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Old 04-23-2011, 02:26 AM   #1
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Run to the Hills - A Mondulkiri Adventure.

Last week myself and three other riders left our homes in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to have a bit of a week long blast in the eastern part of the country: Mondulkiri.

It's a wonderful place with huge tracts of rain-forest surviving there in spite of huge amounts of illegal logging. The whole province is at an elevation of +1000m - so the air is cooler and less humid than the rest of the country.

The idea came from me talking about a few trips I have done in the country & a few of my regulars (I have a bar) liked the sound of a trip in the mountains.

Last week the country came to complete standstill for the Khmer New Year celebrations - so what better time to shut up shop and take off than then?
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Old 04-23-2011, 02:36 AM   #2
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First my bike needed a little resurrecting from a prang a few weeks earlier.



New throttle and clutch cables, new indicators, new switches for the throttle hand side, new radiator cap, new headlamp cowl (secondhand, repainted), fixed and repainted side panels with new stickers, straightened mountings for all front bits and plastic welded the rear fender mounts (again), new brake lever, new brake reservior and clamps, better hand-grips & new mirrors.

Total repair cost =$180.

Leaving me with a more serviceable machine:



Time to pack:



That wire was useful in the end



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Old 04-23-2011, 02:46 AM   #3
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First they were four.

Tibo (FRA) on the Cream AX-1 (Moto age 28)



Wayne (GB) On the matt black XR 250 (Moto estimated to be 20)



Yours Truly (IRL) on the blue AX seen above with Wayne's bike (Moto age 23)

Andy (Great Nation of Vermont!!) on my other bike Suzuki DR 250 (Moto is 21)

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Old 04-23-2011, 02:57 AM   #4
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I closed my bar at 2am on Wednesday morning and headed home to double check my packing in preparation for a 6.30am rendezvous at a coffeeshop before we hit the road.

Naturally, I could not sleep too much and after tossing and turning for a few hours took a call from wayne who said he didn't think he could come along as he had been up all night with chest pains (bronchial infection). I commiserated with him and told him to go and see a doctor.

At that stage I got up, showered, geared up and went to meet the crew.

Naturally they all straggled in at around 7am and - to my surprise - so did Wayne. Apparantly his chest began to feel better a while after we spoke.

After a hearty meal of iced coffee and cigarettes we revved up in unison (sounded satisfying ) - and plunged into the hyper busy and dangerous Phnom Penh holiday traffic.

Wayne and Andy took off in one direction and I went the other way along with Tibo. As we all had to take the same bridge out of town it didn't matter much what route one took to there.

I saw Tibo take a bad street beside a normally batshit busy market - so I cut a few blocks west and made it to the bridge before the other three bikes.

I considered waiting but the whole area was a chaotic mess of buse, bikes, cars, trucks, pedestrians and Police so I kept going over the bridge and onto road 6a out of the city. . .

More to come later on. It's 4pm here and is opening time. . .
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Old 04-24-2011, 05:45 AM   #5
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National Road 6A out of Phnom Penh is nuts on a holiday. Nuts all the time really - but much worse when the entire city tries to leave at once.

It's only two lanes and was loaded with mini-buses and cars seriously overloaded pulling on and off the road without signalling, driving in the middel of the road and, of course, a million badly driven Moto's to boot.

The police were out in force "checking" for overloaded vehicles. In reality they were extorting a small bribe from each one to line their pockets. Fortunately they leave people on bigger bikes alone. 250cc is a bigger bike in Cambodia

I knew I was ahead of Tibo - but was not so certain about Wayne & Andy - so I decided to do 50km and wait for them at the Preah Veng turn-off where we would take a right turn and cross a new bridge over the Mekong.

I was filtering the traffic at an estimated 120km/ph when Tibo caught up with me so we drove together to the turn-off and waited for Wayne and Andy while having an iced coffee and pastry.

A view from the turn-off:



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Old 04-24-2011, 06:39 AM   #6
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After ten minutes or so Wayne rolled in and past us but we managed to get his attention and we waited another five minutes for Andy.

Andy was on my DR. He normally drives a semi-auto Honda Wave and it had been close to 20 years since he had driven a manual bike in anger. He had borrowed the DR a week earlier to refresh his skills - but his clutch control was not what it should be.

In addition the DR was a tad too tall for him to flatfoot and he wasalso very nervous about leaning the knobbly tires on tarmac - so waiting for him was to become a common them of the trip.

