Robert Sexé reporter motocycliste photographe

Robert Sexé reporter motocycliste photographe
Robert Sexé dessin de J.Pruvost-droits réservés
globe terrestre

1924 - Paris-Constantinople - Paris

Départ Paris-Constantinople-1924

Brushed, washed, having dispatched telegrams a few modest but happy (ahem!).

We walk through the main street of Pesa, so everyday, so comfortably European. Krebs does not like all those elusive or soft surfaces in the fez too well ironed. He wants to see Turkey's Loti. We will go to Asia then to Sautar. He can't but admire the modern Muslim-style faces finally uncovered from behind the féridjen print silk veils. We descend steep stairs from the street Yousuf Kalderim. The water sellers pass by weighed down under the weight of their heavy load, they clink their glasses to attract customers. On the quays of Galata 'big, strong men', (said Dumoulin), carry heavy loads on their 'artificial bumps'. The buffalo slowly dragging their carts, the forces that crept wear one on his forehead, the other around the radiator cap, a necklace of blue beads. Sexé explained to Krebs that it is an amulet protecting the wearer from the evil eye, Krebs promises to make a gift of it to his Gillet!

The steamer left the crowded dock. Little by little, bathed in cool light, the magnificent scenery of Istanbul, topped minarets and cupolas, stand out against the blue sky - the Hill of Peva dominated by the Genoese Tower rises above the chimneys and the masts of the port reflected in the steely water. A few minutes in the breeze from the Bosphorus and then soon after we tread the soil of Asia. A Sautar in the rush hour (the commuters going back to their houses), we strolled along the stalls, munching pistachios and picking grapes, the street is full of flowering wisteria. Behind a latticed bay, at a street corner, the tomb of a sultan is hidden under some greenery.

Here is the great cemetery on the hill and the cypress forest above the tombs that are scattered here and there, the tired gravestones tilted in all directions, lying in the weeds, grand columns now resembling a turban or a fez. At a small cafe housed in the vineyards, we sit on the stools outside, no one speaks, no one hears the sound of the regular, gurgling hookahs, our new friends continually playing with their necklaces of amber beads. It is quiet here and we enjoy the fragrant, muddy coffee....

nb. 'hookahs' - bubble pipe

Paris-Moscou, dessin  Christophe FAURET

1925 - Paris-Moscou Back to top

Mills, URSS 1925Every spring the Russian government announced in the sports press a great endurance race for cars and motorcycles.

This gave Krebs, Dumoulin and I, who had gone - the summer of 1924 by motorcycle from Paris to Constantinople - the idea of going to Moscow as a new journey across Europe. Our mission is accepted, the Russian trade mission in Paris quickly obtain our passports and visas and the import licence. Our bikes 'Gillet of Herstal' had worked well last year, so, full of confidence - the night of July 28 - at midnight, we left the Porte of Maillot and our friends of the Motorcycle Club of France as the president shouted the classic 'GO!'

1st Day: Paris - Liege - Herve (Belgium) - 415 km. At dawn we crossed the areas of the city of Reims that were being newly constructed! After Sedan and then the dark forests of the Ardennes we arrived at noon in the Meuse valley. Near Liege with its chimneys, its slag heaps, the flames above its blast furnaces, 'team Gillet' reached the Herstal factory, on our machines which had additional tanks and bags filled with spare parts. 2nd Day: Herve - Aix-la-Chapelle - Cologne - Ersdrebrück (Weslhalie) - 230 km

The German customs near Aix-la-Chapelle are losing their bad reputation, the next morning we only lose a few minutes with the passports and documents issued by the Touring Club of France.

We have reached the time for the meeting with the riders of the 'Motorcycle Club of Cologne' about twenty miles from this city and near to the trenches where huge earth moving mechanical giants harvest the coal made from lignite. They'll ride for 60 km beyond the Rhine, through the maze of the valleys of Westerwald. In the crossing of Cologne we look around to admire a red skyscraper of some twenty floors and the slender body of the cathedral.

