Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Hard Way Home...the book

The Hard Way Home by Allan Roberts
JoJo Publishing

He’s ridden 8,734 kilometres in the toughest motorbike race on earth, The Dakar Rally 2014, and placed 39th. 

He’s ridden 102,000 kilometres through 59 countries across           four continents. He’s found maggots growing in his leg, he’s    ended up on the floor of a police station in Angola with      Malaria. 

Is there anything left for Allan Roberts to do? Yes! Do The Dakar Rally again in January 2015.
Learn incredible tips about about to fix your bike in the most horrendous conditions, how to survive dust storms, lush jungle, pistes (French for off track, off road desert trails), trails riddled with landmines, border officials (one called himself simply “Still Alive’’) and travelling through Morocco during Ramadan when tired and hungry locals are fed up, and not happy about seeing you or helping you.

Roberts has literally been to Timbuktu and back, riding “The Mothership” a Honda Africa Twin 750cc mo-torbike. He rode throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East over two and a half years. This is the story of his incredible journey.

The journey isn’t all about hardship. Beautiful descriptions of scenery feature throughout the book, as do the colourful characters Roberts and his girlfriend and riding companion, Amy, meet along the way.

“Chefchaouen [Africa] is a charming Berber town, where the tiny streets hug the rugged, arid mountainside and every house is brightly painted...about every 100 meters or so men aged from 15 to 50 stood alongside the road waving for us to stop—they whistled, begged and yelled: “Hashish! Hashish! Hashish!”

Share the wonder at seeing wild camels and their calves being hurded by nomadic tribesmen; giraffes  crouching awkwardly with their legs splayed as they drink from a waterhole, a shipwreck at the gateway to the Western Sahara.

From London to Cape Town via the Sahara and through East Africa to Yemen; then to Central Asia, Rus-sia, Mongolia and China before heading to South East Asia with a detour to ride the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge rally in Dubai. 

Grew up near Mildura, Victoria. He lives in Adelaide.
In January 5-18 Roberts paced 39th in the toughest motor bike race in the world in South America. Called The Dakar, only 180 entrants out of 300 were accepted for this 14-day race across Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

The race started in the town of Rosario, in Central Argentina, and went through San Luis, San Rafael, San
Juan, Chilecito, Tucuman, Salta, Uyuni, Calama, Iquique, El Salvador, before finishing in Val Paraiso, Chile. A traveling bivouac (French for camp) of more than 3000 people followed riders around, and each day Roberts would join this incredible community for food and to get his bike looked over and serviced. 

Roberts was completely self-funded, having saved up $120,000 in order to take part. He is looking for sponsorship for The Dakar 2015. hardwayhome.blogspot.com.

RRP is $34.99 but direct from me you can purchase your copy for $30 plus postage

country of purchase

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Hard Way home....THE BOOK....

Its now been over 4 years since I rode those last few kilometers of what was The Hard Way Home and finally, finally my book is almost ready.  In the coming months I should have it complete. 

Since I am going to self publish the first batch I need to get an idea of how many people may be interested in getting hold of a copy please drop me an email at alroberts996@hotmail.com then not only will I get an idea of how many to print but also once its done I will have your email and contact you once the finished product is available.

So watch this space and soon I will make it available for purchase, so spread the word all, as I am sure you will enjoy it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

So What Does Happen...

.............the 28th of February passed a few weeks back which marked 2 years since I rode the last few kilometres of The Hard Way Home and which also resulted in the final entry in the blog that was followed by so many of you, now some of you do know what the past two years have held for me but I have received quite a few emails over this time asking 'hey Robbo what the hell are you up to now?'

So with another small repeat of an adventure about to begin what better time to let the curious know what does happen when you find yourself waking up in a bed with no where to go that day, a fridge to go to, a toilet to flush and a nice hot regular shower, argh the simple things in life!