Oh yeah - he was not to hot on the whole decompression lever/kickstart side of things too.

But he arrived and we all set off together over the bridge. The road was new and very quiet after the main road so we began to stretch the legs of the bike a little. Wayne came past me, flat over the bars on the XR - so I let him go for a bit and then overtook him.

This carried on for a whie - until I noticed bloe smoke from Wayne's Exhaust, so I flagged him down . .
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Old 04-25-2011, 01:59 AM   #7
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Old 04-29-2011, 01:28 AM   #8
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Right here: Not much around, just some amused locals.



Sure enough, he was burning oil. Checked the oil level and found his bike almost dry. Dirty oil residue in the pipe too.



Andy caught up to us (again)



We sent a child to run and buy a litre of oil and Wayne decided he didn't want to chance a Piston melting in the middle of no-where and that he would return to Phnom Penh and see if he could rent an XR 400 and follow us up that evening.

We comisserated and before we parted ways I took a short clip of this giant haystack driving down the road.




Sorry about the sideways video. I have not figured out how to edit a video through 90 degrees.

Wayne's stricken XR in the background.



And then back on our way, without Wayne. One down.
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Old 04-29-2011, 02:03 AM   #9
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The next hour was pretty dull. Tibo and I , being on the same bikes and being roughly the same weight all loaded up matched each other pretty evenly and took turns leading down the road.

Andy, not feeling too confident on my DR, had elected to drive at his own pace and we were to stop and wait for him at all major intersections along the way.

The countryside was flat, arid, rice paddy land sitting fallow and brown waiting for the first rains of the year. It actually looked a little like rain that morning and we were hoping to ride out from that system before it came down.

After a while we came to the intersection of road 315 and road 11, which would take us north to National road seven and from Peay Vieng province to Kampong Cham province and we stopped and waited for Andy. And waited, and waited.

Eventually he rolled in. The man would have been faster on his 100cc Honda Wave than on the DR.

On road 11 there was more vegetation at the roadside. This was welcome as the day was heating up and the sun was breaking through the clouds.

This road was busier than the last with many animals, children and tractors on the road, making us drive with more caution than before. There were also a number of narrow steel and wooden bridges that could be scary to hit on a wet day.

Coming into the town of Kong Chey my bike spluttered and I switched to my reserve tank. Then after fifteen more minutes we arrived at the bustling intersection and roads 11 & 7 where Tibo and myself stopped to drink a coconut and eat rice along with a very bony and very tasty chicken stew. It cost $1.50 for us both. We ate as we waited for Andy. . .



. . . who texted a minute later to say he had stalled the bike at one of the wooden bridges and was having trouble kicking her over.

Five minutes later he texted to say he had switched to the reserve tank and the bike had started

When he rocked up ten minutes later he declared he was not hungry yet, so we carried on. Tibo and I had arranged for a fuel stop at the first actual pumping station we saw (as opposed to plastic bottle gas) - because Tibo's reserve did not work on his petcock so he was using my bike's mileage as a guide.

We told Andy to keep going and we would catch him up again, but he must not have listened because when we both stopped he pulled over and waited a few k's down the road. Naturally it took him ages to start her up again.

I felt a bit sorry for him, because he was letting frustration get the better of him and not kicking the bike over as he had been shown - so gaining a sore foot.

When we got back on the road Tibo and I began traveling pretty fast (for a pair of 250cc bikes) - and I shot a video of me catching up to him over a two minute period - when, just at the end of the video, my revs went sky high and I lost forward momentum and pulled over. . . .






Sorry about sideways video. Handheld camera. Just turn either your screen or head through 90 degrees

Now, what the hell could that be,I thought, as I came to a halt? It sounded like I had thrown the chain - but the chain had good tension.

I dismounted and looked at it. The chain was on both sprockets. I was sure I had just busted my gearbox. I start the bike, put it in gear and slowly let out the clutch and the rear sprocket span without moving the wheel.

Yup, I sheared off all four of the forged pins that hold my floating sprocket into the alloy rim.

Not much I could do but text Tibo who had the tow strap and wait for Andy to come past.
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Old 04-29-2011, 02:15 AM   #10
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Andy came by fifteen minutes later and I flagged him down.

I told him to drive on and see where the nearest town was. After he left Tibo called me. By chance he had stopped to smoke a cigarette 25k further down the road and checked his phone.

He got back to me 15 minutes later and towed me about 5km to the centre of Memot - a sizable town with a large market where we found a machine shop.

