TravelChannel’s HenryCole rides into town

2013-03-24 10:00

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He has cruised the open road in more than 20 nations, is not too keen on an Afghanistan road trip and dreams of making his pilgrimages a family affair. Babalwa Shota meets Travel Channel’s Henry Cole as he gets ready to tackle SA by motorbike for his show, World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides

What made you curious about South Africa?

Idon’t think you can live life without being curious about South Africa. Even before I first came here in 2006, I yearned to ride a bike here.

For me, I want to immerse myself in the scenery, the roads, the landscapes and, most importantly, the people to show fellow bikers what an incredible country this is.

Which has been the friendliest route during your travels and which has been the most hostile?

The friendliest route has been all the routes I have done in America. In the 20?000 miles (32?187km) I have ridden in the States, I have never once met anybody who wasn’t prepared to help me.

The most hostile has to be Russia and eastern Europe.

I would describe riding there as not hostile, but a real adventure. You don’t want to be a novice rider in Russia in the rain.

What kind of issues do you take into account before embarking on a trip – logistics, weather, history of place, and so on?

Hamish, my producer, is diligent in his research and finds the best producers on the ground to help.

For instance, here in South Africa, we are working with Gontse Mmutle, a really experienced producer in his own right who’s making every day on the ground as easy as it could be for us.

The trick on planning any ride is to allow plenty of time to adapt to the conditions on the ground.

What else informs your choices of countries?

Having been a biker since I was 12, I obviously have a long list of places I want to go to.

It will take me a lifetime to ride all of them. So basically, I’m working my way through the list.

On average, how many people come on tour with you?

I will only work with myself and two other people from the UK as my regular crew and then a local producer if we need one.

But the two people have to be Hamish, my producer, and Luke, my director/cameraman, because we are firstly great friends, but also we trust each other when the going gets tough or dangerous. I wouldn’t work with anybody else.

How many countries have you done so far?

More than 20 countries, where we have done multiple rides. For instance, America. I think at the last count we’ve made more than 17 shows.

Bring on the rest!

Which continent or country would you think twice about going to?

Afghanistan.

There have been many shows with celebrities driving the world’s most dangerous roads, but to my mind they are driving the world’s bumpiest roads.

There is only one dangerous road in this world – Highway 1 in Afghanistan. Any celebrity fancy that?

You spoke about the importance of individualism. What makes you individual?

I, like a lot of bikers and kindred spirits around the world, believe that individuality is a state of mind.

All of us reject being just a cog in a corporate machine.

It doesn’t matter whether you have to wear a suit or like me you can grow your hair long. We don’t have to show it because we know it.

Have you had any epiphanies on the road à la Eat Pray Love?

For motorcyclists around the world, epiphanies are not about any of those.

Our epiphanies come from the constant freedom and solitude we experience when riding.

The only way you can understand what that does to your soul is to experience it. So get on a bike, and go and find out what I am talking about.

Who would be your ideal riding partner – dead or alive?

My wife and my kids.

One day my kids will be old enough and one day my wife will pass her bike test, then my dreams will come true.

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