Moto Revue article dated of January 1, 1927

Click on the picture for Hight Definition

1926 - World Tour Back to top

1926_tour_du_mondeRobert Sexé and Henri Andrieux were the first in French do the world tour on motorcycles via Vladivostok.

Andrieux was tall and strong, (me I'm short and not so strong) and also a competent and capable mechanic. Me? - He was hugely intelligent and had generally, a great manual facility, however had a certain naivety about him for the ways of the world.

On this 'journey of tears', through Siberia, every day for Andrieux was like a battle, he had to fight against the road, the weather, and the possibility of accidents on the journey. There was a lack of grip because of mud on the road and where the 'road' didn't exist anymore - where it became like a dirt track - the rear wheel always sliding, but we pushed forward on our 220 kilogrammes of valuable scrap Belgian motorcycles. We also carried some parts, some rare - and our personal belongings, as our principle was: 'live off the countryside'. Andrieux - the happy man - at the same time that I slept badly in the barn or in a 'peasant's bed' and while I writhed in torment, tearing at my hair, thinking of the difficulties of the next day that could lead to disaster was snoring soundly! I was obliged in Tomsk to break down the door of his room at the inn to wake him up.

portrait_henri_andrieuxAt the stages Andrieux was behaving in a clown-like way, he was in a "creative mood" as compared to the impassive Czechs,Croatians, Buryats and Manchus. I never had any sort of confrontation with him, except for once! It was before the departure, his habit was riding motorcycles, summer and winter in cycling shoes! I had the greatest difficulty in persuading him to wear a pair of admirable and waterproof English riding boots, laced up and with pockets for a few tools, that had been donated by a large shoe manufacturer in Brussels for the expedition - "Gillet".

Back in Paris, no richer but now a little better known, Andrieux returned to work in the avenue de la Grande Armee. He is now one of the members of the Gillet endurance racing team who compete in many races; 'The Paris-Liege', 'The Paris-Nice', 'The Pyrenees', 'The Six Days of Winter', and 'Le Tour de France'. Also he competed in speed trials and sidecar races such as the 'Bol d'Or', the twenty four hour race sidecar endurance race where he won a gold medal or a respectable position.

With bonuses that he won from racing he bought a new house near the Seine in Paris. He remained a mechanic working for Gillet in Magenta St. His favorite sport is fishing but also he likes to enjoy an aperitif with his friends in the the bar 'd'Artagnan', (which is close to the Gillet factory), whilst talking about the the World Tour. It is still fantastic for Andrieux and the completion of the world tour, just like it was for Columbus, when he discovered America. Some evenings and some nights in the suburbs of Vladivostok, certain events remain unclear and we don't want to clarify them! But damn it! These pages already darkened - an old man of 70 years remembers his wanderings, I remember it all often and in detail, in the depths of the night since 1940.

etoile urss, dessin Christophe FAURET

1926 - World Tour - URSS Back to top

Vladivostok, URSS 1926We cross a convoy of carts with heavy Chinese wheels. Good men, dressed in yellow and blue silk, laugh in their pointed hats. The post office cart passes at a gallop, its Russian guards with rifles between their legs. Everywhere there is dry grass, huge grasshoppers leap about making the sound of castanets whilst in the heavens eagles soar above a herd of horses.

We walk at 60km per hour observing the unexpected conical mounds of the colonies of marmots, the fragrant mint which covers the sand forms a smooth carpet when that evening we arrived in a region of prosperous villages, near a large lake. After that, it becomes more difficult: in a copse, the route is truly awful, fallen trees block the road, boulders and mud everywhere, we quickly become exhausted.

The road rises to 1200 metres when we reach Stanovoi where we spend the night sleeping on mats of felt in the square by a group of Mongolian caravans, dining on his dried meat and his favourite tea.

Clothing and couplings for the horses are extremely well made compared to those of the Russian peasants. The Chief wore horn-rimmed spectacles which made him look amazingly intellectual.

