28 April 2024

Hitting the (Silk) Road: Yoogali man gears up for epic motorbike trek from Italy to Japan via Middle East

| Oliver Jacques
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man and motorbike

Tommy Caragilo is about to embark on the bike trip of a lifetime. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Given recent world events, you’d be hard-pressed finding anyone in the Riverina planning travel across the Middle East and former Soviet republics.

Except Tommy Caragilo, a 38-year-old Yoogali resident and forklift mechanic, who is set to ride a motorbike from his native Italy through to Japan via countries we’ve been reading about in the news.

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He’s taking his Honda CBR600 through the ancient Silk Road – the world’s first global trading route, in which the Chinese exported textiles to the Middle East and Europe from 150 BC onwards.

The globetrotting Italian had already visited more than 50 countries. In 2016, he rode 60,000 km to make his way across the length of the Americas, from Patagonia in Argentina up to Alaska.

Region caught up with Tommy to find out his travel highlights, dangers, Silk Road plans and how Griffith compares with the best the world has to offer.

Why do you travel such long distances by bike?

Travelling on a motorcycle gives me the freedom to see whatever I want. On a tour bus, they tell you what to see and where to go. The bike is the best vehicle, it’s light, there’s less maintenance than a car, it’s cheaper and you can access more sites by going off-road.

Tommy in Alaska

Tommy completes a 60,000 km journey from South America to Alaska. Photo: Supplied.

Isn’t it dangerous?

It’s not as dangerous as you think. I’ve never been robbed in my travels. There’s always more bad news than good news on the TV news. You just need to use common sense, avoid travelling at night and be prepared for the worst.

When you travel solo, a lot of people come to help you and offer you tea and meals. The poorer the country, the more the people help you.

Have you had any hair-raising moments in any of your travels?

In Mexico, there were a few strikes. We were blocked from travelling, we slept on the side of the road and had people holding machetes walk past us. But the people were nice, they made us tea.

What’s the most beautiful place you’ve seen in the world?

Eduardo Avaroa National Park on the border of Bolivia and Chile. It’s like being on Mars.

man and motorbike in national park

Tommy at the Mars-like Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve in Bolivia. Photo: Supplied.

How does Griffith compare to all the other places you’ve been?

I like it, it’s calm, I have a good job here and there’s a great tennis community. It’s similar to my home town of Cuneo in Italy. I prefer it to Melbourne, where I previously lived, there’s too much traffic there.

I came here for work. My friend is helping to run forklift mechanic Frank’s Service Centre.

What route are you taking for your Silk Road journey?

I’ll be starting in Italy and riding through the Balkans, then through Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, then Mongolia and Russia. I’ll catch a ferry through to South Korea and Japan, where I’ll ship my bike back home.

I had originally planned to go through Iran, but given the conflict there, I may zigzag around it. I plan to leave in late May and return to Italy late September, then come back to Griffith later this year.

motorbike rider's travel logo

The logo of Tommy’s next adventure, which will include the Silk Road, between May and September. Photo: Supplied.

Aren’t visas and paperwork a problem in all these countries?

The only countries I need visas for in advance are Iran and Russia. The other countries you can get visas at the border. I also need a Carnet de Passage, which is like a passport for my bike.

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Any advice for people who are looking to travel the world?

Best to avoid social media and be humble wherever you travel. Don’t be a conquistador. Just go to a pub and chat to the locals. That’s how you learn about a country.

You can follow Tommy’s travels at Two Dirty Wheels.

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