After the total isolation of a 3,000km ride on a single road through the arid heart of Australia, Magnus Petersson was ready to see another human being again.
Being pulled over by police in Indonesia wasn’t quite what he had in mind. Until they asked him to pose for a selfie alongside his Tiger Explorer because being a bearded, Scandinavian blonde and riding a powerful British bike, he cut a rare sight in South East Asia, where crowds were always eager to greet him.
He’s now in Nepalese capital Kathmandu, a third of the way back to his home city of Stockholm in Sweden. But he has already learned some important lessons.
“I’ve found that most human beings want to help other human beings. I spent most of my time away from the tourist areas and people were thrilled to see me in their home village or town,” he says.
“I’ve discovered that people are actually nice and friendly. The trip is making me a better person and, as a result, making me love my Triumph and riding even more.”
“… continue for 40 hours and then turn left. There’s something wonderful about that level of simplicity”
The loneliness of the road to Darwin – also known affectionately as The Track, Explorer’s Highway and Stuart Highway after explorer John McDouall Stuart who discovered the route in the 1850s – contrasted with the warmth of strangers in a way retail strategy consultant Magnus could never have imagined.
“When I got to Adelaide and looked at the satnav before I headed north it said turn right in 100 metres, continue for 40 hours and then turn left. There’s something wonderful about that level of simplicity but it’s also joyous when you eventually see another human being.”
“It’s the main central road through Oz and I’d urge everyone to do it once, just for the sheer remoteness. It’s spectacular, and ranges from desert to salt flats to vegetation, with no other humans for hours on end.”
Magnus has been living in Melbourne for the past two years, so this was a roundabout way of heading home: “I wanted to do a big trip and the seed was sown when I talked to a few mates over a beer, or probably four, and realised Australia to Sweden would be complicated but possible. As I looked into it more, the complications faded away.
“Visas and permits were the only headaches but with a bit of perseverance it was do-able. Once I got into the admin side of it, I realised it wasn’t actually that bad because people are really helpful, especially when you tell them what you are doing.”
Best thing I ever did
Magnus has been riding Triumphs for 10 years but was reluctantly forced to sell the Speed Triple he’d bought for getting around town when he first flew into Oz on extended leave.
“Towards the end of last year I figured it was time to have a break from the daily churn and gradually figured it was possible to ride my way home. I put a deposit down on my Explorer and once I was financially locked in, there was no turning back. It was the best thing I ever did.
After the desolate thrill of the road to Darwin and the repeated friendly police blocks of Indonesia, Magnus’s next highlight was discovering Nepal.
The cool mountain roads were a relief
“I spent most of my time away from the tourist areas and people were thrilled to see me in their home village or town. In the far east, most people only ever see 125cc scooters, so to spot a white Scandinavian guy on a big bike must have looked quite exotic.
“I’ve been 10,000km and so far Nepal is the best. After the 40-degree afternoon heat of Thailand and Burma, where I adapted my days to start before dawn, the cool mountain roads of Nepal 4,000 feet up, were a relief.
“They are spectacular too. It’s the most stunning country I’ve been to. They seem to build the roads along and over the mountains and the views are simply amazing. You come around a corner and you have a valley with a 6,000-foot drop right next to you.”
The earthquake of 2015 has taken its toll but that, says Magnus, is where the versatility of the bike comes to the fore: “You might ride along a great road for two hours and then hit a bridge across a river that hasn’t been repaired. That’s when the Explorer comes into its own, going through rivers and up sand banks easily.
“Everything just works with it. I’ve dropped it a few times and only suffered a cracked indicator. It’s such an easy, low-maintenance bike and it chews away the miles on a good road and goes over rocky, sandy slopes on a bad one. Basically, it does the job – well.”
There will be other adventures
Next stop is India and the Middle East before Magnus reaches Europe: “I’m not particularly looking forward to getting back to my home continent because it’s a step closer to the mundane, but on the plus side, there’ll be more places to stop easily and have a good rest.”
Within a few months, the wandering Swede will be back home behind a desk and ‘probably enjoying a break from riding’. But he admits: “That said, my life plan doesn’t involve me working in an office for the rest of my life. There will be other adventures.
“I’d love to be able to make a living out of riding and writing about it, but this first time it’s just for myself. And I’m loving every second of it.”
Let us know about your adventure. Send the details to For the Ride and we’ll be in touch.