Chris Donaldson left the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’ behind, to ride overland to Australia on his Moto Guzzi Le Mans. By today’s niche-market standards it was certainly not the ideal bike, but it was what he owned, and 1979/80 was a very different time. He sets the scene well in the early chapters.
Packed full of gripping adventure, this is a real page-turner peppered with Northern Irish ‘turns of phrase’, which is comforting for me as someone who also grew up through the conflict.
He’s young, impetuous and as we ride with him through Europe nothing works out as planned, though in truth there was precious little in the way of a plan, other than to ride east. But then the Iranian revolution happened – access denied – and he had to head south, thinking a boat from Kenya to India might be an option. It wasn’t, so he kept going to Cape Town, where he hitched a lift to Rotterdam on a racing yacht. Bizarrely the yacht’s sponsors agreed to ship his bike to LA while he battled the mighty ocean waves on a very steep learning curve.
Yes, this is the story of 20 months’ and 43,000 miles living at a manic pace. Every kind of adrenalin-fuelled experience is here.
He cadged the place on the yacht with no sailing experience, in the same way that he bluffed his way through the war zones down Africa and crossed borders repeatedly without paperwork. There’s work, romance and riding with Hells Angels in the USA and there’s illness in Peru that effectively finishes him, turning the closing stages of the trip into a final dash to Buenos Aires and even more serendipitous encounters.
Written almost 40 years after the event, the mind can always play tricks, and there are some inconsistencies that detract from the narrative, like seeing a McDonald’s in Kenya in 1980 when the first one opened in 2017, or some of the abuse the bike seems to get and recover from. It was certainly a different time, with the Cold War and Apartheid raging, and it seems implausible that you could ride into Israel and not get stamps in your passport, but try not to let any of that detract from the story. If you want entertainment and something to really ignite any dormant feelings of wanderlust, this has got to be it.
The earliest printing of this book did have typographical and layout errors and you’ll be unlucky if you find one, but all current copies have had that rectified. But even with all that, ‘Going the Wrong Way’ is engaging, exciting and refreshingly buoyant, making it ‘a good read’ for sure.
Paperback 348pp 23pp colour images £13.99
Published by author (2020)