Article written for Wildcraft India Pvt Ltd Blog.
Image: Johan Senekal.
Sitting at a small village café in Himachal, sipping chai, Johan Senekal a native of Johannesburg, South Africa, talks to us about his journey across the world on a Suzuki DR 650. Inspired by the documentary – The Long Way by Ewan and Charlie Bowman, Johan began his excursion on June 12th, 2013.
For the past one year, Johan’s one constant companion has been most trustworthy Suzuki DR 680. “There is something about Ewan’s and Charlie’s story, after watching that documentary for 14 times, I just had to head out on this journey. The planning was the most difficult part, the logistics, my job, which I had to quit, the bike I needed to ship and working on getting the right permissions… before long I embarked on my journey,” says Johan.
Beginning from Bahrain, Johan further moved towards Dubai, Bandar Abbas in Iran and later travelled through the regions of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before touching India in March 2014.
“I have always been intrigued and inspired by landscapes. For me the deep desire has been to see and explore the world in real time and not through pictures, videos or through television,” says Johan.
After being on the road for almost a year now, for Johan, the journey and the road have become home. “I never started on this journey hoping to make friends, I knew I would be experiencing different cultures, it was the landscape of the world that had me interested. But it is on this journey I have come to realise that people make a very important part of the landscape, in fact they are the ones who define and reshape the landscape,” adds Johan.
What began with burning curiosity and passion soon changed into deep euphoria. With each leg of the journey, Johan has met new people, he has gotten a taste of new experiences and cultures… and yet this South African biker believes there is so much more to explore and discover.
“I have learnt to challenge my limits, test my strengths and weaknesses. There were times when I felt true fear and absolute loneliness and yet I moved ahead. Never once did I believe that I had to turn back or stop… and now I am sure and confident of myself,” reminisces Johan.
The journey even changed his perspective of people, “there is so much said and done, there is so many stories you hear in the media, on the internet, that you inevitably form opinions and ideas. But in this journey I have found that people are the same everywhere, everyone is welcoming and loving and there is very little hate among the common masses and man.”
Johan specifically loved the people of Iran, “I will never forget the kind of love and hospitality I received in Iran. The people there are so full of love and happiness that it is simply infectious. I would be invited to some native’s house every day for food or to spend the night. It was one of the most heart-warming experiences I have ever had,” ruminates Johan.
Speaking about his current leg of the journey, Johan states, “In India, every 100 metres both the people and the landscapes change. The forests, beaches, the soils remind me of my home in Africa, but the culture diversity here is so much more. People change everywhere, but nothing beats India. It’s like the Northern and the Southern Part of the country are completely different from one another, the landscape, the people, the culture, everything is so different.”
There have been several interesting pit stops along Senekal’s journey. Whether it is meeting fellow bikers in Agra, or stopping for a biker’s meet in Bangalore, or sipping chai with locals in Manali… Johan has truly come a long way in every sense of the word.
Talking of his love for the outdoors, Johan states, “the outdoors bring in a sense of complete freedom, tranquility, peace, which you simply cannot find at home in your cities. You connect with nature, with yourself, the lack of people around, makes you look within and rediscover yourself,”says Johan.
Image Credit: Johan Senekal