Germany to China on a KTM 990 Adventure

Ride the Silk Road

This is a detailed discription of my overland journeyon a motorbike. The tour started in Munich and ended in Beijing, took 3 months, we traveled through 13 countries and covered a distance of 20 000km.

Our group consisted of 3 Land rover Discoveries and 10 people, I was the only one on a bike
I was looking bling, almost like a factory rider about to start the Dakar, brand new bike still shining, new kit, new helmet, even my tyres were still hairy, Now this is not the right way to start a 20000 km trip, all the experts would tell you that you should at least test all your gear prior to departure, so many times have I heard that preparation is the key to a successful journey, and they are all right, HOWEVER, my theory is if a journey is too well prepared then nothing will go wrong and that is when the true adventure starts, like a good friend of mine said in the last issue of Enduro magazine "Just set a date and Do It", or you probably won’t, and he is so right. Sometime circumstances just don’t go your way and that chap Murphy is always around. The delay due to the transportation incident cost me 10 days which were planned to get all the gear and bike tested with some short trips in Germany, but I had set my departure date and was sticking to it.






Germany and Austria

so hit the German autobahn and let her rip, I was itching to open the bike up and see what it could do, with cars flying past me, some in excess of 200kmh but with only 50km on the clock the bike was still in the running in stage so had to keep the rpm and acceleration to a minimum. Trust me to end up on a German Autobahn on a bike I cant rev over 4000 rpm GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Man was I unprepared for what lay ahead, it’s not supposed to snow at this time of the year, famous last words because it was and it had a grievance with somebody, Picture an African boy from SUNNY South Africa riding into an oncoming blizzard, I had the sense to invest in a good helmet,  jacket, riding pants, gloves and boots and was now justifying the thousands of rand’s I had paid for this equipment, visibility was zero and I was having problems clearing the build-up of snow on my visor, the new Shoei helmet was great and comes with an anti fog system that works, I did not want to scratch the new visor so early on in the trip but had no choice but to wipe my finger over the visor every few seconds, within my first 100km my fingers and toes were frozen to the point they started to burn, the roads had become very slippery as I gained altitude going up and over the Alps and it kept getting colder. After a while you get used to numb fingers and toes, and the cold is not so bad, as long as it’s not snowing or raining its actually fun. I found myself enjoying the new experience, it was a first to ride through stunning passes, with mountains of snow on either side of the road, needless to say I was the only bike on the road and was getting strange looks from the locals. Austria is a small country and easily traversed in 2 days, we arrived at our first stop a beautiful mountain lodge high up in the Alps, all I wanted was a hot shower and some gluwein. We departed early the next morning with 380km to our next stop, a beautiful town named Bled in Croatia but first did another first, this was to become a regular occurrence on this trip doing something for the first time, riding a motorbike through a 8km long tunnel is quite an experience, after a few minutes it seems to close in around you, and the feeling of tunnel vision is a reality, 8 km is a long way and it never seems to end, finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel takes on a whole new meaning and is like being reborn


What a beautiful place, words cannot describe how pretty Slovenia is both in nature and history, I could have spend loads more time exploring Croatia but if you plan to do 20 000km in 90 days you have to keep on moving, I decided to leave the convoy and do some exploring by myself and follow a bike trail I had found on the internet instead of the main road, so downloaded the GPS track, the ride took me through some scenic mountains with interesting little villages en-route and some great winding mountain passes, it must have been done quite some time ago as the road soon deteriorated and there were only footpaths left, exactly what I was looking for, being alone was my only concern when venturing off the beaten track. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride The KTM was not really made for this especially fully loaded, and i was pushing the limits on some of the tricky paths but was having so much fun just being out there and doing it.






Next was Croatia there is so much to take in, from the rich cultural to the amazing history dating so far back its hard to believe that these buildings still intact and in use, the Croatian Parliament building was built in 1849 and there remnants of buildings dating back 8000 years, Oh and something the guys may be interested in is there seems to be a whole lot more girls than guys here.









