Back in the Saddle Again: Riding for EnduroAfrica

July 31, 2008 | By Iain Crockart | Creative

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Photo by Iain Crockart

As an extreme change of pace from my life as a Getty Images contributing photographer, I am preparing for my second international motorbike adventure, this time with EnduroAfrica.

EnduroAfrica benefits three charities in South Africa and Lesotho: The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fun, UNICEF and Santebale/The Prince’s Fund for Lesotho. As part of the ride, I have been raising money for all three charities through sponsorships from family and friend members. Everyone who sponsors me not only gets to donate to a very worthy cause, but they also receive a copy of my book – an 80-page documentary of my first life-changing, death-defying Himalayan motorbike adventure.

To raise awareness of this year’s ride, to show off my imagery from the last ride and to hopefully find a few new sponsors, I thought I would share a few images, and the stories behind them, with you today…

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Photo by Iain Crockart

It was on a trip last summer, driving our 1976 VW Type 2 camper (orange over white) through Europe, heading for Sweden, when I received a text from a friend saying he was off to the Himalayas to ride a Royal Enfield Bullet. That one innocent, electronic communication started this crazy adventure and ultimately my fund raising project.

The trip sounded fantastic, 28 riders 1200km through remote parts of Northern India, up into the Himalayas and back again. The trip was in eight weeks, there was one place left, I booked it.

Now, I didn’t own a bike at that point, and the last ride I made was through Florida and Georgia on a Harley the year before – not exactly ideal preparation.

I had to organize travel visa’s, equipment, injections of all sorts and tablets for altitude sickness. Oh yes, we were going to be riding these bikes in altitudes of 17,000 ft or 5,000m.

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Photo by Iain Crockart

The Royal Enfield motorbike is virtually unchanged from the 60′s, the gears and breaks are on opposite sides to western bikes, which is obviously not ideal when in panic mode, the brakes don’t really stop too fast, you have to stroke it gently and whisper to it to start. The gears have a mind of their own and it became clear that that although they may be stubborn, they are a brilliant and loyal friend who saves lives.

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Photo by Iain Crockart

The roads, tracks and vast plains through the Himalayas are dangerous and any mistake could be your last. We nicknamed the trip “1,000 Ways to Die Everyday,” and we loved every single minute of it. We ended each day exhausted from 10 hours riding, but exhilarated, full of stories of the great people we had met, the things we had seen, the tracks we had traveled and the near death experiences we cheated.

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Photo by Iain Crockart

It is not often in our lives that our minds are clear. When we traveled along these paths and roads, our minds did not drift to projects, clients or loved ones. We were focused on that bend, that ridge of sand, that child, that running dog etc…nothing else mattered. You could live or die in that moment. The sheer drops, altitude sickness, the gravel, the deep mud, the water, the snow, the glacial rivers, the landslides, the crazy trucks, the crazier wildlife, all were out to get you…

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Photo by Iain Crockart

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Photo by Iain Crockart
As a Getty Images contributing photographer, I try to always have a camera with me. I strapped my Contax 645 to the tank of my trusty Enfield (inside a waterproof magnetic tank bag, on top of a t-shirt). I was not sure if Contax had subjected one of their cameras to this sort of vibration/crash testing – but they are tough cameras. I am glad I risked breaking the equipment so I could capture and share the huge, breath taking majesty of the Himalayas.

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Photo by Iain Crockart

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We made it to the top – with only one helicopter evacuation to Delhi…

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Photo by Iain Crockart

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