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Max Reisch - Pioneering the First Overland Journey from Europe to India

Explore the extraordinary life of Max Reisch, a pioneering travel writer and adventurer. From motorcycle odysseys across Africa and India in the 1930s to circumnavigating the globe in a Steyr 100, Reisch's legacy, filled with daring exploits, inspires wanderlust and exploration. Join us on a journey through his indelible mark on history.

Max Reisch, born on October 2, 1912, in Kufstein, Austria, left an indelible mark as a prominent travel writer, geographer, journalist, and oriental expert. His life's journey was characterized by an insatiable thirst for exploration and a relentless pursuit of adventure.


Max Reisch's early life saw him attending school in Bozen and Kufstein, followed by studies in architecture and world trade in Vienna. In his youth, Max was an avid skier, motorsport athlete and mountaineer, foreshadowing the daring spirit that would define his future expeditions.


1932: To Africa with Motorcycle and Tent

In the early 1930s, Max Reisch studied in Vienna. During the summer break of 1932, he embarked on an adventurous journey to North Africa with Alfred Schricker from Nuremberg. Riding a Puch 250 cm³ motorcycle, built in 1929, they traveled from Vienna via Spain, covering a route from west to east, Algiers to Tripoli. The journey included a detour into the Sahara. After a ship voyage from Tripoli to Syracuse on Sicily and then overland to Austria, they completed this remarkable expedition.

Forging a path through the desert! Image by Herbert Tichy

1933: To India by Motorcycle

The following year, in 1933, Max Reisch, again on the Puch-Type 250, with co-driver Herbert Tichy, embarked on another groundbreaking journey. The rear wheel was still without suspension. In addition to the two people, around 70 kg of equipment, spare parts, petrol and oil were also carried. Since this trip was again a kind of test ride as proof of the stability of the motorcycles of the time (like the Sahara trip), all essential parts of the machine were sealed.


Covering 13,000 km over several months, they achieved the remarkable feat of being the first to reach India overland by motorcycle. The experiences of this journey were vividly documented in Max Reisch's book "Indien, lockende Ferne; 13,000 km Pionierfahrt mit Herbert Tichy nach Indien" ("India, tempting distances; 13,000 km pioneering journey with Herbert Tichy to India") published by Ulstein Verlag.

In the 1970s he traveled on this route again - albeit with modern means of transport, comparing the conditions of the 1970s with his earlier journey, documenting the changes in his book "Karawanenstraßen Asiens" ("Caravan Roads of Asia").


Max Reisch on his 1932 Puch 250SL en route to India. Image by Herbert Tichy

1935-1936: Around the world in a Steyr 100

It was a special car, this Steyr 100 with 1,380 cm³ and 32 hp, built in 1934, and a special body made of sheet aluminum. Because on September 22, 1934, this vehicle was the first vehicle to drive, or rather rumble, over the almost completed Großglockner High Alpine Road summit section. At the wheel was the Salzburg state governor Dr. Franz Rehrl and next to him the road planner and executive engineer, Franz Friedrich Wallack.

And it was with this vehicle, accompanied by Helmut Hahmann, technician and cameraman, that Reisch set off from Vienna on April 22, 1935 (in a later edition of the book, 1983, Max Reisch writes April 23 as the day of departure). The goal was - Vienna again, but this time it was supposed to go around the world. The journey went through the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Burma, Vietnam to China. They embarked in Shanghai and went first to Japan and from its eastern port of Yokohama on to North America, across the United States of America from Seattle via San Francisco to New York. The “Bremen” took the two of them and their car to Bremerhaven and from there they went to Vienna.

Of course, Reisch also wrote a book about this trip: Mann und 32 PS, im Auto um die Erde  "2 men and 32 horsepower, around the world in a car"


Max Reisch's book cover

Max Reisch's legacy extends beyond his expeditions. An avid traveler, author, and public speaker, he delivered over 700 lectures in 50 years, inspiring countless individuals. He gave his first slide lecture in the auditorium of the University of Vienna in 1934, and his last lecture in 1984 in his beloved hometown of Kufstein, true to his motto: "There are many continents and countries, but there is only one home."

Max Reisch passed away on January 18, 1985, at the age of 72, leaving behind a rich tapestry of adventures and a legacy that continues to inspire wanderlust and exploration. He himself said: "I am satisfied because I have reached the age of 102. The years in the desert count twice!"



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