On the road to crossing 40 countries

By Terri Russell 29 November 2013
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Danielle Murdoch fled her busy office life to conquer 40 countries by motorbike.

IN 2006, SMOTHERED by a stack of stale papers cramming her small Brisbane office, Danielle Murdoch, had a realisation. She says she needed to shake off the weight and feel free to explore how people lived their lives in other countries.

Though she knew nothing about motorbikes – except they got her from A to B – she bought one on her trip to Laos anyway. Little did she know, this would play a huge part in future adventures. By the end of 2008 she embarked on a 10-month solo mission across Asia.

Itchy feet got the better of Danielle again in 2010, and she set off to complete her journey, this time with AG Society funding: two-years, one motorbike, and 40 countries, covering 75,000km.

Having started in Africa, we have word from Danielle near the end of her remarkable journey:

When I left Brisbane 20 months ago I thought I’d be on the home stretch by now…

During the past 20 months I’ve only been able to achieve 45,000km and 16 countries. When a plan is formed, it’s never set in stone. But the original plan hasn’t really changed at all. I just underestimated the time I would need to enjoy the simple things in life, like meeting strangers. 

In this time, I have had many unforgettable experiences, like learning how to dodge the traffic and cows in India and teaching groups of women how to make sock monkeys in Pakistan. I can give you the address of the best peanut butter woman in Sudan and I can recite the local legend of how the Baobab tree came to look the way it does. These experiences and many more have shaped the way I travel and formed how I see the world today.

Since leaving Australia, my traveling style has developed from just viewing each country’s main attractions, to soaking up those special moments when you make a connection with a local person.

I’ve found when it comes to meeting women, it’s a different ball game. It normally starts with a quick glance at each other, which then extends into a prolonged one. Knowing the local women are shy, I take the glances as an invitation and wrap my hands around theirs- hoping to demonstrate that the curiosity, indeed, goes both ways! We give each other a window into one another’s lives, shared only in one moment, even if it only for a second.

What makes this adventure different from the rest is my method of travel. I have chosen to ride a Suzuki DR 350 motorcycle the whole 70,000km. Since I first started this adventure, I haven’t been so lucky as to not have encountered any technical issues. I could no longer neglect the symptoms my motorcycle had been showing and I had to call an end to running the engine (for now).

I was fortunate enough to have met another fellow overlander on his own Suzuki DR650 motorcycle who offered to attempt to break the world record for the longest motorcycle tow in the world. 

The nearest ‘fundi’ or motorcycle expert in Swahili, the local dialect, is in Nairobi some 700km and a border crossing away from where I broke down.  I’m not sure if I can technically add the last 700 kilometres to my accomplishments, but one thing I know for sure is I’m far from giving up!

Danielle was awarded the 2010 ‘Nancy Bird Walton Sponsorship for Adventurous Women’ by the Australian Geographic Society.

To follow Danielle on her adventures check-out her Facebook page or visit her website.