Welcome to my new blog Cork to Cape - the second leg of my round the world motorcycle adventure. As some of you know my first trip took me down through Central and South America on the back of a BMW R1100GS. This trip will take me from Ireland to South Africa on an F800GS. My goal is to take my time, enjoy the ride, meet new people and volunteer along the way. I welcome everyone to view and enjoy the blog, add comments and give me any advice on special places to see or people to meet. And, of course, if anyone wants to join me for a section of the journey or if there is a place you always wanted to visit, please come along.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A new beginning.

Day 225

Mileage 20,833 (33,334km)

                                         “It’s not a delay to stop and sharpen the scythe.”
Irish Proverb

It took a little over seven hours to retrace a journey that has taken more than 7 months and covered a staggering 20,833 miles. The flight from Amman, Jordan, back to Belfast was, by comparison, uneventful but as the plane soared high into the night above a darkened Middle East and then Europe, I couldn’t help but wonder about all that has changed since I began this motorcycle odyssey back in May. 

Riding solo
After Beth’s departure from Aqaba I felt banished into a dark exile of solitude, alone with my emotions, paralyzed by feelings of loss. For three days I waited, watching and listening. I wandered aimlessly through the city streets hoping to see her face among the bustling crowds of strangers, desperate for one more glimpse of her radiant smile. Every time I would hear the sound of a motorcycle my heart would race and my spirits would soar but time after time my hopes were crushed. In a seedy hotel room, neglecting my hunger and fatigue, I would stare endlessly at my laptop waiting for her to reach out until I could take it no longer. Without the support of my family and friends I would still be lost in those dark woods. As time passed and words of love, wisdom and encouragement reached me from around the world I slowly came to accept that our bond, our marriage, our connection had ended. The flame I carried within me that once blazed with passion now smoldered and quietly faded. On the morning of the fourth day, lost in my thoughts, I dropped a slice of toast on the floor and it landed face up. I smiled for the first time since this nightmare began and I knew the moment had arrived to let go, to transform my anguish into something positive.

Traveling alone brings with it a whole new set of considerations. Above all it forces you to push yourself out of your comfort zone, to open your eyes to what is around you and to actively seek out opportunities for social interaction. You are forced out of the habit of turning to your partner for solutions or advice. At times, you have to be more aware of the situation you are in and the consequences of your decisions. Ironically, it makes you more independent and less independent all at the same time. 

With Christmas approaching and the rare opportunity to see my entire family together in Ireland I made the selfish decision to squander a sizable chunk of my budget on a flight home. I haven’t been in Ireland for Christmas since the turn of the millennium and the thought of being surrounded by people I love was too much to resist. Through the Horizons Unlimited network of adventure riders I was able to make contact with a new HUBB community in Amman and after a few emails I had secured a place to store my bike while visiting Ireland. Methodically, I gathered my belongings and began to secure everything back on to the motorcycle, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle every item has its own place and focusing on a practical task helped to distract my thoughts after so many days in limbo. With the bike packed I turned north, taking one last detour past the last place I saw Beth. As I wound back the throttle and sped off into the desert I remembered an old saying I’d heard once, ‘Anyone can love you when the sun is shining,  it’s in the storms where you learn who truly cares for you’. I did not look back.

It was an effort to keep my mind on the road and I was thankful for the lack of traffic on my chosen route. As the miles rolled by strong crosswinds pummeled the bike and pushed fine sand across the road. Gradually, the road dropped down towards the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, and as the sun sank lower in the sky the temperature began to plummet. As night fell a lonely police outpost appeared on the road ahead, I checked my speed and realized I’d been pushing my bike too hard, I eased back on the throttle but they’d already spotted me and as I approached they flagged me over towards the side of the road. I greeted them in pidgin Arabic and my sorry effort was acknowledged with smiles and laughter, for the next thirty minutes the three officers on duty gathered around my bike and I tried to describe my journey, when I explained I was trying to get to Africa they pointed over my shoulder and informed me I was going in the wrong direction. They were friendly and helpful and very curious about my thoughts on their country. Thankfully, they showed no interest in issuing a ticket for my obvious speeding infraction and I was soon on my way again. 

