Michael Martin has become an icon for motorcycle adventurers everywhere – and his latest travel quest has taken him further into planet earth’s extremes than ever before. His Planet Desert project, which will see him travel to every desert in the world, has seen him cross continents and investigate little-visited corners of the globe. Much of the journey has been completed on a BMW motorcycle, but climate and legal restrictions have forced him to abandon his faithful R 1200 GS Adventure for some portions.
The most recent deserts he has ticked off his map were Mongolia, Australia and Siberia – the latter saw him travel by snowmobile rather than bike, as two-wheeled travel is impossible on solid ice. However, he did battle through deep snow in Mongolia on his bike – something which proved a challenge, even for such a seasoned rider.
“It was great being able to ride in Mongolia, even though I had to get through some really deep snow. After I finished my ride in Ulan Bator, I had my bike shipped to Mongolia via the Trans-Siberian railway. It would have been sent on to my next destination, Namibia, by train too, but I’m doing some filming for Arte TV [a French arts and documentary channel] there and it was needed quickly, so it’s flying into Munich next week.
“Mongolia really was very, very cold. When we arrived, it was -43°C and when we left, it had dropped to -46°C. The whole time we were there, it never got above -30°C. It was a wonderful place to explore though – I loved the snow-covered dunes at Mongol Els, as well as the camels with their long winter hair and the winter clothing of the people there. Even though it was so cold, the weather was perfect: blue sky every single day.” To date, Michael’s project has taken him to 23 different deserts – 11 within the Arctic, one in Antarctica and the rest in hot countries. Included in the number was the Russian-owned territory Franz Josef Land, which can only be reached by ice-breaker ship and is subject to extensive travel restrictions. By contrast, Mongolia offers its visitors complete freedom.
“The people in Mongolia are really friendly, open minded and relaxed. I loved the nomads most – they live under harsh conditions in the Gobi. Mongolia is really one of the easiest countries to negotiate for travellers. You just need a visa and an ATA carnet for your bike. There are no check points, no shady police men, and you don’t have any hassles with authorities. I did get a little tired of the local cuisine though – every day we ate sheep, sheep, sheep. Although if you have some vodka with it, it’s ok!”
Mongolia also gave Martin one of his most unusual riding experiences to date. “I’ve ridden in a lot of strange places during my travels, but driving through the deep snow in Mongolia is probably the most unusual – along with riding on the ice road at the northern tip of the Dempster Highway in Canada, in February.”
While Martin may have visited much of the globe, his adventure is not over yet. He has already planned the next five legs of the journey, which will take him to Namibia, Greenland, Australia, Mongolia and Antarctica. However, he will still be taking the time to make the annual pilgrimage to Bavaria’s Garmisch-Partenkirchen from July 6-8, for BMW Motorrad Days. Last year, Michael delivered presentations at the event which proved a huge hit with visitors.
“I’m looking forward to being there again. Motorrad Days is always a fun, exciting event. It’s great to get together with so many other people who love their motorcycles.” BMW Motorrad Days 2012, which is free to attend, will bring together live performances, including stunt shows by World Champion Chris Pfeiffer, as well as music, food, exhibitions and more. Around 30,000 bikers from around the world are expected to take part. For further details, visit www.bmw-motorrad.com.