Just over a year ago, two lifelong friends Matt and Reece left the Ace Cafe, in London with the aim of circumnavigating the globe in their scooter and sidecar to raise awareness about modern day slavery. Well after nearly 365 days of travelling through various countries and continents, they’ve made a quick visit home to sort out their visas for the next leg of their trip (the scooter and sidecar are safely being shipped) to Russia. We had a chance to catch up with the lads…
What country has been your favourite to travel through?
Matt: “That’s a really tough question because they’ve all been so good! I think we always tend to say Sudan. It’s just incredible. We entered from Egypt and drove the length of the country through to Ethiopia. Originally, Sudan was one of the countries we were a bit nervous about. I mean we knew nothing about it – apart from what we’d seen on the news and that was just all about the war in the South and all of the trouble in Darfur.
We knew we wouldn’t be going to that part of the country but we kind of thought there might be a bit of an overlap. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Sudan was home to the nicest people we’ve met on the whole trip. There’s barely any tourism there at all – people we were so happy to have us there that we actually struggled to pay for a meal! We wild camped our way through the country and it couldn’t have felt safer – apart from one night when a local farmer came and mimed to us that we need to watch for alligators on the banks of the Nile! It’s a really interesting place to visit – the desert is incredible, the people are amazing and apparently it has more pyramids than Egypt!”
What has been the most challenging part of your journey so far?
Reece: “The most challenging part of the trip is organising it all. The shipping, the visas, the route planning, the funding – it takes forever. But the most challenging part of the actual ride was, without a doubt, The Lagunas route. It’s a 400km stretch of unpaved road from Chile in to Bolivia. It traverses through the Andes and takes you from the Atacama desert to the Uyuni salt flats.
We had met some guys who had done the journey on some big adventure bikes and they said “yeah – you’ll be alright”. So, we went for it! That’s pretty much all the planning we did. The next day we found ourselves pushing the bike up hill, on a gravel track, around 5000m above sea level. We got through the pass by the skin of our teeth and ended up riding pillion in to Uyuni as 3 out of the 5 sidecar joints had snapped off and it was almost scrapping along the floor.”
How much has your bike knowledge increased over the last year?
Reece: “Well we knew absolutely nothing before and now we know that we don’t like scooters and sidecars. No, it’s really not been too bad – it regularly breaks but it’s the usual kind of stuff you’d expect on a trip like this. We’ve burnt out our clutch a few times, snapped a drive belt, drank way too much fuel trying to clean out the dirty tank and changed countless tyres.
But we’ve done all the work ourselves with the help of people on our Facebook page and YouTube. We originally thought we’d get local mechanics to fix the bike – we tried to get our wheel changed by a couple of guys in Egypt and they changed it, but they broke the exhaust mount in the process. We soon realised that the vehicle was so alien to everyone that we were going to have to learn to fix it ourselves!”
The highlight of your trip so far…
Matt: “Getting to Uyuni alive! No, they’re have been so many so it’s really quite hard to say. The Lagunas route was probably my highlight though – it was just such a ridiculously hard challenge. After we had more or less pushed our sidecar to the top of the mountain we rolled down the other side in to a sunset over the Laguna Rojo – the red lake.
It’s actually red and the sky was red with the sunset too – so literally everything around us was red. We were freezing cold, had horrific altitude sickness and the bike was completely broken but the view was almost worth it… almost! We got down to the lake shores and found a small group of houses where a local Bolivian family took us in for the night – it was incredible.”
What’s the one thing you’ve missed from home?
Matt: “Well, there’s lots but to be honest it’s probably just having a home and not having to live out of a bag every day. That and the food. I spent a night dreaming of fish and chips when we were wild camping with horrible food poisoning in Sudan.”
What’s the plan for the next leg of your trip?
Reece: “Well, it’s 12,000 miles back from Vladivostok. We’ll drive the sidecar through a Siberian winter and temperatures could drop to around -20/30. It’s going to be a whole new challenge and nothing like we’ve done before. It should be interesting to watch!”
Will you carry on riding a motorcycle/scooter when you return home?
Matt: “Yes, we’ll both keep riding. We may even try doing a few more miles on two wheels but there’s something about the sidecars that just keep people hooked so don’t be surprised if you see us scooting around on the outfit.”
Any advice to fellow bikers who are thinking of travelling the world on two wheels…
Reece: “Go! Just go! We planned this trip for around 2 years. Who knows what we were doing in that time! Plans change daily. Pack your bike. Grab your passport and go!”