The next morning my route took me inland and up, climbing 4000 feet as it entered the capital, Amman. A recent storm had left the city with a heavy blanket of snow and the locals were struggling to get all the roads open without any significant snow removal equipment. Most government buildings had closed their doors for the week and those that were open were providing limited services. My contact in Amman turned out to be a wonderfully kind Australian diplomat, named Damo, who met me as I entered the city and guided me back in to his part of town, founded in 7000BC the city’s streets seem to follow no logical pattern and I was glad of the help in finding my way around. I spent the evening enjoying the warm hospitality of Damo and his partner, Naomi, who kindly opened their home to me, a complete stranger, and made me feel welcome and cared for. After so many days alone it was just what I needed. That night we dined at the local ‘English pub’ and met up with some fascinating, local adventure riders who were keen to share stories and advice from their travels at home and abroad.

The following day I locked up my bike and made my way to the airport after a brief stop at the Royal Automobile Museum. An armed soldier at the entrance informed me that the museum was closed because of snow but, after I stubbornly refused to leave, the curator emerged and we talked. When I told him of my journey he opened the doors and I had the entire building to myself. Inside was a collection of vehicles gifted to the King of Jordan throughout the country’s short history including over 50 motorcycles. As the expansive roof overhead groaned and creaked under the weight of the snow above, steady drips of water splashed onto the exhibits and the surrounding floor. Parked at the entrance was a working replica of the world’s first ever motorcycle and I wished I had brought my own to compare the two. How things have changed in such a short time.

A day later, as I stepped off the plane in Belfast an icy wind quickly found its way into every gap in my clothing but the warm smile and strong embrace of my father brought a comfort I had longed for. To be home with family and friends after such a difficult period is just what I need right now. I still feel broken and raw but, with time, I will heal, the wounds will close and the memories will fade. Turning my back on a decade of devotion to one person is the hardest thing I can imagine but I will do it. As 2013 slips away so must my hopes and dreams of a future with Beth. With the new year comes a new beginning. I will return to Jordan on December 30th, collect my bike and continue my voyage to Cape Town. What lies ahead is unknown but one thing is certain, it can only get better.

Wadi Rum, Jordan, The Valley of the Moon.


Terry S.... said...

Sending Love and Support from Newcastle.. So good to hear you are going to be with family this holiday. Terry

beth anderson said...

Dear Irish

Your writing is beautiful and it brakes my heart. Only in your writing do I feel your love. I suppose things would have been very different if you were in person as you are on paper. It is strange that for 10 years we lived together, worked together, and experienced life together, but yet our recollections of what happened, our memories are so different. I know that right now you are in pain, so what you see or remember is through this fog of pain. I hope one day soon when the pain where's off you can see how good this is for both of us.

It is hard to read that you waited in Aqaba for me to reach out, I have tried many times to get in touch but each time I am ignored. It is hard for me to read that you devoted 10 years of your life to me when I know there was no devotion, only regret, and that I was reminded about that frequently.

I am writing this on your post so that I am not ignored. I am sad for how things worked out but I cannot be sorry. For I know, in my gut, in my heart, I made the right decision.

"Love, if it exists, must be constant and not the plaything of inconstancy."

N04 said...

beautifully written. I wish I had found this blog much earlier. You always had a lyrical way with words and it's beautiful to see you expressing yourself so honestly. Remember you are loved and you will love again. Have a wonderful time with your family and keep dropping pieces of toast on your way. Love & sticky jam. X

dingo said...


Give me a shout before you go, missed you last Christmas, email your number, remember there's plenty more slices left in that loaf, one door closes another opens, time heals all!
Enjoy Christmas, hope we can hookup..