Wow, what a day we had! We spent the day at the private residence of the Malaysian High Commissioner HE Dato’ Ahmad Rasidi Hazizi and his wife Datin Rosilawati, who were hosting an event for Anita Yusuf, member of WIMA Malaysia and the first muslim woman to travel around the world on a motorbike. The local Malaysian community had gathered to welcome her, listen to her presentation and dine together. And somehow we got to be part of it. I had to pinch myself, motorbikes open doors to exciting opportunities.
The High Commisssioner himself, Dato Ahmad Rasidi, told us that, although he didn’t ride a bike himself, he had met many bikers when he was positioned in Kazakhstan, big BMWs looking for adventure. And, as it happens, a desire to see what in motorbike circles is commonly known as the “stans” was what made Anita take up motorbike riding in the first place, only 3 and a half years ago. She was looking for a change in her life, something new, a thrill. Having found the blog of a Malaysian cyclist who had cycled to Kyrgyzstan she became fascinated with the landscape he captured in his pictures and the dream to go there and see it for herself started to grow. For her, however, it would not be possible to bicycle there, she could not take that much time off work. She had to find another way, and so, she stumbled on another travel blog: this time a Malaysian motorcyclist who had ridden from Malaysia to London. From these two people she found her inspiration – her dream started to take form.
Having always been a self-contained person, used to travelling on her own and taking care of herself, the new challenge was to learn how to ride a motorbike, her new mode of transport. She bought a Yamaha FZ 150cc and this bike took her on several international journeys seeing the neighbouring countries in Asia. She suffered without her bike – when she had to leave it in the workshop for a couple of months for repairs she got itchy – she had been bitten by the travel bug. In 2013, she rode solo all the way to the “stans” and could finally see Kyrgyzstan’s beauty with her own eyes. The conditions were rough, at one point it took 8 hours riding 100k and she didn’t meet a single vehicle, she was alone with nature – its challenges and its beauty.
Coming back from this journey, she found that she wanted more, so she started planning for the big ride. Finding sponsors proved to be difficult since she didn’t have a well-known patron behind her, so her savings became her travel budget. However, she managed to get sponsorship from GIVI with luggage for her bike, which I think is a great achievement in itself. She travels self-contained, with tent and camping stove to keep costs to a minimum. I can only imagine how cold it must have been at some point during her journey, camping in cold-weather countries when she is used to a totally different climate herself.
Anita’s round the world journey, called Global Dream Ride, started on 16th of September 2015 when she and her bike flew to Seattle. From there, she travelled up to Canada and Alaska where she camped in bear country, always revving the engine when stopping for photos, in fear of a close encounter. I can relate to that fear from my own hiking experiences in Hokkaido, where I abused the bear bell in fear of this, however, I would never dare to camp, what bravery! She travelled through the USA and took in the sights of the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, in this country of great contrasts before reaching Mexico and taking part in the Day of the Dead celebrations. She battled traffic in beautiful Guatemala, crossed Honduras, at present the most dangerous country in the world, and reached tropical Nicaragua with its lakes, islands and volcanoes. In Costa Rica, she took part in a bike week and was interviewed on national TV before moving on to green Panama. Here, she ran out of road and entered a ship to sail across to Colombia, then continued to Ecuador and Peru, where she saw the Nasca Lines (from the sky) as well as Cuzco, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. Bolivia and the salt flats were up next, then Chile with its beautiful desert and finally Argentina and the famous Ruta 40, ending at Tierra del Fuego – End of the World.
Other interesting facts about her journey are that she had the tyres changed twice and scheduled stops at Yamaha workshops. She is not a skilled mechanic herself but lives according to the positivist thinking that if she just brings the tools and the spare parts she will always be able to get help somewhere. During her journey she has linked up with the global biker community and has received invitations as well as help and recommendations from locals along her route. Athough she didn’t know many global bikers before she set off, the word soon spread and people linked up with her and her global network grew. Amazing how these things work, isn’t it?
During her presentation she was asked if she had had any bad experiences, since she’s been on the road for 6 months on her own crossing the Americas. She answered that her worst experiences during her journey had been the weather: her challenges were the cold, the wind and the rain. She had battled winds as strong as 80mph, and she struggled to keep her bike upright and on the right side of the road. Sometimes it rained for days, some locations were also very cold. In addition, because of her tight budget, she wanted to camp as much as possible but the cold put a strain on her muscles and the pain in her neck and shoulders made riding the bike, as well as setting up camp, very difficult. Another question was what she found most challenging being a muslim woman on the road and her answer was the diet. For several months she struggled to find appropriate food. Finding privacy for prayer was another thing that could be complicated at times since she, when not camping, mainly stayed in dorms.
This is more than most people get to see of the world in a lifetime and Anita is only halfway through her journey. I look forward to her book, for sure she must write one! This is one amazing story!
She is now on her way to France and onwards to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Turkey and back to the “stans” – apparently she left her half her heart there last time around, and she needs to go back and get it. But before we flagged her off for her continuing journey, she was off with Jan and Zaharah to London for some scenic shots. As for us, we strolled down to the tube, thinking that wouldn’t it be nice to go to Malaysia on holiday. We must save up for the coming WIMA rally and make an extended tour of the country. And if not before, we’ll get to see Anita again.