Dateline: Friday 12 September 2008. Llandovery, Wales. I enjoy tracing friendships back to the source, reminiscing about where, when and how you met, and how the circumstances on that one occasion lead to an enduring relationship and a lifelong bond. The photos above were taken the day Steph, Steve and I first met. We had all independently signed up for an adventure ride called Enduro Africa and this was our training weekend. Steph was there with her sister Cora who was also taking part in Enduro Africa. My brother had signed up for the adventure too but as he lived in Canada, a weekend in Wales was a bit too far to come, and besides he was much more advanced on the dirt tracks than I was in 2008. Steph and I were both off road novices. Steve however was a seasoned enduro rider already and even had his own bike. I was a bit in awe. Steve was actually the very first person I spoke to that weekend. I made the choice to be a little adventurous right from the start and took the option to camp rather than use a local hotel. I bought my first ever tent* and off I went to Llandovery on the edge of the beautiful Bannau Brycheiniog National Park. The camping field was, if I remember correctly, part of the local Rugby club. It was a big flat field and after setting up my tent I took in my surroundings. I was completely alone. Evidently everyone else had decided to check in to a hotel. At least it wouldn't get too noisy at night....... A little while later another car approached and came over to where I was set up. A young guy with a big smile came over and introduced himself. Steve and I shared a beer or two on our camping chairs before going to find the rest of the riders. * That yellow tent did many bike trips with me. It was finally 'retired' after an Overland Winter Warmer weekend a few years ago.
We found the other riders in the local hotel. The next beer we had was with Steph and Cora. There was a lot of excitement amongst the group and we partied on a little longer than we should have considering we were due to be up early the next morning to start an intensive weekend of off road training. That is a tradition we occasionally continue to this day! It was an awesome weekend and I could not wait to see them again for the start of the adventure. We met at Gatwick airport on Thursday 2nd October to fly to South Africa and tackle a ride that would change our lives. As it turned out we were all in different riding groups for the event. Steve was in Red team - the home of the experienced and advanced riders. They were nutters. I think it was less than 24 hours before one of the Red team was on his way to hospital. A day or two later I recall seeing one of their bikes stuck a good couple of meters up in a tree. The rest of us were mere mortals in comparison. I was assigned to team Orange along with my brother Mark. Steph and Cora were in the yellow team, which quickly got renamed the Golden team (probably by Steph!). We had an amazing 12 days heading north east along the coast from Port Elizabeth, and riding into the Transkei region before returning home.
In the months that followed I bought my first Off Roader. It was a well used and abused KTM250exc. It was a wreck and I loved it. In the meantime Steph was already making moves to set up her first Off Road training school in Wales with Mick Extance (who had coached us for Enduro Africa on that weekend in Llandovery). The business grew quickly and soon became the official Honda Off Road centre in the UK. Steve was there as part of the team. I was supplying the printing for the company and occasionally helping with 'sweeper' duties. By 2010 Steph was planning their first customer trip to Morocco. In November of that year we were there. It was a recce with a mix of wild camping and basic hotels. The three amigos rode together again and we had an incredible tour from Fez, over the High Atlas mountains and down into the Sahara, staying for 3 days in Berber tents in the desert. The story of that excursion will be the subject for another Blog in a few months.
Just a few months after Morocco we did what I can only describe as the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. The three of us entered an Enduro race. It was a round of the Fast Eddie series, in Ashby-De-La-Zouch. For Steve this was not an unusual thing to do. He was and still is a fantastic enduro competitor with many credits to his name over the years. For Steph and I it was a different matter. We all sat in a row at the back of the huge starting grid - the novices had the pleasure of being the last group to take the start. I was terrified. To make matters worse it had rained non stop for about 3 days before the race and the 9 mile lap was deep in mud. It was carnage. I have the uncanny ability, whenever the slightest bit of competition enters the situation, to ride like a buffoon who has never been on a bike before. I was all over the place and used all of my energy before I was halfway round the first lap. Why on earth I thought I was good or fit enough to enter a race like that I dont know - but doing it alongside Steph and Steve made it a memory that I will always treasure...... and often curse even after 14 years.
Fast forward to 2021. Steph had now been around the world on Rhonda and returned to write her wonderful road diary Home by Seven. Steve had been living in Bolivia for a few years and was making plans to return home. Never one to sit still, Steph created MOTO Junkies. With humble beginnings (a couple of bikes and a van). MJ grew quickly and I was often there at events helping with sweeping, cooking, festivities, that sort of thing.
Then came MotoCamp Wales - the game changer............. Steph had been running a few trail riding weekends from a beautiful rented farm house in Dolgellau when she got news that the old golf course on the other side of the valley was available to lease. 20 acres of majestic Welsh park land with accommodation and a workshop. We went to visit and it was genuine love at first sight. We walked around the grounds, took photos and Steph saw the potential immediately. I think it was a matter of about 12 weeks between that visit and MOTO Junkies moving in to the site. By that time MOTO Junkies was growing super quickly and more hands were needed. Steph knew Steve was on his way back to the UK and he agreed to become part of the team. Steph asked if I would do the same and I leapt at the opportunity. Having played the spoof role of Stephs Manager for many years it felt amazing to be working officially alongside my two wonderful friends, and to be making so many new ones too. We now have a world class team of instructors & guides, a partnership with Royal Enfield, a beautiful place to call our own in Dolgellau, a resume of awesome national and international adventure tours and a growing list of customers and friends who come to see us at MotoCamp Wales and make our jobs so enjoyable. This is just the first chapter of MOTO Junkies and MotoCamp Wales. As I write Steph is making some incredible plans for our future. Its more than just taking customers out on rides. Steph knows full well that the success of MOTO Junkies is in the experience we give our customers. We love meeting you all and becoming friends and we love sharing our passion for riding, adventure, the outdoors and the odd party or two. If I hadn't signed up for Enduro Africa in 2008 I would never have met two amazing people who are now two of my closest companions. It really did change our lives. Our biggest dream for MOTO Junkies is that some of you will follow the same trajectory and make new and life changing friendships on your adventures with us. Thanks for reading and watch out for the next blog soon. PeteBog