This donkey's hoof was found in a desert in Syria, in the Middle East, by Sydney motorcycling enthusiast, Charis Schwarz, in 1965 while riding a BMW motorcycle around the world with her partner, George. The unusual travel memento was kept for over 50 years as a good luck charm. It was also a reminder of a powerful and moving experience the couple had witnessed at the time hearing the playing of a rare playing Middle Eastern stringed instrument.
While the Australian-born, Charis, was visiting Spain in 1964, fate intervened and she met the Swiss artist George. The soulmates knew that they would spend the rest of their lives together soon after meeting, with George exclaiming one evening while eating dinner at his house "this will be the first of many meals we share on this table." The pair purchased their new BMW motorcycle in Munich, Germany, which they used for two trips in the 1960s to ride across the world. They travelled to countries that were visited by few tourists including Syria, Iran, Costa Rica and Columbia. Their first trip around the world on 'DU', the bike's nickname, was to reach Ballarat, Victoria, to be married by Charis' father, a Baptist minister.
It was 'rough and ready' travelling. To save money they avoided toll roads, slept next to the bike or sought shelter in abandoned buildings, police compounds and were occasionally taken into people's homes. Sometimes they cooked and ate fresh roadkill found on the road.
Charis recounts their trip in her 2004 self-published book "Highlights of the Road: A Narrative" and all proceeds went towards establishing the Motorcycle Accident Rehabilitation Initiative (MARI) at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney. The initiative started in 2007 after the Schwarz' donated $30,000 to the hospital as they wanted to give something to the motorcycling community and to a mode of transport they loved and embraced for over 50 years despite never having an accident themselves. The hospital collaborated with three of its internal departments to offer post-accident help including insurance, mobility, legality and physical/emotional trauma.
This donkey's hoof is part of a large collection of motorcycle clothing, equipment, mementoes, documents and maps which accompanied the generous donation of George and Charis's vintage 1965 BMW motorcycle in 2017. Collectively, it is not only a fascinating account of the couple's travels but documents an intense relationship two riders have had with a motorcycle over a lifetime which is rarely so well recorded.
Schwarz, Charis, 'Highlights of the Road: A Narrative', self-published, 2004.
Dr Wings Bike Force, (2014), What is MARI?, TECHmosis, Australia, viewed 4th September 2017, < http://www.motorcyclegear.com.au/mari.html >.
Motorcycle Council of NSW, (2017), About M.A.R.I, Motorcycle Council of NSW Inc., NSW, viewed 4th September 2017, < http://www.mccofnsw.org.au/a/352.html >.
Chloe Appleby, Museum Studies intern, under the supervision of Margaret Simpson, Curator, September 2017.