The Motorcycle Diaries - Salvation Army Canada

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    The Motorcycle Diaries

    Wherever they go, Craig and Sharon Iedema know they're not travelling alone. May 30, 2013 by Kristin Fryer
    Filed Under:
    Faith & Friends
    Craig Iedema rides through ArizonaFrom the highest mountain passes in Tajikistan to the rocky shores of Vancouver Island; from the towering cathedrals of Moscow to the mud-brick homes of workers in Uzbekistan; in heavy snow and baking sun, Craig and Sharon Iedema have seen it all.

    Craig and Sharon are on a two-year motorcycle tour around the world that began in London, England. They have travelled across Europe and Russia, through the 'Stans in Central Asia, and most recently explored Canada, the United States and Mexico. In the past year, they've cruised through more
    than a dozen countries on three continents—and they're just getting started.

    From Dream to Drive

    At first glance, the couple might seem like a pair of unlikely adventurers. Both in their 40s and official members of The Salvation Army in Australia, Craig is an IT specialist and Sharon is a court reporter. But the dream to travel the world on a motorcycle had been chasing Craig, in particular, for many years.

    “Then, about 13 years ago, I met someone who had done a similar trip,” he says. “He was just a regular guy like me, and I thought, If he can do it, I can do it.”

    Craig and Sharon's hosts in Murghab, Tajikistan Craig and Sharon's hosts in Murghab, Tajikistan. Above: Craig cruises through Arizona


    The couple spent a year planning the trip before leaving their home in Brisbane in April 2012. Of course, travelling around the world on a motorcycle has some drawbacks—the amount of luggage they can carry is restricted and they're more vulnerable to the elements—but the Iedemas wouldn't have it any other way.

    “If you're in an air-conditioned car with the windows up, you're really isolated from the environment,” Craig says. “When you're on a motorcycle, however, you smell the smells, you feel the temperature, you hear the sounds of the cities, and you're a lot closer to the people.

    “When we were riding through Tajikistan, we had kids running up to us, giving us high-fives,” he recalls. “It's just one of those experiences that you never, ever lose.”

    Beauty in the Breakdown

    Not that the trip has always been smooth sailing. Over the past year, the Iedemas have had several mishaps and breakdowns.

    “But every time something went wrong, it was an opportunity to meet people and have experiences that we otherwise wouldn't have had,” says Craig.

    While travelling through Mongolia, they took a wrong turn and wound up driving across a river. It was much deeper than they expected and their bike was swept away by the current, stopped only by a pile of rocks downstream.

    Some kind locals helped them pull the bike out, but the fuel pump was shot. They needed to get to the nearest city, Ulan Bator, to get it fixed. Craig and Sharon hardly slept that night, wondering how they were going to get there.

    Craig and Sergei visit a memorial for a lost biker, near Svobodny, Amur Region, Russia Craig and Sergei visit a memorial for a lost biker, near Svobodny, Amur Region, Russia


    The next day, they found a man with a pickup truck who was willing to drive them and they began the two-day journey to the city. It could have been a nerve-racking experience, but
    every stop along the way gave them new insights into the country and its people.

    “We were very immersed in their culture,” says Craig.

    “We ate the food they ate, listened to their music, saw how they interacted with their children,” Sharon adds. “We even watched a horse race and, afterward, the locals took us to a
    horse mausoleum—a very special place for them.”

    Last August, the Iedemas broke down again after attending a motorcycle festival in Russia, and this time the bike needed major repairs. Thankfully, a man named Sergei, whom they'd met at the festival, was riding behind them and took the Iedemas to his home in Svobodny, where he hosted them for
    10 days.

    While staying with him, the Iedemas learned that one of his friends had died in a motorcycle accident while attempting to drive across Russia, and it was Sergei's dream to finish that trip. Touched by his story and grateful for the kindness he showed them, they decided to leave their bike with him so he could fix it up, sell it and use the money to follow that dream.

    “We've had really good hospitality all over the world,” says Craig. “I think people are generally the same, no matter where you travel—they don't bear you any ill will. We're more alike than we are different.”

    “The Hand of God”

    Craig and Sharon on the Jasper tramway, in British Columbia Craig and Sharon on the Jasper tramway, in British Columbia


    After leaving Russia, Craig and Sharon headed to British Columbia, where they bought a new bike and visited The Salvation Army's High Point Community Church in Victoria. It was just like being back home in Australia.

    As they've travelled around the world, Craig and Sharon say that having faith in God has kept them on track, even when the road has been rough.

    “We had a lot of trouble with the border police the first time we crossed into Kazakhstan,” Craig recounts. “They pulled us aside, took me into an office and demanded I give them a bribe.” He told them he didn't understand, but they kept asking and wouldn't let him go.

    At the next border crossing into Uzbekistan, Craig and Sharon were both feeling apprehensive.

    “The Uzbek police have an even worse reputation than the Kazak police,” Craig explains. “I was filled with dread, wondering, How am I going to be able to cope with this?

    “We drove into the police checkpoint, praying, 'Please God, make them not see us.' ”

    At first, it looked like the police were flagging them down to pull over.

    “I stopped, but they said, 'No, keep going,' ” Craig remembers. “It was as if they looked right through us.”

    The Iedemas had little trouble crossing any border from then on.

    Craig and Sharon visit Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza, Mexico Craig and Sharon visit Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza, Mexico


    “We've felt the hand of God on us the whole way across the trip,” Craig reflects. “It's pretty easy to discount God in your life when you're sitting comfortably in the middle of a city, but when you're in a situation that's removed from your comfort zone, you need to realize that God's there, looking after you the whole time.

    “We've had a fantastic experience,” he continues, “and I put that down to the fact that, even when we've faced adversity, we were able to deal with things because of our faith.”

    Next on their list of destinations is Europe, and then Africa. And after that—who knows? For Craig and Sharon, it's wherever their wheels take them.

    Craig and Sharon blog about their travels at www.storiesfromtheseat.com and www.facebook.com/storiesfromtheseat.

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