The Epic Australian Voyage: Chris and Liam live to ride another day

The Epic Australian Voyage: Chris and Liam live to ride another day

Back in February we shared the story of Chris Donaldson, who was re-attempting his epic Australian voyage 40 years after his first trip didn’t go exactly to plan. You can read the story behind his first try here

Chris and his friend Liam set off for take two from The Overland Event in Oxford in September 2021. While Liam chose the sensible Moto Guzzi V85 to take him round the world, Chris chose the (perhaps not-so) sensible 1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans he originally intended to take with him the first time round. 

From Oxford they travelled down to London for a charity ride to the Brighton Burn-Up at the famous Ace Cafe biker haunt for the last stop on their short UK jaunt.

Catching the ferry from Dover to Calais, Chris and Liam stopped off for a “boozy send-off” with some friends in France before heading South through the stunning scenery of the Black Forest in Germany and into Switzerland.

Mandello del Lario was the first proper stop on the tour – the home of Moto Guzzi. To celebrate 100 years of the Italian marque, a weekend festival was planned to celebrate all things Guzzi. Unfortunately, Covid lay claim to the event, but as Chris says; “It went on anyway. Covid can’t stop the Italians having a party!” 

“It [Mandello] is a small town, and everywhere had a Moto Guzzi – the shop windows, on the streets. Everywhere you turned, there was a Moto Guzzi!”

Chris and Liam rode to the edge of Lake Como to join Moto Guzzi in their 100th anniversary celebrations
Chris Donaldson and his 1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans at The Overland Event in Oxford
Chris prepares to leave The Overland Event in Oxford to head off on his Australian epic
Chris Donaldson and long time friend Liam on their pair of Moto Guzzis
Chris and Liam line up for photographs in the battle of old Moto Guzzi vs New

Afterwards, Chris and Liam made their way South towards Genoa.

“We joined a huge motorbike demonstration to complain about the state of the roads, after a bridge collapse that killed 43 motorists in 2018. Then we followed the Italian coast south from Portofino to Rome, then on to Pompeii, where our bike boots walked where the chariots had left grooves in the cobbled streets.”

Plans to head through to Albania were swiftly put on hold, due to the duo finding out that, because of Covid, the Greek authorities were only letting 140 people a day cross the border. Instead, they opted to take a ferry from the Italian city of Bari to Greece. The next day they cruised into Athens, where Chris claims “a much younger but just as stupid me had left for Israel 42 years ago!”

And in the battle of old vs new, Chris says things are going well. “The two Guzzies performed well, with a bit of competition between my 44-year-old Le Mans and Liam’s young pretender V85. The old bike’s winning so far – no problems!” But one of Liam’s ABS cables broke and he couldn’t fix it, so he hasn’t had ABS for the journey so far.

The pair left the two bikes at a Moto Guzzi shop and returned home for a couple of months to replenish their wallets and refresh their brains, before embarking on the next leg.

Chris Donaldson riding his 1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans near Jordan
As you get further into the middle of nowhere, the roads breathtakingly open out
Chris Donaldson riding his 1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans past the Colosseum in Rome
Out and about seeing the ancient sights of Italy. How better to do it than on two wheels?
Chris Donaldson riding his 1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans
A soggy Chris Donaldson stops off on the way to Jerusalem

In November 2021, they set out again.

“On starting the next leg, we shipped the bikes to Israel and spent a few days seeing the sights before we rode to the Jordanian border post in Eilat. Then disaster – the Israeli guards warned us that the Jordanians might not let us cross and we wouldn’t get back as Israel only issues Visas at the airport. We could be stuck in no-man’s-land forever…Tom Hanks, eat your heart out!

The Israelis checked with the Jordanians and sent them pictures of our bikes, but the Jordanians said they didn’t like them… They were probably BMW owners!”

And with that, they were forced to take the boat out of Israel, just as Chris had originally done 42 years ago. 

Deciding where to go from there proved a challenge, with Egypt to the left struggling with Covid numbers and Syria just above recovering from war. The pair eventually decided to ship the bikes back to Athens until the paperwork to cross into Jordan was completed. However, with a new strain of the Coronavirus spreading rapidly, the pair made the difficult decision to return home to ride another day.

Chris and Liam are now back out on the road seeing more of what the world has to offer. Follow the next leg of their journey on Instagram and check back to the Merlin Blog soon for part three.

Merlin are excited to be supporting Chris on his journey, providing him with an Expedition jacket to keep him protected on his travels.