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Yamaha Journey Vol.12

This is the story about Lois Pryce's motorcycle travel on Yamaha XT225 from Alaska to Panama.


A Two-Wheeled World of Human Connection

Lois Pryce


#01 North America: Seeking a New Horizon
Alaska – Panama / Americas

Londoner, Lois Pryce left her media industry job to ride her Yamaha XT225 from Alaska to Argentina, a journey of 20,000 miles. In this first part of her quest for new horizons, she embarks on a life-changing journey, riding from the untamed wilderness of Alaska to the exotica of tropical Panama in an inspiring tale of how she swapped the grey office life for the thrills of life on the road.

Just as the pioneers must have felt… the wide open vistas of the great American West offered a whole new world of possibility.

Joshua Tree Desert, California, USA

Weaving amongst the otherworldly rock formations and towering cacti, it was as though I had landed on another planet.

Baja, Mexico

Messing about in the river… water and sunshine bring the same joy to children the world over.

Mulege, Baja, Mexico

A palm tree silhouetted in a sunset over the Sea of Cortez… this was the moment I had dreamed of when I set off on my adventure.

Bahia de Concepcion, Baja, Mexico

The Great Escape – A New Life Beckons

It sounded like a crazy scheme, and I don't think anyone in the office really believed me. After all, I had a perfectly good job, a cosy home in London, not to mention a recently acquired boyfriend. But sitting in the office each day, I would find myself staring out the window, watching motorcycles whizz by. It was as if these machines were calling out to me to ‘Come hit the road, see the world!' I was 29 years old, had recently passed my motorcycle test and as I commuted to and from work it struck me that THIS was the way to explore our great planet. Within a matter of months, I had resigned from my job, squeezed my bike, a Yamaha XT225 and a few belongings into a crate and shipped it off to Alaska. From there I planned to ride 20,000 miles to the tip of South America, a place called Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world that can be reached by road. Beyond that, I had no plan – and that was the magic of it…

Life on the road was intoxicating. I had never known such freedom and the majestic landscape of Alaska only added to the sense of wonder. I had arrived a little early in the season and there was still deep snow on the ground. The vast white peak of Mount Denali loomed tall in the distance – I was awed by the sheer scale and breath-taking beauty. But although I was all alone in this incredible landscape, I was excited rather than fearful about what each day held. I admit my heart skipped a beat the first time a black bear appeared out of the bushes just a day after leaving Anchorage, but it seemed unconcerned by this strange Englishwoman on a motorcycle and I became used to the bears after a while, viewing them as a daily reminder of how wild and magical a place this was - and how I had found freedom from the grey office life I had left behind.

California Dreaming – A West Coast Reverie

As I headed south through Canada the temperature (and my feet) began to warm up, and arriving in California with its endless sunshine and rolling yellow hills, I was reminded why they call it the Golden State. Here I was able to fulfil a long-held fantasy, to ride California's famous Highway One, the Pacific Coast road that boasts some of the greatest beaches and sunsets in the world. Like so many travellers before me, I truly felt I had arrived in the Promised Land. The sun shone endlessly, expert surfers riding giant waves thrilled me all the way south from Santa Barbara, while in the quieter corners of Big Sur I was charmed by sleepy seals that waddled out of the water on their stomachs to bask in the California sun. All the way down Highway One, it seemed like everyone in California was on a road trip, keeping the 1960s peace and love spirit alive. Approaching San Francisco, I was befriended by a group of old hippie bikers, who upon discovering that I lived on a boat, invited me to join their barbecue in the houseboat community of Sausalito, a collection of floating shacks in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Many of the Americans I met thought I was crazy for travelling south of the border alone, but just as I was beginning to wonder if I was making a terrible mistake, I met a Dutch motorcycle traveller coming the opposite direction from South America. He said ‘It will be the best thing you ever do - there is nothing to fear'. His words were the confidence boost I needed and it was uplifting to experience the camaraderie of the worldwide community of motorcycle travellers, to know there were others out there with the same crazy plan.

The USA had been a blast, the ultimate free-wheeling road trip that I had always dreamed of. I could have stayed forever, singing along as I rode through towns with their song-title names (yes, I do know the way to San Jose). But Mexico was just down the road now, calling me ever southwards. It was time to make a break for the border…

South of the Border – Hola Mexico!

I am often asked to name my favorite moment of the trip. It's a difficult question but my mind always returns to the day I crossed the border from the USA into Mexico. It was here that my adventure truly began. On the other side of this famous frontier a whole new world opened up – the great desert of Mexico's 1000 mile Baja peninsula. I spent my days weaving through forests of Saguaro cactus while my nights were spent camping on the beaches of the Sea of Cortez with its warm turquoise water swirling with brightly-patterned fish. Finding myself in these faraway, exotic locations I would often think about the life I had left behind in London, and marvel at how my motorcycle had brought me here, to these magical places. Everything was a source of wonder to me; the climate, the language, the people, the food. This is what I had come for, for discovery.

At a police checkpoint in the middle of the desert, I was stopped by two armed, uniformed officers. My heart was racing but it turned out they just wanted to feed me coffee and cake and talk to me about British football, of which I was woefully ignorant! As I headed further into Baja I put me and my bike to the test on the sandy desert trails, and I knew this was why I had given up the security of my life in London. I had wanted to throw myself out into the world and see what would happen, to wake up in a different place each day, and to embrace the unknown. In Mexico, people were surprised but delighted to meet a woman riding a motorcycle alone. In a tiny village near the Guatemalan border, an old woman selling corn by the roadside hugged me and shook my hand with great vigour. ‘Muy valiente!' she kept saying -‘Very brave'. I thought about how I had felt before I left, nervous about the unknown, unsure if I could pull off this challenge. I told her the most important thing I had learned - that it was so much easier than she might think, and that anyone could do it.

Trails through the Tropics – into Central America

Riding through southern Mexico, the fields of blue spiky tequila plants gave way to dense green jungle and the air turned steamy and tropical. At a small border crossing in the shadow of the peaks of the Sierra de Madre de Chiapas, I entered Guatemala, marking the beginning of the isthmus of small Central American countries, each border manned by uniformed guards with a multitude of rubber stamps and a pile of forms to fill in. The language and architecture of the Spanish conquistadors had formed the prevalent culture in this part of the world but each nation still retained its own unique character, with subtle variations in dialect, currency and cuisine. The bountiful produce of the jungle was on sale at every roadside shack, where I feasted daily on sticky fried plantains, spicy bean stews and sweet guavas and passionfruit picked fresh from the trees. Every morsel exploded with flavor and freshness, like no other food I had known. Deep in the tropics now, I was aware of being a long way from home. Parrots and monkeys screeched in the forests, and every day an afternoon downpour would turn the road to red mud.

In this environment so different to my home country, I was reminded why I had chosen a motorcycle as my way to see the world. Slowly making my way through Panama, the last country before I entered South America, I was acutely aware of being amongst the elements – the flash of an orchid, the waft of a smoky roadside grill, the iridescent blue butterflies that danced on my face, the gentle handshakes of the children in a tiny mud-hut village that gathered around me when I stopped for shelter, and even the warm rain that soaked me to the skin served to remind me that here, in the middle of the Central American jungle, on my bike, I was truly alive.

Lois Pryce

Lois Pryce is a British travel writer and author. She has written two books about her motorcycle travels around the world. Her third book, ‘Revolutionary Ride', about her recent journey around Iran will be published in January 2017.

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