A little bit of this:



And a lot of this on the sprocket:



Followed by punching out the broken pins and inserting four bolts for a makeshift repair job left us with this:



The guy charged $15, which was slightly outrageous. I know it's not a lot of money, but this is not a $15 job in Cambodia. $5 would have been fair.

Still, when one is bent over a barrel one gets fucked. I paid, and then, because I didn't think the "Bolt Repair" would get me very far, I popped a small wheelie as I left his shop - because if it was going to break I wanted it to happen there and then.

It held, so we went on our way.
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Old 04-29-2011, 02:25 AM   #11
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We had told Andy to head for Snuol while the Machine shop boys worked on my bike, so Tibo and I drove out together.

I had Tibo drive behind me for five or ten clicks and keep an eye on my sprocket. I was going slowly at the beginning, but when it became apparant the repair was holding we sped up a bit to make up for lost time and came to the crossroads od Snuol only five minutes behind Andy.

Here we stopped for a drink as the sin was now at full strength and the temperature was well up in the mid-30's.

There's not mush to Snuol. It supplies most of the country's Tarantula crop (deep fried tarantula is real good) and is a bit of a transport hub for the east of the country.

For us, it marked the beginning of the forest and the mountains





Yup, not much to see here. Lets head for the hills . . .


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Old 04-29-2011, 02:44 AM   #12
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Finally a good road

I had driven this road the previous year when it was almost brand new and it was huge fun. This year was even better as the loose gravel drifts had been taken car of and it had been lined and properly signposted. Hills, lovely twisties and very little traffic made for fun.











Sad to see a lot of slash and burn still going on despite it nominally being a protected area.





We were in need of petrol with about 70km to go to Sen Monorom, our destination for the day, Tibo, in particular as he had done an Extra 50k in coming back to tow my bike, so we stopped at the small town of Sre Preah to fill up.

Then we sat and smoked cigarettes and drank coconuts while waiting for Andy and marveling at just how far behind he could fall on such a short distance.



When he drove by we saddled up and got back onto the mountain road through denser forest.


















And we rolled into Sen Monorom at 4.30pm, met and old friend and soaked in some beers, a bite to eat and found a cheap three bed room for the night, excited for what day 2 was to bring.
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Old 05-04-2011, 02:45 AM   #13
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Next morning we got out of bed at 8am and I advised the two that we could do worse than eat breakfast at Banana's - a restaurant owned by a nice Dutch lady named Tanya.

I met Tanya on my first visit to this province last year and she is an amazing cook, plus a very good conservationist. She has been in this country forever and is probably the longest serving expat here.

This country was waay more dangerous 20+ years ago, so she gets mad respect. If any of you visit Mondulkiri soon - go eat there. You may need to hurry as she is moving to Kampong Cham town this year at some point.

We had quality coffee, delicious wholegrain bread and tortilla omelets to start the day and headed back to the hotel to bring our packs as we were not sure if they had rooms that night and were thinking about staying in a village in the countryside.

I hopped on my bike to change some $$ into Riel - Cambodia's "official" currency - at the local market. Money changed I came back to the hotel - but, as I pulled into the yard I heard this "clack,clack,clack" noise and stopped to kook at my rear sprocket.

To my dismay one of the bolts had loosened itself from the sprocket and was tapping the chain adjuster at the end of my swingarm. It looked like a 14mm bolt so I dig out my 14mm spanner and it turns out it's a 13mm bolt they put in there the day before.

I only carry a 10mm, 12mm,14mm, 17mm, 19mm and 21mm as they can loosen just about anything needing loosening on my bike. Bugger.

I use the highly technical " crisp packet over too small bolt to help wrench it trick" and it will come out but not go back in so I remove it and look for a bike shop. No dice.

1. Nobody fixes big bikes up there, just mopeds.

2. It was Khmer New Year. Nobody works.

So, I went to a place called the Greenhouse which, I remembered from the year before, had a Honda Baja 250 (XR) for rent. Except it was leaning against a wall broken down and a bit dusty.

So I rented a moped.

A very battered Honda Futura Neo Semi-Automatic 125cc. It looked as though it had been crashed by every bastard who rented it in it's life.

I left my maimed AX-1 as security for it and drove the scooter to get petrol. I noticed the footpegs were so badly bent I could not downshift - so I grabbed a handy rock and straightened them with a few thumps.

