I am happy to say my reading slump has disappeared and I am enjoying my books again. I’m glad it didn’t last too long. I got fed up with all the screens from social media, news, t.v. and Netflix. Quiet nights with books again and mornings with more books and blog posts are the go for now.
I just finished this wonderful travel story from Elspeth Beard from London. Elspeth was the first (known of) British woman to ride her motorbike around the world in 1982. It is a remarkable tale and here are the details.
Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World by Elspeth Beard. Published by Michael O’Mara 2017. 320 pgs long.
In 1982 Elspeth had just finished studying Architecture in England and wanted to do the trip with her BMW motorbike she had dreamed of. Her parents who were quite upper class gave her no support and showed no interest in much of what she did, instead deciding she just wasn’t much of a conformist. Her mother was more concerned that the curtains in the living room were matching and her father was lovely but a bit distracted with other issues.
Because she was a young woman, none of the Bike magazines wanted to hear about it, not many wanted to sponsor or support her and as this trip had not been done by a female before most thought she was mad. But being such a strong, stubborn person off she went. (Thoughts went through my mind of how much support Ewan McGregor and Charley Borman had from BMW on their round the world trip much later)
She flew herself and her bike to New York and rode to Detroit where she stayed with an aunt for a short while. Then off to New Orleans and across the southern states to California.
From there she sent her bike to Sydney but then found out she could not get a working visa for herself. She tried several embassies in the U.S. with no luck. She wanted to spend time there and finish her architecture practicum for school at a Sydney firm while earning some money to finance her trip. She had a name of a well known architect there who could help her (she was assured).
Instead she decided to go to New Zealand where she met up with other relatives in Auckland. She knew her bike was on a ship to Sydney and she thought the embassy in New Zealand might be friendlier. As it turned out when she applied for her visa there, she dealt with a man who rode a Triumph motorbike and he loved the idea of the trip and stamped her passport with enthusiasm. Her boyfriend of the time met her in New Zealand and they toured the north and south islands before she went on to Sydney.
She did introduce herself to the architect she was referred to however he turned out to be a very nasty man and she didn’t last long but that’s another story. She did find a better practice in which to work. Once cashed up she covered Australia pretty well. Her descriptions of the flooded dirt tracks she encountered especially from Alice Springs to Adelaide were harrowing. Mud up to her knees and much help from the road train drivers saved her skin.
She then rode to Perth and then flew to Bali to catch up with her boyfriend, Mark again, while shipping her bike ahead to Singapore. The rest of the story is where it gets gritty.
Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and India had us holding our breath in many situations. Getting in and out of India was nightmarish with the bureaucracy and I wouldn’t have traded places with her at all. For example when she got to the Pakistani border she was told she had to go back to Delhi to get her paperwork stamp. Delhi is 500 kms away and off she went. Only to find it couldn’t be done and back to Pakistan border she went. Another form fell out of her passport by accident and the border guard at the Pakistani border thought that was the right form and let her in. Such luck she had.
Descriptions of the people, the locations and a couple of pretty hairy accidents not to mention the illnesses she contracted did make me think she was mad.
But survive she did, having met a Dutch motorbiker who she falls in love with and off they go to Pakistan and Iran and then Turkey. Both of them contracted Hepatitis, dealt with many men with rifles and lust and she still manages to get through it all while having lost kilos of weight and was yellow with Hepatitis.
There is a quite a bit of naval gazing about what to do about getting over Alex who dumped her before she left England. who had been the love of her life. Then lovely Mark who loves her dearly, but obsessively and is the one who catches up with her in New Zealand and Bali. She finally falls in love with him until she meets Richard. But once she gets back to London, three years later, she and Richard go by the wayside as he isn’t able to deal with everything that has happened. There is a lot more to do with him and Mark later in the book but that would be a spoiler.
She ends up marrying one of them, was it Mark? or Richard? but that is glossed over a bit as it is the journey that is important. She is only in her mid 20s when she does this trip and her travelling skills as well as her mechanical nous are quite extraordinary.
Once home again with her parents she just can’t believe they continue to show no interest in her trip and never really ask her much about it. She was travelling for three years and could find nobody who had an interest in it. So typical eh?
Well I really enjoyed her and her journey and I would love to have been there when she got home and heard about every detail.
I will never stop thinking about her and remembering and appreciating her bravery, perseverance and adventures.
Her writing is excellent and I could feel the bumps, the laughs, the smells, the sounds and the excruciating injuries of her accidents as well as enjoying the food and the culture of all of the countries she visited.
This was definitely the type of travel writing I crave. If I was only 50 years younger.