I had heard from many of the other over landers that I'd met along the way that once they got home it was hard to adjust, hard to get back into the routine and as I got closer to the finish line I wondered how it would be for me, sure enough I soon understood what they were talking about-it was my turn, my turn to 'fit back in'. It took time to get used to the way of life that I'd been out of for so long but one thing was for sure I never wanted to sleep in another tent again but I found myself I longing to be back out there somewhere on an adventure, I think I spent a lot of the first few months day dreaming of far away places, I missed it, I missed some of the friends I met and to be honest I still do but the idea of living in a tent still does not sound to entertaining......so much so that 2 years on I am yet to unpack my roll bag!

So I spent the first 6 months on the farm helping out my brother in law put the crops in, got myself a WR450 for a bit of fun, not really a lot to do in the Mallee but it does offer some pretty fine dirt bike riding, also pulled on the footy boots for a season with the local club, which resulted in about half a dozen games before getting K.O'd senseless, then coming back to go on undefeated for the year only to loose the grand final by a point, the boots are hung back where they should be.

The 6 or so months at home was great to spend with the family but my feet where itchy and it was time to get out and about again, fortunately a job took me away over to Western Australia for 12 months and now I'm back in the Victorian Bass Straight building oil rigs in Bass Straight.

So its been interesting to say the least, I would not have it any other way, which brings me to my next adventure, no its not the Dakar but again just for the fun of it in 2 weeks I am off to the United Arab Emirates to compete in the Desert Challenge which starts on April 1st, so if you want to follow my days as I race across the desert it will all be live at http://www.abudhabidesertchallenge.com/
This time I'll be aboard a KTM, fingers crossed it gets me to the end like my Honda did last time.

So wish me luck!

Also in the pipe line there is a small challenge been born involving a mad mate from Belgium(Dirk), a very old Citroen C2 and a journey from Antwerp to Vladivostok.....I guess some habits never die!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day 899, The Last

The day that I had been riding toward for so long final came, the finish line on the farm in the Mallee. This day I had imagined on several occasions since leaving South Africa over a year and a half ago, I would imagine the final turns the final track up to the house, recognizing things I could remember, who would be there waiting at the end, the end of an epic journey half way across the world that would be completed on a farm in the middle of the sticks.

Yes there is such a town name, "Speed"

As I left Adelaide it was all a bit surreal, this was it the last day, the last time to pack the bike up, to find somewhere to stay, to not have to go anywhere tomorrow, quite simple really, all those days of traveling, on the move, seeing amazing places, new adventures, they would end on this one day. Thankfully the weather turned it on for me, cool breeze with clear skies as the last 420 k’s clicked away under the wheels. I made it to the tiny town of Speed and there on the post was a sign, “Welcome Home Robbo, only 8 k’s to go”, reading this really made it a reality, only 8 k’s to go I had made it, the bike had made it. Then it was the last 4 k’s up the dirt track to the farm, I screwed the throttle and headed the mother ship down the track, I rounded the final bend and there waiting under a Finish Line Banner was quite a crowd, everyone clapped and waved as I rode past, it was a great feeling, under the Finish Line I rode and parked the trusty steed for the last time and there waiting for me was my mum and sister with her family which I have not seen for over 5 years, it was great to be home.

Roberts road, the last few K's.
Rounding the last bend.

Amongst the crowd of about 90 there where old friends, family and other travelers I had met on the road, it was great to catch up and we all spent the afternoon catching up on old times and exchanging stories over a few well deserved cold ones!

Dirk waiting beneath the Finish Line.

So that was it, I had made it, when I departed London 899 days ago on the 16th of September 2006 with Amy I never had a clue what was to come, how it would be, how far I would get, well now I know, I conquered what I dreamt of, riding a motorbike all the way, yes it took 3 different bikes to cover the 102 991 k’s, one been stolen and then the Chinese Sunik to make the 7000 k journey from Mongolia to Bangkok before reuniting with the mother ship. The adventures are endless, the list of new and amazing friends, the wonderful experiences, things I would not swap for anything.

One very happy mum.