At Iablonov 'hills like apples', roll towards the vast horizon. In the morning after walking for one hour without stopping we pass near a coal mine. Steam powered earth moving tractors, locomotives and the ambiance of the mine permeate everything, it is like in Germany near Cologne. And there behold, not one, but six Eiffel Towers and then the radio station of Chita. We see quite impressive buildings in checker board avenues, the view obscured by the cloud of sand that floats over the city. In the main street there are shops worthy of a great city, but we can't continue to travel there by car or motorbike because the sand is too deep, however, soon they will construct a new road over the sand.

Pagode, Japon, dessin Christophe FAURET

1926 - World Tour - Japan Seite zurück

carte_postale_japonOn the threshold of a house (situated on a grand platform - Japanese style) we were somewhat embarrassed because of the delicate decoration in the tapestries which were woven like beautiful blond pigtails, the many rooms with walls of fine paper and with silk screens which contrasted greatly with our heavy boots and dusty, oily clothes. We really wanted to leave but the hostess bowed and welcomed us.

There was a row of socks and shoes at the entrance so without out shoes we made our way into the sanctuary of the house. Soon after, a little servant appeared bowing many times 'shooing' us into the bathroom and soon returning with fresh kimonos folded in a basket. The bath was made of wood and full of boiling water into which Andrieux had plunged courageously - the servant mistook me or a lobster! Having previously taken off our clothes we put on the freshly pressed kimonos, the slippers of straw and then we were worthy to enjoy the house with our hosts.

In the house there was no furniture, the walls were decorated with landscapes and on silk screens there were flock of storks. A whole side of the house opened up to reveal a rock garden where there were dwarf pines, a pond, an imaginary landscape for 'dolls'. Beyond the garden there is a lake which at dusk is mysteriously purple.

The servants glide and bow and seem to appear as if from their wide sleeves, we sit at a lacquered red coffee table with tiny teapots, small slices of raw fish and strips of cartilage. 'Hum!' And then large fried shrimp and stuffed trout. Try and eat it with two small wooden sticks! The maids, crouching next to us laugh with a good heart.

dessin_robert_sexée japonAfter dinner the servants return in procession, dragging quilts that they pile one on top of the other on our bed and then they hang from the ceiling green screen, like a tent to protect us from the mosquitoes. They leave us sliding shut the paper partitions. From the next room comes the sound of a Koto, a bamboo flute and the nasal complaint of Japanese songs accompanied by the sounds of the night.

'It's hot!' Andrieux opened up a wall but was crestfallen, 'Damn - I broke through the wall!'

Empire State Building, dessin Christophe FAURET

1926 - World Tour - USA Seite zurück

USA, Rio Colorado 1926The North and the East rush to the promised land! The Indian agent was happy to welcome us to his city. Its main protagonists are the local police officers who patrol the main streets at 80 miles per hour, the sirens always blaring loudly. For us, it's part of our program! ...

First we attend a film shoot because there are some French actors but we don't know them. I could tell you about one of our countrymen she plays the part of Lasky ... you should visit the crocodile farm where 500 crocodiles are born next to the ostrich farm. After that visit 'Me Catiline' the boat of Mr. Wrigley. You see on-board the boat through a glass hull underwater gardens and forests of algae, there is also, if you are interested, a facility to test air filters for motorcycles and cars, with samples of dust from America.

But we leave the next morning ... behind an Indian, to Pasadena, the haven of millionaires living amongst the orange groves. 'Millionaires here? there is little avenue of millionaires. We can't see the luxurious villas buried under roses, wisteria, cypress trees, rubber trees and hidden by the giant palm foliage. A miracles of horticulture, there are so many flower.

From Pasadena to San Bernardino for 100 km there are rows of citrus and lemon trees, with irrigation canals, teams of Mexican workers and the railway to Decauville. The white villas, under the palms are farms, selling honey, fruit, chickens - here they dine on chicken!. A row of expensive cars shows that status goes very far here. Money talks! The boss invited us to visit a good example of industrial farming. The hens lay three hundred days a year and in winter the hen house is heated and lit by electricity so that the chickens think it is summer and continue to lay eggs. In a neighbouring farm, 25 000 chickens per day are born - or so she tells us!

So now we leave on a very busy road for the south but not towards the Mexican border at Tia Juana. It's a boulevard of bars and casinos where the Americans - like veritable pilgrims - go to enjoy and refresh themselves, as it is 30° in the shade.

