Dylan Wickrama, Bruce and the Courage of Bridgette survived the unmanageable, voyaging from Panama City to Columbia across the Pacific Ocean in search of adventure. Dylan’s venture is a tale of a man fascinated with adventure and discovery, who sold his business to travel to 80 countries on his BMW 1150 GS. The duo crossed deserts, fields, mountains, cities and untouched woods stumbling across isolated villages detached from civilization.
Knowing very little of Dylan’s journey, we made our way to the Colombo School of Business & Management, where he held his session. He blew us all away with his incredible story followed by words of wisdom to work towards building a better Sri Lanka. In fact.
When the road ends: Dylan’s story
From what we learnt, Dylan Wickrama was born in Sri Lanka to a financially unstable family, especially after his beloved father’s death, at the age of six. At the time, his mother was a housewife and they could barely afford to buy a loaf of bread. But regardless of their troubled times, Dylan’s passionate had always been to travel and experience life in other countries.
Many years later, around 2010, Dylan moved to Switzerland. There he owned a stable business. But a methodical life was not what he aspired. Therefore, he decided to sell his business and invest all the money to fulfill his ultimate dream of traveling the world. His aim was not to go from town to town. Instead, he aspired to explore and enjoy life as from country to country.
In the course of his long journey, Dylan encountered unbelievable occurrences and got through quite a many challenges. He fell 8 times in the span of 10m in Cambodia, rode through thick sand, swam across rivers in South America, woken up with centipedes inside his shoes in Australia. He has even dealt with poisonous rattlesnakes in Mexico, almost on a daily basis.
In case it wasn’t obvious, Bruce was the name given to his BMW bike. Dylan mentions that taking Bruce around the world can be seriously challenging sometimes. This is particularly true when it comes to looking for spare parts. He shared an incident where once he lost a part and was unable to find a proper replacement. Dylan ended up finding a universal part from a local dealer. He had found a garage and fixed the bike himself.
Courage of Bridgette: 800 km on a DIY raft
Part of his journey included taking the Pan American Highway, supposedly the longest highway in the world. Halfway into his journey, Dylan’s ride came to a halt in Panama. It was the end of the road, literally. The only way he could get across was to take a boat. But he had no boat.
Dylan had a decision to make, either to go back or build a raft to get from Panama to Columbia. In typical Dylan fashion, he chose to take the adventurous route and constructed a raft. He fixed a propeller to his bike and made most of the structure out of oil barrels and bamboo. Of course, this wasn’t really a one man effort. Dylan had help from three people he met in Panama City. Apparently, one was an actual pirate and all three of them were running from Interpol.
The waters in those parts were notorious for smuggling drugs and the police often patrolled the route. Just to be on the safe side, Dylan made holes in each barrel so he can show the inside in case he gets caught and the police decides to inspect for drugs.
Before heading off to the sea, his pirate friend got him a sail in case he ran out of fuel in the course of his 800 km quest. There was only one thing left to do. Naming his raft. Dylan decided to name it after his mother. He called it “The Courage of Bridgette”.
Dylan had tried to register the Courage of Bridgette but all he got was a grin from the authorities. So, he decided to leave at midnight on the 13th of March 2013.
The police are here
One might think that a man hell bent on building his own raft to travel 800 km in the sea would be at least experienced in the waters. But turns out he had never ventured into the seas before and this was his first time. Things just got interesting.
He explained that even on the waters, there was always plenty of wildlife to see. Whether it’s the many flocks of birds that flew over him, or the sharks that lurked nearby for a prey, life was never dull on The Courage of Bridgette.
Halfway along the journey, Dylan stopped by a few neighboring islands and thought of spending a bit of time there. To his horror, he realised that his motorbike sensor has malfunctioned. Without the sensor he would not be able to take his cycle once he gets back on the road. No phone, no internet. Suddenly, Dylan was desperate for human contact. His only choice was to go back to Panama City and reach out to someone.
As he got back to the waters, he came to another realization. His luck had run out. The police had caught him.
Dylan explained his story. To his surprise, the police decided to offer him a helping hand instead of taking him into custody. He was able to get on Facebook for a brief moment to ask for a sensor, thanks to one of the policemen who had a smartphone on him. Dylan spent some time with the group, enjoying the sudden company of people and they grew fond of him as well. Although, the woman officer turned out to be a little too fond of him. She even asked Dylan to marry him.
Oh wait, dolphins!
A couple of weeks passed and the strong sea current kept pulling the raft towards the deep Pacific. The engine lacked horsepower and ultimately the raft drifted elsewhere. With no sight of land, Dylan was stuck in the middle of the ocean. Out of nowhere, a group of dolphins started circling around his raft. They kept coming and going for days and that was when Dylan assumed their readiness to help find land. He followed the dolphins and miraculously found secluded land. Not everyday you get a dolphin guide now, is it?
5 star resorts and the courage of Bridgette
He kept going and came across another island, one with a five-star resort this time. Dylan spoke to the management and they helped him with water, food and all sorts of things. One American tourist at the resort was so curious, he asked Dylan to take him for a spin on the raft. Despite running low on gas, Dylan agreed and in return, the man gave him $50. Leading from one tourist to another, Dylan went from 0 to $700 in just a couple of hours. All this in the middle of a jungle.
So, he loaded the raft with gas and set sail to Columbia.
It was all good until he was forced to tackle a huge storm. But it wasn’t the giant waves that scared Dylan. It was the lightning. The fact that he was carrying gallons of fuel with him didn’t help either. One strike was more than enough to burn the whole thing down in a matter of seconds.
Somehow, Dylan got through the storm but the engine was leaking fuel and he was forced to quit after approaching another rural village with just 15 families in total. There he met a few soldiers who helped him dismantle his raft. It was quite an emotional time for Dylan as his journey was about to come to an end.
When the road ends
“I cried every day, I cried, cried and cried as my time with Bruce and the Courage of Bridgette had come to an end,” said Dylan Wickrama in an unsteady tone.
Dylan concluded with an answer to the question, “What do we do when the road ends?”
“It’s easy to reach the end of the road. It could be the end of the road in terms of finance or even your relationship. But there are things that you can do. You can either take a 180-degree turn or build a raft. Building a raft is not easy, requires willpower, creativity and if you keep your eyes open you will see dolphins and hear their call”.
For those of you interested, you can check out Dylan’s book, When The Road Ends – The Tale of an Incredible Journey.