When the Ayatollah Khomeini took over in Iran following the revolution in 1979, he pissed off a lot of Americans. He also screwed up Chris Donaldson's plan to ride overland to Australia. He had just left Belfast on his Moto Guzzi Le Mans, and ended up re-routing through the Middle East, Africa, and North and South America. In fact everywhere but Australia! So this year, after the publication of his book 'Going the Wrong Way', and at the age of 63, he decided to take the same 44 year-old bike and try again. He's just sent this report from the road...
Together with my young 50 year-old mate Liam, on his new Moto Guzzi V85, we left the UK in September, departing from The Overland Event in Oxford, before stopping at the Ace Cafe in London and the Brighton Burnout.
After crossing to France we headed south through the Black Forest and Switzerland, before stopping in Mandello del Lario for the Moto Guzzi Centenary. Admittedly that was cancelled due to Covid, but in typical Italian style they changed their mind the week before, and it went on anyway. Covid can’t stop the Italians having a party!
Down the coast to Genoa, we joined a huge motorbike demonstration to complain about the state of the roads, after the motorway bridge collapse that killed 43 motorists in 2018. Then we followed the Italian coast south from Portofino to Rome, then on to Pompeii, where our bike boots walked where the chariots had left groves in the cobbled streets.
We'd had no problems with Covid restrictions since we left the UK, but decided not to go to Albania when we discovered that due to the virus the Greeks were only letting 140 people a day to cross through that border. Albania is also one of the most corrupt countries in Europe so we opted for an overnight ferry from Bari to Greece, and the next day we cruised into Athens. It was from here, 42 years ago, that a much younger but just as stupid me had left for Israel. The two Guzzies performed well across Europe, with a bit of competition between my 44-year-old Le Mans and Liam’s young pretender V85. We left the bikes at a Moto Guzzi shop, and flew home to replenish our wallets and relax our brains for a few weeks, before flying out again in November.
On starting the next leg, we shipped the bikes to Israel, and spent a few days seeing the sights before we rode to the Jordanian border post in Eilat. Then disaster, as the Israeli guards warned us that the Jordanians might not let us in and if they didn't we wouldn’t get back in to Israel as they only issues Visas at the airport. We could be stuck in no-man’s-land forever! Tom Hanks, eat your heart out!
The Israelis checked with the Jordanians and sent them pictures of our bikes, but the Jordanians said they didn’t like them and that was that. Egypt had very bad Covid numbers so wasn't an option. We could go out though Syria, but while the civil war is over in most of the country, I'm not as brave/foolhardy as I was when I rode through there at 21.We would be forced to take the boat out of Israel, just as I did 42 years ago!
That evening in the bar Liam and I had a huge argument. I wanted to leave the bikes with my cousin in the Golan Heights until we got the paperwork sorted whereas Liam wanted to take them back to Greece. I relented the next day, and we shipped back to Athens. Then the new Omicron Covid strain appeared in South Africa and in Israel, which immediately stopped flights. Our worst fears were becoming reality. Liam jumped on his V85 to headed back to the UK, while I parked up the Le Mans with some friends from the Hellenic Moto Guzzi club in Greece. We would return to ride another day.
The next leg of our epic Covid beating adventure ride to Australia will be through Turkey and Iran, to Dubai, but with the Omnicron virus in full swing as we head to Christmas, everything is on hold. But hopefully, war and pestilence allowing, we will get back on the road in March.
Check out my last attempt to ride to Australia in 1979, Going the Wrong Way, on Amazon and www.chrisdonaldson.world