Know all vegetation ceases and we enter a great kingdom of stone and sand, we went through the pass at sunset. Walls of rubble and purple hills, a mauve circus that hides the fertile coastal valleys. Paradise lost!

Europe, dessin Christophe FAURET

1929 - Europe Tour Seite zurück


They accompany the next day, late in the afternoon, about 30 km already paved the road to Moscow that sinks its sharp line the narrow plain, over 700 miles.

Stop the evening in the small city of Novgorod, the cradle of the Russian empire, the Kremlin and the Cathedral attracts lovers of ancient Slavic, and where the State Service of Tourism "International" has organized an excellent flag refuge. This must be some ancient episcopal palace are raw! a cloister. Slightly intimidated, I sat in a room at large ceremonial furniture draped with precious brocades.

Party at dawn, I nibbling all day versts monotonous parade where, at regular intervals, the old relay the imperial post, with arched windows, the villages of wooden huts.

After refueling at Valdai, the trust of naphtha, which sells gasoline weight in buckets, I found a flat tire. Young people, very interested in repair, are admiring circle, some eager to help me handle the pump. Entering the twilight, in Tver, already passed in 1926, I realized what this famous five-year plan I do not recognize the city. A brand new city stands the cubes of its workers' houses, blocks illuminated its textile mills. Find a hotel room in town, this set is impossible, of course, without the assistance of the police, always composed of young people "at the very top" and that takes the embarrassment solitary traveler ... since it has valid papers.

It rains on the 40 km of asphalt that the Soviets have just completed all the outputs of Moscow draft speedways future bringing Europe to Asia. The planes fly low airport in the clouds. Trains, cars engulfed in the Tverskaya. I arrive, all wet, the Autoclub now installed in a palace with columns of Nikitsky Boulevard. Thanks to the secretary, the problems: parking, food and shelter, are quickly resolved, and those of tomorrow's trip to Nizhny Novgorod. The pace of life in Moscow has completely changed in three years. Unknown activity has transformed the look of the crowds. New fields of work, spartan life were introduced. A new capital, the Germanic buildings, housing estates, the models rises gradually out of the large village of Asia.

Europe, dessin Christophe FAURET

1932 - Europe Tour Seite zurück

Tunisie, 1932AT SOUTH, SUMMER

The zig-zags, from Tunisia to Morocco, are too erratic for me to ask you to follow me step by step. And some impressions you well enough! Thus, the wrens Mabmata give you a fairly high: in rocky caves, they carved up its five floors of caves superimposed. When the scale is drawn, feel the tranquility of the tenants. Significant advantage in a country that was not too quiet before the arrival of French.

Elsewhere, more plain, these same people have been forced to create artificial caves, by piling blocks of stone to the surface. But really, our houses are they? Caves in relief '!

After the horror of dead spaces, the joy of reaching the oasis. On the range of palm worm hiding shady gardens, between hedges of cactus and palm woven enclosure. You seat thyself with care (who knows?) At the edge of a stream of hot water, you taste the dates, admire the big green lizards that climb tree trunks.

The village itself is a citadel of mud. The sedentary laborious once had to defend against the marauding nomads.

1932_maroc_oasisYou know that the simple antithesis to the sedentary oasis - the work of man - is the work of nature in the desert. Yes! The oasis is the product of human labour and in places, Negro well diggers all suffering from consumption (an occupational hazard), work at the risk of their lives, digging wells 50 metres deep. Elsewhere, I saw them make 12 holes, where the palms were planted more closely to encourage groundwater, often the trees were supported by props, or planted elsewhere - it's a lot of work.

Just as nature makes deserts it is the same for man because in his attempts to organise the natural world he often fails and creates deserts too. Because, you know, the one who travels with his eyes open, quickly understood how the desert is formed ... In Southern Russia, where it is completely deforested, I translated one day this proverb 'When man comes, the water will cease!' It's the same across North Africa and in Spain (not to mention our Mediterranean region) so, despite this the system continues to function. Mankind invented fire! It's not true! So - one day the forest burns, the teeth of goats and sheep crop the young shoots of the bushes that hold the water in the ground.

