How to have a real adventure

Take a train or get on a bike to experience the thrill of travel as it used to be
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The Independent Online

Sanders and his wife Julia run Globebusters, a company dedicated to leading groups of bikers on this - the "Globebusters Trans-Americas" - and other spectacular two-wheeled journeys, and they are exponents of one of the greatest travel experiences still available to the modern gapper - overlanding.

Be it Beijing to Moscow, or London to Cape Town, there's no journey quite like one where you go overland all the way. "I think what attracted me was the romantic ideal," says Simon Lynch, 30, who recently travelled the length of northern Asia on the Trans-Siberian Express. "Everyone whizzes everywhere by plane nowadays. But journeys like the Trans-Siberian are how people used to travel."

Kevin Sanders and his 13-strong team left Anchorage at the beginning of August. "First we went north to the top of Alaska," he explains. "We all joined the polar bear club - a naked swim in the Arctic Ocean. We'll finish in Argentina in mid-December, so everyone flies home in time for Christmas." Sanders believes the bike is the best way to travel overland: "When I first came to South America it was as a backpacker, but motorcycling gives you freedom and independence; you never have to think about things like when the next bus is coming. You live the journey when you're on the bike; you experience the hot, the cold, the damp, the dust. When you're in a bus or a car it can just be like watching everything on TV."

Simon Lynch needed no mechanical expertise for his journey across Siberia. One of the world's most famous train journeys, the Trans-Siberian Express takes seven days to travel from Moscow to Beijing: first through the plains east of the Russian capital; then into the Ural Mountains that separate Europe and Asia; through the rolling tundra of Siberia; around Lake Baikal, the world's biggest lake, into the grasslands of Mongolia; and, on the final day, beside the Great Wall of China all the way into Beijing. And you can stop for days off along the route, as Lynch did in Ulan Bator.

"I was in a four-person berth, travelling alone, so I met new people all the time, from the Russians at the start of the journey to the Asians at the end of it," says Lynch. "It's really interesting to see how things change as you travel from region to region, be it food, architecture or people."

Tom Griffiths, the founder of Gapyear.com, agrees that overland is the best way to travel. "The essence of overland is that you really get to see a country," he says. "So many people only see whatever's between the airport and the hostel. There are far too many backpackers spending all their money on booze and clubbing and not seeing anything of the country they're in." And of course, the more you travel between places overland, the more you contribute to the local economy and interact with the community. "The backpacker trail is good for a lot of young people and first-time travellers because it's a safe route," Griffiths says, "but they say you can do Australia's east coast now without meeting any Australians."

Griffiths himself got off the beaten track when he hitchhiked round Canada as a 21-year-old. While he no longer recommends hitching as a safe way to travel, he learnt a lot about Canada by travelling alone and cross-country. "I met a lot of people who taught me so much," he says. "I grew up a huge amount in those 13 weeks."

Globebusters and Kudu Expeditions offer motorcycle journeys through South America and Africa respectively: www.globebusters.com; www.kuduexpeditions.com

For information on the Trans-Siberian railway or other overland trips, go to www.statravel.co.uk or www.gapyear.com

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