Water was slowly creeping up my clothing like a fox approaching his prey; slow but steady. I just started my big trip from Belgium to the Himalayas by motorcycle and it had been non-stop raining for the last couple of days. Being full of positive energy and motivation, I stubbornly wanted to stick to my plan: wild camping and riding as much as possible off road. I quickly experienced that not everything would goes as planned.
The seventh day of riding in the pouring rain almost beat me. I was getting exhausted and the ground was indescribable slippery, mud sticking everywhere. “Come on, you can do this!”, I said to myself, “This will be the last time!”. The bike had fallen down in the mud for the seventh time of that day…
The beginning of April 2019 I started a big solo trip going from Belgium to the Himalayas with my motorcycle. My goals: take no highways, ride off-road when possible, wild camp and stay with people as much as you can and try to rock climb in every country.
It all started a few years ago where I was cherishing the idea of wandering the world. Not by bicycle: this is too slow; not by public transport: while in the train, you can’t just say “hey stop! I want to see that little place there!”. I wanted to travel by motorcycle: you can cover great distances, stop wherever you want and take more luggage than backpacking but still have the same interaction with the people and your environment. Riding the most beautiful roads which are meandering through the valley, wild camping with a lovely sunset, be awakened by the sunrise or covering the most thrilling trials. This is what I had in mind! Of course, I was aware that there would also be some less perfect days with setbacks and unfortunate events. Therefore, I tried to prepare myself and the bike as good as possible for that.
Wet wetter wettest!
I was soaked, partially from the rain but mainly from the sweat during the desperate efforts getting the bike back up. Unload all the luggage, try to get some grip with your feet, position yourself against the bike and try to lift it. My feet where constantly slipping away, and during the very few moments I had some decent grip, the bike just slid more downwards instead of getting back up. Finally! The bike is back up. Load her up and start riding again! Try to get a little bit of friction and go straight instead of sliding sideways. At this moment, I was going slow, painstakingly slow. It took me about 3 seconds to cover 1 meter. My average speed? Between 1 and 2 km/h. I still needed to cover a few more kilometres before I would reach some better ground with grassy hills. And then… you drop that bike for the eighth time of the day. Totally exhausted, you start your ritual: unload it, position yourself, try to pick it up, slip away, try harder, … At these moments you start questioning yourself: why am I doing this? And is this really what I wanted to do? Emotionless I continue my trip, step by step…
Finally reaching the grassy hills and with a mind full of doubts about my start of the trip, I slowly initiate my descent in the drizzling rain. Suddenly I see a couple hiking up the hill. I ride to them and ask for the closest gravel road since I had had it with the mud. After a short conversation about my trip, the woman opens her backpack and offers me a hot cup of tea. “This is typical Serbian tea” she said. It was the best tea I have ever had! They shared their cookies, peeled me an orange, offered me more tea and some peanuts. This was just heavenly, this is what it’s all about!
Being completely regenerated and in a blissful daze of the experience and hot tea, I say goodbye to the amazingly friendly couple and head my way towards some better ground. Arriving in a village next to the Romanian border, another couple spontaneously approach me and ask if I need a place to sleep. Realising that all my clothes where very dirty and wet, I gladly accept the offer and they escort me to their home. Arriving there, they explain that they are bikers too and had compassion for me seeing me soaked in my muddy suite. They offer me some delicious food, dry all my clothes, pressure clean my bike and even take me to their local bikers club. To be able to thank them for their hospitality, I try to get the next round of beers on my expenses, but they strongly refuse that and say that I am not allowed to pay for anything since I’m their guest. What an amazing people!
At that moment you realise that your trip is not about perfect roads or trails, how fancy your bike is or which gear you use. It’s not about how many countries you visit and where you are going. For me, it is all about the experience, the hospitality of the people and nature you are going through!
Everything you prepare and think is important, becomes very different on the road.
You can not anticipate it or plan it like you want. But that is alright for me! The adapting, changing and steps into the unknown are the adventure itself!
The first two weeks of my trip, I was riding through Eastern Europe: Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Austria, Italia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria. Mainly following the Trans Euro Trail. This is an off-road route going all the way from the south to the north of Europe. Even though it rained for 80% of the time, the few moments the sun came through, I was able to catch some beautiful moments! Eastern Europe is so diverse, beautiful and sometimes intimidating. It has amazing views and mountains, the hospitality of the people is so great and then, there are also a lot of dogs… Luckily most of them are harmless and just curious about what the hell I’m doing there with my motorcycle…