Today, we’re back with our interview series featuring motorcycle and travel enthusiasts. Our guest this time is a well-known figure in the Spanish motorcycling scene, Luis Oromi. He’s been passionate about motorcycles and travel since a young age, the owner of successful motorcycle dealerships in Lleida and Huesca, accumulating over four decades in this world.
Additionally, Luis is the author of the renowned book “Safari Salama“, a logbook that takes readers on a 14,000-kilometer journey from Cape Town to Cairo, a breathtaking route across the African continent that Luis enjoyed aboard his BMW GS 650.
REVV: Hello Luis, let’s start with a simple question: Do you believe motorcycle travel is an art?
LUIS OROMÍ: Yes, motorcycle travel is an art, an art that is learned through constant practice.
R: What three qualities do you think are essential to being a good motorcyclist?
L: I believe the primary quality of a motorcyclist is having many skills, being proficient. But, fundamentally, to highlight three essential skills, I think a good motorcyclist must be observant, courageous, and have a strong desire to enjoy the ride.
R: What do you consider the main values of motorcycle tourism?
L: Motorcycle tourism, for me, is more of a way of life than a sport. Traveling on a motorcycle has nothing to do with traveling by car, bus, or boat. Riding a motorcycle is an active journey where you are in constant contact with the surroundings: you smell the things in the countryside, feel the cold, the heat, get wet… That’s why, for me, a key value of motorcycle tourism is that it allows you to develop a great adaptability, something you don’t cultivate with other means of travel.
R: Is there anything you miss when you travel?
L: When I travel, I don’t miss anything. But it’s true that, even though people may see travelers like me as adventurers or tough individuals, the truth is that what we enjoy the most is coming back home. It might seem contradictory, but we truly love being with family and loved ones when we return. It’s also true that shortly after, we start creating new goals, new challenges, and planning new trips, but it’s something we savor.
Travel Tips and Advice
R: Now, tell us all the secrets you apply to plan your trips. What do you think should never be missing in a motorcyclist’s luggage?
L: I believe that a paper map should never be missing from a motorcyclist’s luggage. In my opinion, there’s nothing, no GPS or navigator, that can ever replace a paper map. There’s nothing like sitting calmly, reading a map over a cup of coffee, beer, or a glass of water.
R: What advice would you give to someone planning a motorcycle trip?
L: The main advice I would give to someone planning a motorcycle trip, whether short or long, is to prioritize it above all and set a date. This is the way to commit to it, ensuring the trip is not just a project but becomes a reality. You know how people say, “Let’s grab a coffee one of these days!” when they meet a friend on the street, and in reality, they never get to have that coffee. It’s the same for a trip; when you decide to do it, it’s essential to set a date, prioritize it, and desire it a lot. Otherwise, many trips sadly remain as projects.
R: What do you think is the necessary preparation before a trip?
L: The main thing is to have a strong desire for the trip, a basic knowledge of your motorcycle, and some experience in the world of motorcycles. Improvisation may seem appealing, but I always say the same thing: I wouldn’t attempt to cross the Strait of Gibraltar swimming after just a weekend swimming course. It’s the same with motorcycle trips: set challenges that you can handle, where you can solve problems when they arise and allow you to develop the most important thing, which is adaptability.
When you plan a trip with a certain level of risk to challenging or potentially challenging destinations, simply budget, put a lot of effort into it, prioritize it, and always keep a sense of humility in mind; with that, it will surely go well. I don’t think you need a high-end motorcycle and extraordinary preparation. With simple things like a bag, some clothes, a bit of information about where you’re going, and the desire to make the trip, I think it’s sufficient.
R: How do you manage your safety, and how important do you think health is on these trips?
L: I think all of this is very relative; obviously, any problem can arise, and the most important thing is to be prepared to face it. It’s likely that you’ll encounter far fewer problems than you imagine. Regarding health, I believe you should be in decent condition, take care of yourself, and prepare yourself a bit physically before the trip.
R: What objects or gadgets do you think are essential for a motorcycle trip?
L: Maybe I’m very basic, but the only essential thing on my trips is my multi-tool knife. I don’t carry cameras, only my phone to take a few photos, and a GPS that I usually use only to locate myself in large cities or find a specific street or point. But the truth is that on many trips, I never even open it. I would simply say a multi-tool knife, nothing else.
R: What advice can you give us on budgeting for a motorcycle trip?
L: Regarding the budget, I think it’s also very relative. The main thing is to be aware that this type of adventure is expensive, very expensive. Traveling requires a budget, an economic investment that you must be willing to make. That’s why, for me, there are two ways to travel: with a lot of time and little money or with a lot of money and little time. You choose which way you prefer.
A Lifetime of Motorcycle Travel Experience
R: Nowadays, you are a renowned motorcyclist with considerable experience in two-wheeled travel. How did your passion for motorcycle travel arise?
