Trail-blazer back in saddle but still mountains to climb
PUBLISHED: 20:58 02 November 2017 | UPDATED: 20:58 02 November 2017
Last week we left Trans Euro Trail-blazer Ian Womack handing over his passport to police in Albania after being hit by another motorcyclist who fled the scene. But this low point turned into a highlight of his 10,000km adventure.
I had no choice but to press my personal tracker’s emergency assistance button and also call for help on social media via the Trans Euro Trail (TET) community.
The support I was given by friends, family and the biking community was unbelievable. Within minutes a local rider acted as translator on the phone and had a chat with the police to calm them down. A friend called the British Embassy and the process began to secure me a safe exit. Meanwhile, I was starting to feel the pain of my injuries and getting light headed.
The local police chief offered me a deal to leave with my passport if I wrote a statement explaining there were no issues with the bike, I had no injuries and would take no further action. But I had to be able to ride it away.
I patched the bike together, the handlebars were twisted and there was nothing left of the rear end. I rode that broken bike back over the Montenegro border with one working hand, as my other wrist was in agony, with bits hanging off the bike.
The TET community had organised a rescue party and I was met by a friendly biker called Janko. It’s unbelievable how powerful the biking brotherhood is around the world.
We left the bike with mechanic Miljan and Janko took me for a X-ray of my wrist which was torn ligaments. Miljan invited his mates and we worked for hours to get the bike patched together. It wasn’t pretty but was functional.
Nobody wanted any payment but just see me complete the journey. I will never forget the true generosity I was shown by strangers who turned into friends.
With my original plans thrown into turmoil I had to make some decisions. There was no way I was going back into Albania, and the detour into Greece would be huge, so I booked a ferry from Croatia to Italy and travelled back through Montenegro and Bosnia but on minor back roads with my damaged wrist and stiff neck.
I caught the overnight ferry and, arriving in central Italy, had a huge ride to the TET – a dirt bike on a motorway with some of the world’s most impatient drivers in heavy rain for 600km was a day to forget.
The TET in Italy was great – ferries across tourist-crammed lakes and within hours deep in the forests on steep narrow trails and in rural areas with beautiful old farms. The Alps on the horizon were getting ever closer.
I rode some huge trails over the Alps, through snow high up, crossing into France and some beautiful trails through farmland and villages. I had a few extreme tracks into Andorra and was on my way into Spain. The final country!
I thought Spain would treat me to a nice easy journey to the end but first I had a tough day on rocky trails, two punctures and ran out of food and water. Two French bikers stopped and they had spare water and emergency wine and a French baguette.
The next day the whole of Catalonia was on strike, protesting over their bid for independence. Nowhere was open for fuel, food or water.
I crossed the Pyrenees and was now in the arid centre of Spain with temperatures above 40 degrees and high winds - it felt like riding inside a giant oven. I rode for two days and didn’t see another human.
A small waterhole was being circled by hundreds of big vultures and one landed on the track and stretched its wings to stop me passing. A big stand-off ensued until, nervously, I rode past.
After more tough days and punctures, I made it to the ferry for the UK. Chatting to other bikers, I found it overwhelming people were interested in my trip.
In the UK I delivered the bike to its new owner – photographer Andrew Tobin who followed my Facebook blog and plans to ride it on some of the TET’s UK sections and signed the bike. I had never believed saying goodbye to a piece of machinery could cause such emotions.
After all I had put it through, that bike got me home, I was forever grateful. It was unbelievable I was still in one piece but even more unbelievable was the support I had been given.
ROAD TO THE FUTURE
Ian Womack hopes his adventures will lead to new challenges, open avenues for media work and a book about his adventures.
“No one had really ridden the new Trans Euro Trail country after country after country,” he said.
The biggest low was with the Albanian police after the crash but, when the biking community rallied round, it became an emotional high too.
“I was contemplating putting the bike in a field, setting fire to it and getting a taxi to the airport,” he said.
But he was overwhelmed by the local bikers’ generosity in mending his broken bike.
“They took parts from their own motorcycles and refused to take anything from me.”
His next challenge is a South American trip at the end of the year.
“I just can’t settle into routine. I just need that challenge and that kick in life to get the most out of life.
“Maybe life in the Army and fire service has made me live life because you never know what is round the corner,” he added.
Motorcycle: 2010 Yamaha Tenere 660, heavily modified for dirt-road riding
Distance travelled: 10,247km
Countries visited: 11
Time taken: Five weeks, riding every day
Replacement tyres: Three rear, two front
Falls: 10 serious tumbles