I rode a motorbike alone from The Netherlands to Nepal (17.000km/3months). I travelled through countries like Iran, Turkmenistan and Pakistan. AMA
A couple of years ago I left my home in Boskoop, The Netherlands to travel to Nepal, Asia.
EDIT: This puts it in perspective:
During that trip I visited Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgistan, China, Pakistan, India and Nepal.
Preparation (getting the bike ready, visa's, etc.) took about 6 months. I left in the spring and returned (by plane) 3 months later.
I kept a blog during the trip; it's still more or less on-line: www.boskoop2nepal.nl
Proof: This is me riding in N. Pakistan (Karakorum Highway):
EDIT 1: The route
EDIT 2: A short ride report with pics:
EDIT 3: Ok, about to go to bed, will check tomorrow for any unanswered questions.
Often asked questions:
It's hard to get lucky in an Islamic country.
Honda Africa Twin. I bought the bike specifically for the trip. It was 2nd hand, imported from Italy (not by me) with 28000km on the odometer. I modded the bike: bigger fuel tank (44liter), GPS (Garmin), heated grips, huge airhorn, steel tube protection frame, aluminium panniers, etc. Also a full service & new tires. All together I think the bike & luggage weighs around 350kg.
I took maps along of every part of my route. All can be bought online. The GPS helps, nut mostly you just follow the road/path to the next town/village. That can be anywhere from 10km to 600km. Locals can tell you how to get to the next village (but usually not further, they don't know/never been).
Before leaving, I organised all the required visas. Some I got in The Netherlands (The Hague) and for some I had to go to Brussels. It's a hassle, it costs a lot of money, but there is no way around it. You can get agencies to do it for you, but that can cost a lot of money. You can find them on the net.
The Turkmen visa was the hardest to get. Normally, you can only travel in Turkmenistan with a guide 24/7. But there is a loophole: you can get a transit visa which allows you to enter, travel, and leave. So I told them that I would be entering from Iran in order to go to Uzbekistan. I asked for 6 days visa, considering the distance I would be travelling that would give me a day to visit the capital and an extra day in case of emergencies.
Some of the countries visited were cash only (for example Iran, Turkmenistan), others have ATM's (for example Pakistan, India, Nepal, China). So you have to bring lots of US$ with you (yes, they accept the US$ anywhere, really anywhere). I carried some on my body, and some was hidden on the bike.
Bike was about 3-4K, I spend about 7K along the way, flight back & bike shipping about 2K, paperwork & guides 1K. Add maybe 1K for things I forgot.
I took a security course in the UK before I left. They cater to journalists & tourists that go to 'difficult' countries. Their analysis was that the biggest danger would be the traffic in India! I took normal precautions, and was never at 1 place for more that a few days. So usually if I would have attracted any attention, I was gone before they really noticed me. But I never really felt in danger. I never travelled at night and almost always slept in hotes/hostels/family homes where the bike was parked in a safe place. Sometimes that would be inside, next to the reception. And, no, I didn't bring any guns (why Americans have such a fascination for guns, I'll never understand).
Contrary to popular opinion, crime rates in most of these countries are very low. In some you have more to fear from the police/military than the population. They tend to be extremely welcoming, friendly & curious.
I took a pair of tires with me to switch just before Turkmenistan. I also sent a pair ahead to China, together with oil & air filters. I carried a lot of spares, because after Istanbul, it's really hard if not impossible to get anything for such a (big) bike. I suffered no problems, except a flat tire in China due to a huge iron nail. I also carried spare inner tubes and an airpump. I'm quite handy with tools & repairs, so that was no problem. I took plenty tools along.
-Food & lodging
You can get food anywhere (duh), and they have hotels and restaurants anywhere (duh), although they may not look/taste/smell like anything you've ever seen. A restaurant can be a roadside shack and a hotel can turn out not to have any water .. I always carried a lot of water on the bike, and I had some camping/survival food with me, just in case. I also carried a tent, sleeping bag and simple cooking set. I camped in the desert of Iran and Turkmenistan (amazing).
-Route (loop in China)
I wanted to cross the desert, and I took the Cross Desert Highway, 600km of sand, sand and then some more sand. So I made that loop (clockwise). Cool, you can see that desert from space!
I found people on average everywhere very friendly and sympathetic to my travels. People in remote places are thrilled to see strangers visit them, especially someone from that far away, all alone on a motorcycle. Poor people relate different to motorcycles then we do. For them it's the transportation of the poor, the rich have cars, the poor ride bikes .. so if you're on a bike, even from the west, you can't be rich .. that decreases the distance / creates empathy.
I also 'discovered' that:
-governments suck, not people
-Iranians don't hate the west, they want the best for their childern as well
-Northern Pakistan is the most beautiful place on earth (or maybe Tikal, Guatemala)