Interview With The Hairy Bikers

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Your first series was filmed in Portugal and you’ve since visited Southern Mexico, India, Buenos Aires and more.  But when did you really know you wanted to travel?

Si: Well we didn’t want to be stuck in Britain really!  It’s just a dream, especially as bikers.  We both worked as film crew for years. It’s fair to say that you have ideas when you join the film and television industry that you’ll go to exotic locations.  But you just end up in the same boring places and so we just lived a dream really. And certainly for the first part, Portugal was a measured decision, but for the first two series, it literally was that we just sat down and thought ‘where do we want to go?’ and just went. It is a dream come true! That’s the reason.

Dave, you worked as a furnaceman to finance your studies, you’ve written books together and even had a go at Indian ballet.  What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far?

Si: I think the most challenging bit to so far is to continue to make interesting programming because if you don’t it just becomes the same thing over and over, one thing after the other. Longevity really.

Dave: We’ve never done more than two series of something whereas people seem to go on, they just juggle out, but we’ve just knocked it on the head after a couple of series. So that’s challenging.

Si: Namibia was the most challenging trip ‘cause we rode something like 3,000 kilometres off-road.  But that’s the great thing about travel, and that’s the great thing about the journey.  Particularly on motorcycles, it’s not about getting from A to B, it’s the bit in the middle that’s important. I mean, by the very nature of Namibia’s geography throws up so many different problems for us.  Neither of us had had any experience.

Getting to munch your way around the world, your job looks perfect from the outside, but what is the biggest myth about your job/industry?

Dave:  I think they think that ‘cause we’re surrounded by stunning food that you get to eat it.  But the food you cook, by the time it’s photographed, it’s not fit for eating.  You spend an awful lot of time cooking amazing food then going back to a hotel for a club sandwich and chips.

Si: There’s no hot food on TV.  It doesn’t exist.

Dave: Earlier on we were starving and we’d made a PAC shot, which is like the perfect shot.  We were standing to one side waiting to be photographed and we just assumed it had been done so we ate it.

Si: Everyone went berserk! The director, he was stamping his feet, spitting feathers but we just couldn’t stop laughing. We thought ‘Oh shit, we’ve eaten it!  Better make another one, eh?’

You get to travel for a living and experience things that most people won’t get to do half of in their whole lifetime.  What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Dave: Ooo, there’s been hundreds, haven’t there?

Si: I think having the privilege to travel but we get to see and get to go to places and get to interact with people that the general tourists and the general populace wouldn’t even get access to.  And because we have fantastic researchers and Dave and I get involved and say: ‘we should look at that culturally, we should go and do that’.  That’s a huge, huge privilege.

Dave: In Argentina we were in Peninsula Valdes and it was a time when the South Right whales had come in with their calves and there were about 300 of them in a bay.   You sit in a boat and drift out amongst them and they swim underneath the boat.  You see them surfacing and popping up around the boat and that was a breathtaking way to spend the day. Oh, and the smell! When a whale comes up and surfaces and ‘pfffffff’, you get this fishy snot all over your face!  It’s like special fishy snot. That was a good day out!

You’ve had snakes on your heads, caught sharks in the South Atlantic, and bathed elephants in Kerala.  What has been your most memorable experience with nature?

Dave: We were sitting with hundreds of thousands of penguins down in Patagonia and they really make you giggle! They cross paths in twos and you know that they’re the bosses; it’s their land.

Si: It’s amazing just to see elephants and giraffe… There was one time when we found some rhino dung which had the most amazing smell because they have a diet of muhr and tobacco and it just smells like this musky scent.

Dave: Yeah! If you could bottle rhino shit as a man’s cologne, it would be fantastic!  I remember trying to juggle elephant dung once. Thought it would be a laugh but we dropped one and it was full of spiders.

As foodies, what has been the best and worst thing that you’ve ever eaten on your travels?

Si: We get asked this very often but part of the problem is each individual country that you visit always has something fantastic to offer, so it’s very difficult to choose.  We’ve been round the world nearly two and a half times now and there is so much that’s brilliant. There are several things that I wouldn’t like to try again…

But often you find when you travel extensively, that the simpler the food, the better it is.  Having said that in Vietnam we’ve had some wonderful food, like Didier Corlou. He bought Vietnamese street food that Dave and I absolutely adored but he bought it in a sort of mad five star dining setting and that was mind blowing!

As travel buddies, what do you find most annoying about each other?

Dave: Si used to suck his teeth when he was thinking.  On the phone you used to hear (mimics kissing teeth repeatedly).  We’ve been mates for 20 years.  You couldn’t’ carry on doing this, certainly

Si: We both like bikes and food, so it works. That’s all you need.

You’ve mixed with Michelin-starred chefs and home bakers.  Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Si: Oh God, there’s loads.  Keith Floyd, Elizabeth David, Rick Stein.

Dave: I remember when Keith Floyd and Rick Stein were doing their thing around the world.  It was a dream for us to do something similar, you know.

I think the people that cook at that level, they have something special. I mean Tom Kerridge, Olivier LIrostal, John Edward Matthias – he was amazing – Nigel Howarth… Loads.  But you come back and you wanna cook.  All the people are just so generous with their tips and stuff and you just think ‘oh I wanna do that when I get home,’ and you do.

In Bakeation series you cook dishes inspired by the countries you’re visiting.  Which country has inspired your cooking the most and why?

Dave: Southern India where we were, was really inspiring with the spices.  And with vegetarian food you’ve got chefs there that have been mixing spices for thousands of years, while we’re just starting. It’s a bit of magic, really.

What is the best piece of local advice you’ve ever been given?

Si: I think the most important thing about travel is to try and celebrate the differences of each individual country and region and if you enter that scenario with an open heart and an open hand, you’re always gonna get way more back.

And be gentle!  It’s about just chilling out and not enforcing your agendas and not enforcing your schedules and not enforcing anything; just be in a place and space and you’re gonna have a fantastic time. And it’s going to be far more culturally and emotionally enriching than if you were just blasting through it and getting on the next bus.

And wash your hands!

For the full interview, visit My Destination.

The bikers and I

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