World on Wheels Saga
(Formerly Ferris Wheels)
Prelude: Ferris Wheels Motorcycle Safaris. Subsequently World on Wheels
I’ve long foreshadowed that I might write about this one day. I said that on my Meanders Abroad page soon after my 2012 Himalaya tour. I have decided that I’ve stressed about it enough. My therapy is to write this page. Now I can turn to 2013 for whatever motorcycling adventures that might bring.
Never in my professional life or at any time in my dealings with service providers or clients have I ever had a permanent falling-out. Until now.
I’ve had many vigorous disagreements but the outcomes have invariably been resolution of the issue or issues; and a renewed mutual understanding and respect for views and positions taken. But not this time.
I’m still dismayed at what has happened, why it has happened and why the adverse consequences – mainly for Ferris Wheels – are allowed to fester without remedy.
The Ferris Wheels Product
I’ve undertaken five Ferris Wheels tours: Rajasthan (2007), Turkey (2008), Morocco (2009), Dalmatia (2010) and Nepal and Bhutan (2010-2011).
It’s obvious that far from having a problem with the Ferris Wheels product, I have embraced it again and again. On their introduction of a revamped tour combining Nepal and Bhutan, I signed up to do the inaugural tour and took my then 13 year old grandson as a pillion. That’s a strong vote of confidence and approval.
I have consistently found the Ferris Wheels experience enjoyable, rewarding and enriching: both the tours themselves and the network of good friends made.
I’ve been happy to make a contribution to the positive experience of other participants through the production of guides to the history, culture and sights of countries visited; and to the business interests of Ferris Wheels through descriptions of the tours on my website. Participants have been grateful and complimentary; and Ferris Wheels has acknowledged and expressed gratitude.
I used to have the status – recorded on the Ferris Wheels site – of “a worthy friend of Ferris Wheels.”
But no longer.
The essence of my crime, I believe, was to hold Mike Ferris to account for the way in which he treated clients, including myself. There were processes and communications revolving around that; but the nucleus of the saga was accountability.
I was accused of being on a crusade. If so, then the Holy Grail of my crusade was no more than an apology from Mike Ferris for the way he treated his clients.
The Himalaya Bogey
By the conclusion of the Shining Shangri La tour, there were only two Ferris Wheels tours that I hadn’t done: Himalayan Heights and Awesome Andes.
I had long had a mental block about the Himalaya tour. It was just a personal hang-up: too hard, too scary etc.
Later in 2011, ironically as it would turn out, I was pretty much committed to signing up for my 6th Ferris Wheels tour: Awesome Andes. It had taken a while to get there, but I had already become absorbed in research on Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines, and Cusco. That would be my 2012 tour!
The intervention that thwarted that plan was an overture by fellow Ferris Wheels travellers from the Shangri La tour to join them on a crossing of the Himalaya. It happened to be with a tour operator other than Ferris Wheels. My initial response, not surprisingly, was negative. No way!
Maybe there was something deep inside me encouraging me to face my demons on Himalaya because I slowly came round. None of this process – not the overture, not my thinking about it and certainly not my succumbing to it – was in any way a reflection on the Ferris Wheels Himalaya tour.
For me, the decision to undertake the tour was closely personal. Primarily there was the encouragement and anticipated support from fellow travellers who had been very supportive during some difficult riding on the Nepal/Bhutan tour; the tour was shorter and slower – ordinarily hallmarks I might have preferred to eschew, but in this case were enticing; and the group would be small – again ordinarily probably not an issue, but comforting in the circumstances. These factors provided a seemingly unique opportunity to prove something to myself, so I committed.
At the time, I thought Awesome Andes could wait until 2013. I had gathered sufficient material on it (some of which I sent to other 2012 participants) and been sufficiently sparked by it not to let it slip off the forward plan.
Ferris Wheels Reaction
Imagine being in a well-leaned corner, looking as far around as you could, toes on the pegs to avoid scraping on the bitumen; then as the radius of the turn further decreases and you counter steer a little harder, a B Double spread across the width of the road is accelerating right into your already committed turn line. You notice the co-driver isn’t even looking and the driver seems to be watching his rear view mirror. A bit unexpected!
I thought I was riding pretty well, so to speak: looking forward to a challenging and exciting crossing of the Himalaya; and a plan already fast developing for the following year.
Then came that B Double in the form of an email from Mike Ferris to all his clients from the Ferris Wheels Shangri La tour, in effect, castigating us all but singling out a couple of clients by name for even more specific vilification. This was closely followed by a second email disassembling responses made by the named clients. These are some excerpts from the emails.
Other emails were sent to several of the Shangri La clients seeking to discover whether they were undertaking the tour with the alternative provider! One of these Ferris Wheels clients expressed understandable dismay at the question and raised several issues that had troubled him from the Shangri La tour. This is the reply he got from Mike Ferris (warning: it's R rated!).
Somewhat stunned and hardly believing what was happening, I had not planned at that stage to intervene. I was sharing with others the shock and dismay we all felt, but was at a loss to know what to do.
That was resolved for me my Mike Ferris himself who rang me wanting to know why I was doing this “other” tour.
I declined to discuss the matter with him, citing the lack of any compromise or rapprochement achieved during a previous discussion with him over what I regarded as an inappropriate communication (in fact, I had previously twice been on the receiving end of inappropriate communications from him. This was the other time.) I drew his attention to the fact that I had long by then had an explanation on my Himalaya page of why I was undertaking the tour. This was still a few months before the tour. That explanation remains as part of the page describing the tour. I also said I was happy to talk to him about the way in which he treated his clients, citing the emails that had been floating around.
The conversation didn’t end productively.
I rang back a few days later to seek to resolve the issues but Mike had left for the Morocco tour. Quite a stash of communication followed with Ferris Wheels under the restraints of one partner being in Sydney and one overseas.
My consistent message was simply that Mike’s treatment of his clients was inappropriate and he should retract the very unpleasant things said about and to named individuals; and apologise to his clients.
Nothing productive ever emerged. In fact, for my efforts (my “crusade”) I was struck off the Ferris website and any and all mailing lists, invites etc. I’m sure my identity would have been totally erased if that had have been possible. There would have been no total recall for me!
I wrote an “open letter” to Mike to at least put on record what one previously valued client thought.
I suppose Holly Martins could have been regarded as being on a crusade in his search for Harry Lime. He had thought Harry Lime was a good friend and cherished colleague, not to mention an upright character. That was until until Harry revealed his real self during that dramatic Ferris Wheel ride at the Prater. Fortunately, this Ferris Wheels saga hasn’t exactly had the same tragic ending, but, in any event, Harry Lime disappears from Holly Martin’s life. The crusade comes to an end.