I've been a tad slack on the updates, and given last night was a bit punishing... I'll sit here and catch us up.
I ended up dodging flying bullets in Pakse. At least one person appears to have ended up dead.
I was riding over to the market when I passed an obvious "ruckus" at a tyre service. I pulled up for a stickybeak at how the local cops handled things (I developed a customer service strategy for a certain police force, once upon a time - a very interesting assignment). There was a plainclothes cop there with a handgun and I heard several gunshots from inside the building and then bottles came flying out, smashing on the road. I decided that being "different" might not be a good thing if events erupted into the street and I moved on. When I came back past an hour later, it was all over. I asked the plainclothes cop how it ended and he gave the thumbs down sign.
I went to the market to get a new rucksack to replace the one that had a minor, losing, altercation with the rear wheel the other day. I guess I better start safety roping again. The only damage was to the rucksack and an oil container... but it could have been nasty if the oil had got onto the tyre in the rain
The volume of gear I'm carrying had increased, of course. I got extra oil in - and this stuff is packed appallingly - a one litre bottle has damn near a two litre outside space the way its packaged... handle on it, etc. I'm carrying gaffer tape too - as can be seen above. The only other extras are a MAG t shirt and a string hammock.
I like this photo Neil took the other night when I shouted he and Clarissa at the Panorama restaurant atop the 5 or 6 storey high Paske Hotel as a thank you for his assistance with the work on the bike.
The farewell feast for Neil and Clarissa was our best effort at a wine and cheese evening here. We got the only bottle of olives we could find, the only cheese (sliced cheddar from the US... think Big Mac cheese), some nuts, Pringles and a bottle of plonk from France.
The Bigfella numberplate was a bit of an afterthought.... and it didn't last long. I lost it on my first offroad ride, heading down the west bank of the Mekong to the border. That's why the bike's plate is in my backpack. Neil and I bought a few other stickers too...
I'd said goodbye to Neil and Clarissa a day before I left Pakse. They headed to Vientiane or thereabouts. I'll probably see them again in Chiang Mai... before they head back to KL and fly their bikes to Europe.
After leaving Pakse, I headed down to Wat Phou and then stayed in a guesthouse near there. The guesthouse restaurant consisted of wooden poles, floorboards with 1" gaps, tin roof, no walls - and also doubles as the accommodation for the family of, I think 7 that run the place. It is 25' above the Mekong and 15' from the water's edge.... grey. overcast but bright and the air has been hazy... like smoke .for several days.
My waitress was, oh, maybe 7 years old, and well polished at the art. It turned out there were five of them there in the morning plus the parents... all sleeping on a long bamboo mat on the restaurant floor. This one, the eldest, was my waitress. All kids work here it seems.
The Mekong at Champasak is wide - I checked on the GPS and its over 2km wide - and still fast flowing. I had the pleasure of a race boat going past for a training run. I saw it being repaired on the way in... all the seams had been filled with epoxy and they were scraping it down as I rode past it on the bank.
They had 33 paddlers in it... chanting as they went hard at it. I love these boats.
They were doing some chainsaw slabbing for boatbuilding there too. The boat was being repaired at the spot the bike ferry lands.
I shared a small ferry with a Corsican guy and his Balinese girlfriend.
30,000 baht per bike. $4. The guy had tried for 50,000 and I offered 5,000. So... 30,000 it was.
There's a lot of water out there - all headed that last 100 metres down to sea level.
I came across the river (yet again) to visit the ancient Pre-Khmer ruins of Wat Phu.
There's a lot of similarities to the temples at Siem Reap.
Yeah - I climbed the damn thing wearing cordura/leather trousers - and my taped up boots. Sweated like 40 bastards. At least I had water.
I knew by now that my Chinese rear wheel bearings weren't going to get me far. They wern't too flash... at about 250km on them. The bike had a leaking front tube too, but I wasn't in the mood to fix it. I pumped it and rode the day before ... and did the same again. I decided to do that until I saw a bike shop or it started going down too fast. I've been carrying 3 spare front and 2 spare rear tubes, so that wasn't an issue... just the lifting it up (or laying it over) and doing the damn tyre. I would, of course, regret not fixing it then. I damn near bit the bitumen as a result.... with a rather wild and exciting 95km left hand corner and flat front tyre featuring strongly.... but that was two days down the track.
I ended up escaping rom Laos that day... about 3 days ago now. It felt good to be back in Cambodia (I spent a bit over a week here a couple of years back). The friendly nature of the Cambodians hasn't changed. I love it.
I'll admit to being less than friendly in my last Laotian encounter... just a few km from the border. I went in to see the cascades, which are the largest in SE Asia... where the kilometre wide Mekong drops 15 metres. Its a lot of water. I arced up when faced with a sign that said:
"Entry, locals 5,000 kip... Foreigners 30,000 kip".
I complained about the discrimination and the guy at the gate's attitude got up my nose. I ended up throwing 5,000 kip at the guy's feet and riding in (he wouldn't take it out of my hand). They had a go at me at the falls too and we had a "discussion" about racism... although, I guess if they charge Cambodians as foreigners, maybe it isn't racism. Nothing pisses me off more than this sort of tripe. Its illegal in Thailand I think and I did refuse to pay this sort of stupid premium at a museum in Melaka, Malasia. Some places handle it better... eg the temples. They don't flaunt the price discrimination on a big sign, they just tell you the price and hand you a VIP ticket. Yeah - they still rip off the Farang, but it hasn't got the "up you" element to it.
The Mekong at the cascades
... and earlier in the day.
I posted a photo of the local race boat being tuned up. Here it is in the morning, they were taking it out for a training session blast
Yep. 33 of them.... plus the coaches in another boat
Not a lot of freeboard there when they all dig in
.... and one more of the guys training... heading back upstream
The local tourist boat for the southern Mekong in Laos came past. The smoky looking humidity haze is apparent.