Spring is the time to bring the motorbikes out of their winter storage, so be inspired by this journey and take to the roads of Europe with ACL for tours closer to home!
A couple of years ago, it must have been around spring, we googled a few destinations in order to set the mood for a road trip. Anyone who uses Google Maps to calculate distances between countries knows that as soon as there is a sea in between, Google gets stuck. For example, for some reason Google doesn't think it's possible to drive from Portugal to Japan! So, we gave Google some help and typed in: Lisbon to Vladivostok (Russia), from where one can catch a ferry for the short crossing to Japan. The result was encouraging: distance – 13,612 km; time – 158 hours (by car). The small letters called the attention to one single issue: 'this route has tolls!' What could possibly go wrong?
In our special edition of diariesof "diariesof Riding East" we share our motorbike journey from Portugal to Japan: which land route we took, which detours we made, which papers were needed, what difficulties we had, what is special about taking ferries, why we did part of the route on the Trans-Siberian railway, and what was in our luggage. We will also share what we liked the most about each country and the beautiful encounters we had with people from all over the world.
We literally flew through Western and Central Europe, with our first cultural shock coming in Hungary, where – for the first time since we had left Lisbon – language became a group of unrecognisable sounds that meant nothing to us. In Ukraine, we took the first ferry of the trip. It took us to Georgia, where our pace slowed down and where we discovered the tastiest tomatoes of the journey! Here we started to get the feeling that we were leaving home and were immersing ourselves in new cultures.
After two months in Georgia, winter struck us. It was time to store the motorbike somewhere safe and return home to work. We would have another winter break later on in Kyrgyzstan. However, before we arrived there, we discovered Armenia, the land of churches; and Iran, that easily took the prize for the country with the most hospitable people. From there we went to Azerbaijan, the land of fire. Then came the Silk Road that brought such a wide variety of sights with it: the vast and deserted steppes of Kazakhstan, the architecture jewels of the Silk Road in Uzbekistan and the nomads of Kyrgyzstan. Unable to enter China with our own vehicle (well, possible, but beyond our budget) we entered Kazakhstan again, for a short transit through Great Russia, until we reached Mongolia, the land of blue sky. We went back to Russia to take the Trans-Siberian railway up to Khabarovsk, from where we drove the last kilometres until we reached legendary Vladivostok. There, we crossed to hectic South Korea where we travelled for a couple of weeks until we took the last ferry of our trip, to reach Japan, the land of the rising sun.
After finishing the trip, the odometer showed we had driven around 47,000 kilometres. The calendar showed three years had passed since that beautiful photo taken at the south-westernmost point in Portugal. We took a bit longer, and drove more kilometres than Google's prophecy (the proof that you should not believe everything you read on the internet!), but to be fair, it could well be because we chose the option 'route without tolls'; they did warn us!
Detailed journey is described in the special edition "diariesof Riding East" and if after reading this magazine, you still don’t understand why someone would drive all the way to Japan, it will be our turn to ask you, why not?
© Text and photos: Jorge Valente
Find the diariesof Riding East magazine and all the other diariesof magazines on diariesofmagazine.com, or at the ACL Shop in Bertrange.
With our partner We Love To Travel, the ACL offers several motorbike tours in Europe at a special rate for ACL members.