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Biker trotting globe for peace

November 26, 2006

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 25: With a penchant to see world transformed into a place that abounds in peace and love, Jeffrey Polnaja, a globe-trotting Indonesian biker on a mission, is riding for peace.

A motorcycle group leader, Polnaja is riding across more than 45 countries in his first leg, covering a distance of more than 330,000km. He is delivering the message of peace from his country at every stop he makes.

He is the first Indonesian biker to explore the world on a motorcycle. On his German-made 1150cc BMW adventure bike, specially designed for long journeys and difficult terrains, Polnaja, 44, has already covered Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India.

The ‘Ride for Peace’ would last five years and Polnaja would visit about 100 countries in the five continents, in two legs.

“Pakistan is the 13th country on my list,” said the biker who entered the country from India through Wagah border and arrived in Islamabad on November 22. He was received by Indonesian Ambassador Anwar Santoso.

With war-ravaged Afghanistan next on his list, the daring biker says he is not scared.

“But please don’t write when I leave for Afghanistan. I don’t want them prepared and waiting for me,” Polnaja said while joking with mediapersons.

On a serious note, he said: “I’m not afraid of dying and I will complete this mission no matter what it takes. From Afghanistan I will head towards Iran, then Middle East and then Europe.”

Jeffrey Polnaja had to go through one or two hurdles during his journey when he was held up — twice. “This one time they put a gun to my head and asked me what on Earth I was doing. I told them I was riding for peace. They did not harm me or steal my luggage. They were on my side when I told them that I was on a mission and I rode on safely.”

Polnaja’s family inspired him to embark on this adventure. “I was watching news which was showing horrific images of war and my 17-year-old son asked me what I could do to make a difference. And that’s when I told him that I will ride to promote peace.”

Riding eight hours a day, rain or shine, Polnaja has passed through most exotic places. His all-condition-jacket protected him from extreme weather and a special heating gadget installed in the handle bars kept his hands warm in freezing winds. “I repair the bike myself if it breaks down. I have slept on roadsides when there were no settlements in sight. Sometimes in rural areas, people offered me to stay with them and told me that I was crazy to ride alone across countries. It’s amazing to see how people can be so kind to strangers from outside and treat you like one of them.”

He takes pictures as he rides with a camera fitted to his bike, while the global positioning system guides him through town, cities and countries. “I went to Daman-i-Koh using the satellite system without asking for directions. And I loved the food there. You have a beautiful city,” he said.

Polnaja has covered 45,000 kilometres so far, and will end the first half of his journey in Europe in 2008. Before returning to his family in Jakarta, Indonesia, he will book his bike on a plane for Alaska, North America. In 2009, he will fly to Alaska to begin his second leg of the tour, heading towards South America. He would then fly with his bike to Australia and cover hundreds of kilometres to finish his Ride for Peace.

At a press briefing, Indonesian Embassy Second Secretary Albert Abdi said: “Polnaja brings a new image of Indonesia. We cherish our friendship with Pakistan.