World’s Most Traveled: Peter and Kay Forwood – The Endless Motor Cycle Tour

Peter and Kay Forwood - Surface Travel Map

Peter and Kay Forwood, are two little known, but two legendary Australians, who have been cruising the world, on and off with their trusty Harley Davidson motorcycle for the past 14 years. I have been following there adventures on the Internet for a few years now, and I’m blown away by what they have achieved and experienced with their travels.

In 2008 their motorcycle was recognised as the only vehicle on the planet, that has been ridden or driven in every single country in the world, as per the United Nations list, that currently stands at 192 (for further reading on the confusing topic of what defines a county, you can read an earlier post of mine here).

The Harley Davidson was purchased new, and has now been ridden over 580,000 kilometres of the worlds roads. I contacted Peter and Kay a few weeks ago, and they gave me permission to use some details from there website for this post. As you will see by reading below, there is now doubt that Peter and Kay are modern day, ‘Travel Legends’.

Did you plan to visit all the countries of the world before starting?

DR Congo - Slow going, less than 100 km a day, for ten hours travelling time.

No. The trip was initially intended to be 6 months, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, just myself, but while in Malaysia I heard of a new motorcycle rally in Thailand, was having a great time, and suggested to Kay that she should join me for a month in the middle to attend that rally.

At the time we still had two children in school and one at university, so Kay’s mother looked after them for the month Kay joined me. This became the same pattern during the second 6 month trip from Bangladesh to Greece, when Kay joined me in India and Pakistan for a month about half way. By the end of 1998 our children had completed school and were independent to the extent we felt we could leave them to look after themselves in our house, in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, while we travelled full time.

It was about this time we started thinking of visiting as many countries as possible leading up to the 100th Anniversary Celebrations of Harley-Davidson manufacture, which was to be held in the USA in 2003. By the time of the celebrations the motorcycle had visited 143 countries and rather than calling that the end of the trip we started planning to visit the remaining 50 unvisited countries of the world, but as they were dotted all over the place, most were islands, it took a further five years to finish the ride to every country of the world, using the same motorcycle.

How have you afforded to travel 10 months of every year for 13 years?

Norway - The magnificent Lofoton scenery hasn't changed in the 12 years since our last visit

Norway - The magnificent Lofoton scenery hasn't changed in the 12 years since our last visit

This is perhaps our most consistent question, often asked by young backpackers, to whom we smilingly reply. Work hard from now until you reach our age, save your money, and there should be enough to travel around the world, at least as a budget traveler.

The answer is fairly true of our circumstances, however we did not know what we were saving for. But there are two ways of making money, earning it, and not spending it, so perhaps as importantly we have tried to remove all at home costs from our expenses. Our house is rented, giving us income. We have some small investments that until the recent economic downturn were performing quite nicely. Sometimes it is suggested we are quite rich, financially, to which we again semi jokingly reply.

We were when we started the trip. It is also commonly asked how much has the trip cost. This is something we haven’t kept records of. I guess we would view it as asking someone, how much they had spent in the last 13 years living, as that is how we now see our travelling, just another way of living.

What was the most dangerous situation you encountered?

A new back tyre and welding the cracks from the Afghan accident.

A new back tyre and welding the cracks from the Afghan accident.

Apart from just riding a motorcycle in traffic, in dozens of different countries, which is definitely the most dangerous aspect of our trip, we have been mugged twice, threatened at gunpoint once, and even though we traveled through many war zones, areas of civil dispute and countries under military rule, we never felt threatened at those times.

We were first mugged in Brazil, on Copacabana Beach (28/5/02), at night. Our own fault, we had read of its dangers but had forgotten and taking our short wave radio onto the sand to listen to the news, three men approached us, one demanded money at knife point, and whilst I wrestled with him, another held Kay, and the third relieved me of my wallet. It was all over in a matter of seconds, with them escaping along the dark seashore.

The second incident, in Ethiopia (23/2/06), in daylight, in a reasonable area for the capital, Addis Ababa, a man walked a little close to Kay, quickly reached over grabbing her necklace and ran off into side streets with me ineffectually pursuing him. Where we felt most personally threatened though was crossing the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Central African Republic (5/12/00). It was late in the day and we were met by military and police personnel at this tiny border crossing that would rarely see any foreigners crossing.

The government hadn’t paid wages to its public servants for over a year and the military official confronting us seemed to be either intoxicated or on drugs. When he demanded a payment for allowing us into the country, effectively a bribe, something we have refused to pay the entire trip, believing it only leads to more corruption and hardship for the locals who are constantly fleeced, we refused. He instructed his subordinate to load his rifle with ammunition, which he did, pointed the rifle at us, and proceeded to count 1. 2. 3. indicating he would shoot on three.

Luckily, or I would not be telling this story, the command to fire never arrived, and having played his final card the officer left, not to return. We settled into the police compound, camping for the night, and were allowed entry to the country the next morning, after obtaining a receipt for any charges.

You passed through many countries at war, were you concerned?

DR Congo - Always an audience

DR Congo - Always an audience

Even if a country is at war, it is usually only in a small area where the fighting is occurring, not right across the country. When we crossed the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country was divided into three areas, the government held area, plus two rebel held areas to the north. At the time, the two rebel held areas, where we crossed, we considered to be safer than the government held area.

