Traveling the World by Motorcycle: Part 2

The exciting journey of Ramona Eichhorn

By Genevieve Schmitt, Editor

Ramona Eichhorn and her traveling partner, Uwe (Ooo-vey) Krauss are nearing the end of a five-year motorcycle journey to nearly every continent on the planet. In part two, read about the interesting details of their journey. What is it like spending all their time with the same person? How many miles do they cover in day? Where do they stay? How do they handle breakdowns? Read about Ramonas history-making journey.

While stopping to take a photo of this volcano in Bolivia, Ramona visits with a little native girl. There are llamas in the field and two houses in the background, literally in the middle of nowhere.

WRN: What is your relationship with Uwe? What is it like spending 24 hours a day 7 days a week with the same person on a journey like this?
You don’t want to know! No, I’m just kidding. First of all, forget about the perfect traveling partner. There is no such thing. If you happen to meet someone who shares the same philosophy of traveling and with whom you don’t have to compromise too much you can call yourself very lucky. I found that in Uwe. He seemed to have everything I was lacking when we set out first: 13 years of riding experience, very good mechanical skills and common sense. Over the years, we became a really good team. We dot even have to talk anymore. One look and we know what the other is thinking (Sometimes this can be a curse, too!)

There are many advantages of riding with someone else that outweigh the downside. Working as freelance photojournalists for 14 different international magazines, we are constantly taking riding photos, which is a lot more efficient if there’s the combination of a model and a photographer. It feels good to have someone with whom to share the good and bad moments. I’m able to take riskier, more adventurous trails because I know Uwe will help me to carry my KTM over a fallen tree or dig it out from a three feet deep mud hole.

This is the southern region of Chile where there are many river crossings and wild landscapes. Here the river is about three feet deep. Ramona says her feet get wet, but the wind from riding dries them out.

When I was pushed to my limits in extreme situations like riding across the Sahara desert at 130 degrees and hadn’t had a shower in days, the last thing I could take was a guy who came up with some great riding tips after I had just flown over the handlebars.

Living a nomadic lifestyle together with someone else in a small tent for five years isn’t for everyone. Its a choice you make. And of course, we have arguments from time to time, but we’ve learned to look for effective solutions by simply trying to break patterns. We both hate to waste our time. Sometimes, we DO need a break from each other, so Uwe takes a left turn, I take a right and we meet again farther down the road after a couple of days.

WRN: How do you make money along the way and how do you budget your money?
Uwe and I are a team. We are working as freelance writers for 14 different international motorcycle and outdoor magazines as well as photographers. Uwe and I are also giving slide presentations at motorcycle related events. We just came back from the Americade and the Honda Hoot. We also sell our our high quality taken of the exotic places we’ve traveled.

Since we never spend any money on accommodation and buy our food at local markets to prepare our gourmet meals on our little petrol stove, we live on $300 per person per month. The biggest expenses are petrol and airplane tickets.

This is how Ramona and Uwe crossed the border into northern Brazil. They found a guy with a canoe and paid him to float them across the river with their bikes hoping the wooden boat wouldn#39;t sink.

WRN: How did you get yourselves and your bikes from one continent to the next (Africa to Australia)?
We prefer flying our babies to shipping them. Contrary to common belief its not much more expensive. Shipping takes much longer. There’s always a higher risk of theft and much more bureaucracy and red tape involved in the process of importing a bike. You end up needing accommodation in a port, which usually isn’t the nicest place to hang out.

I like to crate my bike myself and put it on the plane ahead of me. That way it will be waiting for me at my destination and all I have to do is pick it up and ride it out of the airport. Flying my KTM costs roughly as much as a ticket for myself. I like to think of it as paying for my kid.

WRN: Any major motorcycle breakdowns? If so, how did you handle them?
Considering that so far, we’ve put some 100,000 miles on our 640 KTMs in extreme riding conditions and haven’t had any major breakdowns, its an outstanding achievement for a single cylinder engine. Of course, we have to deal with normal wear and tear like replacing wheel bearings, brake pads, chains and sprockets. More often than not, we end up repairing our bikes in the ditch along a dusty gravel road surrounded by many curious bystanders. We don’t worry about breaking down too much. We’ve learned that there’s ALWAYS some form of help, even in what sometimes seems a desperate situation. We have towed each other to the next workshop with a rope many times. Its fun. I’ve fixed many flat tires, the record being six in one day down on the wind-swept plains of Patagonia. I can do the basic stuff, like tire and oil changes, but Uwe is the better mechanic, by far. We overhauled the engines after 70,000 miles in a workshop in Colombia and were surprised about how little worn they were. We only had to replace the timing chain and the wheel of the water pump, which was in pieces.

Ramona in Anchorage, Alaska, fixing one of the many flat tires she#39;s had along the way. The most she and Uwe had in a day was four flats in Patagonia where thorny cactus and sharp rocks took their toll on their old tires. Four hundred pumps on the bicycle pump they carry inflates a repaired tire.

WRN: Any major illnesses or accidents?
Nothing very disturbing, really (knock on wood). Drinking camel milk in the Sahara desert that had been stored outside under the boiling hot sun at 130 degrees for some time turned out not to be such a great idea. It left me with severe diarrhea (in other parts of the world its called food poisoning) for about three weeks. As far as dropping my bike goes, I’ve stopped counting how many times. Falling off a dirt bike isn’t scary, but it requires a special technique. I feel much safer riding on dirt than on pavement. Once, I had a little accident in Peru on an asphalt road. A dog jumped out of a bush and right into my front wheel. The problem was I was leaning in a curve, so I didn’t have the slightest chance of saving my bike. I flew over the handlebars. My KTM landed on my right knee and I was limping for two weeks. (For some reason it always seems to land there). Luckily, Uwe came back just in time to get us (my KTM and me) off the middle of the road before a bus came speeding around the corner.

At 13,000 feet at a Bolivian border post, Ramona and Uwe encountered snow, literally in the middle of nowhere. They had to camp in freezing temperatures. They were headed to the beautiful salt lake in Uyuni 250 miles away.

WRN: How many miles do you cover in an average day?
It depends. My longest ride was from New York City to North Carolina, 860 miles in one day. I ended up on the famous Deals Gap (318 corners in 11 miles) at midnight! by accident thinking it was a shortcut.

If the landscape is boring we cover more miles trying to get through as fast as possible. If its really nice, we sometimes do only 20 miles and pitch our tent again in another beautiful spot. This happened quite often in the Andes.

Ramona takes a “shower” while camping alongside a dirt road in southern Argentina in Patagonia. This is the very windswept, flat, barren plains of Las Pampas.

WRN: How often do you camp compared to staying in someone’s home or hotel? Do you and Uwe share a tent? What is that like? Don’t want your own space sometime?
We camp 95 percent of our time, because we love it. The roads leading to the most beautiful places in the middle of nowhere are narrow, winding gravel roads. There’s no hotel. Uwe and I share a tent, but we respect each others space. Of course, I have to do some serious butt kicking when he keeps snoring into my ears for three days in a row.

Traveling on a low budget can be really interesting. The philosophy is that you have to earn things. It happened often that we asked people for permission to camp on their farmland and ended up staying with them for some time. This is the best way to learn about another culture. Hotels might be safer and more comfy, but I find them quite boring. Riding a motorcycle in any part of the world is a great way to get in contact with people. The combination of a woman and a man is ideal, for most people identify themselves with us.

Read Part 3 of our interview with Ramona, or return to Part 1.   

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