It was a journey, typical of many great journeys, that was borne of passion and a few idle moments. Muhanad, Husain and Ali, three friends of good-standing, had often discussed their dream to ride their bikes around the world. This was a dream they decided to turn in to reality.
With the help and support of Kuwait’s Public Authority for Youth and Sports, as well as the local importer of BMW motorbikes, Jafar Behbehani’s Tristar Motorcycles, they made their plans and, at the end of May, set off - heading east.
An inordinate amount of detailed preparation was required before then even turned a wheel. It was never going to be as simple as drawing a line across a map of the world and following it.
As they explained, “We had countless conversations in the process of arranging our route. Our preferred choice was to go from Kuwait, and travel by boat to Iran, from where we would ride across to Pakistan. That did not happen. When we met the Ambassador of Pakistan he refused to allow us to cross from Iran to his country. He was quite unequivocal when he told us that there was a distance of around 300km over which he, or rather the Pakistan authorities, could not guarantee our safety”. So, for their own safety, the riders decided the only alternative was to airfreight the bikes to a safer part of the country. This they did.
This was one air-bridge the riders were forced to employ, and there were others necessitated by pure geographic necessity, but overall the riders completed 25 000km in their circumnavigation. No shortcuts.
In fact, they took in one or two extra countries that lay off the direct route. Bhutan being one of these. “It would have made more sense to have gone from India to Nepal and in to Tibet. But having read so much about Bhutan we were keen to find a way to include it in our route, and having contacted the Embassy here they were kind enough to not merely grant us visas to enter, but instead to formally invite us. This is just one example of the positive support we received during the planning and execution of our journey”.
Once under way, their journey schedule set. They had a target destination for each day. Sometimes, as one would expect, they encountered difficulties in maintaining the schedule, but inevitably even these events transpired to add to their overall experience.
“For example, whilst travelling across India one of the bikes got a flat tire. Almost as soon as we’d stopped and finished scratching our heads we were surrounded by locals who were keen to help. It was late, but they found us a hotel, and then in the morning some members of the local motorbike club showed up to take us to get the bike fixed. They were fascinated to discover we were three Kuwaitis on a round-the-world bike tour. This was an important part of the ‘Our Shared Planet’ vision - we wanted to take Kuwait to people like this”.
Another example the riders give took place later in the ride, and provided an opportunity for them to provide charitable assistance to a community they came in contact with - another important element the riders considered whilst travelling. “We were praying in a small mosque, and having felt a connection with the place, we left a donation with the Imam. We were able to do this often in a variety of places as we travelled”.
There were benefits on both sides. Whilst they journeyed they left part of the Kuwaiti culture on those they met, and they were able to absorb the local culture as they passed through.
“It wasn’t just the mosques, the three of us shared so much with people from all backgrounds, cultures, and societies. Where ever we travelled, and whoever we met, we realised more and more that we are all one and the same people. We were bikers. That’s all. There was no feeling of ‘us and them’, I think by travelling by bike it made us much more accessible to the communities we passed through, and they were much more open to us. I think all bikers would tell you the same, wherever they go”.
Their aim to demonstrate the ‘Our Shared Planet’ theme of the ride is demonstrated in no better way than with the point they make about the innate, if sometimes (by some people) unrecognised, equality of all whom they met.
Whilst riding around the globe exalting such fine humanitarian aims is a laudable thing to do, there were other more basic human practicalities that could not been ignored. Spending every day in the saddle being one of them. The riders laugh as they admit - “It was very uncomfortable”.
“We realised, after quite a short part of the journey, that we should have scheduled in specific rest days”. Three and a half months, with a requirement to be in the saddle every day, was a very tough challenge. The only days they spent off the bikes were when they were required to be freighted to the next destination - and sitting in an airport lounge does not constitute an ideal form of rest for three sore bikers.
The problem with a bike is it never gets tired. The bike wants to keep on going at the end of every day. The riders decided to take occasional and unscheduled days out of the saddle. On more than one occasion they were forced to take a day off - on arriving in Kathmandu they were advised that the next day there was to be a general labour strike - since no one was going to work, no one was going anywhere.
Of course, as you might imagine, a journey of such magnitude will throw up very many memories - high points and low points. For the riders it is difficult for them to pick their favourites. There were too many intense experiences to select on over another.
The journey has changed the three riders. They have become more aware of themselves and their capabilities. They discovered they are capable are more and have deeper strengths than they once would have felt. “We had to exhibit extraordinary patience at times, and we had to think quickly in order to assess situations. Not only on the road, but in planning and facilitating our route around the world”.
For Muhanad, Husain and Ali, this is a journey that they insist did not end when they rode back across Kuwait’s border. It is a journey that can continue through the telling and re-telling of their experiences, and all that they learned.
Their dream of motorcycling around the globe now complete, they are keen to continue to spread the word of the ‘Our Shared Planet’ vision.
You can read more about their journey on the ‘Our Shared Planet’ blog at http://ospkw.blogspot.com/
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #16 Oct.09