At 33, the young French Melusine Mallender already has quite an experience when it comes to motorcycle touring. After the discovery of the Chilean Patagonia on a kayak, the crossing of Asia all the way to Japan on a 125cc and the discovery of the hidden beauties of the ancient Persian empire on a Crossrunner, the traveller just returned from a 4 months bike trip to discover the Great Lakes of East Africa; a region which deserves to be known for the beauty of its landscapes and the kindness of its people.
Freshly returned to France, the motorcycle traveller gives us some of her time to answer our questions and give us the best motorcycle travel tips.
Hi Melusine! For starters: how do you recommend choosing a motorcycle travel destination?
My approach is rather unusual but it can be an example. My first motivation when I choose a destination is to discover the reality behind the prejudice that may exist about this particular place. I went to a lot of destinations that are not very sexy in our minds just to see what is really happening over there.
This was the case during my last trip to Rwanda, which remains strongly associated to the 90s genocide in our minds. In reality, it is now a modern country, in full economic development and on the forefront regarding ecology. Plastic bags are banned, there are buffer forests around cities and the roads are in excellent condition! It was a real shock (a positive one) and I was extremely well welcomed.
So my advice when you pick a destination: do not let yourself get influenced by what people say and be curious about still unknown or poorly judged places.
What are the 5 things that you must not forget when packing for a motorcycle adventure?
The question is not easy, but for the essentials I would say:
• A pair of sunglasses,
• Tie-down straps, the best to attach the bags on the bike,
• WD40 to loosen up just about everything,
• Music, especially if you are travelling alone. It gives a whole new dimension to the trip,
• A chocolate slab for hard times (to be wrapped in waterproof plastic ... it melts!)
But to be honest I also have another tip: take as little as possible! Everything you take you may lose during the trip. And it puts more weight on the bike, so less handling, more complications ... I think the key to comfort on the bike is to travel light.
For you, what makes the charm of a motorcycle trip versus a more “classic” trip using a car or other means of transport?
For me the most important highlight is really the freedom to go wherever you want. You decide your itinerary, your pace and you have no constraints. You are also in direct contact with the elements, wind, odour, heat or cold, which multiply the sensations. And there’s no doubt the bike is a great way to meet people! It is a vehicle that stings curiosity, favours contacts and brings people together in an incredible way.
Travelling alone on a motorcycle when being a woman: how does that go?
There are of course disadvantages to travel alone when you are a woman. In many places, people believe it means you are single and "looking for adventure" and not necessarily in a good way! I sometimes get advances, unpleasant remarks or even marriage proposals from the gentlemen ... The trick is to stay clear about your intentions and firm when you feel that the situation starts to drift.
But a woman travelling alone also intrigues and people come and talk to you without fear. You get invited very easily to share a meal or moments of life and people will also tend to protect you. In addition, the act of driving a motorcycle gets you out of the usual housewife archetype and imposes a certain respect that gives you a somewhat special status.
However, basic safety rules have to be followed. For example, I have gone wild camping on my own only where I felt really safe, in Mongolia for example.
Thank you very much for all these motorcycle travelling tips! Now, what are your plans for the future?
Well, I always have lots of projects in my head! I just returned from my trip to Africa but I’m already eyeing South America and, even though it may be a bit more complicated, Pakistan and its famous Karakoram highway... But before that, a documentary about my last trip to Africa is in full swing. I'll let you know when it’s airing...
If you also want to organize a motorcycle trip, our Vintage Rides travel advisers will help you choose the destination that best suits you.