At the age of about 15 or 16 some of my friends and me got into watching slide shows. We went to the city of Basel in Switzerland, a mere 20 minutes from my home whenever an interesting show was presented. There were a couple of professional photographers that we liked a lot. We saw slide shows of travels and countries all over the world.
One of these professional photographers was Michael Martin. A German geologist who fell in love with the Sahara desert and traveled there frequently. Every year he was in town to show his incredible pictures in a well presented multi-vision slide show. He was (actually still is: see www.Michael-Martin.de) the best photographer of deserts that I know. And his entertaining style of introducing you to these great landscapes and interesting countries and people of northern Africa blew our minds. We loved his shows and never missed one.
He travelled to the deserts on his BMW motorbike and that had quite an impact on us. We bought books about adventures motorbiking and read articles about what the best motorbikes for travelling the world would be.
As soon as I turned old enough to gain my driving licence I licenced for motorbikes as well. And so did my buddy Mike.
Mike got himself a small Suzuki 500ccm naked bike and a second one soon after that.
My parents became quite worried about the motorbike thing and were smart enough to offer a deal: I could use their car at any time if I wouldn’t buy a motorbike. Since I grew up in a small village where having car available any time is a real big thing, I quickly agreed.
I still rode the bikes together with my friends, most of the time as passenger.
But the riding we did had nothing to do with what we had in mind originally. Instead we flew through the winding streets of the black forest with high speed, always cranking it up. If I think back on these days I can only thank god that none of us had a bad accident. At the time I was just like every 18-year old kid: young and invincible.
After finishing high school I left the area to go to university where other hobbies found my interest. And the dream of riding a motorcycle on a long trip drifted away.
It was until I moved to Munich that I got reminded of motorbiking again. In Munich I lived in a community with some other people and after a long working day I sometimes went to a little bar around the corner of the little house that we lived in to relax with a beer or two.
Sitting there and enjoying the cold brew I noticed a chap sitting there by himself, obvisouly just enjoying a quiet evening with a beer as well.
He seemed familiar and it took me quite a while until I recognized this fellow with his long wild hair. It was Michael Martin, my hero of juvenile motorcycle dreams.
It made me think quite a bit about these old dreams I had. And even though riding a motorbike seemed incredibly far off my daily routine, the undefined feelings of a strong dream came back to me immediately.
Later that year I packed my bicycle to go for a 5 week vacation in Iceland. A great trip in one of the most incredible landscapes I have ever been to. The country is very vast and empty, with no trees. There are only few roads and so I met the same people over and over again. Most of them were other cyclists, but among them was also a motorbiking couple from England.
They told me their story: They met on a party and immediately fell in love with each other. The problem was that this was few weeks before the guy was about to leave for a one-year motorbike trip from Alaska to Chile. She visited him a couple of weeks in North America on his trip, made the motorbike license at home and joined him from Columbia for the rest of the trip.
Ever since they explore the world on small off-road motorbikes. I met them in the middle of nowhere in Iceland. And after a nice talk they jumped on their motorbikes and took off. I stood there and watched them disappear, leaving a cloud of dust behind them.
At that point the idea of maybe buying a motorbike was getting pretty intense.
I returned from my trip to Iceland with my head full of impressions and loads of stories. My sister was supposed to pick me up from the airport. Instead my brother in law was waiting for me at the exit. The moment I saw him I knew something was wrong. He opened the news to me immediately: my father was not well at all. They discovered pancreatic cancer. My sister was there to support him and my mum.
We all went through a tough time. Most of all of course my dad who went through that time with great dignity even though he suffered. Not only physically but also mentally. He was retired, but full of ideas and energy. He had so many dreams he wanted to turn into reality. But this illness robbed him of all his plans.
After he passed away I took my time to really deal with this loss. I went hiking a lot by myself. Quite often I walked up a beautiful little mountain in the Bavarian Alps. The Jochberg offers an incredible and very peaceful view on a little mountain lake. I sat there very often and thought about my dad and how he lived his life. He was a very upright person: absolutely honest in every way. He was a character who had dreams and ideas and turned them into reality. He was well travelled and quite an adventurous guy. He climbed in the mountains, dived in the Red Sea, sailed along the Adriatic coast, all as a young fellow with very little money. As a young student he travelled to Tunisia on a small motorbike, at a time when this was far from being as easy as it is nowadays.
Inspired by this I decided that I should not hesitate any longer and I bought a motorbike few weeks later. Five months later I packed the bikes together with my mate Nobi and we rode through Tunisia into the desert. A life-changing experience.
Ever since I made little motorbike trips. I also got into off-roading a lot. I love the playing aspect of it, to learn what you can actually do with these bikes. I even participated in a couple of rallies among them some desert rallies.
But the dream of a really long motorbike travel was always in the back of my mind. In 2011 I started planning to ride from Germany to South Africa. In the very beginning of my planning the news of the separation of North and South Sudan spread. With the situation in Sudan being very uncertain, it was clear that I would not risk a trip on my own at this time in this area.
Instead I scratched all the vacation I had together and made a fantastic bike tour around the Black Sea.
A year later I met Christy, a wonderful woman. She didn’t ride the motorbike herself, but enjoyed riding on the back of my bike. We started dating and eventually became a couple. One day, I carefully told her about that dream that I have and asked about how she would like to join for a few weeks if I did this. We discussed this and very quickly she surprised me with the idea of doing such a long travel together with me on her own bike.
We originally had the idea of going east from Germany to Mongolia. But due to the fact that I would very much like to go through the “Stan”-countries and the Iran, and her being US-citizen and some other issues we decided that this would be a little bit too much for a first trip. Instead the idea of a road trip through South America slowly took shape.
After we officially released this information to our friends and colleagues the real planning for this adventure started…