Then it was back to the Hotel to join up with Andy and Tibo who were looking a bit bored. At this stage it was 11.30 so we hit the road to Bousra Waterfall, our destination for the day.

It was at the end of maybe 50k of fairly bumpy sand/gravel and occasional rutted tarmac sections. It was quite dusty and, naturally, I was trying to beat the two 250's on my little moped - so my kidneys soon began to scream at me.

Here's a pic from the first smoke-and-wash-this-fucking-dust-from-my-mouth stop:



There were a few bridges that were a little dodgy on the way. This was one of the better ones.



Did I mention it got dusty?

This is how it looked when coming up on a car to overtake:





There were some really nice downhill sections. Here's Tibo catching up to the mighty moped:



Then we came to the waterfall. It was very busy with it being a holiday and all. First order of business was to strip off and get under for a nice water massage





Then eat some Pigeon. The head, the heart, the feet - the whole lot.



After that we dressed and decided to look around the area for awhile before heading back to town before nightfall.

Here's Tibo beside my rented battle scooter.



Lets take the less traveled one:



Andy sitting pretty on my DR:



Small overhang:



Ahh, the Jungle:



No way down for a moto:



Doubling back:



As far as the top of the same waterfall we visited earlier:



Bikes:



Downvalley:



Tibo looking French:



Andy was a minute or two behind. . .



Here's two video's shot with my free hand while driving the Moped around the area.





Then we made our way back to Sen Monorom, stopped into Mony's cafe and ate three roast chickens with our fingers, drank a case of warm beers and actually managed to get a cheap room to sleep in for the night.

Day 3 was coming - and it was going to be a big one
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Old 05-08-2011, 02:21 AM   #14
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Day 3

The night before we had been doing some brainstorming for where to go the next day.

Initially, I had wanted to do "the death highway" from Monduljiri to Rattankiri province as I had covered the road a year before on the AX-1 at the height of the wet season - and I wanted to see the contrast between deep mud, water and bog in the wet season and deep sand in the dry.

Tibo didn't seem to keen on the idea - he had covered it a few times before - and Andy was probably not proficient enough yet on the DR in terms of clutch control and off road miles to want to try it.

We spoke with Mony - who basically IS Mr Jungle Adventure - about what we could do that would take one day and be quite a challenge while still managing to get back to Sen Monorm that evening.

He suggested that we go to a remote part of the province, through deep jungle, on singletrack. Once there, he said, we could have a dip in a river and eat before coming back an alternate track.

It sounded good, so at 8am in the morning we were breakfasted and ready to roll. . .
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Old 05-08-2011, 02:49 AM   #15
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We beat out of town after everybody filled up their tanks and headed North.

For the first ten to fifteen K's we were on a graded red clay road, similar to what we drove upon the day before.

As we drove, the forest became denser on either side of the road and the road itself began to look less and less used until it simply disappeared and we were within the trees on black rocky soil, headed uphill.



It was hot, and I stopped frequently to drink water and wait for the last man to catch up.





Generally there were any number of individual paths that one could take through the trees. These paths usually converged every few hundred meters.

We were headed towards a river, at a point where we would be able to ford it which would also mark the point where the terrain got more challenging.

I'm no RTWDoug, I know, but the lask of functional suspension on the moped was really causing my kidneys to kick up. I was bouncing that little thing over tree roots, large rocks and in and out of ruts.

Here it looks like double track. It is not. Just two tracks parallel to each other for the downhill.



I fell off just before taking this photo:



Low speed, no big deal and my own fault - I was driving with one hand on a rocky sloping bit of track and using my free hand to try to take a photo and tipped over

Andy also came off around the same area. He had come past me and to a very gnarly piece of uphill strewn with rocks and at a severe incline. He went halfway up and stalled the bike and tipped it over on himself.

He was trying to kick it over but not having much luck due to a tender instep so I took over but she remained stalled.

By this time Mony had realised we were behind so he came back while I was giving the bike a minute to unflood itself.

Before I could warn him he kicked the DR over without decompressing the engine - and the kickstarter kissed him on the shinbone. He got it started though and took it up the hill before collapsing in pain. Nasty cut.

After a few more minutes we were underway again.









Mony on his Honda Wave:



He had nifty little spacers made for the suspension which give the little bike a 3' lift. Good idea - as with the rental I was on if you braked the rear quite often the pedal would rebound from a rock in the path.

After two hours we came to the first river crossing of the day. There was a buffalo and it's calf there. They made it easy to spot the deep section.





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