Daniel Rintz - Through detours to Africa
About ten years ago, I decided to ride around the world. I had no money to do it, but I was desperate to go. So I tried to work random jobs along the way to make it happen. Everyone thought that this was foolish and some even said it out loud. However, when Touratech heard about it, they said: "Cool, we like it!" I was happy about the fact that someone believed in me.
Initially I thought it would take me two, maybe three years, but it took six! A lot has changed since then. My outlook on life, my priorities, the amount of friends I have in the world, a lot of my equipment and now I'm not riding alone anymore.
I have travelled 200,000 km on my bike and 99 countries so far. It feels only fair to me to share some of my experiences. At the end of the day I want as many people as possible to get out there and explore, because I have been having the time of my life!
More stories coming soon from Daniel Rintz (1200GS) & Josephine Flohr (R80GS)
- 2008 Europe, North Africa
- 2009 Middle East, Asia
- 2010 South East Asia, Oceania
- 2014 North America
- 2015 Central America
- 2016 South America
- 2017 Africa
WEBSITE DANIEL RINTZ
About Fear and Risk
When we talk to people we meet along the way, we often hear: "You're so brave, travelling around the world the way you do". I cheekily reply: "Not brave, just naive!" This always gets a laugh.
But there is more weight to this exchange than my joking response lets you expect. The fear of the unknown occupies even the experienced traveller's mind at times. So far, I am looking back on a total of 10 years "on the road" and I have to admit that it took at least one, maybe even two years until something significantly changed - as far as my perception of fear was concerned. The more you travel the more your fear is replaced by concern, respect and adaption. And that's a good thing.
Josephine and I were travelling through El Salvador in 2015. It is a small country but it suffers an enormous amount of gun violence. Especially in the capital San Salvador, gangs fight for dominance in drug trafficking and kill competitors mercilessly. This puts a lot of fear into the rest of the population as well as us travellers.
Fortunately we were contacted by a young adventure riding aficionado before we even entered the country. He offered to show us around his country. We welcomed the opportunity of being led through a dangerous and unknown territory by a local. The fact that his surname was Escobar, like the famous drug lord, did not raise any red flags on our side. It's a very common name in latin America ;)
You can call it naivety or fearlessness, but through our new friend's insight we found a way to gauge the risk and get a feel for the place. We ended up travelling much longer and farther through El Salvador than we initially planned - a pattern that runs through most of our stories and films.
I was scrolling through our photo library the other day. Someone had asked me to pick a single photo that summed up best what motorcycling is for me. My immediate reaction: That's impossible!
Josie and I have about 60,000 photos in our travel catalogue. Perhaps 10,000 of those images show motorcycles. The photos were taken over the course of six years and on six different continents. The amount of photos and the diverse circumstances under which each one was taken are a representation of how multi-faceted motorcycling can be. It would have to be a hell of a photo to convey at least some of the possible emotions a rider can experience on the open road.
However, there were a few places I recalled that made my heart beat considerably faster. I scrolled through a bunch of folders like "Australia", "Northern India", "Alaska", "Rockies", "Colombia"... It was a blast recalling all these memories. Finally, I found myself infatuated with the "Carretera Austral" section.
It's a magical corner of the world, especially for motorcyclists. This road in southern Chile leads you through mind-bogglingly beautiful mountains with great vistas and along intricate layouts of rivers, lakes, and fjords. Unless you check your map, you can never tell which kind of body of water you're driving along. The landscape constantly invites you to stop and take photos, but the road regularly reminds you to pay attention to the riding. The route is partly gravel and quite windy.
Even though I would never pick one favourite road in the world, I can say that the Carretera Austral is right up there with the rest of my most favourite ones. I would go back there in a heart beat.
Taking the Right Stuff with You
Often people ask me what to take on a trip around the world. The longer the trip, the more likely you'll need everything from mosquito repellent for tropical places all the way to a down-jacket for the mountains. Taking the right stuff with you is as much a challenge as it is an art. The challenge is to have the right things when you have to get out of a difficult situation on your own. And it's an art to find a way to pack all that onto your bike.
