I’m sitting here on a rainy afternoon in old Blighty. I’m looking out my window and find myself giving a cheeky smile to my new buddy. She’s got a few years on her, a darker complexion and a better figure than me. She’s known as Jemima to me, but to you she’s a Yamaha FZ6. It’s funny that I own a motorbike really as, just over a year ago, my main mode of transport was my own two legs. Yet here I am today with my very own two-wheeled companion, and one with a pretty decent sized engine for a novice: a 600cc (that’s literally like being pulled by 112 horses!)
Let me take you back to the beginning… it was the start of 2016 and I think I was having my millennial quarter life crisis! Anything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Break-ups, deaths, health scares - I needn’t go on. I’d had enough of the 9-5 drag and wanted some excitement in my life. I had been consumed by wanderlust for a while but in reality there’s never a good time to just drop everything and become a nomad. But one morning I woke up and I thought f*** it, I’m off! After 18 months of painstakingly saving every penny (which really is a distant memory right now) I decided it was time I embarked on my very own big trip of a lifetime. I’m not to going lie; the saving part was pretty hard at times. I had to learn to swap my morning shop bought cuppa with a homemade brew, I had to control myself every time I walked passed that bakery (that really was a difficult one for me!) and I would have to ask myself, “Do I really need that fifth pint?” No, I didn’t. I knew I was going to feel terrible the morning after, stuff my face with last night’s leftover garlic-laced kebab and then live off beans on toast for the rest of the month. Did you know that a tenner can get you a pretty decent hostel room in a lot of countries? I’ll let that one sink in while you buy the next round of beers. My itchy feet were getting the better of me and I knew I wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t like home, somewhere that wasn’t easy for me and somewhere I could learn new things that I may never learn if I just stayed in my comfort zone.
So, on 16th June 2017, I embarked on my six and half month’s adventure across Central & South America with only my backpack and my two legs. Unbeknownst to me when getting on that plane to Mexico it would only be a week into my travels the real adventure would start! I was 27, full of beans with excitement and just stepped into a country where I was advised not to go to. When people ask me now what my favourite country is, Mexico has definitely taken the spotlight. Why? Well, I’ll leave that one for you to find out!
After lapping up the Mexican vibes in the capital I headed east to Oaxaca (pronounced Wahaca). It was there that something caught my eye across the hostel entrance. A big black shiny steel horse proudly positioned for all to gawp at. Little did I know back then that this was a KLR650 aka ‘The Pig’. In my head, I already knew that I wanted to hitch a few rides, so being the friendly traveller that even then I was, I swiftly introduced myself to the rider - and, oh my, was he a hottie! Robustly built, curves in all the right places, even if a little rough around the edges… and that was just the bike! I remember quite vividly the first time I swung my leg over that seat. My energy had been sapped from walking around the jungle ruins of Palenque in the blazing heat and the last thing I wanted to do was to hike back to my jungle shack - then my ears pricked up. A growl of some sorts, getting closer, the vibrations making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end as I eyeballed this black hunk of metal glide around the corner. My knight in shining armour, at least for that day, had arrived. I shakily stepped up onto the back pedal and plonked myself down. Hot and sweaty, my arse cheeks were firmly stuck to the leather seat and I thought, “boy am I in for a ride”. With the wind in my hair and some funny looking bugs in my teeth I felt invincible. The rush I felt through my body tantalized my senses. A new exciting lease of life coursed through my veins. Everything was racing passed me with speed, yet I was able to take every moment in with sense of fulfilment - I was being drawn in to a whole other world I never even knew existed! The only downside to that ride was that it didn’t last long enough, a situation us women find ourselves in waaay too many times!! The next thing I know I’m riding pillion through the back streets of Mexico and relishing in the fact that I’ve officially lost my biker cherry.
After sitting back and enjoying the ride through three more enchanting countries (Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua), taking in the beautiful scenery this side of the world had to offer, I realised something was missing. My senses were challenged but my feeling of belonging was still lost. I was captivated by the sensation of the warm breeze brushing my skin. I was hooked on the rush of seeing my knee caress the tarmac around every corner. I had a roar in my tummy - which quite frankly it could have been the street food I had earlier that day - but I think it was something more. After being glued to the back of my new travel buddy for two months my ‘f*** it’ attitude returned with a vengeance (in fact it never really left me). Now some may call me naïve or stupid, but I like to call it embracing life! Travel is renowned for making you do crazy things you would never have dreamt of doing in your ‘normal’ life. Some people even call it living life on the edge. So, I did. One morning I went into a shop and, in the afternoon, I walked out with my very own motorbike. Having never ridden a bike in my life I thought it was best to just start with a small one, so I bought myself a Yamaha YBR125cc. A little blue thing called Bruiser (named after learning emergency stops and falling off it all too many times) to which I became extremely attached.
I rode through six countries and the length of the South American continent, clocking up 15,000km. I took on highways, mountain passes and plenty of dirt roads. It was in Colombia when I realised the colour of adrenaline was brown, but I’ll leave that story for another time. Needless to say, I broke down a few times but there was always a handy local willing to me help me out. That’s the beauty of travelling; it restores your faith in humankind that may have been lost somewhere along the way in life. I feel lucky to have made quite a few biker friends along my travels and it’s my international biker family that has shaped me into the adventure rider I am today. It was nearly a year and a half ago when I had a moment of madness and plucked up the courage to try something new and get on the back of a big ass bike, but what happened when I took my first solo ride in Colombia?