In short this is how it happened, from London it was through Europe then head first into Africa, where I watched Amy develop into the most incredible motor bike rider I have ever seen, remember Amy had never ridden a motor bike in her life except for a scooter and here she was taking on the desert sea of the Sahara. Central Africa bought some testing times with drunken soldiers forever wanting bribes and on several occasions staring down a barrel and finally onto South Africa where we parted company and I went alone. East Africa saw me mix it with some amazing tribes and meeting more amazing Over Landers from all walks of life and different countries, another bout of malaria in Ethiopia, the first been back in Angola. After 14 months I made it out of Africa and entered the Arabian Peninsular into Yemen, a new continent bought a new world with new adventure but I never expected the ultimate hurdle having the mother ship stolen.

Eventually after 4 months I was on the road again north to Russia through central Asia where I had the pleasure of meeting the wild man from Belgium, Dirk. Together we traveled across Mongolia, raced across China aboard the 150 cc Suniks, watching them vibrate and fall apart around us, all the way to Bangkok, what a wild and crazy adventure we had together. At this point I returned to Dubai for the UAE desert Challenge just to give it a shot, manged 2nd in class, 11th in the world, so a new dream was born, to compete the Dakar.

Back to Bangkok and south through South East Asia, been so close and wanting to just get to Australia I crossed Indonesia as quickly as I could, this still took almost 6 weeks, windy roads and millions of people making the going slow. Once on home soil in Darwin it took a leisurely 4 weeks to reach the end. What a journey!

What’s next for me? What does one do after been free for so long, I will relax for a few weeks then start the dreaded hunt for a job and begin the next part of my life, all I know is I need to keep it as interesting as possible because anything less for the time been will be not enough, already I am looking toward my next dream, to start racing motor bikes and ultimately to race in the Dakar in South America it will happen so watch this space, after all that’s what life is all about following your dreams and making as many come true as possible.
I have a few requests from different groups, including some schools to give a talk so if anybody is interested in hearing a few tales to your group then don't hesitate to get in touch via email.

Thanks everybody for all your support, it was welcomed weather I was having a blast or facing a challenge, like you have enjoyed reading the journey I have enjoyed reading your comments. I can say that there will be more in the future and another adventure to follow so see you then.
And remeber
“In the end it will be alright and if its not alright its not the end”.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Meat Pies and Blow Flies

I had a week relaxing in Darwin and soaking up all things Australian. I have felt like a foreigner in my own country, to see drive through Bottle shops, Holden utes with dogs in the back, to hear the Aussie slang as thick as the amounts of vegemite I was spreading on my toast, it was sure strange to be back after 5 years. I also got to appear on the Northern Territory ABC radio talk show for hour, I do have a face for radio!!

Eventually I set off south down the Stuart highway, it had to rain just to remind me I was not out of the tropics yet, it added for some interesting riding as in a few spots along the way there had been so much rain that it was flowing deep and fast across the main highway, there were several cars that could not even go through but the trusty mother ship sailed through no problems forming a huge bow wake.

The rivers of water across the Stuart Highway.

In no time I reached Alice on the long straight roads I remember longing for in Indonesia. I was joined by my mate I worked with in the UK, Al in his 4WD, we explored kings Canyon and swam in the remote desert waterholes along the Mc Donald Ranges before looping back around to The Alice for a taste of the night life, interesting to say the least!

The road trains that snake along the long straight roads of Outback Australia. Now that's a truck!
Then it was further south again, dirt all the way to Port Augusta, we headed off toward the Simpson Desert following the Finke track, this gave me a chance to look at the terrain on which I hope to race in the future The Finke Desert Race, looks like fun just need a sponsor now!

Just in case I had forgot!
With the Simpson desert closed we only visited the edge, Dalhousie Spring, a hot oasis in the heart of Australia, although there were no other travelers out there we were not alone we had the company of a couple of million flies, wow I could not believe it, ever since arriving in the red centre we were almost carried away every time we stopped, I thought this was one thing the glossy travel brochures don’t advertise, come see the red centre and the millions of flies, I have never had them anywhere in the world like in the Northern Territory.

