DIY Global Moto Movie "Mondo Enduro" -- a Review
June 18, 2012
Austin Vince has an action hero name, doncha think? And his "Mondo Enduro" is an action movie that wears its cult stripes proudly.
Vince and 5 pals set out in 1995 to ride motorcycles around the world. No sponsors, living on the cheap, wild/rough camping all the way. This was before the Web (pretty much) and WAY before Ewan and Charlie -- in fact, this trip was their inspiration. These were regular blokes: teachers, a journalist, a train-clerk. Classmates from college. And they did it -- in style.
Vince seems to have a thing for Devo and often wears brightly colored overalls and bleaches his hair. Actually, the whole team often sported spiky white hairdos.
They even had a TV show along the way. ...A decade before other "reality" shows.
Indeed, they trump themselves a few times over: they used *small* dirt bikes -- when experts told them to go big. (Vince still says to not fall for the big bike lie -- trippers don't wish for Beemers once on the rough global road!) And they chose to go the *longest* way around while still doing it in the shortest time. This longest way turns out to be 44,000 miles! They rode up and down as well as across all the continental land masses. And they did it in 440 days. A nice round figure. I dunno if anyone had tried it before so their mark is now THE mark.
Order the DVD and/or Book on this and other adventures from http://MondoEnduro.com. Vince travels the world doing presentations. His redheaded wife Lois gets in on the action, too, with "Lois on the Loose." --A girl doing global solo moto adventures wasn't and still isn't a thing often done!
Of course, the Mondo gang did all their own videoing -- and for a delightful accent -- they also included an 8mm film cam -- to catch stylishly gritty and over-saturated accent footage from time to time. Just right for catching the sun-baked, dusty bleariness of the experience. I really liked that trick -- it added a lot to the flick. I suppose nowadays the effect could be done post-processing. Sigh. It's nice that folks can save weight today by going digital, BUT let's not forget this wasn't an option for these guys.
The DIY approach might be taken for granted, but the attempt at pro-level filmmaking -- especially as travelog -- wasn't really done that way before "Mondo." Vince was basically a filmmaking zinester, pioneering a new adventure movie trail, now well-appreciated. (Well, you STILL have to dig for treats in this style-vein, as they get no big-budget PR. Thankfully, filmfests like 'em!)
I remember when Vince and his movie arrived on the DIY scene back in my paper zine days. It was well before Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman did their round-the-world big-budget bromance flick (supported, sponsored, filmmakered). Now, "The Hard Way Round" is a great film, but "Mondo" hangs tough! Indeed, it's where Ewan got the idea. Vince & Co were even advisors. (Amazing that Ewan opted for the Siberian Swamp after seeing how Mondo fared there!)
There were only a few alternative moto or even auto mags, books or media resources around at the time.
So I finally got the chance to check out "Mondo." It does have a homemade feel, but the subject is SO BIG. It's a bit like a home movie of a moon landing. No, they do good work, like any proud zinester. They cover all the travel movie bases: good narration, filming, and music. It is, however, video and I suppose having a separate dude with a fluffy mic on a pole really does boost the quality, as would've having a 15-pound camera. They get great results from their DIY style, just the same. You can't keep a great story down!
Vince had to cut a lot, certainly, but early on I got the sense of them hopping like time-traveling rabbits through Europe. The same for North America. Maybe both regions are more predictable and so less photogenic? It was amusing, though, with "Now we're in Canada. America's roads are nice. And here we are in Mexico!"
The charm is in the details and asides. These always came on strong when the trip entered Authentic Culture Areas (Exploited by Despots). Vince says they were warned about poor people but found that they alone were uniformly generous and pleasant the world around.
Here's a list of moments that stood out for me, especially for their homestyle DIY vibe. I suppose some are spoilers and I should let you discover them in the movie for yourselves, but I'll tell them anyway, just to help me remember...
*While in camp, Austin cuts up fabric and glues it to make waterproof pannier liners for his pal: DIY is king!
*Using bungie-rope rigs to tow busted motos.
