My round the world trip
Elspeth Beard - One of the Early Globetrotters
I have been described as being one of a select band of bold women to ride a motorcycle around the world, and became the first Englishwoman to do so. I left in October 1982, in the days before sat-nav, internet, email and mobile phones. The bike I chose for the trip was a second hand 1974 BMW R 60/6 flat-twin, for which I paid £900 in 1979 (at the time, the equivalent of about $1800). This was a substantial sum at the time, especially for a machine that already had 30,000 miles on the clock.
I used the bike for my first long solo rides to Scotland and to Ireland, then to mainland Europe and Corsica, racking up over 10,000 miles in the first two years of ownership. At the age of twenty-three, with a broken heart and a lousy degree, I decided to go further afield and try to ride my bike around the world. I managed to save more than £2600 ($6500 in 2017) working behind the bar at my local pub in Marylebone, central London and started to prepare my bike for my round-the-world adventure. Having travelled across the United States the previous year on a 1973 BMW R75/5 with my brother, I decided to start the first stage of my journey in New York. It cost me £175 ($340) to ship my bike and £99 ($197) for my air fare. From the Big Apple I rode up to Canada, then down to Mexico before reaching Los Angeles. From LA I shipped the bike to Sydney, but stopped off to see New Zealand on foot while the bike was in transit.
I arrived in Australia completely broke, so had to spend seven months working in a Sydney architectural practice and living in a garage, gaining experience and replenishing my diminished funds. When I was in Sydney I met John Todd who had recently returned from an overland trip from Europe and he persuaded me that I needed to make some lockable luggage. I spent two months in John's garage constructing my own lockable top-box and panniers out of folded and riveted sheet aluminium. Then I set off travelling again, starting with an exploration of Australia. In Queensland I had my first big accident on a dirt road near Townsville. After hitting a large pothole I cart-wheeled the bike and was left badly concussed, but fortunately with no broken bones. Shaken but undaunted, I spent two weeks in hospital before continuing north up the east coast of Oz, then through the outback to Ayers Rock, and finally across the Nullabor Plain to Perth, on the west coast. From there I loaded my BMW onto a boat to Singapore and explored Indonesia while the bike was afloat.
In Singapore I experienced a disaster of a different kind, when all my valuables were stolen, including my passport with all the visas for the countries I still had to visit, and the registration and shipping documents for my bike. After an enforced six week sojourn in the island state replacing all my lost documents I rode up the Thai-Malaysian peninsular to Bangkok and beyond to Chiang Mai and the Golden Triangle.
With the overland route to India (via Burma/Myanmar) out of bounds I headed back south to load my bike onto a boat from Penang to Madras. On the way I had my second big accident when a dog ran under my wheels from behind a truck. The bike hit a tree and I was once again battered and bruised and ended up spending two weeks recuperating in the care of an impoverished Thai family. After my recovery I rode south to Penang in Malaysia where I caught a boat across to Madras.
Once in India, I travelled up to Calcutta then on to Kathmandu where my parents had flown out from England to see me for the first time in nearly two years. In Kathmandu I met the first overland motorcycle traveller I had seen since leaving the UK, a Dutchman on another Boxer BMW, an R75/7, with whom I eventually rode back to Europe, after exploring much of India alone.
Getting out of India proved to be a nightmare. The storming of the Sikhs' Golden Temple in Amritsar (close to the border with Pakistan) had recently taken place. In the aftermath, the whole of the Punjab region was sealed off to westerners making it impossible to reach the only open overland route west, via Pakistan. After spending weeks in Delhi trying to obtain the necessary permits and two separate visits to the border we finally managed to cross into Pakistan.
Having safely crossed Pakistan, we arrived in post-revolution Iran with just seven days to cross the country from one end to the other. This was hindered by the fact that I was so ill with hepatitis that I could barely stand, let alone ride. My battered Bell helmet acted as an unofficial `burkha' which I would keep on most of the time, even when off the bike. We crossed into eastern Turkey where I spent time regaining some strength and repairing my bike. After a few weeks of rest and recuperation we continued on through Greece and across Europe. This was relatively simple, apart from the notoriously dangerous `Highway of Death' across Yugoslavia and the extreme cold in the Alps.
By the time I got back to London I had been away for just over two years and added 35,000 miles to my bike’s odometer. I stripped and completely rebuilt the engine and still ride the bike today, along with my 1998 BMW R80 GS Basic which I now use as my everyday bike.