I took a very similar photo in the desert in Kenya, except its called the red centre here for a reason, amazing colors.

Young Aboriginal boy in the community of Finke.

Aboriginal kids lining up as Al hands out a few lollies, more reminders of Africa.

Color coordinated!

A border crossing with a difference, no customs, no craziness, just a sign in the middle of the desert.
Dalhousie hot Spring, an amazing Oasis.

I guess the heat out there makes people have strange ideas, a pink roadhouse!

What its only 15340 k's to London, I must have made a wrong turn somewhere, took me over 100 000 to get here!

As I followed the lonely desert road I still had to remind myself I was in Oz, the GPS read 730 k’s to the finish line, here I was now traveled over 100 000 and only 700 from the end, I wondered what it will be like not having to ride anywhere everyday, not set up my tent, check the oil level, cross a border, dodge crazy drivers which I must say the roads seem empty in Australia and what people you do pass they wave just to break the boredom of the endless roads. This emptiness was what I had dreamt of, the stars at night are simply stunning, the sunsets beautiful and the quietness of it all and what else have I enjoyed, of course a few meat pies!
Al enjoying a chicken parmy and cold beer in the famous William Creek hotel, yes they are knickers hanging from the ceiling!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

G'Day Mate

With talk like that it can only mean one thing, the Kathryn Bay docked at Darwin on the 31st of January, 5 years, 1 month and about 20 days since I left Australia.

The journey over was great it was nice to relax in comfort, listening to Captain Pedro’s stories of sailing the world and eating great food cooked up by Emanuel the cook. We did arrive on the 30th but since we were early the Kathryn Bay had to anchor in Darwin Harbor for 24 hours until it had its turn on the wharf, so for a whole day I could see Darwin city out my window only a short distance away, for once I felt patient, what was one more day after some of the waits I have experienced, besides I already felt home.

So there I was in Darwin, seeing all things Australian, holden utes, drive through bottle shops, empty streets, it was a welcome relief to where I had come from. I went to stay with a Benno, a mate I have not seen in over 10 years, it was off to the pub for a few celebratory drinks and a catch up on old times, joined by another mate from the Mallee, Burnsy, I actually felt foreign in my own country, it felt strange but with three mates in a pub, Robbo, Benno and Burnsy, I could be in only one place in the world, Australia.

So now has begun the tedious task of clearing the stead through Customs and Quaratine, I will have it I hope by Thursday and then it’s the last leg south.

For those of you interested I have set an arrival date of the 28th of February, I will arrive at the farm at 1.30pm after a BBQ lunch so everyone is invited to be there and see the last metres of my journey come to an end, the more the merrier hope to see old and new friends there.

Hoist the anchor

Three years ago before this trip began I had the pleasure in meeting Mrs. Perkins in the UK, yes the same as Perkins shipping, it is this lady who said the quote that I have in my title “a wise lady once said……” So I wrote Mrs. Perkins a letter asking for special permission to get a birth aboard the vessel that would take my bike from Dili to Darwin, unfortunately company policy did not allow this which I understood. But that was three years ago and now here I was in Dili with permission to take the ship.

The MV Kathryn Bay.

As I made it back to the port I saw the Kathryn Bay docked and off loading containers, this was my ride, it was huge, a far cry from the wooden Dhow I took across the red sea to Yemen with a crew of a few men, a sheep, a goat and a squat loo straight into the ocean! I approached a guy with the Perkins insignia on his uniform and said Hello, his reply was, “welcome Allan Roberts come aboard we have been expecting you”. As I stepped off the dock just like that I had left behind the madness that I had known for so long, the madness I have loved and at times loathed but steeping onto this ship was for me stepping onto Australian soil, for me it was 5 star, extremely clean, Captain Pedro and his crew, all from the Philippines made me feel very welcome and I was showed to my room, wow, it was two rooms, en suite, hot shower, air con, this was amazing, I needed the shower as I was dirty sweaty and tired. After freshening up I was then invited to the mess for dinner with Captain Pedro, I had yet to eat all day, it was delectable.
Captain Pedro in the bridge.
What a way this would be to arrive to Australia, in luxury aboard a container ship. My dream was never to have to fly any part of the journey and to ride a bike the whole way, well I did not fly but the mother ship did from Ulaan Batar to Bangkok but I crossed on the 150 cc Sunik and now this, I am on the same ship as my bike, I did it, I achieved what I set out to do, overland on a bike from London to Australia via Cape Town.

