The first leg of their journey consisted of battling through snow drifts. Nicki Hanke and boyfriend Moe Hoffman thought more than once about turning back.
“We were heading for the port at Antwerp from home in Germany but the weather kept making us ask each other ‘what the hell are we doing?’,” they say almost in unison. They persevered, caught the freight ship and a Transatlantic crossing later disembarked to the tropical heat, palm trees, tango and samba rhythms of Uruguay with their 1999 Tiger.
That was 18 months ago and they’re glad they followed their dream on a long, languid journey that has no end date, limitless funds and the strict proviso of only using ocean passage to travel between continents.
A working holiday (of sorts)
Limitless funds, endless trip? Sounds impossible, so how have a young couple – Moe is 30 and Nicki 28 – managed to swop Frankfurt for the high desert of Chile’s Atacama without dipping into their savings? “I started my own business as a web designer and built up my clients working alongside Nicki,” explains Moe: “… and we’ve carried on working while we’ve been here. It’s that simple, and being in South America means life isn’t too expensive anyway.”
It’s a model that takes some guts – especially two up with your partner. Risk-taking was part of the allure when the self-confessed “curious” couple decided to explore new cultures and landscapes after being inspired by German-born Triumph Tiger 100 world explorer Ted Simon.
Nicki jokes: “We knew it would be the ultimate test. Riding around the world is challenging enough but doing it with your partner riding pillion is make or break. We’ve taken the riding in turns and have had a few disagreements, but when something happens we try to solve it and it brings us closer rather than being mad at each other.”
From jungle to snow to 40° heat
After landing in Vitoria, Brazil, and Nicki’s first impression of “lush greenery and fresh fruit everywhere after days and days of sea and snow”, the couple headed south to the motorcyclist’s Mecca of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. During this journey, other kinds of weather attempted to get them to turn back.
“This time it was 40-degree heat and powerful wind as we headed down the east coast through Uruguay to Tierra del Fuego and the southernmost tip of South America. Both were no match for the Tiger which was untroubled by the heat, while the wind posed no problem because of the bike’s weight and the fact we were riding two up,” said Nicki. “Having such a reliable bike left us free to marvel at beaches that were empty but for penguins and sea lions.”
Moe has been “blown away” by the unique beauty of Patagonia’s mountains, “They are unlike anything I have ever seen”. It was the “super friendly” people of Argentina that provided his most vivid highlight: “Every time we stopped they invited us into their homes, offered us a place at their barbecue or just asked if we need help.”
For joint rider Nicki, the sheer scale and geologically breath-taking terracottas, blues and greens of the Atacama Desert where Bolivia, Chile and Argentina meet have been the highlight of the epic trip so far: “The high desert there takes you through paths of sand between incredible rock formations that lead into endless horizons.
“The Lagunas Route to get there is a dirt track through the southwest Bolivian lake region that leads to the Andes past the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. All will stay in my memory forever. They are like somewhere taken from another universe and dropped on Earth.”
Moving north from South America
The trip with no time limit – well maybe another two to three years – will eventually wind its way north via a slow boat to Cuba, before heading up to Canada and the condundrum of how to get across to Asia, with Korea and then possibly Russia options.
By then, the couple will be travelling on a bike each, with the trip capturing the imagination of the German Triumph team so much they are loaning them a Tiger 800 XRX Low for the remainder.
Nicki says: “That will make the dynamic very different because previously we‘ve been two behaving as one. It’s been a test of our relationship and there have been uncomfortable moments, but we’ve grown stronger after overcoming every challenge. Having two bikes will give us a little more freedom to have even more fun though.”
Reflections on home
Away from home for 18 months, the change in ride style is allowing the couple to take stock of what really matters in life. Nicki is unequivocal: “I’ve learned that you don’t need much to be happy. We’ve become very minimalistic because we can only have what we can carry, so we only carry what we need.”
And Moe chips in with a final thought: “I’ve discovered that no matter what happens there is always a solution and always someone who will help you. I’ve also realised that there is no greater companion on a journey like this than the Tiger… but don’t tell Nicki that.”
Want to follow Nicki and Moe’s adventure?
Visit their Moppedhiker site – oh, we didn’t mention they also like hiking – at https://www.moppedhiker.de/en/ for regular blog updates