BOOK REVIEW...'THE LONG RIDE HOME'
NATHAN MILLWARD AND HIS POSTIE BIKE
One of the smallest stands at the Motorcycle Live show at the NEC in November, was occupied by one man and his books, plus his small motorcycle: a Honda CT110 Aussie Postie bike. The Postie bike has long claimed a place in riders' affections, as a run around and a travellers choice by virtue of a ruggedness and reliability that we've come to expect from these small capacity Honda engines.
Every year in the town of Cessnock (Australia) they run the Postie bike Grand Prix, a fun endurance 'race' around the streets of the town for teams of two riders and two mechanics. And for those with more time and a penchant for off road adventure there's the 'Postie Bike Challenge'; a long distance race across the outback – the 2015 race will be in September www.postiebikechallenge.org
The human occupant of the stand was one Nathan Millward who at one point in his life needed to return to the UK from Sydney, Australia, as his visa had expired and the immigration people would not renew. Nathan had a Postie bike, 'Doris', that he used around Sydney, and to get to his cash in hand job at a sandwich bar. It was his girlfriend, who is named in the book as 'Mandy', who suggested he use the bike to ride home across the world.
Not as outrageous as it might sound, nor was she trying to give him the elbow by sending him into the outback and beyond on a 'moped'... Nathan had originally intended taking a return trip to Australia from the UK on a C90 after he and Mandy had been apart for a number of months. But the trip didn't pan out so he flew, and then having been evicted from the country by bureaucracy he had to leave once more. So in a matter of days really he decided to undertake this massive journey covering 35,000kms, and then after reaching the UK wrote his book 'The Long Ride Home'.
Nathan's journey is the tale of a comedy of errors; an innocent abroad; of lucky encounters; of dodgy encounters; of eyes opened wide to the conditions in which people have to live and endure; of knife edge financial existence; and above all of resilience and determination.
From Sydney to Darwin it's around 6,000kms. But his bike was ill prepared for even this first 'short' leg across the planet. Briefly, it was clapped out, with the bottom end rattling; but in the Queensland town of Caboolture there's a dealers run by Joe and Katrina, specialising in the sale and maintenance of CT110's, and Nathan had to trade 'Doris' for a machine that would have a better chance of at least depositing him in Darwin; the jumping off point for that leap into the unknown that is the Timorese and Indonesian archipelago. The 'new' acquisition was named 'Dorothy'; top speed 85kms; cruising speed a fair bit below this.
On a journey such as this, and other long distance solo undertakings. There's a disconnect between those emotions deep in the unfathomable soul that steer a person to 'disappear' on the road less travelled, and the plethora of electronic communication one can pack and now use in some of the remotest places on earth, which if desired can facilitate almost daily contact with friends, family, loved ones etc.
Nathan packed a lap top and phone, which not only allowed him to continue Skype contact with Mandy; but enabled him to communicate with Joe in Caboolture in times of Dorothy trouble: and his folks and friends in the UK when financial desperation threatened to bring his massive adventure to a halt. But throughout the book, none of this detracted from what he is able to convey about the joys, quandries, scrapes, dilemas and obstacles that arose on an almost daily basis.
If you're travelling solo and find yourself in the company of unwelcoming and hostile groups and individuals as Nathan did on travelling through East and West Timor (and beyond), all the sophisticated gadgetry in the world is of little use. Instinct, awareness, defensiveness and savvy are the all too human traits that come into play. And throughout 'The Long Ride Home' Nathan is able to convey the roller coaster of emotions experienced in these settings. Roller coaster because as many good people turn up on the road. People who cannot do enough to make you welcome, or help you out of a problematic situation.
Over his nine month long journey, on a bike whose cruising speed is around 50/60kms Nathan had many scrapes and near disasters. In India, that notorious country for road deaths and injuries, Nathan became the sandwich between a bus and a truck. In the Himalayas, riding with a young German on a Royal Enfield, they just made it into a Tibetan road camp at night in temperatures of minus ten. The 'hosts' tent offering fire, chai ( a sweet tea), and blankets...
”The bikes were outside broken and shivering. Our bodies were inside in the same state”.
So close to home in Poland the engine 'seized' and then came back to life. But in what must have been an emotionally overwhelming interlude at the side of the road in cold rain, wrapped in his budget tent that had collapsed, Nathan actually contemplated pushing the bike home; calculating that it would take him 100 days. The engine recovered and delivered him to the welcoming group of family and friends in Dover, and on to London's Ace Cafe.
The essence of travel writing is to take the reader with you, or to make them want to head for the destination the writer is describing. Given this criteria 'The Long Ride Home' is a down to earth and often moving story as Nathan rides and rides and rides the kilometers and resolves on-the-road problems that would render many of us helpless.
There were passages I found repetitive when he replays expressions of the same feelings and emotions. But in mitigation, the thoughts that dominate the psyche on a tough solo voyage of whatever nature, can be the difference between reaching the intended goal, giving up, or succumbing to adverse mental health.
None of these things affected Nathan Millward because he wheeled 'Dorothy' out of his UK shed and set off on another journey across the United States: the subject of his new book 'Running Towards the Light'.
Check out his website for more information and book purchases www.nathanmillward.com or you can order through Amazon, where a Kindle version is also available.
John Newman for Wemoto News
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