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    Eighteen months across Europe, Asia and the Americas: A chef’s journey

    By Mirto Marchesi | 06 December 2021 | 1 min
    Motorcycle: Ktm 1190 Adventure R
    Mileage: 80.000 km
    Difficulty: medium
    Duration: 18 months
    Time of the year: january - december
    Weather: all
    Temperatures: -20°C - +50°C
    Essential equipment: 4 seasons jacket and pants, tent, sleeping bag, essential cooking equipment, spare fuel tank
    mirto marchesi

    Mirto Marchesi

    The author


    My name’s Mirto Marchesi and I’m 37. After years dedicated to my professional career as a chef in a prestigious "Relais & Châteaux" hotel in French-speaking Switzerland, and having obtained a Michelin star in 2011, in 2018 I decided it was time for me to do something different, to step out of my comfort zone and pursue a dream cultivated since childhood: to travel around the world by motorbike.  

    The trip lasted 18 months. I started out from Ticino, my homeland, and traveled more than forty-nine thousand miles to reach Lima, in South America. I left with only a visa for Russia in my hand; the rest of the travel arrangements I made as I went along. 

     

    The route 

    I left home in June 2018, home being Monteggio, a small town in the south of Ticino. I headed towards France, to the south, then on to the ocean in the west before travelling north along the coast. Then I rode through Belgium, Germany, Denmark, and up as far as the North Cape. From Helsinki I entered Russia, in St. Petersburg, and then I moved on to Moscow and joined the famous "Trans-Siberian Highway” to Vladivostok. From here I shipped the bike by sea to Vancouver, and then took the Pacific Coast Highway down to California and on to Los Angeles. I continued on into Death Valley, reaching Las Vegas and following part of the famous Route 66 across the country, travelling all the way to New York. Then it was south down to Florida, before turning west to Louisiana and on towards the Mexican border.  

    After roaming around Mexico for a few months, I crossed all of Central America to Panama, where I put the bike on a sailing ship to Cartagena, in Colombia. From there, I headed south again in the direction of Ecuador, arriving in Lima in November 2019. And it was there that I left my bike, still there waiting for me. 

     

    My travel style 

    Broadly speaking, I knew where I wanted to go, so my main destinations were clear, but day by day I would decide how far to ride, what to see, where to go and where to stop. But to allow yourself the luxury of managing your time with no return date, you need to have a lot of it. And perhaps that’s what made the experience unique. When I left, my initial idea was to go "around the world" in eighteen months, but I soon realized that was no longer a priority. The original plan was to travel as far as southern Argentina and Tierra del Fuego, and then take the ferry to Africa before riding up the west coast to return home. But instead, 18 months later, I left my bike in Lima. 

    When I crossed into Central America, via the Mexican border, I thought I would spend a couple of months there at most, but I actually stayed for four.  

     

    The charm of Central America 

    One of the places that fascinated me the most, mainly due to the road I traveled to get there, was Real de Catorce. A city located in the state of San Luis Potosí, Mexico, it lies 2750 meters above sea level. It can only be reached through the Ogarrio tunnel, 2.3 kilometers in length. But friends in the area showed me a secondary off-road track, unknown to outsiders, that runs behind the mountain. The higher you go, the more winding it becomes and this is what makes it so spectacular, in addition to its secrecy. To travel this route we started from Matehuala and proceeded at full tilt to arrive in Real de Catorce. Although the trip takes just three hours and is not far, it’s a very challenging one because the route is extremely inaccessible, traveled by villagers with their mules or horses who are not always easy to avoid.    

     

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    Professional deformation: Mexican cuisine 

    Mexico is a country rich in culture, perhaps the most interesting of those I’ve travelled through, also gastronomically speaking. Just think about when the Spanish conquistadors arrived and all the European influences they brought. 

    Mexican foods change from region to region due to differences in climate, geography, ethnicity and, last but not least, depending on Hispanic influence. Two elements are prevalent across every variety of Mexican cuisine and those are lime on meat and the use of sauces made from different types ofchilis, like the Habanero or Jalapeño. As a chef, I was also interested in pre-Hispanic Aztec and Mayan style cuisine, with its rather unusual ingredients such as iguanas, rattlesnakes, deer, monkeys, spiders and insects. 

     

    Riding equipment 

    Traveling around the world doesn’t leave room for improvisation and you need to be ready for anything. Motorcycle boots, two pairs of gloves, one summer and one winter, and a four-season jacket and pants combo. It's handy to have modular clothing, considering that I set off in the middle of summer, knowing that I would soon be heading north to Norway where the temperatures are decidedly colder. I remember entering Death Valley National Park in March, where the bike indicated a temperature of minus 2 °F, and then proceeding to Las Vegas, where it was snowing. To be honest, in those conditions the clothing I had with me wasn’t enough...  

     

    Then from March to June I was in Mexico and the weather there was quite warm, so I had the opposite problem. I clearly remember the stretch from Villahermosa in Tabasco to the Riviera Maya, where the bike indicated 121.1 °F under the sun, but once I got to the Pacific, one glance at the ocean and any difficulties were soon forgotten. 

    And you need little else; a few changes of clothes are enough when travelling, in fact, the more I traveled, the "lighter" I got. After several months you get a little wild and I certainly wasn't worried about having a hole in my shirt.  

    Except in very cold weathers, I almost always slept in a tent. In Europe this is very practical, as you can pitch your tent almost anywhere and sleep peacefully. On the contrary, in places like Central America it’s important to find a campsite or safe area, for your own safety and that of your bike.  Either way, you’ll come across many riders and numerous campsites or safe areas in which to spend the night. I became acquainted with many other travelers, and even rode with some of them for a while.  

     

    Bike equipment 

    I set out with a 2014 KTM R1190 adventure that I christened Cindy. It had done about 28,000 miles when I left home and now has about 74,500 miles on the clock. A good service, a few spares, full bags, a couple of spare tires and off I went. I fitted a rear top box, two aluminum side cases, a tank bag, a couple of 3-liter canisters for some spare gas, and a bag to strap on the passenger seat with all my camping gear. From a tent to my sleeping bag, without forgetting my fishing rod, an essential tool for me, and all my cooking equipment, like a gas stove, a mini portable grill, an aluminum pot. Basically, the bare minimum to prepare a frugal meal. 

     

    Essential equipment

    AGV21M.00004JX_SN005901_CLOSEUP01 (1)

    Adventure helmet

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    201593993_76C_F

    Gore-Tex® Jacket

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    201614076_76C_F

    Gore-Tex® pants

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    201795217_001_F (2)

    Waterproof boots

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    201876158_001 (2)

    Back protector

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    201815893_V29_F

    Winter gloves

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    201815902_606_F

    Fabric gloves

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    201915928_604_F

    Technical jersey

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    201915942_604_F

    Technical long underwear

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    201634293_14A_F

    Waterproof suit

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