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Local nurse travels from Italy to India on a Vespa

New Westminster
New Westminster's Lindsay Doig and her Italian boyfriend Paolo Zambon take a break in their Vespa travels to visit Naghshe Jahan Square in Esfahan, Iran.
— image credit: PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Vespas are as much a part of Italian culture as spaghetti and general elections.

So when Lindsay Doig’s Italian boyfriend Paolo Zambon suggested an epic journey from Italy to India and perhaps beyond on his little black motor scooter, she took it in stride.

Since Doig, a registered nurse from New Westminster, met Zambon, a web programmer, while traveling in Laos two years ago, they’d shared many adventures, including an ill-fated plan to rendezvous in Mali that came to an abrupt halt when Zambon crashed his scooter in Mauritania.

Zambon was undaunted. During his truncated 5,000-km trip, he loved the smiles he saw on people’s faces as he zipped by. He loved the slower pace that allowed for spontaneous exploration but without the grueling physical effort of pedaling a bicycle.

Doig and Zambon’s joint journey took months of planning. They had to arrange for documentation that would allow them to ride their scooter across various international borders. They had to acquire visas for countries they’d cross, like Iran and Pakistan. They had to devise a wardrobe that would get them through all kinds of weather, but was compact enough to stuff into bags strapped to the front and tail of their Vespa. And they had to get durable tires that would withstand the rigours of the long road, over all kinds of pavement from smooth highway to potholed backroad to rock-strewn dirt path.

They embarked on Sept. 15, leaving Zambon’s hometown of Budoia for Venice at 6 a.m. They sailed on a ferry to Igoumenitsa, Greece, then on through Turkey and Iran, traveling from 150-220 km a day.

Everywhere they went, the Vespa seemed to act as an ambassador.

“Most people seemed quite amused by the Vespa,” says Doig in an email interview. “They either laugh and think it is strange, or say what a great idea. (Some) say it is ridiculous and offer to help us find a bigger bike.”

The couple says while they were prepared for a difficult passage through Iran, it was anything but.

“So far we say 100 per cent it has been the highlight,” says Doig.

Pakistan was another story, though.

The country’s tense political situation and the ongoing effort by other countries to root out terrorists hiding out there meant westerners aren’t particularly welcomed with open arms. Crossing the border took so long, Doig and Zambon ended up bunking down for the night in an office in the customs house. The next morning, their paperwork in order, they were teamed with a police escort traveling in the car of a Swiss couple.

Checkpoints and police escorts marked their entire journey across Pakistan. Some nights they even slept in police stations because it was safer than taking their chances in the towns.

“The city has a strange atmosphere,” writes Zambon in his online diary of their stop in Jacobabad. “A bit intense keeping in mind its Taliban connections.”

“We never felt in danger there,” says Doig of their 17-day traverse of Pakistan. “Our interaction with people was quite limited.”

They crossed the border into India on Dec. 16 and have been exploring that country on their Vespa ever since. Following a local who guided them through back alleys to a hotel in Agra, they even managed to breach the 500-metre security zone around the Taj Mahal.

So far they’ve accumulated more than 13,000 kilometres on their scooter.

If their money, and the Vespa’s tires hold out, they’re hoping to extend their journey to Melbourne, Australia.


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