Serbia was next and the difference is clear, until recently this country had been in a civil war and looked something like Angola, most buildings riddled with bullet holes, the attitude is different border crossing was expensive, had to pay 120 euro for 2 days insurance for the bike, most of the buildings are grey and dull, I had to do my Bulgarian visa in Belgrade, this is one of the most annoying thing about doing multiple country expeditions, VISAS, some are so easy to get others become major missions, this was to be the latter, I was told by the Bulgarian embassy that I had to have my Turkish visa first, I explained to them in 2007 and 2008 I had travelled from Romania through Bulgaria and obtained my visa at the Turkish border, they still insisted that I do it before they were going to give me a visa, so I raced off to the Turkish embassy, they were very helpful and showed me that it is there policy that they will only issue visas to people with permanent residence, luckily for me my trip was seen as a major undertaking and they agreed to do one regardless, when I went back to the Bulgarian embassy I was then told that the visa would take 5 working days the hell with this, Plan B, I shot off to the Macedonian embassy to see if they would be more accommodating and was told that I could use my Schengen visa to enter, my route would then take me through Greece and on to Turkey, so it was set, I left the convoy again and headed south, problem was I had just added 600 km to my planned route and had to keep up with the convoy and not lose them altogether, they had 900km to do my route was 1500km in 2 days. I like a challenge and was up to this one so set off with the intension of being there before them. I decided to set my gps to the shortest route not the fastest, this way you end up on mostly side roads, the last stretch before the border, about 200km was mostly on dirt tracks so was having a great time.


Macedonia is this tiny little country easily crossed in 1 day with time to spare, it is less than 200km from north to south, Having left Serbia and my and my cell phone behind. I crossed the border into Macedonia, My cell had slid out of my tank bag when on a rough stretch of dirt road, I noticed my GPS had lost its Bluetooth connection with the phone so stopped to see what the problem was and discovered that the phone was no longer where it was supposed to be, I spent 2 hours riding a 6km stretch of road at walking speed several times looking for the phone without any luck, mad with myself I had to abandon the search and carry on direction Istanbul, Border crossing was a formality and again the Insurance issue, 70 Euro later for 2 days 3rd party insurance, hate being ripped off but have no options now so had to pay up. At least it was almost a third of the cost for Serbia a total rip off, Was not able to do too much sightseeing lots of Kays to get behind me so rode and rode, stopping to make a cup of coffee and eat some sardines for lunch then ride some more. there was lots to see but had to enjoy the sites at around 100kmh, it was still worth it, I was almost through but would not make the border in time, I was close the Macedonia - Greece border was 50km away but had to spend at least one night in the country, ended up on a wine estate and was looked after like a king, light was almost gone and saw a huge establishment in the middle of nowhere so decided to find out if I could camp, it turned out to be a wine farm so ended up drinking lots of different wines with some great people, eating great food and sleeping in a nice soft bed, one never knows how the day is going to end when you are out of your normal routine, sometime these end up being the best experiences you will have.


Greece, man is it a pleasure when you don’t get ripped off at a border, no funny little insurances that are not worth the paper they are written on, no taxes or border charges……… Nada Thank you very much.
Greece is great, but I had a huge cloud that that had been following me and it found its target….ME… I camped that night and the cold front that was close on the tail of the rain clouds caught up, I pulled on my thermal underwear (FANTASTIC stuff) and had a good night’s sleep, Following day rode along the coast visiting some small fishing villages the headed north to meet with the group coming in from Bulgaria, stayed at a hotel a few Km from the border, 1300km in 2 ½ days. It was great fun. And I did get there before they did.







