Many places on this planet are on the edge. As motorcycle travelers you don’t get to experience it any better. You live and ride in the moment, all conditions. Many travelers have experienced so much more than most, and lucky for most, they have written books and made presentations and movies of their journeys. Lucky, in that most of us will never embark on a truly epic journey and we are able to experience, and wonder in awe, from the safety of our own comfort levels.
Looking at a map it becomes apparent of all the places most would never go. Many places take extreme planning and calculation, as one missed step could mean certain death. Looking throughout history you wonder what make these explorers tick.
This is all in my mind now as I stand on the edge of the Sahara. This desert is the third largest desert in the world, covering 9,200,000 square kilometers. It extends north to south 1,800 kms (1,100 miles), and east to west 4,800 kms (3,000 miles). The entire desert receives less than 4 inches of rain a year. The Nile is the only lifeline through this area where temperatures can reach a scorching 140°F. The Nile River valley averages only 4 miles across for the length the Sahara.
Here, in the valley, life flourishes. Life has its hardships here also. The width of the valley, from one to five miles wide, comprise many of the peoples that live here, irritating the land, planting and harvesting the crops, all by hand. The land is green with brown brick mud homes and mud roofs, standing beside structures of concrete towering many levels, the top level almost always unfinished, awaiting the marriage of another child to finish and move into, leaving the next floor to remain unfinished. The blue waters of the Nile supply life to the people along this river.
As I stand on the west bank, in the security of the valley, I look west, and my mind wanders. It’s almost 3,000 miles from here to the Atlantic Ocean. Three thousand miles of drifting sands, dunes as high as mountains, blowing sand storms turning day into night, blistering hot days and freezing nights as the sun sets behind another dune. And no water. My thoughts drift to the camel caravans that use to trek these distances, with nothing but ancient knowledge and the night stars to guide them. One miscalculation, one miss of a distant oasis could mean certain death, your bones being bleached by the sun, only to be a reminder to the next traveler of the perilous journey being undertaken.
It takes travel and visiting a place to truly understand. I guess that’s why we travel. To understand. To understand the people, the cultures and their environment. Things are different from what you know, but you understand a little better. People are people, you just need to understand each other. Many times during your travels you will wonder “Why am I here, this sucks”. The long lonely days with all day to think, the days so packed with people you don’t have the space to think, the harsh riding conditions. But then you get that one day. Its sometimes only takes one day to define a journey. You round a bend on a beautiful day to be met with an incredible view. You happen to meet that one kind person that changes your whole perspective of life. You will never know that feeling until it happens in a place where cultures don’t match.
My advice? When this current obstacle to travel gets better, get out there and go. Throw your leg over your bike, cross a border, take a step out of your comfort zone. When you come back, tell interested people what you saw, felt, experienced. You might change a couple minds to follow in your own footsteps.
Rudyard Kipling once said, “All things considered there are only two types of men (women) in the world, those that stay at home and those that do not”. Which one are you?
Cheers, and open minded travel.