Adventurers Gavin Francis and Esa Aldegheri have given a presentation on their 18 month motorbike journey from Orkney to New Zealand, as part of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s 125th anniversary celebration.
Francis and Aldegheri married shortly before embarking on their travels, having met as students at the University of Edinburgh.
The pair cited their desire to take advantage of their lack of commitments, a fortunate position they saw as unlikely to last, and a yearning to embark on a lengthy adventure as reasons for undertaking the expedition
Their journey took them through locations as diverse as the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, China, and Australasia.
However, the Iranian and Saudi Arabian government both declined to issue visas. The Iranians were seemingly influenced by a major news story of the time; the detainment of several British sailors by the Iranian authorities.
Aldegheri and Francis also had to contend with contracting dysentery, accidentally checking into a brothel and getting caught in roadblocks of burning tyres manned by angry refugees. All these events occurred within the space of four days whilst they were visiting the Euphrates River area.
In India, it was “difficult to not react with shock and disgust to many sites” according to Aldegheri, even though Francis described Kashmir as “one of the most beautiful places of the journey”.
The couple’s motorbike, driven for the majority of the trip, covered a total of 25,000 miles. However, the vehicle did not reach New Zealand, as the expense of sending it to Auckland from Australia was prohibitively high. The two travellers decided to send the motorbike to Cumberland, Scotland instead, given the lower cost.
Aldegheri put especial emphasis on the Syrians being so happy that “she spoke Arabic, she dressed respectfully and didn’t think they were all terrorists”. Francis sought to point out that we have a “very monolithic view of Turkey in Scotland”, despite the many facets he thought the country had.
Francis is also an author and his book True North documents his travels in Arctic Europe, through reference to his own observations in addition to history and mythology.
The couple intend to write a book about the journey.