In Gabon, Africa, for example we had to choose between three different routes to Cameroon. All of them were dirt roads through the jungle. We opted for the least bad one of course. But it wasn't easy to ride on the red, slippery mud and reach the other end in one piece. The many truck wrecks on the side of the road gave us the chills. Every time a trucker struggled going up a hill we watched him from a distance. We wouldn't want him to slide backwards into our direction.
During those kind of adventures you come to feel the weight of your bike and luggage. Sometimes it determines whether you make it or wether you have to turn around. Less* is more. (*luggage)
When it comes to carrying tools and spare parts for the bike, I have come up with the following rule for myself; I'm only carrying what I need to get back to civilisation in case I break down. Here are a couple of examples:
- I should be able to fix a couple of flat tyres. I don't often have punctures, but when I do I usually have several. It makes sense to practice this beforehand. It's good to know e.g. whether this new pump fits between the valve and the wheel-hub. Or when you run tubeless tyres, you'll need compressed air cartridges in order to get the tire back onto the rim... and so on.
- It's useful if you know your bike. I only take the tools for those nuts and bolts that are actually used on my bike. And I don't take those size sockets of bolts that I wouldn't touch in the bush anyways (gear box, crankshaft...)
- If I have a file and a pair of pincers on my multitool (Leatherman) then I'm not taking an extra tool for that.
- I'm not taking torque wrenches! Too heavy, too big. Sure, I want my cylinder heads tightened securely. That's important to me. But when I break down in the bush "tight" is good enough. You'll always be able to borrow better tools in the capitals of almost all countries.
- If I can't resist to take Loctite, WD40 or something like that, I make sure I only take a little bit in a small and light container.
- I'd never take a repair manual, ever! I'd scan it and put a PDF version on my smartphone.
- I don't take special tools. Sometimes you'll need it, but you can improvise. I have seen trained BMW mechanics who can't be bothered to use the special tool and just use e.g. a pair of pliers. Rely on your imagination and improvise. We are travellers and not pit-stop workers.
- Cable ties and duct tape can be helpful of course.
What is the best place?
"Which one is your favourite country?" I get asked a lot. I understand that this question comes up naturally. For example when I talk to a stockbroker, I feel compelled to ask which shares are safe to buy (And I don't even trade). Obviously countries don't change as quickly as stock prices do, but in either case, a seemingly simple question is very difficult to answer.
All of the many places I was lucky to visit offered something I fell in love with. I love the deliciously grilled steaks in Buenos Aires, the magnificent views anywhere in the Himalayas, Europe's history-laden architecture, the always-smiling Cambodians and countless other things around the world. I could not choose any of those things over another and therefore I cannot have a favourite place. Yes, some places tick more boxes on my "I-like-list" than others, but there wasn't a single country where I couldn't find anything to appreciate.
How much anyone might like a place over another depends on many factors. When I was exploring Bolivia, I talked to a number of fellow travellers who had already travelled the so called "Laguna Route". I was eager to ride through this part of the world as I heard it is stunningly beautiful. But I also heard it was remote and tough to ride. Among the travellers I interviewed I gathered many different opinions. Some said it was easy to ride, it only took them 2 days, but they felt it was over-rated, there's nothing to see except a lot of rocks, sand and similar looking volcanoes. Other said it was the toughest they have ridden, it took them 5 days, they ran almost out of water, but it was totally worth it. They saw lakes that change their colour throughout the day and they watched flamingoes and found beautiful, fragile flowers.
How much you'll like or dislike a place depends a lot on your state of mind, your background and personal preferences. That is why the Pyramids in Egypt, Machu Picchu in Peru and the Great Wall of China did not leave as great of an impression on me as you'd think. (I'm not sure what that says about me, hahaha.) Less significant things (to the world), like the encounter with a stranger however, often changed the course of my trip and even my life.