The first time I rode a motorbike was pretty much by accident. We’d reached 1770 on the east coast of Australia (that’s the name of the place- it’s not just really old-fashioned) and the big tourist attraction was the Scooteroo bike tours.
Somehow, I got the impression that the tour involved sitting on the back of a bike clutching onto a very experienced biker for dear life. So when a big group of us turned up to find rows and rows of bikes and a handful of bikers, I started to feel concerned. There wasn’t enough bikers for all of us. Turns out the only people on the bikes were going to be us- along with a tour guide obviously. Needless to say I was nervous, although the big safety helmet and leather jacket- complete with flames- did make me feel a little bit more prepared.
Starting off on the track was a little shaky. Ok, starting off on the track was very shaky. But once we got onto the open road, there was nowhere better for a beginner. The roads were smooth and wide and as confidence grew and speed increased, even the light rain wasn’t enough to start a panic attack. Soon we were looking for some kangaroo sightings and learning how to take photos of each other in such a way as to make our scooters look like Harleys.
Our trip culminated in watching the sunset over the sea, whilst eating potato wedges with sour cream.
If you ever want to try biking that is the way to do it. A less good way to do it was the way I did it next in Laos. We were riding on roads in the loosest sense of the word. Add in the rainy season and it is not the time to be on a bike. If you’re not dodging potholes big enough to swallow your bike and hitting hidden rocks, you’re swerving around cows and water buffalo. Then there are the waving locals, you don’t want to be rude and ignore them, but do you really want to take your hand off your bike? In the end, you perfect the quick wave.
At the end of our ride we reached a lagoon with turquoise water, swings and a branch to jump off. It was cold but worth it. It was even worth the trip back.
My third and final time on a bike was a few days later- on a mercifully sunnier day. After an initial rough road, we made it to a road more reminiscent of the one in Australia. With better conditions, our group was able to speed up and soon we had ended up separated. I turned a corner and was faced with a herd of water buffalo. There was no way to get around and I was alone. Did I turn around or did I wait for them to shift and sneak around the side ninja-style? I weighed up the risk of them charging at me with the risk that I would get lost on the way back and ended up slowly riding past and I was back on my way.
Before long, I got to the destination- the Kuang Si Falls- and met up with the rest of the group. It was beautiful but, of course, the heavens opened. When we got back to our bikes the sun was out but they were soaked and our helmets filled with water. After tipping it out we started on the way back and met up guide riding towards us on a hill.
Leaving the engine running, we stopped to chat and plan what to do next. Then all of a sudden, from the damp and weight of holding the bike on the slope, my sandal snapped. (Yeah, I was wearing sandals). So I rode back one-shoe-less. So what pearls of biking wisdom have I learned which I can pass on? Well, don’t wear sandals and biking goes better when wearing a leather jacket with flames.
Originally written for The Gonzo Project