Exclusive: Asia 2011 – Another 25,000 km aboard the BMW F650GS bike – BMW BLOG
Two years ago we brought you an amazing story about two brave people, Radu Georgescu and Laura Tatomir, two Romanian citizens who traveled across the American continents aboard a BMW F650GS motorcycle. Today we present to you another adventure of them, who took place last year, this time in Asia.
If their trip to Americas in 2010 has totaled approximately 41,000 km (approx. 25,500 miles), the trip to Asia was only a bit shorter, of 34,800 km (approx. 21,600 miles), crossing Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, India, Iran or Turkey.
You can enjoy the story of every mile of their adventure on their website, B66AMA, but for now let’s find out together exclusive details about the journey and the challenges faced together by men and bike.
BMWBLOG: At the end of Americas 2010 expedition you mentioned among your future plans a trip to Africa, then Himalaya and South-East Asia. Did you also go to Africa or went straight to Asia? Why did you choose Asia?
Radu Georgescu: There were a number of reasons to choose Asia…the main reason was that in 2011 Northern Africa was bubbling with conflicts, there were shootings, people were dying there. This could have represented an obstacle for us and hence we decided to go to Asia, and to see Africa once things would settle down.
BMWBLOG: What was the route followed? How many km/miles?
Radu Georgescu: Vietnam – Cambodia – Thailand – Nepal – India – Iran – Turkey – Bulgaria and then Romania. It is the longest route someone can take, by South of China.
We rode for 25,070 km on the BMW F650GS bike, 800 km on other bikes and scooters, we did some 3,350 km by train, (Lao Cai & Hanoi, Calcutta & Bombay, Yazd & Bandar Abbas), 4,590 km by plane (Bangkok & Kathmandu, Delhi – Shiraz), then we traveled approximately 1,000 km by bus…all in all we traveled for more than 34,800 km.
We had to skip Myanmar and Pakistan. In Myanmar generally you are not allowed to go by motorcycle (not even if you are a local), while in Pakistan we couldn’t enter as we didn’t get a visa (we were not in our country of residence when we submitted the visa request, as specified by the rules). These interruptions, coupled with some logistic issues, represented the most unpleasant part of our trip. Instead of traveling, we spent almost two months sitting in line at various counters, writing emails or filling-in forms.
BMWBLOG: What did you “learn” from your past expedition, in terms of planning issues? (route, km/day), logistics, etc? Were you better prepared for the trip to Asia?
Radu Georgescu: We didn’t make any radical changes in terms of logistics. The only thing new was that we had to adapt to the clothing and behavior rules of Iran. We had to wear trousers and long sleeves (Laura) and to cover our heads (also Laura), which was very unpleasant given the hot weather outside.
The most unpleasant was the fact that we had to obtain lots of visas and import permits, and we had to pass through a lot of customs inspections; from this point of view we found South America much more enjoyable for traveling; there all we had to do in order to cross the border was to stay at a queue for 30 minutes and get our two pieces of papers stamped.
BMWBLOG: How did you improve and adjust your bike, taking into account the issues you were confronted with during “Americas 2010”? What was the equipment, electronic devices and other devices that you carried with you during this journey?
Radu Georgescu: In addition to the previous journey we had a small air compressor, which was very useful given that road conditions lead often to a flat tire. So, instead of agonizing on the side of the road with tire irons and presses, or worse to leave with the tire in search for a tire repair shop, I just filled some air into the tire, to make it hold until the first shop. Moreover, I had the possibility to adjust tire pressure to road conditions, which was very important if we take into account that main roads can be very bad and full of holes.
We did learn from past issues and we had spare rivet type chain master links and a mini-vice for doing and undoing them. During the South American trip we were always in trouble because the spring clip chain master link that kept breaking loose. We also took two spare water pumps, just in case. Those were about all the improvements we did.
BMWBLOG: What was different in this trip compared to Americas 2010, if we consider traveling aboard a bike?
Radu Georgescu: The roads and the scenery in South America were far more beautiful, more spectacular. In Asia it was more crowded, dirtier and more dangerous. The road conditions are incredibly bad: dust, pot holes, heavy traffic, pollution, and most important, drivers who abide no rules.
For quite many times, the riding became extremely exhausting and extremely annoying. In South America it was far more enjoyable. On the other hand, in Asia you encounter more variety, in terms of people, civilizations, religions, food, architecture and there are much more interesting places to see.
BMWBLOG: Technical issues and the spare parts – What technical endowments would you consider essential for the success of this journey ?
