"10 Years on 2 Wheels" is a 208-page coffee table book with more than 200 glossy photos and nine maps. The English publication has been updated to include the latest journey through Siberia, Mongolia, China and Sakhalin Island, and is a must-have for anyone interested in adventure travel.
It may well be a cliche to talk about learning through the University of Life, but this is just how Helge Pedersen has matured and developed his personal philosophy—over the 10 years it has taken him to ride his motorcycle 250,000 miles through 77 countries. Pedersen hails from Kristiansand, Norway. His thirst for travel originated in 1973, when he was chosen to attend Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles as an exchange student with the American Field Service. While in the U.S, he met many other foreign exchange students and began to wonder what their home countries were like. He quickly decided that one day he would see more of the world. After returning from the States, Helge completed his studies as a technical photographer and applied his skills to his position with the Norwegian rescue helicopter service in northern Norway. He soon began to realize his dream.
In 1981, Pedersen bought a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle. In order to prepare it for a lengthy journey, he added a 40-liter fuel tank and other bits and pieces. Finally, as Helge had imagined so many years earlier, he was on his way to a foreign land—Africa, where he traveled alone for two years.
Crossing the world’s largest desert via motorcycle was Helge’s first big challenge on his African odyssey. As a departing gift, some friends had given him their version of a map of the Sahara—a sheet of sandpaper marked with the letter ?N? for North. That ?map? proved to be as good as any other. After reaching the southern tip of Africa, Helge turned north towards Malawi. A dream came true when a fellow countryman hired him to help with his safari business, centered in Kasungu National Park.
Five months later Helge was on the road again. After climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, he journeyed on to Southern Sudan where civil war forced him to change plans and ride through Somalia.
Together with another tourist, the Somali military placed the two bikers under house arrest until it was confirmed neither were Soviet or Cuban soldiers crossing from Ethiopia with the intention of sabotaging military installations. North Yemen offered another imprisonment, which challenged Pedersen’s endurance. With no common language between them, Helge waited while soldiers confirmed his identity. He spent an excruciating day, worrying about loosing a hand to a swift ax in a country which practiced such radical punishment.
Helge returned home only to find the travel bug had truly set its fangs—he could not settle down. Plans for the next stage of his travels began to take shape. This time, the goal was to go around the world. With sponsorships and magazine contracts firmly in place, Pedersen boarded a cargo ship to Argentina, working in exchange for his passage. Once he arrived, he traveled to a national park set among the peaked mountains of Ushuaia, the southernmost town in South America. It was there he learned to speak Spanish to help him along the way during his South American travels. Helge had calculated the Latin American trip would take approximately one year, but it took him nearly three years to reach North America.
Helge is the first motorcyclist ever to ride overland from South America to North America via the infamous Darien Gap—80 roadless miles of virtually impenetrable, bug-infested jungle and swamps, nothing but Indian trails—emerging in Panama City three weeks later with infected legs and broken bones. Crossing the Darien proved to be his most difficult endeavor.
After living for three years among people who were struggling just to survive, yet managing to etch out some happiness, it was a culture shock to arrive in North America. Americans, it seemed to Pedersen, complained about anything and everything even though they were vastly rich in comparison to most Latin Americans. He had experienced the same phenomena when returning to Europe after his African trip.
After two months of traveling through the States, Helge arrived in Seattle, Washington. While presenting a slide show, he met his girlfriend, Karen Ofsthus, an American-born woman with immigrant grandparents from Norway. Pedersen crisscrossed the U.S., occasionally with Karen as a passenger. Participating in a relationship had become the new challenge in his life, and far greater than crossing deserts or impenetrable jungles. Pedersen eventually continued his travels to Asia, once again working his passage on a Norwegian freighter destined for Japan. Later, Karen joined him, and together they traveled over 9,000 miles on the four main islands of Nippon.
Karen, a wildlife and environmental naturalist, was called home to work, leaving Helge to travel alone in South Korea, Australia and SE Asia. After a 10-month separation, they reunited in Turkey and, together, completed the return trip to Norway. It was September 1992; ten years after Pedersen had first departed.
After completing the world tour, Helge Pedersen produced a fascinating travel book about his highly unusual journey through 77 countries. One man, one machine, and over 250,000 miles on the clock. After six months on guest exhibit, BMW AG Corporation purchased Olga, his bike, and placed her on permanent display in their museum located in Munich, Germany.
To promote his book, “10 Years on 2 Wheels,” Pedersen produced a 90-minute multimedia presentation, seen by thousands around the world. If you or your organization are interested in having Helge do a presentation please contact us by email.
Helge's book "10 Years on 2 Wheels" can be ordered from Touratech-USA
If you live outside the USA please contact your nearest Touratech dealer and order your book from them. Touratech World Wide links.