By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orca’s – 12/17/18
For the ninety eighth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are very pleased to present the story of Karakoram Son.
If you aren’t following the adventures of Karakoram Son by now you haven’t been doing your due diligence as a fan of adventure motorcycling. Starting in Berlin and taking on some of most epic riding on his way around the world, Willi’s journey has been a joy to follow. His photography is fantastic and his adventurous spirit really comes alive in his content.
You can stay up to date on his whereabouts and his beautiful imagery by following @karakoram_son on Instagram, or Facebook, or his series on YouTube, but of course I always think going directly to the source is best. You can check out the website karakoramson.com directly. You’ll find information on his route map, his future destinations, and all sorts of other fun goodies like gear advice and information.
I am really excited to share this story for a number of reasons. His content is great. I especially like it because we ride the same machine. There is a certain kinship among travelers to begin with, but when you start seeing people doing it on your machine, there is that extra little to pull you in. Watching how the bike handles the journey, helps put you in the adventure that much more. You can imagine yourself riding along the same roads.
I am very pleased to share this story. Check out the interview and photo’s and video from Karakoram Son below.
What do you consider to be your place of work?
Prior to travel project, I worked as software engineer. Though, In near future definitely I would consider to setup a small Cafe-Garage-Workshop and work part time on custom (adventure) motorcycles.
Tell me about your (Year, Make, model) bike. What do you call it?
I own a BMW F800 GS Adventure of Year 2014 in Candy Red color. I call her “Bummellise” or as short “Liza”. Bummelliese is German female nickname for a women who takes a lot of time to get ready and move slowly.
When and how did you get it?
I found online a decent offer for a bmw f800gsa. As there was nothing reasonable available nearby so I picked up her in 2015 from 600 km away from my hometown. I even didn’t test drive it. So just bought it and drove back in rain on first day.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
There is no perfect bike for around the world travel. In planning phase my extensive research was on various motorcycles ranging between 250cc and 800cc. Initially, I was more align towards single cylinder 600-650cc including XT 660 Tenere, BMW Serato and KTM 690. Later, I added F800GS and Honda 450 CRF in list as well. No doubt they are very robust machines.
For me reliability, my budget and track record (with long distance trips) were most imperative. After consultation with some riders who had done similar long distance travel and with my own desire to drive. I chose F800GS adventure as it is middleweight proven to be reliable and strong motorcycle. It has 21” inches front wheel, a tall windscreen, a large 24 Litre tank, lower mileage and basic protection pre-installed. Above all, I really liked this machine and felt joy to ride it.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
Though, the motorcycle was already well equipped but I added few protection items such as strong skid plates, crash bars and hand guards. Additionally auxiliary lights for dark roads, headlight protection, a better Battery, luggage system and to 4mm thicker tubes in tires were also my priorities. I like to go off the beaten paths so chain maintenance could not be as regular, so I installed Scottoiler VSystem which is proven to be the one the best add on on the motorcycle. my chain and sprocket set lasted almost 30,000KM.
What is your favorite part about it living off of your bike?
To connect with elements, When you drive motorcycle in rain, snow, heat, dust and wind. This experience connects you to elements of nature. I am more please to do Wild camping and be in mountains. Solo travel gives you opportunity to learn about others as well as about yourself.
What is your least favorite part about it?
Transportation across continent is tedious and expensive.
What is the best place you have taken it?
Without any doubt “Passu Cones” in upper Hunza Gilgit in Pakistan. Karakoram Highway and it surrounding areas including Hunza, Deosai, Skardu and Khunjerab Pass are right on top.
Is there just one?
I am truly mesmerize with Bartang (Pamir Tajikistan), Cappadocia, Uzungol (D915 Turkey), Songkul (Kyrgyzstan), Dolomites, Alps, Persepolis (Iran), Isfahan (Iran), Kashgar and so on. I love mountains and nature so that’s why many in that list are mountains and lakes.
Favorite road you’ve driven?
Bartang Valley Road in Tajikistan and Shimshal Valley Road in Karakoram Highway, Pakistan
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
Metanoia (change in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion.)
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living off of a bike, what would you tell them?
Life is way more fragile and short than we believe it is. I have never met anyone who regret the decision to have traveled. In fact I get messages from senior persons who regret of not have taken time out of their youth time to travel.
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?
First month of my travel was all new with fears and thoughts. I always had taken stress to complete my day ride and complete schedule kilometers. But on 34th day of my travel, I still remember, the first spark of this recognition feeling happened in Greece. I crossed into turkey and had plan to reach Istanbul. During a break, right on the road I was sitting outside cafe with small green garden. With no customer and nice weather I liked just sitting in swing sofa and thinking. It just hit me that why do I need to be in so much rush and planning. I sat there and enjoyed Turkish tea for next 4 hours and planned to camp overnight.
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?
I grew up closer to nature. Nature is and will always be dear to me. We all as individual need to save and protect it. Be a responsible traveler or tourist on the road. And If you can not save it then at least do not hurt it.
One more thing which helped me a lot during the travel is fearlessness from strangers and tolerance for foreign cultures and values.
I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourself as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
I had zero experience with motorcycle traveling and camping. This way of life was very new to me and leaving comfortable life, friends, job and home for long time was not an easy decision. I took leap of faith which came out very well.
Where do you want to go next? (geographically and career wise)
I started from Berlin and after 25 countries, and 27000 km and 7 months now in Pakistan. Continuing this Around the World trip, I would love to go next to Africa (Kenya-South Africa) then South America and North America. A small loop around Europe before I go back to home.
Far future plans are Berlin-Dakar and Berlin-Magadan (Road of bones).
Very interesting guy. I’ll definitely be following Karakoram Son. Thanks Paul!