Day 1
The start of our journey, Negotiating the hectic traffic in Istanbul on a motorbike is quite a risky thing, you have to stay 100% concentrated on all vehicles around you and have an idea what they will be doing next, I was very happy when we got onto the highway even though it was unusually cold once we got going, we were headed to Ankara 580km away and around 7 hours of riding, this is a long time to be on a motorbike with such a hard seat, after 200km I was not so worried about the hard seat the problem was i could no longer feel my fingers or toes and then it started snowing, it was raining and suddenly i could not see anything, i lifted my visor which was a big mistake it made it even worse, snow flakes hitting your eyes at 80 kmh hurts like hell, I had to pull over. Knowing that the snow was not going to stop I carried on for 30km to the next fuel station they said if i carried on for another 20 km it was raining not snowing so I continued, my gloves were wet and my fingernails were burning they were so cold, my feet were sloshing around in half frozen water. As soon as i arrived in Ankara i checked in to the hotel filled the bath with hot water and jumped in.
Day 2
Rain and cold, this is turning into an adventure already and a pretty demanding one at that, was it not for the rain and cold it would have been an easy ride but the weather can make a boring ride into an adventure that is worth writing about. Fortunately I had prepared well in Germany and had a good rain suit, without this I would never had made it this far. My biggest issue was my gloves were not waterproof and water was somehow getting into my boots.
Day 3 we spent the day in Cappadocia……………..repaired land-rovers
Day 4 575 km long day, today the GPS got a little confused and I ended up on some dirt tracks marked as main roads, it was a whole lot of fun and got to use the bike for what it was designed to do, This bike is fantastic on the offroad sections and onroad is comfortable and fast, I am enjoying every minute I am riding. ended up doing 650Km but the detour was well worth it and will be taking the group on some of the dirt roads that I had found which are suitable for the Disco’s

Rain and Snow

Cappadocia behind us we are now on our way to Mount Nemrut, 600 km again a long day in the saddle, the challenges of riding in cold and rainy conditions still following me, I often have to stop and warm my hands on the rear silencers of the bike and jump around a bit until I can feel my toes again, my gloves get soaked and fingers get frozen, sometimes the passes reach 2500 metres and then it really gets cold, as you can see in the photos all the peaks around me are covered in snow. Sounds like i am complaining but I would not want to be any other place, I was asked if I knew that the weather was going to be so downright miserable if I would still have chosen to do this trip on a bike, did not even have to think about it a definite yes. From Nemrut we carried on to the town of Sanli Urfa and then to on to Mardin, Lake Van………… yep its till raining and cold finally the boarder of Iran,




We have averaged around 500 km a day over the last 4 days and I am looking forward to Teheran where we have a 2 night stay, that is 3 days away and still quite a distance
The border crossing was as always fun, 10 hours to get all the paperwork done and it is also a very expensive process but we won’t go there, a short ride to our stopover after taking some pics of mount Ararat, I am sleeping like a baby these days, feeling the long distances a bit, woke up this morning to a wonderful blue sky, not one hint of a cloud, packed all the winter ware into the suitcase and dumped it into the Landrover, BIG mistake, not 100km into the ride and i had left later than the vehicles so my winter clothes were gone and I was riding straight into some pretty nasty looking clouds, the sun disappeared and it got cold and believe it or not, you guessed it started raining again %*%*&^&^(*)*&%&$#

We have now reached Tehran and the weather has improved, 2 days to rest get the vehicles sorted, change oil on the KTM and get the blog and photos sorted out

Where the people are so friendly and the picture painted is so far from reality, If only more people and mainly those that have made an opinion based on media like TV and newspaper reports, and the opinions of others came to have a look for themselves. I could go on and write a whole lot about how nice the people here are, but that would just be another persons opinion. Just do it for yourself and come see how different the reality is. I highly recommend Iran for a holiday.