L: I’m not sure how my passion for motorcycle travel arose, but I’ll tell you something that very few people know and that served as inspiration for me. I was born in a small town near Lleida, and at the age of 10, all my classmates and friends asked for a soccer ball, boots, or football socks. I, on the other hand, asked my mother to teach me how to sew, and although my mother was surprised, she eventually taught me.
I made a tent out of plastic fertilizer bags and a string for tying sausages. I tied the tent to my bike, pedaled, and set it up on the outskirts of the town. I stayed inside and spent many afternoons like that. When it was time, I folded it back, put it on the bike, and went home. I made a thousand bike trips, but I think that’s where my passion for traveling, exploring, and living arose.
R: Have you ever considered settling down in any of the places you’ve visited?
L: Yes, many times I’ve considered settling down in some of the places I’ve visited. It’s something that crosses your mind, but unfortunately, humans put down roots: our family, our work, our friends… and it’s challenging to detach from them. But it’s true that I’ve had that temptation several times.
R: What do you prefer, traveling solo, as a couple, or in a group?
L: For me, there are two main types of trips: group trips with friends and trips you take alone. When you travel with a group, you can have a great journey, an exceptional one, but sometimes there are also many problems, and trips turn into nightmares. I can tell you that you get to know people on a trip.
On the other hand, when you travel alone, you decide who to talk to and who not to, and that trip always becomes an adventure. My best adventures, moments, and experiences have happened when I’ve traveled alone. Lately, I also enjoy traveling with my partner, who is a great motorcyclist, and we both enjoy it a lot together. But if I had to prioritize, solo trips would always come first.
R: Have you calculated how many kilometers you have ridden on a motorcycle throughout your life?
L: It’s a question that many people have asked me, but I’m not concerned about it at all. I don’t travel to accumulate kilometers; I travel to accumulate experiences. One day, I decided that I preferred to have a passport full of stamps than a bank account full of zeros, and that’s what I did. So, I don’t know… Many, probably more than a million, but I don’t know the exact number.
R: Which motorcycle do you think you’ve ridden the most kilometers on?
L: I think the motorcycle I’ve ridden the most kilometers on is a BMW GS 1000 Paris Dakar or perhaps its predecessor, a BMW GS 1000, the one they called the taxi of Barcelona. In a year, I could do 40,000 or 50,000 kilometers on them, and in a couple of years, I had to sell them because they had over 100,000. I believe that of all, the BMW GS 1000 Paris Dakar was the one on which I traveled the most kilometers: I crossed Algeria with it, circled Spain, went to Elephants Rally for many years, traveled to Morocco many times for off-road adventures in the deserts… With that bike, I covered hundreds of thousands of kilometers.
R: Which countries have you visited on your motorcycle?
L: I have visited many countries on a motorcycle; one day, I decided to count, and I think it was around 60 or 70 different countries. But, as with kilometers, it’s not something that concerns me or that I count. In the end, I travel where I like, where I want, and where I can.
Do you know what I avoid? Standard trips, like now when everyone says you have to go to the North Cape or do the Pyrenean crossing because it’s trendy. I’ve been in the Pyrenees all my life; they are my home, but I’ve never done the Pyrenean crossing. I’ve never been to the North Cape, and you know when I would like to go there? In November or December; that’s a real adventure. I truly respect everyone who goes to the North Cape, but for me, that’s a walk, very respectable, but I shy away from trendy destinations.
R: How many motorcycles have you had throughout your life, and which ones are your favorites?
L: I don’t know exactly how many motorcycles I’ve had; I lost count, but there are many. They are my passion, and I enjoy buying new motorcycles a lot, so I can’t give you a specific number.
As for which motorcycles are my favorites, those of us who are motorcycle enthusiasts and love all types have a hard time choosing a favorite. I can enjoy a 125cc as much as a 3.5, or a 500; I enjoy all of them because I believe the fun is adapting to each motorcycle. Any motorcycle is suitable for any adventure if the rider knows what they have between their hands.
Perhaps, the motorcycle I enjoyed the most is the one I mentioned earlier, the black and yellow BMW GS 1000 they called the taxi of Barcelona. I also enjoyed a lot with a Yamaha Tenere with dual headlights, air-cooled; with that bike, I had great adventures, and I have a lot of affection for it.
R: What do you think has been the most emotional and happy moment of your travels?
L: Obviously, in my travels, there have been moments of all kinds. When you travel to complicated or difficult countries, with a situation that can become dangerous, you experience all kinds of moments. There have been many happy moments too, but I believe the happiest moments for a traveler are when you return home, hug your partner, your dog jumps and gives you a couple of licks, and you sleep in your bed.
R: What have been the most difficult situations you have faced in your travels?
