“The only thing I fear is fear itself,” says Welsh grandma-to-be Steph Jeavons, who kick-started her attempt to circumnavigate the world with Rhonda, her trusty 250 CRF Honda, at the Ace Cafe, London a little over three months ago (23rd March 2014). She's travelling with 35 kg of bare essentials—primarily a two-man tent, a stove, a few trousers and t-shirts as well as layered jackets (for both the warm and cold countries)—loaded onto her 145-kg bike. Currently riding towards the Himalayas (Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Udaipur-Amritsar-Leh), she rode through France, Belgium, Germany, The Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Iran, and sailed to Dubai, before flying to Mumbai.
With her grandmother, both her parents and one of her sisters being motorcyclists, it's probably her DNA that decided she would love riding the second she sat on a bike, aged 21. In 2008, she started off-roading, set up her own company RedMotoAdventures and rode abroad for the first time in South Africa. Phew! “I started off with two-week journeys. Each challenge I set myself made the next one easier,” says the woman who would like to be “the first Britisher to ride across all seven continents on my own, and in one go”.
Innovation is critical as she attempts to draw funding en route. For instance, sales from a t-shirt (designed by biker Paul Tomlinson, who she met at Bikers Cafe, Dubai) through her online campaign “Get me to the Drake on Time!' will help fund her trip across the Drake passage to Antarctica. Steph is the sort of person who gives as much as, or more than, she takes; so 20 per cent of the t-shirt sale proceeds go to Rally4life, a Canadian charity that is attempting to give back to the countries that bikers love to adventure in.
While she's targeting between 15 months and 2 years, to cover 7 continents, 42 countries and around 40,000 miles, on a budget of £5 a day (for food), she's hoping to make it to Ushuaia, South America, by the end of January to catch IceBird, the Australian-owned yacht she has chartered to Antarctica. Of course, her making it that far is contingent on the generosity of strangers, sponsors, the ever-supportive global community of motorcyclists, and her own indomitable spirit.
Appropriately swaddled in a hijab clamped to her head with hair clips, she has ridden through Iran, whose women are still not allowed to drive, dodging dust-devils and tumbleweed on her way to Persepolis. She's run out of petrol on a road where only diesel was sold, and on another where no plastic (credit/debit cards) was accepted. Her tent and compressor have been stolen off the front of her bike. Her Garmin has acted up leaving her rather disoriented at points. She's learned that sometimes places aren't as good as they look on the map. She has survived a night of camping on a supposed minefield in Iran that locals told her was once part of Iraq, and eaten eggs and tea proffered by the said locals. Taxi drivers in a few countries have attempted to swindle her. She found crucial bike-transport paperwork missing in Dubai. Her bike was given a tour of Delhi, Chicago and Hyderabad, while she waited rather anxiously for it to be flown into Mumbai. If not for her tact and some helpful officials who, “got it out in the fastest time, it has ever taken to get something out of there”, getting Rhonda through customs could have turned into another ordeal.
Trials notwithstanding, she's determined to complete this journey. “It you want to do something, you just have to go for it. If you think about the contingencies, you will never leave,” insists Steph, who has been immunized against 13-odd diseases, including rabies and yellow fever. “If the bike breaks down we'll repair it. If it gets stolen, we'll buy another one. I do it one day at a time. If today's a bad day, tomorrow will be better. Money-wise, I'm working on it all the time,” says Steph, who sold off her Yamaha XZ6 to help fund this trip and is likely to put her house in the beautiful mountains of North Wales on the market, in a few months. Speaking of home (where Chui her dog awaits), her son Nathan and his partner are expecting a baby any minute now.
“This ride has restored my faith in humanity,” mentions Steph, who has been couch-surfing, camping out in the open and resting at the nearest hotel when she tires out. “People all over the world are scared of their neighbours,” Steph tells us. “People in West Turkey will tell you to beware of people in East Turkey. People in East Turkey will tell you to be careful in Iran. The media makes it worse by printing all the worst news and never any of the good stories. I put my faith in the belief that all that is not true; and I haven't met one bad person yet. Everyone has helped out.”
While people in India turned out to be just as curious as she anticipated, and everyone seems to want to have their picture taken with her, she's still getting used to the heat and the sheer amount of people. Hopefully, the fact that Destinations Unlimited is sponsoring 10 days of her ride here will mean that she won't be encountering any more mice, like she did in one of the first hostels she stayed at.
She's been a panelist at Motorcycle Travellers Meet ( MTM) in Mumbai, India; taken a balloon ride over the "fairy chimney" rock formations of Goreme, Turkey; visited the Church of Bones at Kutná Hora, in the Czech Republic, picked up some Persian at the home of a judge in Iran... as cliched as it sounds, this trip is about the journey not the destination. She claims to be “more of a potterer than a speed demon” and has been “seeing the world at her own pace, taking the backroads and dirt tracks wherever possible.” That said, she has also zoomed across Germany's Autobahn to makeup for lost time, after she dropped her bike and had to fix a sticking throttle.
Steph has the knack of finding herself in intriguing places all right, but perhaps the most interesting part of her journey are the people she meets... Hossein and his all-pink bathroom (Iran); Sean, who has travelled the world on his Vespa (Serbia)... and so many many others. She has found time to blog along the way, and her wit is clearly intact, going by her Indian traffic mantra, “Grant me the serenity to accept the traffic I cannot move; the courage to go for the smallest of gaps; and the wisdom to use my horn!”
She just crossed the 9,000 mile mark on the road from Udaipur to Amritsar. Despite the unexpected delays and red tape, as of now, she is on schedule to catch the yacht to Antarctica. Follow her ride around the world as she takes One Steph Beyond at www.stephmoto-adventurebikeblog.com