Around the world on a Vespa

Why plan an ad­ven­ture on a big bike with a big bud­get when you can buy a mint green Vespa 125 for £700?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

In April 2015, 24-year-old fine art graduate Emma Tren­chard em­barked on an ad­ven­ture east, rid­ing a Vespa 125 from the UK, through Europe, Cen­tral Asia, and be­yond. This is the story of her amaz­ing jour­ney so far: “Ac­com­pa­nied by my much-loved Vespa 125, Gret­tle, I set off from my home county of Dorset to head east. With the world as my oys­ter, a blank can­vas on which to paint a colour­ful story, I set off into the un­known.

“I stuffed as many clothes as I could un­der my seat, piled my leather pan­niers with paint tubes and Pritt Stick, filled my yel­low top box with a sleep­ing bag and sketchbooks, and strapped a tent to the top of it all. Know­ing as much about me­chan­ics as my mother knows about our com­puter; I left with­out tools or spare parts, bid farewell to two ner­vous par­ents and headed for Dover.

“It took two rainy weeks to get to Salzburg, Aus­tria, a hugely ex­cit­ing stop for Gret­tle as it’s her home town (she is named af­ter the youngest child of the Von Trapp fam­ily from the film Th­e­sound­of­mu­sic).

Kyr­gyzs­tan? Why not!

“We scooted around the Sound of Mu­sic sites, be­fore set­ting off south­east for the Gross­glock­ner Alpine Pass. We jour­neyed through the dra­matic scenery of Slove­nia, to the coast­line of Croa­tia, through the bar­ren, rocky, lake-filled land­scapes of Mon­tene­gro and Al­ba­nia and on to Greece, camp­ing along the coast­line un­til fi­nally reach­ing Turkey.

“On the bor­der of Croa­tia and Mon­tene­gro, I was of­fered a job to teach art in Bishkek, the cap­i­tal of Kyr­gyzs­tan. This came as the per­fect so­lu­tion to my rapidly de­creas­ing funds, so I ac­cepted gladly, aim­ing to reach the cap­i­tal by the end of July.

Turk­ish De­light

“Hav­ing ar­rived in Is­tan­bul I be­came hor­ri­bly lost. I stopped to ask for di­rec­tions and mis­un­der­stood the re­sponse. I ended up driv­ing the wrong di­rec­tion down a mo­tor­way, round­ing a cor­ner, and crash­ing head-on with a van. Gret­tle lay un­der its front wheel, smoke bil­low­ing out and oil cov­er­ing the road. I was car­ried off on a stretcher to the lo­cal state hospi­tal.

“I es­caped from the hospi­tal with the help of lo­cal po­lice of­fi­cers and found Gret­tle later that evening in a scrap­yard. I'd been told she was a write-off, and was won­der­ing whether to opt for horse or camel to con­tinue my jour­ney, I was over­joyed to dis­cover she was fix­able.

“A young me­chanic welded Gret­tle’s fork back into place, ham­mered her into shape, and re­assem­bled her en­tan­gled electrics. Once we had fully re­cov­ered, we set off for the Black Sea coast­line.

Day­light rob­bery

“Reach­ing Ge­or­gia, I headed south­east through the lush and moun­tain­ous land­scape, en route to the cap­i­tal; Tbilisi. Three days later there was an es­cape at the zoo and bears roamed the rooftops, lions prowled the streets, and tigers ter­rorised tourists while Gret­tle and I es­caped into Azer­bai­jan.

“A po­lice car ac­cel­er­ated up be­side me and pulled me over. ‘Money’ ap­peared to be the only word of English they knew, which they re­peated an­grily sev­eral times, while prod­ding the small bag around my hip and point­ing at Gret­tle’s speedome­ter. The idea of Gret­tle speed­ing was ridicu­lous, but with no al­ter­na­tive I opened my wal­let. They saw two 50 Manat notes and snatched them. Out­raged and up­set, I pulled over at the next café. Two men pulled up in a car and said: “We saw your bike, and fol­lowed you here.” The driver, Rashad, said: “This Vespa...for speed­ing?” he laughed. “If you like, we will find these men, and get your money back.” I thought it highly un­likely, but had noth­ing to lose and went with him to a po­lice check­point.

“There fol­lowed many phone calls, dur­ing which I was asked to de­scribe the of­fi­cers. My mem­ory went blank and I couldn’t re­mem­ber if they had mous­taches; ap­par­ently a key fac­tor in the search. But 15 min­utes later the of­fi­cers had been found – and the chief of po­lice handed me my 100 (£50) Manat back!

‘Three days later there was an es­cape at the zoo and lions prowled the streets’ 'I left with­out tools or spares, bid farewell to two ner­vous par­ents and headed for Dover'

Roads of silk

“Tak­ing pas­sage on­board a cargo ship, it took two days to cross the Caspian Sea. As we drew in to Kaza­khstan the scenery changed dra­mat­i­cally to desert. With the tem­per­a­ture reach­ing over 60ºc at times, it was with some ef­fort that we tack­led the des­o­late and bar­ren Silk Road, and wan­dered the an­cient cities of Uzbek­istan, be­fore mak­ing it out of the heat and into the high ground of Ta­jik­istan.

“We dis­ap­peared into the wilder­ness of the Pamir Moun­tains, where ter­ri­ble weather caused the col­lapse of the Pamir high­way. As the moun­tains crum­bled be­fore my eyes, rivers en­gulfed the roads, val­leys were flooded, many peo­ple were killed and power cuts plunged the re­gion into dark­ness.

Into Afghanistan

“With a boat only strong enough to take pedes­tri­ans across the flood block­ing the M41, and a two-mile climb over the washed-up rem­nants of the land­slide, it was im­pos­si­ble for any ve­hi­cles to cross. With only five days re­main­ing on my Ta­jik Visa, Gret­tle and I had no choice but to tackle the Wakhan Cor­ri­dor. This pan­han­dled strip of land, lies in the far north eastern cor­ner of Afghanistan, its north­ern bor­der sepa- rat­ing Afghanistan from Ta­jik­istan is marked by the In­dus River, along­side which a bone-rat­tling road winds its way through the Cor­ri­dor, wedged be­tween the Pamir moun­tains and the Hindu Kush. It was the high­light of the ad­ven­ture, a breath­tak­ing road that reaches 4655 me­tres, be­fore com­ing to an end in south­ern Kyr­gyzs­tan.

“Gret­tle broke down 20 miles out­side the cap­i­tal, so I ar­rived at Bishkek by tow rope. I was greeted by a some­what star­tled school sec­re­tary, who towed me to my new apart­ment. It was just two days prior to the start of school.

“I have since been fired, and am now teach­ing English in Mon­go­lia, saving up to take on the next phase of my ad­ven­ture, on­wards to Canada for a cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of the globe!”

‘As the moun­tains crum­bled be­fore my eyes, rivers en­gulfed the roads’

Next week: 70 years of Vespa

A wrongt urn saw Emma and Gret­tle col­lide head-on with a van in Is­tan­bul

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