When Colombian motorcyclist Daniel Velandia set out on a cross-continental tour last year he was told that India was a country where the only rule was that there were no rules. Today, after covering 57,000 km and crossing 23 countries, the 34-year-old test rider has revised his pre-formed opinions of many countries. “India ain’t as bad as I thought it would be, Iran isn’t full of terrorists and people in Sudan are not hostile but very welcoming,” he says. His tour ended in Pune this week.
Calling it a journey of self-discovery and learning, Velandia’s only companions were his camping bag, laptop, camera, GPS, world map and clothes. “It got a little lonely in the beginning but after that I enjoyed being with myself,” says the biker-blogger whose self-charted route started from South America, went on to Africa and the Middle East and ended in India. “My body adjusted well to the changing climate in different countries, except in Turkey where I had to wear four pairs of socks just to make sure my toes didn’t die due to frost bite,” he says.
The best roads, he says, are in South Africa and the worst in Pakistan and Bolivia. The soft-spoken rider claims he never felt threatened during his journey despite being attacked once. “In Ethiopia, a bunch of kids threw stones and sticks at me. I was confused but I was later told that it is a common happening there. The only way to escape is to push the throttle,” he says. A test rider for a Colombian motorcycle magazine, Velandia chose Africa over Europe because “it seemed like a more interesting continent”.
- Daniel and his mean machine
Is he a member of the international long-distance motorcycle endurance riding community, the Iron Butt Association? “No,” he says. “Unlike them, I like stopping, discovering new places, tasting different cuisine and meeting new people.”
The only tedious part about his trip is getting visas. “My Colombian origins were often associated with the drug mafia which is why getting permission became a little difficult.” Ending his journey in Pune, Velandia will take his Bajaj Pulsar 180, which he lovingly refers to as Elvira, back home this week.