L: The worst moments I remember were when I had problems in these complicated African countries. In Libya, I had to pick up a companion who had an accident, and we had to get him out as best we could. In Morocco, I also had a very complicated incident, in which I had to rescue people with very serious problems because they had had an accident. In Ethiopia, I was on the verge of having an accident and cutting myself with a cable. In Kenya, I had a rifle pointed at my belly, and in Mozambique, I walked into a minefield without realizing it. There were very tough moments, but when you travel, there are always tough moments; they are the least, but they exist.
R: What has been your best trip and your favorite route?
L: For me, all trips are good. What I can tell you is which has been my worst trip, the worst trip for a traveler: the one you never made or had to cancel, that is the worst trip. But my best trip is all of them, perhaps because I have the ability to adapt, turning trips around. Even if it meant sleeping in a ditch, eating a can, or a sandwich of anything, or sleeping among animals, I continued to enjoy. It would be hard for me to pick the best trip.
And as for routes, if I had to choose a favorite, I would say a great and beautiful route is crossing Africa. Crossing Africa is beautiful; it’s the continent of adventures, it never leaves you indifferent. It will create rejection or hook you and inject the poison of Africa into your veins, but it will never leave you indifferent.
R: What is the most beautiful place you have been to?
L: The truth is that I have been to very beautiful places. There is a place in the southern desert of Libya called the Ubari Oases. It’s beautiful, like a movie. If you search for photos online, you’ll see how beautiful it is, a paradise in the middle of the desert. I have also been to other spectacular places, such as the Indian Ocean coast of Mozambique, which is as unknown as it is spectacular.
I was in a small city called Pemba, where I stayed at an Australian’s campsite, and it was impressive. They were very humble straw huts but also beautiful and pleasant, with a good atmosphere among travelers. Another very beautiful place I went to is Beirut; I arrived in Beirut on a motorcycle from Syria to Lebanon, and it impressed me. In fact, the entire road that goes from the Syrian border to Lebanon and descends to Beirut along the Mediterranean coast is spectacular.
R: Is there any motorcycle trip you haven’t taken yet?
L: Well, yes, I’m glad you asked me. There is a motorcycle trip that I haven’t taken yet, which is the fifth continent: Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia… In fact, I was preparing a trip to Indonesia, to a beautiful island called Flores, when the pandemic came and disrupted everything. But well, it’s on the table, and I’m sure I’ll do it someday.
R: Recommend a trip that we shouldn’t miss.
L: You know that I am in love with Africa, so I believe that this is a trip that no one should miss. I highly recommend Kenya and Uganda, where you can see Lake Victoria, a spectacular destination. The people, their joy, the great landscapes, the wildlife, and being able to move with the motorcycle among animals… this is a trip that I recommend, and I will do it again myself.
R: How do you handle solitude on the road?
L: Perhaps loneliness is the toughest part of these types of trips, but I will also tell you that voluntary solitude is very beautiful; bad solitude is mandatory solitude. Being alone when you feel like it is good: you get to know yourself, you listen to yourself, and this is a very interesting learning experience.
R: What type of riding do you enjoy the most: on the road, trail…?
L: The type of riding that attracts me the most and that I enjoy the most is what we call trail riding. Although I think trail riding is now misunderstood: it’s trendy, and people think it means getting into complicated off-road paths, nothing could be further from the truth. Trail riding is about traveling, finding beautiful places by advancing, leaving the asphalt, the black, and immersing yourself fully in the brown.
A mixed journey through rural areas that allow you to meet simple people and mingle with them, listening to their stories and talking to all the people in the villages, with humility. This way, you never have problems because many of the problems people tell us about are caused by themselves, by their selfishness, arrogance, or lack of respect.
R: What passion do you combine with motorcycles?
L: Of course, throughout my life, motorcycles have been a great passion. But I also practice other passions, such as reading, riding a bike… I also enjoy walking in the countryside, in rural areas in the mountains in winter, I love that.
R: And finally, tell us a bit about your book Safari Salama, that great journey through Africa that has also inspired thousands of travel enthusiasts on motorcycles. How did it come about, and what has this book meant to you?
L: Safari Salama originated from a book called Operation Impala. This book is about how some Catalan motorcyclists crossed the entire Africa with two Montesa Impalas; I read this book and said, someday I will do this. I looked for a date, a reason, and a pretext and prioritized it above all. This date was my 50th birthday, when I decided to send a motorcycle to South Africa and cross the continent from south to north alone. That’s how Safari Salama emerged.
For me, this book is actually a tribute to the children I encountered during the journey because Safari Salama means “good journey” in Swahili. The children always told me, and I didn’t know what it meant until a friend told me. When I discovered what this phrase meant, I decided to write a book with the story of my journey and give it this title in their honor.
Thank you very much, Luis Oromi, for enlightening us with your immense wisdom, which undoubtedly we will all apply in our motorcycle travels from now on. We hope you enjoyed this interview and that you found valuable advice and anecdotes to get to know the wonderful world of two-wheeled travel a little better. Here’s the link for those who want to buy his book Safari Salama.