Around the world without sat nav or maps
The couple started their journey on 17 April 2013, in the saddle of a Yamaha Ténéré XT660Z, 2012 version, bought in Greece, with the promise of crossing the five continents, from end to end.
Such an important trip usually entails meticulous planning. Manu and Ivana instead mark only three points on the map of the planet. The ones they consider essential outposts: Uluru in Australia, Ushuaia in Argentina and Deadhorse in Alaska.
It’s the rules, which are rather rigid, that make this project different from any other. Like the decision not to carry a sat nav or maps; the choice of solving any problems on the spot (the idea of going back home is not even considered) or the will not to budget for lodging, trusting every day in the help of local people.
Manu and Ivana met on the island of Mikonos. Both sold necklaces on the beach. Their friendship matured a bit at a time into something deeper and so their destinies intertwine.
In interviews the say they did not spend any time planning the trip (which at present is in its fourth year), they left with very little bike riding experience and no mechanical knowledge.
They simply decided that a bike was what they needed. Their light tennis shoes lasted for over half of their trip.
Even while crossing the mountains of Pamir Alay: so high the lack of oxygen becomes a problem, so cold to limit to less than 100kms a day each leg in order to warm up, dry their clothes, find a place to sleep for the night. Eight-hundred kilometres in almost two weeks! Even if they had communicated their personal info at the army’s gateway check point, nobody went looking for them. Even if they were totally unprepared to face such a situation, the couple managed to pass the test.
Why all this?
Because for Manu and Ivana the final goal of their trip was getting to know the human spirit. “We never found closed doors – Manu has often said – “Everybody helped us. Even those who had only the most bare essentials. Like the time when, in India, a family in a small village took us in. We lived in a hut with two rooms, one of which destined to the animals at night, to protect them against predators. The head of the family, proud of having us as guests, slept with an eye open… Making sure nobody stole our bike. At the minimum sound he would go out armed with bow and arrows”.
Notwithstanding falls and difficulties, the two travellers crossed Asia and Australia without major problems (in the land of the Aborigines, one of the dangers on the road is the kangaroos, which love to jump in the light beam of oncoming vehicles).
In South America though luck stepped aside: Manu lost control along a muddy road and Ivana’s leg, under the weight of the Yamaha, broke.
A sort of local chemist blocked her as best he could and helped the couple reach the nearest hospital, three days’ journey from the site of the accident. There a surgeon performed an operation and applied a plate with nine screws. The recovery period meant six months with no movement!
Devastating news for the couple. They spent the first month with a Chilean family, where Ivana was treated like their child. Then the restlessness to leave took over. The couple separated during the day to then meet again in the evening. He on his bike, she getting lifts from truckers going along the main road. Aware of the risks, only two months after the operation, Ivana decided to get back into the saddle…with no boots and crutches on board.
Going back up the west coast of the Americas, precisely in Mexico, someone tried to steal their bike. Twice in the same day. Only luck allowed the two to escape.
At this point in their journey, to make ends meet Manu and Ivana decided to exchange bike maintenance and repairs with presentations of their trip to enthusiasts and clients of the dealers they contacted. Then they started writing articles and sending them to specialised magazines in Spain and the USA. It was in this period that they contacted GIVI USA and their Yamaha got fully equipped allowing the couple to travel more comfortably.
Social networks became a lifeline. Two episodes deserve to be told: at the border with Alaska the bike stopped. Everything had gone well for three years. There were no Yamaha dealers in the area but the main problem was another: their model is not imported in the US. The request for help sent on social media bore its fruits: someone from Europe sent the bike’s instruction manual and another post indicated how to use a part of a Ford Ranger as a spare… To make a long story short, with the help of a marine engine mechanic, the XT660Z got back on the road.
Still Facebook solved a problem connected with visas. In Toronto Ivana asked the Macedonian consulate for a new passport. Hers hadn’t expired but there were no more free pages for the visa that would have allowed them to send the bike from New York to South Africa. The consulate said no: it is not allowed to issue passports outside of Macedonia. The story reached social networks and the resulting echo was so strong as to push the government to solve the problem. After a few days the new passport was ready and Ivana collected it in Toronto.
The grand tour of these two kids seems to never end. After completing their world tour, at the end of 2016 they leave again for a new project: crossing the African continent. In October they left Namibia (45th country visited), at present they are in Egypt (55th country visited).
From the previous experience Manu and Ivana learned a lot and they presented themselves for this new project with a new spirit. More concrete, more ready to document their enterprise with the necessary photo and video equipment.