1933_algerie If the population remains in the same place it plows the same slopes that eventually collapse. When the rain comes there will be erosion everywhere, doing its work. The bare rock will crumble in the sun and become sand and begin to move, pushed by the wind. The desert is gaining ground without interruption, constantly invading the fertile areas ... What is to stop it? Armies of gardeners, foresters ... and gendarmes? The sand dunes here, likethe waves of a frozen, blonde sea - it's very photogenic. And near Biskra, you are sure to see the caravans of tourists who drink coffee while looking at the dunes. At Biskra if there was a motorcycle club it would be fantastic for sand racing! Navigating through the bumps and hollows of this place, acrobatics in the muddy sand, it's a really fun sport, try it for an hour, as I did this morning. It makes you thirsty but the café is not far (if you are not too sandy after 3 miles of racing!)

Cheval de Dalécarlie, dessin Christophe FAURET

1934 - Solo Trip Seite zurück


Events in the hotel Kaupaugis at Tornio: all the old Swedish gentlemen of Haparanda had tonight crossed the border bridge. All who live here benefit from the cheap Finnish life and more importantly the many lakes. How ardently they gobbled crayfish and whisky sodas, silently....... this is not very nice to see, I go ...

Eleven o'clock that night. The greenish twilight illuminates a stage for a Russian play, the grassy streets are lined with low wooden houses. On the shining Torneo river like a huge silver snake, there is a train of driftwood - pine trunks with shiny bark. Even after all those cups of tea with rum, the unaccustomed light does little to help me sleep. Then, go back to your room, look at your diary, feel lazy but have to go! There is nothing to write or any notes like that.

'July 25 - In my suburban garage, a real harem ... motorcycles - a little past their best but there is a young all chrome beauty. 'Miss 112', doesn't have the right serial number (as the wives of King Solomon, I guess). Even though it was already decked out with a well used bag, I loaded another old oily bag - the lady understood and immediately, the harsh necessities of life with a 'grand tourist'. Fear not, little one, it has a light touch. It'll be a real honeymoon I'm sure. 'Running around in the 70 ° latitude, you'll see the fjords of Norway! Athens! And Lisbon .....'

'July 26 - Departed Reims and the dining room of E... at four one afternoon. 'Do not forget to empty the bottles of Champagne before reaching the Belgian customs.'

allemagne_1934'Hamburg, 28 - I reach my first port on this solo journey. 'A good sailor knows the ropes', so I boarded immediately to St. Pauli. But I found a lack of life in the Reeperbahn, all the bars, dance halls, speakeasies and hippodromes are deserted. It seems that the new régime managing the neighborhood had a reputation, not dubious .... but hard! They continued to kidnap and interrogate ... Let's sleep!'

And then nothing, not a word on Denmark, not a line on Sweden. 'Come on - remember!'

Denmark is industrious and charming and as you cross it you become optimistic again and that's as Europe should be. Denmark, it is said by the British traders who meet in Korso to be the chicken coop and the pigsty of England, 'which provides us with eggs and bacon for our breakfasts.'

Denmark is better like that, a model farm. The fields there are beds of intensive cultivation. No villages but everywhere grand farm houses, surrounded by stables with running water if you please - hot and cold.

Also, I must tell you there is great dignity in the work of the noble brown cows, I had a long conversation about the global economic crisis affecting the prosperous gentlemen farmers, the meat of choice became unsellable and was made into meat-pulp and used to fatten pigs! Herds of cattle were simply reduced to ashes in a crematorium ... under the control of the state elsewhere they burned the wheat and coffee in a decidedly mad world.

Europe, dessin Christophe FAURET

1937 - Europe Tour Seite zurück


Before refrigerators and bra adverts I once saw an 'illustration' - very sassy ... Russian hieroglyphics Armenian and Greek headlines from the newspapers strewn on the marble pavements, they destroyed the atmosphere - very 'Café du Commerce'. It's like being in a prefecture in French. Camouflaged under international clothes, the Romanian and Bulgarian Jews paraded in the High Street the spectacle reverberated with, 'latest creation', 'fine ladies costumes', 'new', 'high'............