Turkmenistan, Long roads, hot weather and Sandstorms. Our route took us from Mary to Ashgabat for us it is time to service vehicles and Motorbike, So Bruce and I had the vehicles washed and vacuumed a few Kg’s Turkmenistan dust from inside the cars, I fitted a Brand NEW set of tyres to my bike, Nothing like a new set of rubber, then we continued through the Karakorum desert to Dashagous, I had been waiting a long time to test out my new motorbike in the desert, !!!What a blast!!!!! I have not had so much fun since riding the roof of Africa, riding a heavy bike in soft sand sounds like hard work and is!, but this bike was built for just this and was designed to be ridden hard, so the faster you go the better it performs and the more fun it is, I had a great time riding in the dunes and soft sandy tracks. Back on the main roads we were blasted with sand most of the time, it gets in everywhere and your eyes are bloodshot and feel like sandpaper at the end of the day. After a great night camping in the desert we left for the last stopover before Uzbekistan





I am slowly getting closer to the highlight of my trip, in a few days I will separate from the group and take a side excursion through Tajikistan, Jumping the gun a bit here though. Uzbekistan……Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand so full of history it is like stepping back in time, Got some great photo’s and enjoyed the comfortable hotels, My butt is getting a little sore these days, We have now completed half the Silk Road and I have done over 12000 Km on my bike from Munich.





From the start I knew that this was going to be an ADVENTURE and was not to be disappointed, I left the Group in Samarkand and headed for the border fully loaded with all my camping gear, Not to many tourists go here and even less on a Motorbike and this was very evident at the border post, no one was sure what the procedure was, The officials were super friendly and soon all was done and i was free to go…..Huh that easy, This is so unusual there were no long forms to fill out or complicated documentation, just 40 Euro insurance for the bike, a stamp in the passport and Off you go.
Most of the roads to Dushanbe are under construction and the temporary alternative roads provided are more like a 4×4 trails track, I was in good spirit and made a beeline for Dushanbe, I had 3 days and a long long way to go, 1200Km to be exact and judging by the roads I would be in the saddle for many hours each day
My First big obstacle: I had been told about a tunnel, 4Km long and filled with water, knowing that sometimes conditions can be exaggerated I took the info with a pinch of salt, it was way worse than anyone could imagine, even in Africa this would be closed and a BIG scull and crossbones put at the entrance, When I arrived the entrance was partially blocked by a vehicle that had gotten stuck trying to exit………Great start, Inside the tunnel dimly lit there were a few light bulbs dangling in the air giving just enough light to see water dripping in large amounts onto electric cables hanging from the roof, shiny puddles of water some 10 metres long, unknown depth and lots of steel spikes sticking out the puddles, The water was from the melting glacier above and I immediately felt the drop in temperature already barely over Zero Degrees. Needless to say the light at the end of the tunnel was like heaven and it truly was, from 200 meters inside the tunnel I could already see the most amazing view dropping down from snow capped mountains into a stunning green valley.
After a distance I came across a Austrian couple riding 2 heavily loaded bicycles so stopped to say Hi, We exchanged stories of the horrific tunnel and I carried on, Deciding it was getting late and cold stopped beside a river and set up camp, Along came the 2 Bicycles and they joined me for the night, We combined my tinned can of beans and meat with a type of bean rice they had and had a good meal,

In the morning I was ready to go at 6:00 and Patrick stuck his head out his tent and announced that the border that I was headed for was closed to tourists, he had read it in his lonely planet. This was bad news for me, if I lost a day I would never catch up with the group and this would be a disaster, decision time go back or take a chance, I did the 80 Km to The city of Dushanbe to see if I could verify this information and confirmed that it was right so immediately started back with the thought of doing the tunnel again, it was a race against time now I had a lot of distance to cover and not that much time, I basically had to make the border to Kyrgyzstan today and it was over 300 hard km away. All went well even the tunnel, I then started gaining altitude and had a 3500 metre pass to get through, the weather turned and blue skies disappeared, caught in a blizzard at 3000 metres is no fun at all, and I had left my rain jacket in the Landover, ice cold sleet rain hammered down and gale force winds threatened to blow me off my bike… No exaggerations, I now know how easily mountain climbers can get into serious trouble and how quick it can happen, the roads turned into slushy slippery rivers, problem is I had to keep going to get to the border. With frozen fingers I started the decent on the other side of the mountain and the rain stopped, road condition improved but not that much.
I made the border at 4:30 and had been on the bike since 6:00 that morning, that’s a long time, one more test for the day, having done border procedures I was given the free to go signal so pressed the start button and it just went ba!!!!!!?????, my battery was flat….shit what now, the one thing about a KTM 990 it has no kick start, I tried several times to run start just locked the back wheel so pushed the bike to the top of a long hill, this is at high altitude so I weeeeezing even in 5th gear downhill it is impossible to run start this bike, after 1 ½ hours a friendly local offered to take out his battery and we held it up to the aux plus and the frame, It worked and I hit the road not wanting it to stall, I did 100km and stopped at 9:00 dead tired, quickly set up camp, made some food and slept.




