“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all’
One Lady, one motorcycle and many countries that makes “Timeless on the Silk Road “.A momentous real life tale of Heather Ellis.
Heather was not new to travel solo on motorcycle as she had already been to Africa before but this time it was difficult the road was long and the destination was Australia from UK and that too before internet.
Life is not easy as it gets when you are alone on motorcycle travelling from one end of the world to other.
Heather is author of two great books “Ubuntu” and “Times on the Silk Road” both are nothing less than a adventure reads and you will find the copies of both these books on Amazon.
Let’s meet Heather Ellis and understand her travel diaries of her journeys on motorcycle.
Timeless on the Silk Road by Heather Ellis
1. How did you prepare yourself mentally to cover half of the world on motorcycle? Especially Africa as it is regarded as dangerous.
It wasn’t so much preparing myself mentally, but physically. And preparing my motorcycle as well as maintaining it. The psychological – mental preparation – for this journey came from a place of faith and trust. From the moment the idea literally came to me ‘out-of-the-blue’, I knew riding a motorcycle through Africa and beyond, which went on to later be the Silk Roads of Central Asia, was what I was meant to do.
Yes, that sounds a bit ‘weird’ but the idea felt right, a must do idea. And from the moment I took that first step toward preparation, everything fell into place. A friend gave me an old copy of Ted Simon’s classic motorcycle travel memoir, Jupiter’s Travels. Remember, this was in 1992, before the internet so it wasn’t like I could Google ‘how to travel Africa by motorcycle’.
Next, a German motorcycle traveller who had just ridden through Africa, turned up on my door step where I was living and working at a mining town in northern Australia. He was a wealth of information and advice. My work colleagues suggested the best motorcycle for travelling Africa was the Yamaha TT600. It is light, strong and its 600cc single cylinder engine had both grunt and reliability.
When I collected my brand new TT600 from the Yamaha shop in Darwin, next to it on the shop floor was set of thick custom-made set of leather panniers and frame that fitted the bike perfectly. It was being sold by a Swiss motorcycle traveller who had just completed his trip around Australia.
There were many other little things like this that appeared just at the right time and together all opened the path for this journey to unfold. Yes, even from those early days, my journey had a spiritual edge, which was understandable when one is on the open road.
You begin to question the meaning behind all those chance encounters and coincidences. And travelling alone, you begin to trust in your intuition and together all this becomes a way of life where you know everything will work out and everything happens for a reason… and if you wish for something, and take the steps for it to happen, eventually it will.
Now, back to preparing physically to ride a motorcycle half way around the world. Riding a motorcycle that weighs around 200kg fully loaded requires a certain amount of strength. I was reasonably fit before the ‘idea’, but during the year-long planning stage, I focused on strength training at the gym.
In preparing my motorcycle, or more to the point, my skills to maintain it, I learnt how to service my bike, do basic repairs like changing sprockets and chain and how to fix a puncture, which happened a lot in Africa. As for Africa being dangerous, it was the complete opposite.
The kindness of strangers runs very deep in Africa as it does everywhere else in the world. Early in my travels, an African woman told me the African people would help me and that this is called Ubuntu. She was right. This is what happened and so it was only natural that I named my book Ubuntu, which means ‘I am because we are’ or the universal bond that connects us all as one.
Ubuntu by Heather Ellis
2. What advice would you like to give riders who are looking forward to travel across countries on motorcycle?
Ensure your motorcycle is mechanically in good order and know how to fix it if it does break down. My TT600 was brand new and as long as you service it when required, nothing much will go wrong with a new bike. The last thing you want is a bike that keeps breaking down or won’t start.
Don’t take too much gear. Weight is a killer and a motorcycle that is too overloaded is dangerous and just not fun. Most spares for your bike can be purchased in every city or major town and, in this modern era of travel, you’re never too far away from ordering parts online.
Don’t worry about visas too far in advance as most can be sourced in the capital city of the bordering country and this is often easier and cheaper than trying to do it all before you leave home. If you’re a little worried about travelling alone, don’t be because you won’t be alone for long. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people travelling around the world by motorcycle.
3. I understand that you are coming up with your novel. Would you be able to throw a little light on what is it about?
My first book Ubuntu: One Woman’s Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa was published in 2016. Originally, my publisher wanted me to include the entire journey from 1993 to 1997 from Africa to the Silk Road in the one book, but this was impossible as each is an entirely separate journey with entirely separate meanings.
As soon as I finished Ubuntu, I began writing the second book Timeless On The Silk Road: An Odyssey From London To Hanoi, which was published in April 2019. This journey is unique in many ways and also a little crazy in places. There are many layers to it and in places it is quite confronting.
But it is a powerful book about life and what happens when we must face our mortality. As well as the travel narrative about riding by beloved Yamaha TT600 (after it’s second rebuild and a year of riding it as a motorcycle courier in London), on the fabled Silk Roads of antiquity, it is also about the characters I meet along the way.
There is also a touch of spirituality and a sense of awareness about health and wellbeing. But underlying it all, I embark on this journey after I am diagnosed with HIV and given five years to live as this was a year before effective medicines to control the virus were discovered.
Back in 1995, death from AIDS was still inevitable. Today, these medicines are as good as cure. Due to ignorance of this, HIV stigma continues unchecked and I hope Timeless On The Silk Road will help break down this stigma.
4. How do you feel as an inspiration for generations to come?
The reason I wrote about my travels was to share what had been revealed to me through those years spent on the road. I hope when people read my books they too will think about the meaning behind the chance encounters and coincidences that come their way leading them towards turning their dreams, goals and ambitions into reality.
And also not to worry about what will or won’t happen, to just live with a sense of awe for this journey called life and where it takes you. I find it usually takes you where you wish to go….
5. Apart from Riding and Writing what are your other hobbies?
With three boys just entering their teens, we have recently discovered downhill mountain biking, with a few uphill sections as well! I just love the sense of riding in a forest and the feeling of being in nature, as well as the fitness it brings. I also love swimming in the sea and years ago was an avid scuba diver. I look forward to taking it up again in future years.
Website : Heather Ellis