went to the Horizons Unlimited UK national meet from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th July 2008. This gathering of 500 mostly motorbike travellers is an incredibly informative, and I have to say, intimidating event. For an entire weekend, I essentially attended a conference of people talking about their amazing ventures in world travel by motorbike. Everywhere I walked, I heard people talking about trips they’d made. Not being a particularly social creature, I found it daunting to approach people about their travels, how they’d done things, but what I also feel is rather too personal to ask – how much did it cost?! I’d being feeling really proud of us after our three-week trip in May across Europe to Romania and back, feeling that we’d really tested our mettle as motorbike travellers. However, being amongst all these people, I had doubts about our worth!!

To be honest, while the idea of world motorbike travel had been mentioned in passing (a number of times by someone in particular!), I really thought it was a flight of fancy that we had no option of following. We’re both trying to establish careers, we want to move back to Australia and get our life settled there, and we’re still somewhat trying to decide what we want out of life. While Xander had joked, over email one day as we neared the start of the Romania trip, about the next trip being, “Next year…Australia…via the WORLD!”, it really was just a joke to me.

So somewhere within the first day and a half of listening to other people’s fascinating journeys, I started thinking about some of the things they said – total costs of trips of various lengths, costs of shipping/flying bikes to other countries, etc. One lady I spoke to noted their 5-year trip cost about £7000 per year, with a budget of £20 per day. I quickly realised that Xander’s contract was going to end in exactly 12 months’ time and my UK visa would run out shortly afterwards. Hmmmm, 12 months is a nice long period of time in which to save and plan for a big trip…During the talks, I started some quick calculations about how much we were saving, how our savings would need to change to get anywhere near £7000, what we could sell, etc. But how good a trip could we really have on that? And then what about all of the things we had to buy – GPS, laptop, bigger tank, tank panniers, etc – and that didn’t include transporting us over oceans. How on earth could we afford to even try this?

We had already started talking that our next trip could be Morocco for Xmas. It crossed my mind that would be a nice celebration of a decade together. It later occurred to me that July 2009 would be exactly 10 years since we last took a big trip – 5.5 months travel round the world as backpackers in 1999. Now there’s a nice anniversary present – doing it again but by motorbike and trying some new ground!

Xander and I didn’t get to much time together that weekend, as he was helping with the talks, but we met for most meals and late evenings, and grabbed enough time to start toying with the idea. We talked about using the trip to work as volunteers on conservation projects, something we’ve talked about before, but not in terms of long-term travel, just individual trips. We realised this would be particularly valuable to help Xander get his practical conservation career boosted. For me, well, definitely a boost, but if I just got the chance to work on really cool animals like jaguars or leopards, my life would be made!

We had touched on but pretty much avoided the ‘where’ side of things. We both knew each other’s desires – Xander’s dead keen on going to Africa, and I really want to see Central & South America. At £20 per day, the costs of flights/shipping and our expected savings, it looked like we could only go for 6 months. Would 6 months be enough time to do justice to either continent?

Monday, 4 August 2008

He Says - The weekend that changed our lives

Well this trip has been a long time in the coming; Nine years ago Tam and I went backpacking for several months and did a RTW “on foot”. Since then we both have had the urge to do it again, but could not see how to maintain a career and have the money ect.

Three years ago I got a job in the UK, and within days of landing I was on the look out for my dream bike. This bike was to be an African Twin, I had had one before during a brief employment in Germany but unfortunately they were not ever imported into Australia. So this purchase had two motives beyond simply having the need for a bike. The first was to bring it home to Aus, the second was to travel with it, with the dream of an around the world trip. Although due to work arrangements and finical constraints, I did not buy one for almost a year. It turned out to be a low mileage 2000 RD07a model.

We agreed that any and all modifications I made to the bike must be practical and for improving its tour-ability. I stuck to this with almost religious zeal, if you simply ignore all the fun I had making this and that and modify that to improve this. See religious zeal: i.e.- only paying attention and admitting to the parts of the story that prove me right. In true religious fashion we endowed the inanimate object with a name ANUBIS, and powers. (Truth is the naming was far less interesting … 1st time I rode home on the bike.. Tam looks at it and says “it looks like a big black dog, lets name it Anubis”. This was because we both always wanted a big black dog named Anubis, and my last Africa Twin was Dar Hund, so the dog theme fit.)

Tam and I have done a few trips on Anubis, out of the UK and a few with in the UK, and were getting very used to travelling on the bike. We talked about the idea of an around the world trip on the bike as well as just an overland trip back home to Australia. However, I always got the impression that it was more of a “yes dear that would be nice” , a pipe dream that neither of us thought would ever really happen, not really a plan. At the Horizons Unlimited meet 2008 everything changed. Due to a host of reasons, I had been extremely unhappy with my job for several months. I always felt that I was meant for more or meant to do something that mattered. Just prior to the meet my job hit rock bottom and it took arbitration to rescue it. The irony was that I fought for a job I no longer wanted. I won this dubious victory, only to feel like I lost far more.

Tam and I went to the meet with in a week or so later. This was to be my second meeting and Tam’s first. As I had volunteered to help (work) at the meeting, I by and large I left Tam alone. It was extremely interesting to watch Tam’s progression though out the weekend, when we could talk about what we had seen and done that day. Day one (Thursday night): Tam reported to me that she felt ” really out of place, around all these bikers”. Day two: she felt comfortable but intimidated by all the “really serious travellers and bikers” (she is not really a biker just likes to travel that way). Day three: really like it and felt everyone was extremely nice; Day four: although we have only done some shortish trips together, she felt “that the long trip was possible, and lets start to plan it!!”

That was it. That one weekend, that one sentence, and our lives changed! Over the next week or so ideas were bounced around (our jobs were taking 2nd or 3rd place in our heads and hearts. We discussed many ideas and realised that this trip does not just have to be fun, but we could and would use it to try and make a difference to ourselves and used our skills to help conservation efforts (not to mention start me on my new career path).