The rebels were fighting against government corruption and whilst fighting was occurring along the bordering areas we passed well away from those areas and saw no signs of war. There was however destruction along our route, destroyed and looted buildings, from the Lords Resistance Army, who had only left the area a couple of months earlier. The same situation occurred in Iraq.

We entered the safer, almost autonomous, Kurdish region in the North, crossing over and back from Turkey, and again saw none of the fighting that was occurring further south in Iraq. Perhaps the most dangerous situation we encountered was where there was tension leading up to a civil war or a coup. This happened to us in both the Central African Republic and in Cote d’Ivoire. There was open civil unrest against the governments of both countries, tyres were being burned on the roads and there were many roadblocks, where government officials were demanding money or goods from locals and ourselves.

Both these country’s governments, soon after, collapsed under pressure. Perhaps Liberia and Sierra Leone were the most dangerous countries we visited. Fighting had been occurring in both for a long time. Sierra Leone was officially then at peace but the United Nations hadn’t yet moved into the region bordering Liberia, where we needed to cross and whilst fighting was in a lull in Liberia there was a tenseness and erupted not long after our visit. During the visit to Afghanistan, again there was a lull in the conflict. Whilst fighting was still occurring in the south suicide bombings hadn’t yet come to Kabul.

In Somalia, we only visited the more peaceful region of Somaliland and again avoided the worst of any conflict. It is hard to realise that life in these war torn countries still goes on as best and normal as possible. People still go to work, the fields are tended, what food there is is prepared and eaten, people survive as best they can, there is little choice.

What are your plans now that you have visited every country?

Indonesia - Leaving the H-D shop in Thessalonika

Indonesia - Leaving the H-D shop in Thessalonika

As there was no initial aim to visit all the countries of the world with the one motorcycle, the fact that we have now done so hasn’t affected our real reason for traveling, we just like to travel by motorcycle, and intend to continue to do so while ever we, and the motorcycle, are capable of doing so. We plan to ship the motorcycle from New Zealand to Europe at the end of February, returning to countries and places we liked on our first visit, or to see places we missed.

Our traveling is likely to be a little slower, less focused on an achievement, more oriented to traveling with others and attending rally’s in different countries, but we still like time to ourselves. The areas of the world we wish to return to are Europe, North America, South America and southern Africa, a large chunk of the world perhaps, but we missed so much on our 13 year reconnoitre, now we would like to have a good look, which we expect to take at least another five plus years. We estimate the motorcycle has ridden just 1% of the worlds roads leaving plenty of scope for the future.

Has travel changed the way you look at the world and yourselves?

Fitting the temporary belt made from two broken belts

Fitting the temporary belt made from two broken belts

Most people only have the media view of the world, or a small inkling from a holiday overseas, but to have had the opportunity to visit many places in depth our travels have indeed changed our view of the world. Perhaps the biggest influence on us is minimising waste.

When so much of the world has so little, so little they can afford, less even to waste, we have become minimalists, selectively only buying what is necessary, wearing clothes to destruction, eating food to completion. We have also learnt that almost all of the worlds problems are directly associated with overpopulation.

The more people, the more greenhouse gasses. The more people the more demand for forest products. The more people the more fish, animals, vegetables that need to be grown, placing more demands on nature’s shrinking resources.

We are also more aware of, although not necessarily more tolerant of, different cultures influence on our way of life. We have learnt not to judge nor put our values on other cultures, but don’t feel some other cultures offer us the same respect.

When will your retire the motorcycle?

Zambia - Loading Bike Via Crane

Zambia - Loading Bike Via Crane

In a perfect world we will all retire together, Kay, the motorcycle and myself, at a time long into the future. Unfortunately the world is not always perfect but we see no reason to replace our motorcycle, and there seems no reason to replace Kay, so maybe the world will be a little perfect for us for a while longer.

Peter and Kay have the chronicles of there travels over at Horizons Unlimited, you should head over to the site for further reading on this amazing couple.

For those wishing to start their own world motorcycle adventure in the footsteps (or tyre tracks) of Peter and Kay, then you may wish to check out the Achievable Dream DVD by Horizons Unlimited.


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     About the author

Jason has traveled the world extensively during the last 20 years, with overland journeys on six continents and across over 90 countries. This site serves as a chronicle of the images and tales from these journeys, as well as offering advice and general information for other like minded travelers.

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  • GlobalButterfly

    This post just made my day, what a beyond incredible couple on a beyond incredible mission. WOW!!!

  • Erica Kuschel

    Just… WOW!

  • Jason

    Erica, I think that’s the reaction from everyone who has traveled themselves, and then read about what Peter and Kay have done.

  • Jason

    Andi, to most it would be an impossible mission, but somehow they have managed to achieve this. Some people may think doing something like this, is just a matter of throwing money at it. They can take it from me, that Peter and Kay must have loved what they were doing, as there is no way they could have gone 14 years, travelling through some of the most remote parts of the world. As you would know all to well, travel has it’s ups and downs, and is not always sipping cocktails by the beach.

  • Jaime

    I had NEVER heard of these 2 people. I am so intrigued by what they did, thats crazy. I seriously spent a few minutes just staring at the map I have on my wall thinking WOW to go to every single country by bike… how crazy. Its such a crazy thought but possible.

  • Jason

    It certainly is possible, as they have shown, but Peter and Kay have also dedicated a good portion of their lives to their quest, and no doubt sacrificed quite a number of other things as well. Thanks for your input Jamie.

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