Jupiter’s Travels: The road adventurers’ adventure book updated

Fifty years ago, intrepid biker and travel writer Ted Simon set off on an international odyssey that resonates with fans – Simon de Burton among them – to this day

In the Edit section of Secret Trips you can read about the English round-the-world motorcycling guru Ted Simon and his remarkable journey on an ex-police Triumph that took him 60,647 miles by road and a further 17,655 on ferries and trains between 1973 and 1976.

The book that came out of it – Jupiter’s Travels – is widely regarded as the overland motorcyclist’s bible, and the moment I started reading my first-edition copy as a bike-mad 15-year-old I was inspired to follow in Ted’s tyre tracks and spend as much of my life as possible seeking adventure on two wheels.

And that was despite the fact that the book featured only a single photograph – a colour snap on the back cover showing the dusty, heavily overloaded bike parked-up on a gravel track in Chile.

But that didn’t mean that Simon didn’t keep a visual record of his odyssey. In fact, he took two Pentax camera bodies, three lenses and a precious stock of Kodachrome film with which he photographed what he could, when he could along the way.

The pictures he took were always intended to serve as a photographic reminder of his remarkable journey – but a decade ago he published them in a book called Jupiter’s Travels in Camera that was produced in very limited numbers.

More recently, Simon decided to re-publish the book himself – and the result is a truly breathtaking album of more than 300 images that appear to have remained as fresh, bright and sharp as when they were first taken, yet which tell a story of a completely different era. 

An era so different, in fact, that the global upheavals that have taken place in the interim mean it would be impossible to follow the same route as Simon took half a century ago.

Although he says he was ‘never a photographer’ and ‘only took cameras… as an afterthought’, many of the images are truly stunning and most are superbly evocative of the time and place in which they were taken.

From the “self portrait” that shows Simon astride the battered Triumph in Africa to an image of a south American craftsman making him a set of leather panniers, and from his shots of the Turkana people of Kenya to a boy snake charmer in India, there is barely a photo in the book that doesn’t make the reader want to saddle up and hit the road.

The book is divided into regions, and in many cases Simon recounts the specific memories that each set of images evokes in order to create a sort of bite-sized version of the original book.

Jupiter’s Travels in Camera can be bought direct from Simon through his website, jupitalia.com, for $50. And though they say a picture is worth a thousand words, In Camera will certainly leave you curious to read Jupiter’s Travels ($25). So you might as well order them both. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

By Simon de Burton. Simon is a journalist and author who writes for the FT’s How to Spend ItBritish GQ and Boat International, among others

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