History of Overlanding – 1960s
Hans-Jürgen Schüttelhöffel & Dieter Moldenhauer
Continuing the scooter and moped theme from the previous decade, two German students Hans-Jürgen Schüttelhöffel & Dieter Moldenhauer spent 1961-63 riding 24,900 miles (40,000 km) around the world visiting 25 countries on a pair of Finnish-made ‘Solifer’ 50cc mopeds. We hope to bring more details as we find them.
Santiago Guillen & Antonio Veciana
Santiago Guillen and Antonio Veciana, a couple of Spanish students, rode a Vespa scooter RTW in 1962, taking just 79 days to ride 18,937 miles (30,500 km) through 17 countries. The hook was to beat by one day, the fictional example set in Jules Vernes’ classic tale ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, but the purpose for the two 20 year-old youth activists was to reach-out to the world on behalf of Spanish youth.
Their Vespa, named ‘Dulcinea’, wasused as an artistic canvas by the surrealist painter Salvador Dali before they set off. Their route took them from Spain through Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afganistan, Pakistan and India. Then by ‘plane to Kuala Lumpur, on to Hong Kong and Japan. From there they rode across the USA before returning to Spain via France. The ‘Dali Scooter’ as it is now known, is on permanent display at Piaggio’s museum in Pontederra, Italy.
‘En 79 Dias Vuelta Al Mundo En Vespa’ (which translates as ‘In 79 Days Around The World On A Vespa’) was a book of the trip by Santiago and Antonio, which was published in 2005 by Dossat, ISBN 84-96437-11-6
The trailer for a Spanish documentary can be found here.
In 1962 the Catalan motorcycle manufacturer Montesa, provided three 175cc two-stroke Impala prototypes to a team of five local lads for a Cape Town to Barcelona proving mission. The five, Oriol Regas, Enric Vernis, Tei Elizalde, Rofa Morsans and Manolo Maristany shipped the bikes to South Africa and rode the 20,000kms route in 3 months.
Maristany wrote the book of their journey ‘Operation Impala’ ISBN: 9788496437012 which is still available in various editions. A recent film, in Spanish, is available here. It includes some great footage of the trip and interviews with the team members.
At least one of the bikes can be seen at the Museo de la Moto de Barcelona. Huge thanks to Joan Giner for providing this information.
Vagn Thyrsted Rasmussen
The first solo RTW trip on a Vespa seems to have been accomplished on a 29-year old 150cc Grand Torismo scooter, from 1964 – 65 by a Dane with just $100 (US). He had however already spent 1960 travelling on the machine in the picture. Having bought it in USA, he rode south to Panama and had to ford 44 bridgeless rivers. One crossing which did have a bridge, was actually a railway bridge. The Vespa has small wheels and the sleepers are quite far apart so he had to push the bike along one track, while stepping over the gaps and looking down to the river below. Unfortunately a train did come, but managed to stop just before it hit him.
In 1964 Rasmussen set off from his native Denmank and headed through West and East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan where he was chased by wolves. He said that even though he had a gun that he’d smuggled all over the world (including into East Berlin twice) he found great difficulty operating it while he was riding. He carried on through Pakistan, Kashmir, India before shipping to Australia. Then, after working and hitchhiking in Australia, he worked his passage by ship to Singapore, riding on to Malaysia and Thailand before working on another ship to get to Hong Kong and Japan. Again Rasmussem worked on a cargo ship to reach Los Angeles, where he disembarked and rode across the USA before returning to Denmark via the Netherlands. A total of 23 countries on 4 continents.
Setting off from his home in Uruguay in 1964, Carlos Caggiani and Brazilian friend Manuel Capelo rode north on a 1947 Indian, to San Francisco before heading east to New York, where they seperated when Manuel was hunted by the FBI. Carlos continued to ride through Western Europe until mid 1966 when another accident and reevaluation of what he actually wanted, saw him return to Uruguay.
It’s a terrific story of travel without means, making do with the bravado of youth. They get shot at in Bolivia, starve in Colombia and have a huge accident in Panama. The bike even gets stolen in Rome. Thankfully, Carlos published his story in Spanish in 2009, translated into English by his son in 2010 as Tracks and Horizons.
Carlos, a retired engineer, lives in the USA now, but can be seen out and about at many motorcycle events and Manuel, a policemen, settled back at home in Brazil.
Japanese rider Shigeru Yoshida rode RTW solo on a Yamaha YDS-3 from 1965–68. It was a 250cc two-stroke motorcycle, and he covered 85,000 miles (136.000 km) visiting 60 countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania with Yamaha arranging technical support at various places.
Route: By ship from Japan to USA, then Canada, back through the USA to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. After landing in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentine, Uruguay and Brazil. By ship to Portugal, Spain, France, England, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland. Then seven communist countries; Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, before riding into Greece. Then he took a ferry to Italy, and rode north to Liechtenstein, via Vatican City and Monaco. South to Spain he took a ferry to Morocco and rode through Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Singapore. Shipping out to Perth he then rode across Australia to Sydney before returning to Japan. The bike unfortunately, was apparently later stolen, but we hear from reader Robert Runyard that Yoshida still had it in his possession in 1976. He also still had a map of the world which he had tried to get border guards to stamp as he rode around.
Yoshida told Bernd Tesch ‘I wanted to see this great nature by my own eye and also wanted to know the size of the earth by actual riding motorcycle’. As well as writing his own book, the trip is mentioned in ‘Adventurers who went the world by motorcycle’ published in 1969 by Yaesu Shuppan Publishing.
There is also an article in the French motorcycle magazine Moto-Revue (18.02.1967 issue).
The English journalist Bob Currie rode RTW from 1965-69 on a Vespa Super Sport 180 cc and Watsonian Bambini sidecar, fitted with long-range fuel tanks and various other modifications.
He covered 37,000 miles (59, 000 km) through central Europe, behind the Iron Curtain to Hungary and Yugoslavia, on to Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan only to be turned-back at the Iraqi border. Without permission to ride on to India he returned to the U.K. before shipping to North America, riding from New York to Canada, then across the USA and in to Mexico. He then shipped via Hawaii and / Fiji to New Zealand, toured the North and South Islands before riding across Australia and then shipping to India and Sri Lanka, then via Capetown to Europe and Scandinavia.
British rider Paul Pratt gained the world-record for continuous motorcycle travel, at 12.5 years. From 1966 – 1979 he covered 115,000 miles (185,000 km) travelling through 48 countries on 5 continents. During his time on the road he was shot and contracted various diseases, but discovered so very much. His Triumph Thunderbird 650cc was still in use by Paul shortly before his death at the age of 84 in 2010. Grant Johnson interviewed him for one of the Horizons Unlimited DVDs. He was a regular speaker at the earlier HUBB UK events and inspired many.
He produced a book in 1980: ‘World Understanding On Two Wheels’ by Paul R Pratt, 1976, Alemar-Phoenix Publishing, paperback. ISBN: 978-0950735306
Cattle-rancher Yanko Gluscevic left his troubled native Chile when his ranch was appropriated by the Allende government. For 20 years, from 1969-89 he travelled the world by motorcycle, taking in more than 40 countries. An e-book ‘Yanko’ describes the period 1969-76. ISBN: 978-1-41222-553-3. He now organises guided motorcycle tours of the Bolivian Amazon, Patagonia and the Atacama Desert.