On the Trail of Spanish Explorers

On the Trail of Spanish Explorers

There can be few people who push themselves and their motorcycles as far as Spanish rider Miquel Silvestre. But on his latest trip, the GS-riding lawyer-turned-adventurer will be taking on a completely new challenge – sharing his adventures with a fellow traveler. The BMW Motorrad enthusiast is currently in the early stages of an epic journey which will see him retrace the steps of forgotten Spanish explorers and revive their memories. His companion is a journalist, who will ride alongside Miquel – also on a BMW bike – and help him record their journey.

Standing atop an Egypitian tank.

Miquel’s itinerary will take him around Europe and much further afield, with the list of destinations including Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Finally, he will ship his motorcycle to Australia, to sample life ‘down under’.

The experienced rider could have been forgiven for taking some time out, after spending weeks in Iraq earlier this year getting to know the country. But resting is clearly an alien concept to Miquel – after Iraq he headed to the UK to make a film about the Spanish Armada’s failed attempt to invade Britain, followed by a trip to Nordkapp, Norway, and the Baltic Republics.

His current journey began in September, when he set off from Spain’s annual ‘EBMWR’ biker meeting at Formigal, in the Pyrenees. “I’ll be riding the globe for about 18 months,” Miquel says. “Ultimately, I will be publishing a new book, which will be about the Spanish explorers and I’ll be contributing articles to national newspaper, El Pais, and motorcycle magazine, Solo Moto.

“Because there is a lot of media work, there will be two of us riding the world. My companion is the journalist Alicia Sornosa, who is riding her own BMW F650GS. She is here to help me with all the media work and video recording, because this is such an ambitious project and I cannot do it by myself. It is going to be the first time I will have ridden with someone else, and I think sharing this kind of adventure with another person could be the hardest task.”

Miquel is a long-term devotee of BMW Motorrad, and he owns three different motorcycles – including the R1200GS which he is currently riding. “We haven’t had a problem so far with the motorbikes, they are really good ones and we also have the best equipment,” Miquel explains.

After setting out from the biker meeting, Miquel and his journalist companion headed to the Spanish capital, before catching a ferry to Civitavecchia. They spent time in the country, visiting Vitebo and Rome, where they used city archives to look up information about Spanish explorers. “Italy was the smoothest part of the trip so far,” Miquel says. “Very good food, wine and monuments, for example the Park of the Monsters, in Bomarzo. It was designed by the Italian nobleman, Pier Francesco Orsini, after his wife’s death in the 17th century. It is a terrible nightmarish vision of monsters which impresses every visitor.”

While Miquel is certainly a brave explorer – something his time in Iraq is testament to – he is also aware of the risks involved. Current political instabilities meant traveling to Libya was simply not possible, and Miquel was forced to deviate from his original travel plan. “As Libya is not open at the moment, and it is not recommended to travel to Syria, there was no other option but to go to Alexandria. We traveled on a Grimaldi Ro Ro cargo ferry, which sails from Salerno to all the important ports in the Mediterranean Sea, spending five days with the boat’s crew.”

More complications followed in Egypt, where the two motorcyclists endured extensive paperwork, high import taxes, a complex bribe-like social system, and endless bureaucracy. While there are still a number of destinations on the horizon, Miquel said he was most looking forward to seeing Sudan. “Every motorcycle traveler who has been there tells us about the wonderful hospitality there. It is a really poor country, but as the people share deep Islamic beliefs, they will give you all that they have. The good people I meet on my trips really are the thing I appreciate most about traveling, I think they make me a better person and help me understand more about life.”

Throughout the 18-month odyssey, Miquel’s bike will bear the stickers of Riders for Health, a charity which aims to ensure all African health workers have access to reliable transportation, so that they are able to reach the most isolated community outposts. Miquel, who previously spent time with the charity in Lesotho, aims to raise awareness of the cause.

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