*Using Suzuki DR350 dualsport motos -- the brand/model isn't mentioned in the movie. I'm hesitant to mention it here. They should get no credit or benefit because they clearly offered no support or help, even retroactively. There's a great line in the movie about how their little bikes get knocked down but keep getting back up. A great sales pitch, I thought. That flick -- and TV show -- and book -- coulda sold them 1000 bikes. And probably has now that the word is out. Yet the older team-member (train clerk) had to quit halfway round due to lack of funds. (POSSIBLY, however, the team did not even ask or accept sponsorship. They certainly didn't whinge about it.)
*Paved road is rare in Authentic Culture Areas (exploited by despots) so whenever it occurs it attracts the populace. The movie said "The road is one ginormous village" and showed people simply lining it in Africa.
*Horses are still used to pull wheeled vehicles in many nations. (Obvious, but interesting to see.)
*Homemade bike scooter in Africa -- made of wood. Likely used to haul heavy agricultural loads (bags of grain).
*They were impressed by the verdant wetness of Ethiopia -- and how much agriculture is practiced. How then famine? (See despot and/or civil war (rival despot).)
*African kid playing homemade stringed instrument (one string) -- singing and playing beautifully with lots of modulation.
*Mud huts are global.
*Schedules and deadlines prove to be stressful and troublemakers, often splitting the group and seemingly always weren't essential to the trip. (Like meeting girlfriends on a certain day.) Even bungie-towing was employed to help make a deadline. It underscored the idea that if something is the goal then no other goal should try to be wedged in, especially if it could interfere. Applies to life, too, eh? (Indeed, I've heard of filming trips turning into major impediments to the trips! When I do my small "serious" adventures I often notice that even taking a few snapshots becomes a distraction that I can't really afford. It hurts the focus, slows vital progress. Of course, it's only a problem if pace matters.)
*Masai warriors were amazing, really are noble. Herdsmen. Wear bright colors, jewelry, carry spears. And not for tourists.
*Jillions of flat tires. Today's puncture-goo and tubeless concepts would've really helped these guys, it seems. (Though I haven't used it yet myself!)
*Authentic Culture Areas (exploited by despots) don't have accessible motorcycle dealerships but they do have universally resourceful and helpful back-shed welders and fabricators who are able to solve any mechanical glitch cheap and on the fly. Welded luggage racks (front and rear) broke off in wrecks but were easy to refabricate. Some teammembers used hardshell luggage, others used rucksacks lashed on. I wonder if the Rackless Revolution might help motorcyclists. Rough-stuff bicycle tourers know that racks break off and rattle loose so they just strap their luggage on. (But most globetrotting bikers have used racks. Still, times change.)
*Siberians and other Russians really love their vodka and love getting sloppy drunk and generally appear damaged and messed-up due to their hard jobs and hard living. (I wonder if there's a way people could approach hard work that would be more sustainable. Maybe with less haste? Like, a 10% slow-down might spare lives, injuries and add years. What kind of attitude to life and work results in drunkenness? It seems like one could do at least somewhat similar work and not get drunk. Or maybe repetitive mechanical work leads to this?)
*The team just squats at all camps, lunches, rest-stops. Lots of scenes with a campfire and a pot over it. All kinds of "monkey posture" fussing with stuff, squatting -- cleaning, fiddling, food-prep. The team is also shown often exhausted and just collapsed on the ground. They didn't seem to bring tents. Just tarps and bug-hats.
*A parting idea in the movie is that lessons were learned: Vince says he'll be trying the rest of his life to repay the acts of kindness showed them. --Pass it forward.
A quote from a Vince interview afterward reflects on the experience: "We spent two years planning our trip but within two months of leaving we realised we could have organised it in two weeks. Because resources like the internet and Chris Scottís Adventure Motorcycling handbook didnít exist, we spent ages planning for things that didnít happen, and were never going to happen. My advice is to under-prepare. I donít mean be silly but donít obsess." Also, he still suggests "Go small and cheap. No flaunting." --Especially if you'll be around poor people. (These and other great tips from Vince at: http://www.visordown.com/how-to-do-just-about-anything/ride-around-the-world-without-a-film-crew/11064.html.)
Order the DVD and/or Book on this and other adventures from http://mondoenduro.com. Vince travels the world doing presentations. His redheaded wife Lois gets in on the action, too, with "Lois on the Loose."
Austin Vince, overalls.
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