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In March 2014, Steph Jeavons left London’s Ace Café with one goal: to become the first Brit in history to ride around the world on all seven continents (including Antarctica). Her plan: survive on a £5-a-day budget and return in 15 months’ time. Over three years, 40 countries and 55,000 miles later, Steph and her humble Honda CRF250, ‘Rhonda’, are still going strong – and without a single mechanical failure to date! Here are six weird and wonderful highlights from the adventure of a lifetime.
Canada: Sampling a… curious local delicacy
During her time in Canada, Steph stopped off at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City to try a one-of-a-kind cocktail. The recipe is simple: take a tipple of your choice and mix it with whatever you fancy – easy, right? But here’s the catch: if you want the ‘full experience’ (and a certificate) you not only have to down the drink, but kiss the garnish: a human toe.
According to legend, it belonged to one Louie Linken, a 1920s rum-runner who had his toe amputated after running from the police – barefoot, in the snow. Years later, the digit was discovered by a Yukon local who started slipping it into people’s drinks. The rest, as they say, is history. Horrible, horrible history.
So, how toe-curling was it? “Not as gross as I thought,” Steph said. “But they do give you a couple of free drinks before, which helps!”
Antarctica: Crossing the roughest sea in the world
Steph heard time and time again why she would never reach Antarctica. “Too dangerous,” some said. “Too expensive,” said others.
So how did she do it? “With brute force – and ignorance.”
Steph had tried and failed to find someone, anyone with whom she could “hitch a ride” to Antarctica. After months of searching, she finally blagged a spot on a sailing yacht that would take her through the stomach-churning, 500-mile stretch known as Drake Passage. Once she’d managed to secure Rhonda the Honda, there was a much bigger problem: waves – and lots of them.
“I was horribly sick for most of it,” she says. “I will never, ever do it again. But then again, I won’t have to!”
Reaching Antarctica was only the tip of the iceberg; Steph still had to figure out how to get her 105kg Honda CRF250 to shore. With the help of the crew, she was able to hold the bike in place as they navigated the icy seas, finally making it to dry land. The relief was immense.
“It was an extremely emotional moment,” she says. “So many people told me it was impossible, and I actually went and did it!”
Argentina: Overcoming isolation
In Argentina Steph felt lost, and to make matters worse, she couldn’t find motorcycle parts “for neither love nor money.” In the end, everything had to be shipped in from the US, resulting in an agonising, three-week wait. Steph was cut off; isolated. But it gave her an opportunity to reflect on the journey so far.
“I never felt like stopping, never felt like giving up,” she says. And when the spare parts finally arrived, she was off like a shot, more determined than ever.
Indonesia: Eating the world’s smelliest fruit
Here’s something you don’t know about Steph: she’s one of the few people in the world who actually likes durians – a fruit so stinky that it’s banned in some Asian airlines and hotels.
“One day I was taken by some local bikers to the nearest durian fruit stall. They expected me to be disgusted, but I didn't think it was that bad. But then I sampled the alcoholic version: durian vodka, which tasted much better as the night went on!
One whiff of durian fruit is enough to put some people off for life due to its unique aroma: a combination of rotten onions, decaying flesh and raw sewage. Yum!
India: Surviving a stampede
From dodging crashes to escaping landslides, Steph was lucky to make it out of India alive. But the closest call wasn’t battling the elements; it was surviving a stampede during the Kanwar Yatra.
The Kanwar Yatra (or Kanvar/Kavad) is an annual pilgrimage during which Hindu followers of Siva carry home holy water from the River Ganges, often over hundreds of miles. It draws quite a crowd – over 12 million people, in fact. And Steph was right in the thick of it. With a motorcycle. In stifling heat.
Not ideal then?
“Absolutely not! I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, but then I thought, ‘What’s the point?’”
Steph was squashed, squeezed, bumped ‘n’ bashed for over three hours. At one point, Rhonda was even pinned to the ground and trampled, and it wasn’t until the next day that she was able to make her escape.
Iran: Eluding the police
According to Steph, the scariest country on her adventure was Iran, for one reason in particular: it’s illegal for women to ride motorbikes.
One day Steph and her partner in crime, Rhonda, were led into a basement by a group of complete strangers whose only word of English was “Nescafé.” But 20 anxious minutes later, she was happily chowing down on a burger with a friendly family.
“I had to wear a hijab in Iran, and I was very nervous about what would happen if I even showed a bit of hair. But it actually turned out to be one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been.”
Over time, Steph grew less concerned about the culture and more worried about gaining weight from all the free food!