Today is the 40th day of the adventure that Juanillo Oton (yes, it’s Juanillo on his DNI) began the day after he turned 40: going around the world on a motorcycle. His adventure also has a charitable aspect, because he has put it at the service of the Si jo puc, tu també #epilep foundation to visualize epilepsy. Kilometers can be sponsored that will be entirely dedicated to the entity.
It is not easy to talk to Juanillo considering that since he left Tarragona he has barely stopped. He has already traveled 15 countries and is connecting to Wi-Fi wherever he can.
escorted by paramilitaries
The difference is that this time Juanillo has Wi-Fi because he is being held in a hotel in Pakistan. It arrived on Saturday of last week in the middle of what is still the most complicated moment of the adventure.
It all started when he crossed the border between Iran and Pakistan. He was warned that for his first journey, from Taftan to Quetta (Taliban area of influence), they would have to escort him, but living it in person was something else. Throughout the 650-kilometre journey, 15 cars and a dozen motorcycles from the Levies, paramilitary groups paid by the Pakistani government for this mission, took turns accompanying him. “They don’t part with their weapons, they are in constant tension,” he recalls.
What Juanillo did not calculate is that, in addition, he would have to make the journey in the middle of Ramadan, so his companions made the journey without hardly stopping because they could not eat or drink. He had a can of tuna and two bottles of water that at 45 degrees were nothing. “I have never suffered so much from thirst in my life,” he recalls.
Once safe in the hotel, the other surprise is that they are on vacation, so he will have to wait until Friday for the police to come looking for him to get the document he needs to be able to continue on his way. Restless by nature, he has had to prepare himself for not being able to set foot outside the hotel, so he has decided to take it as a break. The first day he slept 14 hours straight.
When he leaves, the intention is to go to Islamabad and then north, to the border with China, a country where he will not enter “because they would make me pay for a guide to accompany me 24 hours a day.” Then he will head to India.
When we ask him about what has impacted him the most about the trip, he goes from one memory to another, but always ends up talking about Iran, where, thanks to the hospitality of unknown people, he always ended up staying in private homes. «And that is a very economic country; there it costs 10 cents a liter of gasoline. With what I put in Tarragona a liter in Iran almost fills the tank».
He remembers that when he arrived in a town a young man approached him to see what he needed. He told him that he was looking for a place to spend the night and the boy took him to his house. The family gave him the only room to sleep. “They are that friendly, and that clashes with our European culture a lot.”
The first part of the trip, to Istanbul, was made with his wife. “When I said goodbye to her I cried like a little child,” he admits, but believes that the experience of traveling alone (something he had never done before) is teaching him many things. “Everyone should be able to try it at least once in their life,” he says. He has had more than one scare, such as a motorcycle fall on a lonely track or a child pointing a shotgun at him that turned out to be pellets.
The bike “is behaving well,” as is his body. In addition, it is understood thanks to a translator that sometimes works and sometimes not «because I only have my EGB English».
There is a long way to go and he says he is still open to surprises. “It’s what happens when you go on an open ride; no bracelet.” The route is also making him reflect: «I am a very ambitious person, but you realize that there are other things. This puts you in your place.”