Galatz, a former Turkish citadel became a commercial city, its terraces overlooking the endless plains of the Danube River and its marshes.

The electric trams become noisy scrap metal in their descent to the port, where grain silos and piles of Carpathian planks await English freighters.

I looked up when some noisy carriages passed by, their horses were adorned with ribbons in the mane and white garters, they looked so well presented. Draped in their green velvet cloaks, the Russian coachmen call to you with their 'drosky' bells - could I resist you?

Stretched out on the sofa in the café, I rest my weary legs.

In the workshop of a French exile among the Scythians, the "P 107" rests, battered too. Just in time for Corso yesterday evening, perched on one another, both tired and covered with dust, so - we see a motorcycle and driver arrive in Galatz and make an entry that I would have preferred for my part to be more discreet............

Now swirl of issues have subsided: "Waiter! From what to write!"

L'Euphrate, dessin Christophe FAURET

1938 - From the Seine to the Euphrates Seite zurück

syrie_1937Early in the morning when the blades of the boat stopped I woke up. Next to the long mountain range of Lebanon the flat roofs of Beirut houses rising step-wise to the mountains have already baked in hot tropical sun. Here I don't believe that we 'enter a mill'! In fact the controls for landing and disembarkation are as strict as in New York! I slide about in a small boat piloted by a turban headed pirate, eventually arriving at the gates of what is called here the "Salon" of the customs! After a little delay - free at last - your bike's tyres ride the pavement of the quay already occupied by the train to Dumas.

Porters probably coming from Istanbul were bent over to the ground with their heavy loads tied to ropes like mules by a young boy.

First, let's go to the Post! Devil! The expected and necessary supplies won't arrive for four days? Your bad mood is mixed with the oppressive humid heat. With its trams avenues, arcades like the 'Rue de Rivoli', buildings, cinemas and garages stinking of wet cement, Beirut is really making a big effort to look like a French prefecture which is very much alive, and full of luxury American automobiles.

Which generous donor has donated a clock tower? There is grandly trimmed chimney which 'chimes well', I think the chimes are very homesick for Westminster!

I'm hungry and thirsty, but I don't have much money! I wait for the mailman. In the Haussmanian arcades I finally find the native restaurants and in the shadow of a passage, there are stoves, chairs and the water pipes of a teahouse. Let's go there, the prices will be more accessible to my purse . here we finally arrive in the East! Customers are dressed traditionally and perfectly adapted for the climate. Here a long narrow striped silk shirt is tied at the waist by the broad leather belt, others wear Turkish trousers, pleated at the bottom, dragging on the ground. There are those who come from small 'lost' villages and just prefer the fez to the Bedouin veil held in place by a double black cord.

Europe, dessin Christophe FAURET

1939 - Europe Tour Seite zurück


Somewhere in the Peugeot factory at Valentigney on the morning of July l3, there was a happy man; His new ride was waiting, an unspoilt treasure ready to travel many miles.

This isolated effort still seems a bit selfish. It is not. The rustling of pen on paper - an engine winding along the lonely roads, that's all it takes to eventually create a situation of unreality.

We love then to go back to the big factory with its hot atmosphere and shuddering roar, the sound rises like a symphony played softly, to the bosses office, it mingles with the murmur of dictation and the strumming of typists.

After the vibrating darkness of the test bench, the quiet light of the office where designers draw their arabesques. Just now, we crossed the deserted hall where iron bars sleep and iron sheets all await the sad shape of a material life. We slipped between the towers dripping with soapy water and metal shavings. The layman is moved to observe all these coordinated efforts, but he is eager to see the craft exported across Europe.

My journeys alone should still be possible but with strictly limited resources - because of the devaluation of the franc - but on a new economy moped, which will thus become the trusted servant; without a moment of weakness

Behold the moped - all chrome and blue - as blue as a blue bird in a fairy story. So coquettish and elegant that it would make an old motorcyclist regret never having ordered the total package, like a proud new tandem owner with his bike and the obligatory clothing.