Aren’t you scared? Isn’t XYZ country (take your pick) dangerous? These questions keep coming when I talk about my motorcycle plans.
My answers are always the same: Colombia / Brazil / Russia / Kyrgyzstan and so on, are safe. We avoid troubled places. Depending on the country / Town it is easy to know which regions / places to avoid. I would not go faffing around Dagestan, one of the Russian republics, for example; Or some parts of Colombia, or wander into an “unpacified” favela in Rio.
Our personal safety is my top priority. The safety of the bikes comes second!
I do a lot of research. Often, the best info is on the road. The police and military will be around. Especially in more volatile regions. Who best to ask? In Colombia they gave us good advice, in Central Asia, while making our way to Andijan (eastern Uzbekistan), the heavy police and military presence was enough of a hint to avoid wandering too far off the hotel in the dark.
Common sense applies at all times. We have lived in big cities, and we know there are places, even in London, Paris or Rio, where you do not go, ever; places you avoid at night. The same applies when you travel. So far we never got into trouble with any mugger or gangs.
For Africa, I must admit, something had been worrying me for a while. So I had to ask a specialist.
Let’s introduce Sandy. I met her at Motorcycle Mechanics evening classes, back in 2005. She was planning to ride from London back home, to Cape Town, while I was in the early planning of our 1 year around south America. She did ride back home the following year, through the middle East, Egypt, Sudan etc… all the way to South Africa. Then, in Cape Town, she created a motorcycle tour company. She knows the region very well, and as a biker, she understands the risks. So I sent her a message. I am a bit concerned about wildlife. I certainly do not want to be eaten by a lion!
You see, we often end up travelling across very remote roads, and on the bikes, we are “out there”, very vulnerable. Namibia is very sparsely populated, so my question is not that daft. The answer came fast. Lions in Namibia are very wild, but she never saw any while riding there. She gave me valuable advice: avoid wild camping, stay in campsites as much as possible. If wild camping, have a fire going all night. Do not walk at night in remote places, do not go for a swim, unless someone who knows what s/he is doing tells us it is safe (crocodiles and all that!).
So, reassured, of sort. The bit about not camping wild is tricky. We are always at the mercy of a mechanic problem. I suppose, in such case, we could hide the broken down bike and ride 2 up on the other. We did that once, in Kyrgyzstan, when Alistair’s bike died. We hid it in a ditch and came back the following morning.
So I guess we will have to wing it and improvise. My plans are vague. I know by now, that the day we get on the bikes, my plans will last about 24 hours, before we have to make changes!
“Wildlife” encounters in Kazakhstan were a little less intimidating!