I think the green container has the precious cargo inside.

But like I said in a previous post I am not there yet, I still have 3000 k’s to cover before the final flag drops.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

No dily daly in Dili

I rode into Dili, into a place full of UN cars, some troops with rifles, mad one way streets, and a police presents second to none, it was a different Timor than the rural road I just covered, it seemed weird to me. And expensive, another traveler I met who had just arrived from Australia said Dili is more expensive than Australia, the countries currency is the US dollar, shame it was not bloody Rupiah as I had a truck load of them!!

Wednesday morning arrived, this would be my last day on foreign soil and of course it had to be one of the craziest, of extreme lows and extreme highs. I woke early, so I thought, I was still on Indo time and Timor was an hour ahead so I lost an hour straight away but did not discover this until later. I had to first go to the shipping agent for Perkins to sort out what needed to be done to get my bike on the boat. Also at the backpacker were 2 German lads shipping their bikes as well, they had already been washing their bikes for a day and still had not finished, one of them asked if he could come to the agent with me, so he jumped on the back, we set off and instantly we were pulled over by a cop, as they are just everywhere, what now I thought I have no time!

Then the German guy says to me “I have no helmet” as if he knew that he was meant to have one, argh shit here we go, the cop spoke no English so asked me to follow him to the station, I quickly told the German to get off I will go alone, I did not want to ride into a police station with him on the back wearing no helmet, that would just look even worse. So here I was at the police station, forever looking at the time on my phone, hoping it would not take long. Wrong I was, an officer came into the room and told me that all passengers need a helmet, fair enough I said, very sorry for the mistake now can I pay the fine and go, nothing is ever that simple Robbo! They then had to fill out forms, asking for my license which I produced, then my bike papers which I produced, another problem, they wanted to see my Timor registration papers for the bike, I told him that I was a tourist and that I am just passing through and showed him where customs had stamped the bike in, he could not understand any of this. Now he wanted to fine me for no papers and no helmet of the passenger, this was getting out of hand. I quickly produced my import approval papers for Australia and said “I need to get that bike out there on a ship today its going to Australia”. Eventually he started to see the light of day and agreed to only fine me for the helmet issue of my passenger. Besides it was not me paying, my German friend was getting this bill. So now I had to follow a cop on his bike to another office across town to pay the fine, at this point I question weather the office was open as by my clock it was only just past 7, of course its open they replied pointing to the clock on the wall, it said just after 8, shit I lost an hour just like that and as it stood I had no time! Off to pay the fine, it was 9 dollars, but the system was down and they told me to come back later in the afternoon, I could not but I had to pay the fine as the police were holding my documents and until I produced a receipt I would not get them back, so frustrating. I even tried to give them 10 dollars and let the cop be my witness that I paid the fine and then I go collect my papers, nope they could not see that working, time was passing. They eventually understood my anxious plight and after a discussion they turned with huge grins and said no pay, you can go, my god this was getting crazy now, all this time and to be told I can go, so back to the cop station to explain to them I did not have to pay and collect my papers, they understood and made me sign a declaration saying that the offence happened, I signed it and then got a police escort to the agents office, arriving 2 hours after I first set out, well for me it was 3 as I lost an hour!!

