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Northern Ireland biker's debut novel riding on the best-seller lists

Adventurer who spent two years on two wheels writes his debut book 40 years later

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Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way.

Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way.

Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way. Desert

Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way. Desert

Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way. Equador

Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way. Equador

Chris Donaldson

Chris Donaldson

Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way.

A DEBUT author who waited 40 years to write a memoir about travelling the world on a motorcycle is delighted to be beating some big names on the best-seller lists.

Chris Donaldson's first novel, Going The Wrong Way, tells the story of his epic motorbike journey from a Troubles-ridden Belfast in 1978 out into the unknown and across almost every continent.

The now 62-year-old planned the tome four decades ago - and now the self-published book is competing with efforts by the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and Lewis Hamilton.

"I left here and basically drove off the edge of my map. There was a huge degree of uncertainty about it all, which you just wouldn't experience now," Chris told Sunday Life.

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Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way. Desert

Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way. Desert

Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way. Desert

"I suppose that makes it interesting for young people to see what travelling was like back then.

"It's basically about a journey I made when I left college. I always fancied driving a motorbike to Australia. I had read about it and always wanted to do it. I thought it would be a great adventure.

"I left in the middle of the Troubles. I had been brought up in Belfast and went to Inst (Royal Belfast Academical Institution). I saw bombs going off all the time and that probably gave me a little bit of preparation for all the uncertainty which would follow.

"My father's business was blown up on a regular basis and I had friends who were shot, but in those days nobody thought anything of it - it was just what we did.

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Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way. Equador

Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way. Equador

Chris Donaldson, Going the Wrong Way. Equador

"Conflict was part of my desire to go, but it also it wasn't. I wanted to see what was beyond Northern Ireland... I wanted to see the world.

"My timing was disastrous, though. When I decided to go, the Ayatollah took over the (US) Embassy in Iran and blocked all routes east.

"That meant years of planning going down the drain, but I wanted to keep going, so I just headed south until I eventually ended up in South Africa. I worked on boats before moving on from there. It was a wandering journey from place to place, as journeys are.

"When I was there, I thought it was the end of the road again because Apartheid was in full swing, but somehow I managed to get myself a job working on a yacht. The next thing you know, I'm involved in a yacht race - an impossible thing to do these days.

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Chris Donaldson

Chris Donaldson

Chris Donaldson

"I ended up in America and continued the journey into Canada before heading down to central and south America, so ironically I ended up on every continent except Australia.

"Considering I have never written a book before, the feedback has been tremendous. It's great to see myself with all those big names on the Amazon charts. It took me two years to do the journey and 40 years to write about it.

"I'm so grateful to my wife, Julie, for being my editor and telling me when I am talking nonsense, which she definitely did when I wasn't writing well."

After returning to these shores, the notes Chris made on his travels ended up in a drawer for 40 years because he felt unable to compete with British travel writer Ted Simon, who published a similar book in 1979.

"(The book) was something I always wanted to do and I took extensive notes throughout," he said.

"I intended to write it when I got home, but a guy called Ted Simon had written something similar called Jupiter's Travels.

"It was a very good book I was not going to be able to compete with, or so I thought, so all my journeys went into a drawer.

"A journey like that is more about the effect it has on you than the experiences you have.

"I have stories about camping out in the middle of winter, for example, which are quite surreal and quite different from anything else. It gives me a different viewpoint.

"It's a coming-of-age story for me and about how it affected me at the time and since, rather than a motorcycle expedition."

Going The Wrong Way by Chris Donaldson is available on Amazon

Belfast Telegraph