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FEATURE: Braziliant 15,000 mile motorcycle journey to see the World Cup

Chris Hallett has spent his savings on a six-month riding adventure on board his Vespa scooter
Chris Hallett has spent his savings on a six-month riding adventure on board his Vespa scooter
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Tuesday, 06, May 2014 11:46

by Philip Lovegrove

England fan, Chris Hallett, rides epic journey through as many 2014 World Cup qualifying countries as possible from London to Rio on his Vespa scooter - all to see the biggest sports event in the world

There is no escaping the FIFA World Cup - arguably the biggest event on the sports calendar. Months of build up and anticipation have led us to that time again, when football fans throughout the country will be glued to their TV screens in the hope that England will at least make it past the second round. Chances of England winning this tournament are looking pretty slim, but that hasn't stopped thousands of hardcore England fans searching high and low to get their hands on an elusive golden ticket to see the Three Lions pounce into action.

With just over a week to go until the World Cup in one of the best footballing countries, Brazil, one England fan has almost finished his astonishing journey to get to Rio and experience the carnival atmosphere of the football crazy country - and he hasn't even got a ticket to watch England play.

Starting back in February, Chris Hallett, 44, decided to quit his career in IT and spend his savings on a six-month riding adventure on board his Vespa GTS 250 scooter and sidecar, which is a recreation of the 60's Bambini Mk3 design produced by Anson Classic Restorations. Instead of taking a direct flight to Rio, the dedicated fan chose to take a more scenic route, by passing through as many countries as possible that have qualified for the 2014 World Cup.

Combining his three passions of motorbiking, football and travel, Chris felt the time was right to go on an adventure encapsulating all three hobbies and, whilst doing so, is raising money for UNICEF, to support the significant humanitarian work they partake in around the world.

Having just ridden over the Andes - the longest continental mountain range in the world - last week, Chris kindly had time to stop and catch up with MotorbikeTimes to discuss the biggest challenge of his life.

"I travelled a lot during my teens and early 20s but never anything as big as this. After working away at the daily grind in London, I wanted to do something different," says Chris.

"One of my mates was going to come along until he got a new job; another recently got married and others have kids. I'm not married and I have no kids, so I followed the advice to 'do anything like this before any kids,'" the intrepid traveller continues, referring to the challenge set before him.

"Sometimes in life you have to follow your heart. The head will catch up and sort it out."

For Chris, his love of motorbiking started at the tender age of ten - he recollects being "scared as hell" riding on the back of his cousin's Kawasaki Zephyr; his next experience wasn't much better.

"My first real biking experience came in Goa, India, during my youth, when a couple of mates and I each hired a 125cc bike for a day and I had a crash," he says.

"We eyeballed each other at the bottom of a hill and agreed to race back up to the top. I hit a trench and the bike ended up 90 degrees in the air, with the front wheel jammed in the trench. That was the first time I rode a bike."

Despite this traumatising accident, Chris maintained his love for motorbiking by going down the route of owning a Suzuki GSF600 Bandit, a GSF1200 Bandit and a customised retro Triumph Thunderbird 900.

Having moved from Worcestershire to London over ten years ago, Chris soon moved on to scooters and has recently added a sidecar for his journey.

"The Vespa I'm using for this trip is the same scooter I used to ride to work. I wanted to get a sidecar for a few years but couldn't justify it," he says.

"In many ways the sidecar is the worst of both worlds, but it does make me smile. I initially got it for the Europe-only leg [of the journey], but after being asked If I'd be taking it to Rio, I realised I had to."

Since starting his expedition in London back in February, the avid football fan has ventured through dozens of different countries - 19 out of the 32 that qualified to compete in the World Cup - taking in the best of what each nation has to offer.

Throughout February and March, Chris journeyed across much of Europe, before heading over to USA and South America during April and May - we can't help think Australia would have been a bit of a stretch.

Whilst visiting each country, Chris decided to make stop-offs to challenge locals to penalty shootouts, using his scooter as a goalpost. It is all too familiar seeing England fail at penalties in major tournaments, so he decided to film locals celebrating scoring their spot kicks and holding a replica World Cup trophy to inspire each respective nation.

For Chris, the initial plan was to travel to different locations inconspicuously on a low-profile scooter, find parts for the bike easily and generally do what local people do to get around. But since starting his expedition, he has gained a lot more attention than he could have imagined.

"When I started the trip I expected a fair amount of attention from motor heads, but it's been much, much more than expected. I'm sure the sidecar Vespa combo and my World Cup goal have saved me a few tickets," Chris laughs.

Speaking of friends and family back home on cloudier climes, as well as the cause for which Chris is riding, he says: "Support back home has been via email, Facebook and text, which is really good. I'm really chuffed that people have already made donations."

As expected, riding over 15,000 miles on a scooter can have its bad days, something Chris is all too familiar with. Surprisingly though, one of his toughest days came back home in England during the storms in February this year, when he was heading south on the M1, riding with the sidecar for the first time.

He says: "It took about seven hours. Two pairs of gloves and everything soaked through - more than any other storm with snow I've come across in the past 12 years since I've been riding."

After days of preparing for his most recent trip across the Andes in South America, Chris has had to battle through even more cold and wet conditions, as well as the altitude.

"For the Andes it means days of anticipation. I've had days of preparation with Radislav and Richard from the Santiago Vespa Club," he says thankfully.

"They've scared me with talk of ice on the road, strong winds, customs and border paperwork, speeding trucks, punctures, poor visibility, corrupt traffic police and lack of gas stations.

"I think they forget I'm going to take photos, coffees and penalties with locals," he jokingly adds.

Despite encountering some of the toughest conditions he's ever faced over the past couple of weeks, Chris believes his recent leg across the mountain range has all been worth it, especially witnessing the gorgeous backdrops en route, saying: "The vastness of the slowly changing landscape and its colours make it stunning, belittling and hypnotic."

Now that Chris and his scooter are reaching the final stretches of the epic journey, World Cup fever is really starting to kick in. Although he doesn't have a ticket to watch the likes of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, the Three Lions fan will still be sizing up England's opposition by watching Costa Rica versus Uruguay. Other than that, Chris can't wait to get to Brazil and soak up the atmosphere.

"In the last week the atmosphere has really grown. Because the football season in England and everywhere I've travelled has ended, the attention is beginning to be focussed on the Cup," he says excitedly.

As for England's chances in Brazil, Chris remains optimistic, and has even gone through each game in his head, predicting the results.

"I just hope the most in form players are on the pitch, don't freeze under pressure and make a good account of themselves."

"You'll be glad to know I expect us to beat Brazil in the final on penalties," Chris goes on. And if the prediction comes true? "I'll ride naked up and down Copacabana beach!" We'll remind you of that Chris.

Everyone here at MotorbikeTimes would like to wish Chris all the best on the rest of his journey and we're just left with one more thing to say: C'mon England!

For more information on Chris' amazing 15,000 mile expedition visit www.scootersforgoalposts.com or check his facebook page here.

If you would like to make a donation to help raise money for Chris' chosen charity, UNICEF, click here.

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