The "Rhino Ride" project
For at least 10 years Gerald Pfitzmann (a former employee with BMW Motorrad) has been dreaming of a real motorcycle trip! Now he is retired he can finally fulfil his dreams so Gerald prepared his itinerary: 30,000km across 20 countries over 3 and a half months with an average mileage of 270km per day. On the itinerary are destinations such as Dasht-e Lut, the hottest desert in Iran, Khardung La in Northern India which is officially the highest pass in the world with an altitude of 5600m, the Karakoram Highway in Northern Pakistan, the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan and off-road tracks in Mongolia….everything needed to inspire a motorcyclist’s heart.
The slogan of the journey is “The Rhino Ride”. BMW GS riders driving in aid of a rhinoceros protection project which aims to rescue rhinos. The project was founded in 2014 by South African GS riders Andre Barnard and Gavin Green. Gerald has been a member of this project since 2016 and the journey was documented on the Rhino Ride Facebook page.
Preparation for the journey took six months. 7 Visas were required. An invitation letter from Pakistan, reference numbers from Iran. A second passport. Carnet de Passage for Iran, Pakistan and India. A green insurance card. An international driver’s license. Long-term health insurance was needed as foreign health insurance usually only applies for 6 weeks. And of course a suitable motorcycle… a BMW R1200GS. Equipment for the four GS motorcycles was supplied by GIVI, the world-renowned Italian supplier of motorcycle accessories.
Over time, Gerald was able to find three other intrepid riders who also wanted to experience this extremely strenuous, mammoth adventure.
On the first night we are already in Hungary. A good sleep restores us and in the morning, we wake up with an appetite. Breakfast is healthy and balanced, but we anticipate another binge of miles. It is raining today and the temperature is 10°C. We ride along the wet asphalt to the border with Serbia, where we stop for a comfort break. The various species of Serbian-protected animals are deer, wolves, lynxes, bears and foxes. To add rhinos, we travel vertically through the entire country, passing through Belgrade and travelling down to the border with Bulgaria, flagging the logo of our rhinoceros mission along the way. After 720km on the road, with dusk falling, we finally arrive in Sofia and in the rain we search for a hotel.
On the third day, despite the rain, we decide to visit Sofia: we don’t want to miss the opportunity to see Aleksandr Nevsky’s orthodox cathedral and … and to show off our Rhino Ride motorcycle icon! Then we leave on our way and head straight for 520km to the border with Turkey. The grey landscape, the falling clouds, the thunderous skies, the showers … nothing frightens us and no-one can stop us. We spend the night in a suburban hotel and the next morning we get a cold wake-up call with the usual rain joined by a drop of temperature to just 4°C. Regardless of the weather and the cold, we set off hopeful for Istanbul, but as soon as we arrive, with the city in sight, we’re stuck for 2 hours swallowed by traffic. After covering 500km, we’re a bit tired. We decide to park in Amasra, by the Black Sea coast. Our fifth day in Amasra is bright and sunny. We set off on the road that crosses the Black Sea and the views are stunning! Along the way we find many roads that are under construction and we end up having a bit of an ordeal with mud, before we arrive in Samsun where we are due to stop for the night.
The next day, we continue along the coastal road to Tirebolu, then towards the hinterland towards Erzurum and it’s here where we have a problem. From a side street, a car turns onto the main road without looking, just as we are passing through at a speed of 60 km/h.
At the front is Gerald who brakes, and to avoid stopping dead, he cannot avoid jumping on the bonnet followed by a tumble on the asphalt. Fortunately, the result is just some purple bruising and a swollen leg. It takes a bit of rest for him to recover, so we decide to do a little shopping and do some laundry. On the seventh day, we go straight to Trabzon but only after we have visited the BMW dealer Dynamik Oto to check the damaged motorcycle: fortunately there is nothing irreparable and we can find all the spare parts and can get the bike back on the road. During the 3 rest days we do lots of shopping, have long breakfasts, take walks along the beach, have dinners at the restaurant, sitting in the barber’s shop and even trying our hands at some DIY while building a mosquito net all by ourselves!
With all the spare parts from the BMW dealer in the hands of the mechanics and beneath our watchful eyes, Gerald’s BMW GS finally resumes its original features and, in the evening, we all celebrate together at a restaurant. Thanks to the expertise of Fahri Dugan, the official BMW motorcycle and car dealer in Trabzon, and the ability of his team, we can once again resume our journey. A nice group photo is a must. Once again we are all on two wheels and on the road. From Trabzon, we take the road leading to Bayburt, north-east of the country. On the penultimate day in Turkey we travel about 180km in a slight climb up to an altitude of 1,600m. We sleep in a hotel in Bayburt and the next day we ride for another 400km to Doğubayazıt near the Iranian border, stopping only for a quick snack. On our arrival, a magnificent view is awaiting us: Mount Ararat covered with snow. According to biblical legend, Noah’s Ark landed on this mountain, saving men and all species of animals from the global flood. And now it’s our turn, or rather our tour, to rescue rhinos. The Rhino Ride: The adventure continues!