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Living colours: From Melbourne to Deosai

Updated September 10, 2015

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Liz Kylie is a mother of two boys and teaches English literature at a secondary school in Melbourne, Australia. In October 2014, Ms Keily, her partner Con Feyen and friend Rob Gilpin set off on their motorcycles to travel from Melbourne to London.

In the last 11 months, they have explored nine Asian countries, seeking out remote communities and areas not frequented by tourists. They have been blogging throughout their journey on their website roostersoverland.com. In August, they entered Pakistan through the Wahgah border, travelling across Punjab, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan to set up camp in Deosai National Park in Diamer district. Dawn spoke to Ms Keily about the trio’s incredible journey.

Q: How did you decide to embark on this trip and where have you travelled so far?

A: While I only recently learnt to ride a motorcycle, my partner Con Feyen is an experienced rider. But since both of us are avid travellers, such a journey was a dream we shared. He came up with the idea of travelling from Melbourne to London by motorbike.

We were initially held back by the challenge of packing up our lives in Australia. We had jobs, homes, families and friends. I have two sons in their 20s. But eventually, we realised it was only one year out of our lives and we would have the opportunity to learn so much about different cultures and people.

In October 2014 we set off from Melbourne, travelling to Darwin in Northern Australia, where we put our motorcycles on a cargo ship and flew to Timor Leste. We then began travelling west crossing into Indonesia. To cross the Malacca Straits, between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, we put our bikes on a small vegetable boat.

We travelled through Malaysia into Thailand, where I had an accident and fractured my foot. So we rented a house while we waited for me to be well enough to ride again. We set off after two months, travelling to Laos, then Myanmar and through Myanmar, we entered the northern states of India. We rode around the seven sister states of India, travelled to Nepal and then back into India where we entered Pakistan, through the Wahgah border.

Q: How was the experience of travelling in Pakistan?

A: Many people fly over Pakistan because of the perceived security risks and we considered that as well. Especially as a woman on a motorbike I was concerned about how I would be treated. But Pakistan turned out to be a beautiful surprise. Our goal upon entering Pakistan was to ride the Karakorum Highway to Khunjerab Pass and the Chinese border.

It was astounding how safe I felt. Wherever we travelled I was respected and cared for. We were offered places to stay and provided with food. In restaurants, people would stare at us, but then approach us asking, “What is your country?” Inevitably a conversation around their favourite Australian cricketer would begin. And in Pakistan’s north, I found everything to be grand, extreme, awe inspiring and majestic.

Q: What were some of the highlights and challenges of your journey?

A: While we have seen so many incredible things, the best part has been finding communities where the cultures are still intact. I enjoyed visiting Arunachal Pradesh, one of the seven sister states in India which sits on the border of Tibet, Myanmar and Bhutan where the culture is still strong as well as northern Pakistan because the traditions here are also strong.

It saddens me to see that the world is developing a bland monoculture. So it was great seeing how the community ties are still strong in some parts of the world, because this is something western society has lost.

The most difficult part is the riding itself because I am inexperienced. The monsoons in India were also tough. We rode through the rain and the mud along rough roads. Paperwork and visas were also a big challenge. The Pakistani visa was one of the hardest to get. My teammate Rob had to travel back to Australia for his Pakistani visa.

But I have learnt through this experience that if one has dreams, they should follow them. Women in particular are very strong people and if they have a dream, they should pursue it even if it frightens them because in the end it is worth it.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2015

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