I got the paper work sorted, I needed to have the bike clean by at least 3pm and then get it in the container as the ship was leaving that night. As I went back to my bike the cop was still waiting there, hmm what now I thought, he explained I owed now 20 dollars for the declaration and had to go back to the station, nope this was not an option, I had 4 hours to wash a bike that usually takes 2 days, now weather this 20 dollar fee was for real or not I did not care, it was the German’s money, I gave him the 20 and said I am sorry but I have to go and rode off. What a hectic start to my 2nd and last day in Timor.

I washed and washed, always finding new spots to clean, also there the German’s frantically washed there bikes, I collected my 20 dollars after telling him the story. Eventually I reached the point that I thought would do, the stead was glowing, I just hoped good enough for Aussie regulations. I left the Germans still cleaning their bikes at three, went to the Port, got my customs stamp and immigration stamp out of East Timor, why immigration you ask, I will explain later, then back to the agent with everything in order. I followed a man then to the container yard and road the mother Ship into a container, strapped it down and then got a lift back to the port in a truck, it is at the point that the highs began to happen.

The mother ship ready for its voyage.

At Last!

Finally I got word, the ferry was to start up again, although I was still skeptical and would only know when I was actually on it, so the night before it was due to leave I camped out at the ferry terminal yet again eagerly awaiting its arrival, come morning there it was docked at the wharf, what a joyous sight, so began a very busy next few days. The ferry from Ende to Kupang saw my final ferry ride, Indonesia has just been one ferry ride after another, this one was not bad, the ferry was empty and the ocean as smooth as silk, but the Indonesians love playing there pop music at maximum volume to a crowd of sleeping people, can’t figure that one out.

What a great sight this was.

I arrived at 1 in the morning, quickly I rode the steed off and found a small bit of land in the shadows of the night to pitch my tent, accompanied by a few pigs and goats rummaging for food, it was not long and I was packed up again at 6am and on my way to find custom to attempt in getting my 1000 US dollar bond back I paid entering the country with the bike. After finding Customs I explained the story to their confused faces, then I rang Bernard the Customs guy back in Belawan to explain to them over the phone, it worked but there was nothing they could do, I had to go onto the border town of Atapupu and get it there, I questioned weather they would have that much money there, they assured me they would. Time was not on my side unless I felt like spending a few weeks in Dili, there was a Perkins ship leaving on Thursday, it was now Tuesday and I had to ride to East Timor, reach Dili, sort out the shipping and also wash my bike, now when I mean wash my bike I mean make it look like it just came off the show room, Australian Quarantine are extremely strict and my bike has to be clean enough to eat my dinner off, it took Dirk 2 days to get his old lady clean, so yes time was not on my side.

Kids with home made toys at ferry terminal.
I set off across the last bit of Indonesia and reached Atapupu by midday, the customs guys could not believe how little time it took me to cover the distance from Kupang, I was moving!! So basically I had to go over the whole story again and ring Bernard from Belawan again to explain it all. I could get my money back but the bank was in a town 30 k’s back and if I wanted US dollars it might take 2 days to obtain or the other option was to take it in Rupiah, hmm I guess it was Rupiah for me, so after some discussion about the rate and the ‘fee’ I had to pay for the express paperwork I got a wad of 11 million Rupiah, 975 US dollars back, I was happy enough, I just had to go. Of course all this took 3 hours to happen but I managed to get across the border before the 4 o’clock closing time.

The friendly customs guys at the Indo/Timor border.

Instantly I could see East Timor was a poorer country or at least the infrastructure has been slowed by its rocky past, the roads were in a bad way, a lot of gutted houses and people living in shacks with straw roofs, I liked it and the people seemed very friendly with huge grins and waves as I rode by. The road snaked along the coast and it was quite beautiful, then it hit me, this was it I had made it to the last country before Australia, I could not believe it, I started grinning in my helmet, I punched a fist into the air, a sense of achievement came over me, I felt I had done it, I even gave the tank a quick pat and told the ever trusty mother ship “well done girl, you got me here, what a machine”. So making the most of my last moments I waved to as many people as I could, it was like they were cheering me on to the line, they had no clue where I had come from.
Of course I am not home yet.