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Declan McEvoy of Quin who has returned home after completing a 29,400km solo bike journey entitled "Beyond Siberia" from Ireland to Magadan in far Eastern Russia. Photograph by John Kelly.

Declan parks the bike after African adventure


QUIN adventurer Declan McEvoy is back home now, having finished his African expedition a few weeks early, with problems at various border crossings leading to him cutting it a little short.
Declan, who described himself as being on the fifth stage of a ‘Round the World by Motorbike’ adventure arrived in South Africa in early October, and began working his way north.
Ultimately he would reach Zambia, not as far as he had hoped for as bureaucracy was very difficult to negotitate, but he is in a good position for when he gets back to his trusty bike.
“I normally do these motorcycle trips over about ten weeks but I just came up against a lot of border closures and was finding it difficult to move. I finished up in Zambia and decided to store the motorcylce with the Irish embassy there.
“Where Zambia is positioned, next year I could come up along the east coast, or maybe the west coast, depending on the politics, that’s largely what’s going to dictate the route back to Ireland.”
While the pandemic was responsible for much of the issues at borders, the emergence of the new variant in southern Africa actually didn’t impact upon him and had no bearing on his arriving back home. “I got home last Thursday night and it was only then I heard about the situation that was developing.”
However, there had been a number of other obstacles in his path.
”I had intended coming up along the west coast of Africa, and I already had a visa for Nigeria in my passport.
“When I was out in Namibia I chased a visa for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and also for the Republic of Congo, and I managed to get both of those visas as well. But in order to travel that far, first I needed to get through Angola and that was a stumbling block for me.
“I played the repatriation card a wee bit, I said I was an Irish chap on an Irish registered motorcycle and I’m trying to get back home, can you help me.
“They said we will be able to maybe give you a five day transit visa, but even to transit Angola in five days would be very challenging.
“I ended up diverting in Northern Namibia into Zambia for the last week or so of the journey.”
He ended up covering the undeniably substantial distance of 8,500km in seven weeks, but in previous years he would typically cover 15,000km in ten weeks.
While progress was a bit slower than Declan would have liked, he isn’t disappointed.
“On that same motorcycle, I’ve travelled all the way across Asia to Alaska and all the way down to the bottom of South America and I’m a bit philosophical about how these things turn out. It is what it is, that’s part of the journey.
“I normally take ten weeks off each year and in the ten weeks I can usually make about 15,000 to 17,000km.
“Anywhere in central America or South America it’s just a matter of rocking up to the border at a date and a time of your choosing, you be patient at the border for three or four hours and lo and behold you get spat out the other side, and away you go again. But in Africa I kind of knew that wasn’t going to be the case, that there were going to be an awful lot of visas required and a lot of waiting around.
“A lot of times you might go into an embassy and it takes you a day or so to gather the various documents and then you queue up the next day and submit them all. They could tell you it’ll take two weeks to process then.”
On his trips he is happy as long as he is going forward, and there was some frustration that wasn’t happening in Africa.
“I remember riding all the way across Mongolia and not seeing a single soul for about ten days. Likewise in far Eastern Russia I remember riding 6,000km on a dirt road and seeing very few people, but I was very content in myself because I was making progress every day.
“The goal was getting nearer and nearer every day, but that wasn’t the case in Africa. I did more hanging around waiting for visas, and hanging around in one horse towns. I was four days waiting for a PCR test and result and that nearly killed me. I was getting a bit fed up of my own company, a bit frustrated and I wouldn’t be the most patient person in any event, that tested me now.
“I found the waiting very challenging, once I’m moving I’m okay.”
He is still fully determined to keep going, and will eventually bring the bike back to Quin. “I’m a bit like a dog with a bone now, so abolutely for sure.
“I’d some friends saying will you not just throw in the towel and get the bike shipped home, but so near home relatively speaking, how could you think about doing that? I’ll be back out next year to get that bike a little bit nearer home.
“Africa is definitely going to be slow, if I go up the west coast of Africa I’ll split off into Gibraltar which is relatively near home. If I choose to go up the east coast, and it will depend on politics, I’ll come out somewhere near Saudi Arabia and that’s going to be a much longer journey home.
“Either way I’m very determined that bike will roll back into the village of Quin, at some point in the future. It may not be next year, but it will happen.”
Declan settled back into everyday life quite easily again, but found returning to an Irish winter something of a jolt to the system.
“In Namibia and Zambia it was so bloody hot, you’re riding a motorcycle through a desert, wearing all this motorcycle gear and carrying lots of water.
“Now it’s back to winter in Clare. That took a bit of getting used to!”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.