Next morning was up early and making up the distance, Bad weather was honing in on me, there was an ominous black cloud a few km behind me, my reaction was to ride faster, over the next 80km it stuck to me like glue, I could see this was a big storm and was trying to get ahead, I could not believe every time i looked up the black clouds were right on top of me and just a little further were bright blue skies. I finally got back onto Tar roads and could pick up the speed a little, What was about to happen would shake me for a long time.
I had just come into a small town and just wanted to get through, this storm was catching me again and the wide open blue sky was only a few km away, I could see on my GPS that I made a turn away from the direction we had been heading over the last 100km and it was unlikely that the storm would make the same turn, that would be just too weird, I was just a little over the speed limit and what do you know a cop jumps into the road holding a hand held radar, SHIT man can he not see the storm?/?, I looked behind me and saw a big tree about 2 stories high fall over the road and total chaos erupting. I opened my visor and looked pleadingly into the cops eyes. Then the storm hit us, the full blast of wind, sand and dust hit the cop straight on, his hat, books and the radar gun went flying, I wasn’t going to wait around, he was running to try catch his stuff so pulled off like I was at the start of a super cross event, as quick as that I was out of it again until the first corner, I was doing around 100kmh when I came into the corner and a full blast of wind hit me from the side pushing me out, I leaned more than twice of what you normally would and was still running wide, I could not lean anymore without going down, the wind was so strong I was in a two wheel drift almost lifting me and my bike into the air, as I was about to go over the side of the road into a big ditch, the wind suddenly stopped and I was thrown over into the middle of the road because I was leaning so much, I stopped on the side of the road heart pumping like mad and was shaking a little. Too close for comfort that one.
Just before dark I pulled into the hotel where the vehicles were parked outside.





The first problems start, Cause unknown at this stage……… bad or dirty fuel maybe?, Malfunctioning sensor, OR….. Fuel injection problem???, total loss of power, turn the ignition off and back on and the bike runs like new for about 20km then looses power again. Sometimes I can ride 200km before it starts spluttering,
We were in convoy and had 60km to destination, it was a really hot day, how hot I was still to find out and is evident in the photo I made, when moving you don’t really feel the full effect of 50 deg plus, it feels like an oven but still bearable, you are cooled by your sweat being evaporated by the wind as you move. When you are standing still and there is no wind or shade then you realize just how hot it really is.
So needless to say in a valley (pan) where it is the hottest, my bike just spluttered to a stop. The convoy did not see I was in trouble so continued on, after 20 minutes I realized they were not coming back, I guess the call of an ice cold beer waiting at the hotel was just to much………… they did not realize my predicament, with very little water on me I was stuck out in the scorching sun, temperature was 55 degrees and the sun was directly above me so not even my bike provided any shade, I stripped all my riding gear off to stop from overheating which did not help to much, and stared to strip the bike to see if there was anything I could do to get it running, seat off air filter out (big job) checked everything, put it all together and it started, quickly got everything together and started riding, in the end it turned out that my fuel pump needed to be replaced as it was not providing enough pressure, no big deal when you can get a spare.



China was a long haul, I was wearing out and just wanted to get to the end, the weather plays such a big factor on an expediition like this and the hot desert conditions were tough, when we finally pulled into Xian I was just to put it into one word HAPPY


The End