Polish biker Maja Sontag, presently in India, talks about exploring the globe on her own terms.
Three years on the move... and Maja Sontag is still high on wanderlust. Riding a bike across continents, weathering different climates and terrain, sleeping in tents, homestays and dormitories and tasting numerous cuisines have not satiated this modern-day gypsy’s appetite for travel and adventure.
From traversing through the Sahara desert to travelling in Iran, clad in a burkha, and staying in tents in Albania and Turkey, Maja has done it all.
The 38-year-old plans to explore Kerala and Tamil Nadu on her bike and then hop across to Sri Lanka before leaving for Georgia in April.
In January, she left Poland for Andhra Pradesh, where she borrowed a friend’s black-and-silver Suzuki Intruder. She had it transported to Kerala and is raring to get started on the next leg of her journey.
The 6’4” Polish woman from Nowy Sacz got bitten by the travel bug when she won a place on an exchange programme to study in India in 2004.
“I travelled on the Trans-Siberian Railway line and made my way through Russia, Mongolia, China, Tibet and Nepal before reaching Delhi,” she says.
Charmed by the diversity of India, she decided to ride around to explore the country. On completion of her course, Maja returned to Poland and her job in the advertising industry to fund her adventures.
The years 2010-2012 saw her backpacking through South and Central America, travelling all the way from Guatemala to Argentina. Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia came next.
Taking a break for nearly four years, she mapped her journey in a book in Polish and took up a job as an ad film producer.
In 2016, quitting her job, she travelled to Japan and hitch-hiked for three months there. A ferry took her to Russia and by road she reached Mongolia. “I started hiring motorbikes there. In the winter of 2016, I came to India again.”
For six months, Maja explored northeastern India. In Shillong, in January 2017, she met a group of riders on a charity drive through the Himalayan states. She befriended Joshua Daniel, a pastor from Andhra Pradesh, who advised her that it would be more economical to buy a motorbike than rent one.
A Hero Honda Karizma became her iron steed. Joshua also connected her to riders’ clubs all over India.
From the Northeast, she travelled to Bangladesh and went sight-seeing with the help of a women riders’ club. Returning to India, she travelled to Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, before winging her way to South Korea.
On a friend’s bike, she explored the country. Two months later, she took a flight to Mongolia.
“I was wasting a lot of money on renting bikes and my height made it difficult for me to ride some of them. A customised bike was the answer. I travelled overland via Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to reach Poland,” she narrates.
A Suzuki DR650 model won her heart and soon she was in top gear. She got it “ready for adventure and off-roading and had it shipped to Morocco and spent six months crossing the Sahara desert and riding through Algeria and Tunisia,” she goes on.
Source: The Hindu