MICHNUS & ELSEBIE OlIVIER: PIKIPIKI OVERLAND BLOG
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 6/12/17
For the thirty sixth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are so happy to be sharing the story of Michnus and Elsebie Olivier. You may know them from their excellent travel blog PikiPiki Overland.
PikiPiki is Swahili for Motorcycle. I had to look it up too.
I discovered PikiPiki Overland through Instagram, where they have an excellent travel gallery of their global adventures by motorcycle.
Honestly the hardest part about publishing this interview was deciding which photo’s to use for the piece. Their personal website, http://www.pikipiki.co.za/ is a fantastic collection of information and stories from their travels. You can also follow their travels though their Facebook Page or their YouTube channel.
You can help keep them on the road by visiting their online store.
They have been on the road for several years now (since 2010) and have seen many parts of the world. I spoke to them about their life on two wheels and the ups and downs of this transient lifestyle.
Michnus and Elsebie are true globetrotters. Determined to continue to explore the next day. They are a great reminder that each day is what you make it.
We are very excited to share their story.
What do you consider to be your place of work?
We have been lucky and fortunate to be able to travel long term the last few years. My bike and camera is my work place for the foreseeable future.
Tell me about your bikes. What do you call them?
We are currently using DR650 Suzuki’s, which we pimped a little bit with bigger tanks and must have stuff to make them more overland proof. We left our Dakar 650’s in Europe as Africa took quite a toll on them. Names? Nope! When we name them we get too attached to them, yea, yea, I know it sounds silly. The day I have to kick it into a ditch and walk away from it I do not want to feel like I am leaving my best friend behind. That said they do grow on us and we have huge sentimental value in them. With our Dakar’s we will make a special place in the living room for them one day.
When and how did you get it?
We bought the two bikes from a great guy in Texas. Both were low mileage late model bikes. Texas allows foreigners to register vehicles in their names. So it made the buying easy.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
Quite a few. For travelling overland we wanted less complicated, lighter bikes, especially for shipping and for off-roading, we do not want to sit with 300kg monsters. The BMW Dakars were expensive to maintain and heavy. We had a KLR in the past and although a great bike, it is still heavy and I think the DR just a little bit more reliable. The XR Honda is too old and the Yamaha Xt660 in about the same class as the BMW Dakar. Then the KTM690 is nice, but I doubt their reliability and they are just way too expensive to convert and maintain as an overland bike. I took the Honda 250 CRF also in to consideration, but felt that once loaded they would struggle in sand and off the beaten track places.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
Yes, we swapped the fuel tanks with 26L units, added rear racks, carrier bars for the soft luggage, wider foot pegs, better handlebars, Cogent Suspension front and rear, and aftermarket seats. GPS and SAE electrical sockets and that’s about it. No sense in wasting too much money on bling items. It if does not have a real purpose or value it is not going with.
What is your favorite part about it living/working off of your bikes?
The freedom to move and go where ever we want. You are really a lot like a homeless person, only managing with the little bit of stuff you have with you. Bikes also force you to constantly look at weight and volume and makes you a minimalist at heart, it is a simple type of lifestyle. It is a generalization but when we get into small villages people are much more prone to come and talk to us and are so much friendlier and approaching towards us than 4×4 overlanders. We found this in Africa, USA, Central America and now in Colombia. The openness you feel while sitting on a bike, being vulnerable to the world and environment, smelling and dealing with the heat, humidity, cold, rain and everything else makes the experience so much more prickling.
What is your least favorite part about it?
Kitting up every day, especially in the heat, and when we stop for photos. Car people travel in shorts and t-shirts and it is so much easier to quickly get out for a photo.
How many miles have you put on your bikes?
Currently on the DR’s 29000miles
What is the best place you have taken them?
The Copper Canyon Mexico, The White Rim trail in Utah, Baja Mexico, and now the Colombian Highlands. These bikes have taken us to so many cool places.
Is there just one?
No, and we are currently enjoying the beautiful roads and scenes of Colombia.
Favorite road you’ve driven?
The road between Kenya and Ethiopia called the Turkana route. Not many motorcycle overlanders ever go that way. It is adventure with amazing landscapes and views.
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living off of a bike, what would you tell them?
Save as much as you can before setting off or better yet try and create some passive income.
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people?
After our first 6 months, when our plan to was to run all the way from South Africa to Europe, we realized it. When we arrived in Ethiopia our 6 months was over and in that time we came to realize what that expression actually means. And how much truth and value is in that expression. That is exactly how we have been travelling ever since.
You have found a strong place in the community of adventure riders. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?
Be open minded, very open minded! Be honest, keep things real. Bullshitting yourself or others will only come back to bite you in the ass.
I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourselves as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
When we started it was more a leap of faith, but I would rather describe it as evolution over time. The more you grow into the lifestyle the easier and more enjoyable it becomes. There is so much emotion and self-reflection going on all the time. Are you doing the right thing? What will happen? Are you really happy? Constant reflection is a good way not to get trapped in a rut.
Where do you want to go next?
South America for the next two years. Colombia is such a kick-ass cool country, we will spend 6 months just travelling this country alone. Career wise, we have been entrepreneurs for the most part of our lives. We are always on the lookout for new businesses and opportunities but with the one clear trait that we are able to run it while still travelling.