Her Story. A series of blog posts telling the stories of 'women who ride' from all corners of the globe. We hope that by sharing these stories we can help encourage other women to build their confidence, learn from others and inspire others.
This month we have a story from an adventure seeking babe, Amy Stals. An inspiring story from someone who isn't afraid to get out of her comfort zone and chase adventure.
I guarantee you will find this story totally motivating.
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My name is Amy, and my best friend is a 1981 Kawasaki Z500 named Jeff GoldBroooom. We live happily together in Clifton Hill, Victoria. I discovered my love for motorbikes four years ago. Before then I’d never even dreamed of riding.
It all began in 2012 when my boyfriend Louis and I came up with the crazy brilliant idea to travel around India and Nepal by motorbike. A few months later we arrived in Delhi ready to spend almost seven months exploring the colourful sub-continent. We were unlicensed, inexperienced and overloaded with gear, but we purchased a 2007 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet and naively hoped for the best. Louis took the controls and I rode pillion acting as chief navigator. We downloaded an offline GPS to our phone, and I used a shoelace to wrap it around my neck so it wouldn’t fall off while I navigated on the bumpy roads.
They don’t call it incredible India for nothing; it was unbelievable. We traveled over 12,000km north and south, putting all of our trust in one of the most unreliable bikes ever made and the kindness of humans. My first time in the saddle was in barren North India surrounded by the Himalayas. I was hopeless at u-turns, but I was in love with the experience.
What a way to learn? In hindsight, this was insane, but I have no regrets because this is where my love for motorcycles was ignited. The feeling of freedom was intoxicating. We were addicted, for us it became the only way to travel and we were already planning our next motorcycle adventure while on the road.
When we returned to Australia I got my Learners Permit almost instantly and bought a mango coloured 250cc Honda Hornet. A daggy, but perfect LAMS approved bike.
I practiced around some of Victoria’s popular rides such as King Lake and the Black Spur. I was wary, but confident enough to venture into new territory and travel overseas with Louis, on a bike of my own.
Thailand was where we started. We planned to ride the Mae Hong Son loop and the road of 1,864 bends, a route famous amongst intrepid motorcyclists. We flew into Chiang Mai and hired a pair of Honda CRF 250L’s. I was very nervous. I was on an unfamiliar bike so tall that my feet couldn’t touch the ground, plus I was just about to ride in an Asian city with ‘fluid’ road rules. We rode out of town for some practice and I had the hang of it in no time. The next morning we left the city early and headed for the hills where the traffic was okay, the road conditions great, and the views spectacular.
I passed a tour bus swinging around the twisty bends and I noticed a poor tourist vomiting from a window. At that point I knew I’d made the right decision. Traveling by motorbike is the way to go, and the best way to enjoy those twisty roads. The trip was a great way to ease me into riding in Asia, it’s impossible to scrape the surface of a country without your own transport, and there is nothing I could recommend more than exploring a country by motorbike. Traveling on two wheels gives you the freedom to go your own pace, and travel to places that are almost inaccessible for tourists.
When I returned to Melbourne I continued to ride almost every day knowing I’d need to keep my new found cornering skills polished for the next adventure.
I eventually out grew my Honda Hornet and upgraded to something that wouldn’t shudder when cruising on highways. This was when I met my one true love, Jeff GoldBroooom the 1981 Kawasaki Z500. He is old and slightly rough around the edges, so I had to learn the ropes of basic motorcycle maintenance to keep him happy and healthy. These are skills I should have learnt long ago, but I got lazy and always relied on Louis.
In 2015 Louis and I impulsively bought sale airfares to Kochi, India. They were $400, so we couldn’t resist. In February 2016 we took on India again, but this time on two bikes.
I was a little apprehensive about riding a Bullet in India. Apart from the crazy traffic and road conditions, I had not seen many women riding Bullets in India and wondered if it would raise any eyebrows or cause us any undue hassle. Louis and I decided to put it to the test. On our first day we hired two Bullets and to my surprise I received approving head nods, encouraging smiles and waves, and even the odd high five. This was enough to seal the deal. I was in love with my Bullet, and confident enough to take on the big city traffic. We ended up organising a long-term hire in Kochi and took to the hills of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. We hired a pair of 500cc Royal Enfield Classics.
The poorer less developed towns had me undone; they were nothing like the nice streets in Fort Kochi or the hills of Thailand. These roads were chaos and from what I could gather there were no road rules at all. It was madness. Halfway through day one I was holding back tears thinking what a terrible mistake I had made. I was in no way prepared for the journey I was so sure of. At a chai stop Louis noticed the tears and said, “well, this is the holiday, so what are you going to do?” I was terrified to continue, but there was no way I was going to let this defeat me.
I decided the only way to get through this was to try to truly understand it. I needed to relax, remain alert and watch the locals handle it. I noticed an organic flow of traffic that seemed to flow on respect, with a dash of law of the jungle-style traffic rules. By the second day everything started to make sense and I felt part of the flow. I was leaning hard into hairpin bends, zooming past slow trucks, dodging goats, and learning the bike’s strengths and limitations. We rode from Kumily into Munnar and it was the most spectacular ride we’d ever been on. Forest lined twisting roads opened up to sunny tea plantations, mountains and lakes. Munnar was magical and I was riding with a newfound belief in myself and a huge grin.
Towards the end of the day, my newfound confidence took a blow when a bus flew around a hairpin bend, clipped my handlebars and knocked me off my bike. I survived the close call with nothing but a bruise on my shin and $6 of repairs to the bike. Thankfully I was still in top shape to continue riding, but it was a good wake up call. I knew now I had to be prepared for anything, because you never know what’s around the next bend.
After exploring the hill stations and tea plantations we headed east to dusty Madurai, then up to the cool air of the Nilgiri Mountains, back down to the jungle plains and onward to the coast.
The riding was spectacular almost every day. There were more curves, twisty roads, and mountain passes than you could ever hope to pack into a ride. Add in the food, beaches, and amazing people we met along the way, and it gives a fantastic bike trip I would recommend to anyone. We rode 1200km and only touched a small part of India, but it was so diverse in landscape, language and culture that it felt like we’d been in a whirlwind of different countries with one thing in common, the road rules.
Stay upright and keep exploring.
Read more about our motorcycle touring here: https://louandamyvsplanetearth.wordpress.com/
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Thank you to Amy for sharing her story and if you would like to share your story with us simply go to the Contact Page of the website and fill in the form and we will gladly be in touch.