Radu Georgescu: I would not consider leaving for Asia without the ABS. The roads are so dangerous (i.e road conditions, breaking traffic rules), that violent braking is inevitable and happens most of the times.
Perhaps many people think that ABS is not that important, and they can ride a bike even without ABS, managing to avoid accidents by being more careful and cautious/alert. Which is perfectly true for a 200, 500 or 1,000 km ride. But when you have to travel some 20,000 km, out of which 10,000 km in difficult conditions, riding in fear and always alert gets you so tired that takes away a great deal of joy from your experience.
I know that because two times I damaged the ABS sensor wire. In the following days, upon finding a way to patch it, I felt my patience was running low, and I got tired and tired with every moment spent on the bike. That’s because besides animals, pedestrians, cars going on the wrong side of the road, pot holes and mud, I had to worry also about how not to slide.
BMWBLOG: Tell us about the most beautiful part of this trip.
Radu Georgescu: From a biker perspective, I believe the most beautiful part of the trip was a short excursion into Annapuma mountain in Himalaya, Nepal. Due to the massive ice we could only climb to 3,500 m altitude, but we liked it very much.
BMWBLOG: Did you also meet other world travelers on a bike? Or more specifically, on BMW bikes?
Radu Georgescu: I don’t remember meeting anybody in the Indochina, although I am convinced there are many travalers in that area. But once we arrived in India we met a lot of people riding bikes, generally Europeans, mainly Germans and British. In Ephesus we met a British couple riding a BMW R1200GS. They have been on the road for the past 3 and a half years, and by their sayings, they have covered some 120,000km!
BMWBLOG: Tell us a bit about the countries you visited – how difficult were the road conditions considering you were riding a motorcycle? What about the infrastructure?
Radu Georgescu: I do not believe that you can find anywhere in the world traffic conditions worse than those in India. It’s a fatal combination of bad roads, jostle, a true culture of breaking the rules, and improvised car/bike vehicles.
I had the impression that someone wanted to get us killed every 10 minutes. It is absolutely unbelievable! In Vietnam we had some surprises, too: for example we don’t understand why, even during the nights, the vehicles travel with the lights off! Best case scenario – they turn on the emergency flashers. It was so surprising for the locals to see that we have the lights on as they were signaling us all the time to turn them off. This was hilarious!
BMWBLOG: How many kilometers did you travel so far aboard the BMW F650GS, overall? How would you say it handled the trip, how did it face the weather conditions and the road conditions? Would you recommend it also to other bikers?
Radu Georgescu: It has about 75,000 km now. It still works great now, but I think I should invest a couple of thousand dollars in it (bearings, bushings, consumables, etc) in order to prepare it for another similar adventures. This is why we decided to sell the bike and buy something more modern, probably a F800GS, for the next trip.
The BMW F650GS did an excellent job this time also, although it wasn’t even by far as stressed as in South America (Atacama desert, Amazon, etc). Generally, at least half of the overlanders we met on the road had also a F650GS and they were very happy with it!
BMWBLOG: In terms of future projects – we have seen on your website an expedition through Europe – when did you start it and for how long? What comes next?
Radu Georgescu: That was just a short trip throughout Europe, like a closing one. In one or two years we will probably aim for an expedition in Africa. It’s nothing sure for the moment, just the intention.
BMWBLOG: What was the meaning of all these expeditions to you? How did they change you?
Radu Georgescu: There are a lot of things to say here: First of all we are very happy to have seen so many places, first hand. Generally when you see a certain place on TV, you only get to see an idealized picture of it, only the good information about it, the interesting perspective. And most probably, most of the tourist that arrive to that place by classical means of transport (plane, organized tour – hotel – museum) experience only that part.
On the other side, when you travel on your own you get to see more, the good things and the bad things altogether. You get to eat with the locals, to interact with them, you go to villages that are not even on the tourist map, you get to feel everything from your perspective, from your own interactions with the ordinary people living in that country.
Then you get a clearer picture of the size of the countries or continents. A lot of people know the distance between Paris to Berlin or from LA to New York, but now when I look at Bangkok on the map, for example, I know roughly the amount of time it would take me to get there as I leave from Saigon. The idea is that you get a bigger picture.
In the end let’s admire the pictures in the photo gallery and let’s take a look together at the amazing collection of videos captured throughout Asia.
Radu and Laura, we would like to congratulate you for this journey and to thank you for sharing your story with us. Good luck!
[Photos and videos: Laura Tatomir and Radu Georgescu]