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Old 07-27-2012, 08:29 AM   #331
RobBD
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Happy 1st birthday BigFella its been a great read so far,
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Old 07-31-2012, 03:04 AM   #332
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Thanks Rob.

Just a quick check-in here. I haven't evaporated. I'm in Nu Pho "temporary" refugee camp - between Umphang and the Myanmar border. I've got no phone or net access - apart from this dodgy line attached to a monastery.

Every time I go to leave, another family turns up at the temple I'm staying in with a pile of gobbledygook from the Oz government. I'm writing a few nasty letters to politicians and also re-writing some visa applications. What "we" have done to some of these people is appalling. One family were told to come for an interview in 2007 but to make sure they brought their birth certificate and marriage certificate. They never went because they didn't have them (and would be jailed if they went back to Burma to get them)... so they've sat here in the mud for 5 years. Oh yeah... they've got no travel documents, so how do they go to Bangkok for an interview. I suppose I'm getting political... so I'll leave that and let some photos do the talking later on.

One guy died here last night... nailed by a falling tree. The guy in the hut next to me had his back broken when a falling 3'+ tree slammed his hut to pieces. The place is a sea of mud. The "road" was cut by a landslide last night, but is open again now, so I might make a break for it tomorrow. I'll admit I was wrong about wet weather gear btw... I was near hypothermic on the way in a few days back. That said.... I still won't be sending home for mine. I'd have carried it for a year for one day's use.
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Old 08-04-2012, 08:24 PM   #333
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I'm back in Mae Sot, not feeling 100% but seemingly on the mend. I thought I was going down with Dengue, which is something I really don't want to do... spent most of yesterday in bed - still have some joint pain and "woosyness" so time will tell. I'll be back later today with some more photos and an update... but here's the road out from the camp on Friday. That closest vehicle was well and truly stuck - and abandoned. The other one further up just gave up there and they walked. Lots of this on the way out. Five hours for 220km, with the last 110 of that taking about an hour.... on good, but wet roads. The first half was a nightmare... including two-wheel slides on the bitumen, landslides and more.

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Old 08-05-2012, 05:52 AM   #334
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One last thing I forgot to mention about Hua Hin... I was having a granny nap one evening and I got a knock on the door. It was a guy I'd met at Sunny's bike shop in KL. He runs guided tours into Thailand. He rides a Versys and was doing a 1 +1 tour when he spotted the Katoom. I had a bit of a chat but didn't see him again, he was off in the morning.

At Kanchanaburi, I'd talked Na into coming up for a day trip. I picked her up at the bus station and we blasted out to the Tiger Monastery. I posted a couple of the big cat photos before, but here's some more. The entrance was a bit tacky



The place is subject to so many rumours, it isn't funny. People say the tigers are drugged, all that sort of stuff. I'm pretty sure they aren't... I saw a couple in some pretty spirited play and as I think I mentioned earlier, if they drugged them, it'd nail their already weak kidneys. I like the fact they are on top of the genetics and make sure there's no interbreeding and that they don't go down the stupid white tiger route.



They are just fed when the tourists get to interact, so there's no great worries. You are also instructed on how to approach them - always from behind - and to use very firm hand contact - you don't want the tiger to think you are a fly that needs to be swatted.



Its only males that get near the tourists. They are more placid than the females.



You sure as hell wouldn't want to get swatted



Na simply would not go near the tigers. I finally got her near a cub, but that was it.

We passed an elephant tourist trap and I relented and went for a ride. Only 400 baht because I was with a local



We ducked in to that bridged secion of the Death Railway that is still used and strangely enough, its a wedding photo location



There's a cave at the other end that has a temple in it now, but it was a hospital cave during the construction period



A quick blast back to town and I got Na onto the 6:30 bus back to Hua Hin. Next morning I packed up and headed for Hellfire Pass, but spotted a sign to Erewan Falls and decided to divert. When I got to the parking, the sign said the falls were 500m away, so I didn't unpack my shorts and shoes. Big mistake.

This is me at the second level, of seven. In boots and cordura. The climb to the top was over another 1.5 km... and it was a climb.



I won't show all seven levels, but they were nice.





Yep, very nice



Lots of folks dangling their feet in for the fish to nibble on... the smaller ones that is... they got up to about 400mm long



Quite a lot of different nationalities... German, Italian, Russian (you could tell them by the cut of their swimming trunks). These shots were from the top level, level 7









Fortunately, I didn't see the sign prohibiting me from carrying water past Level 3... but I'd exhausted mine by level 5... and I was suffering.... again.
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Old 08-05-2012, 06:30 AM   #335
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Given I had to do a reboot then, I've grabbed a photo I took on my ride through Vietnam two years ago. This was in a market up at Sapa, in the northern highlands.



The next day, there were only two claws left, someone had bought one. IIRC, the asking price was about $45. Bastards

.... and the last photo from Erewan Falls



A couple of rather small monkeys that were up at level 7

On the way in to the Falls, I damn near fell off... at low speed... taking this photo. I was going through a herd of cattle and thought I was in a lower gear. Just as I pressed the shutter, the bike stalled and damn near pitched me off....



I'd spotted this dead Pitta on the way in and stopped for a photo. It doesn't do the bird's beauty justice. A pity to see it as road kill. I had a live one fly across in front of me near there a few days later. Bright red and irridescent blue. Lovely.



There was nice scenery and quiet roads



I'd plugged the local name for Hellfire Pass in to the Garmin and it led me down here



and when it told me to go up here, I knew it was time to quit.



The locals were bemused.



I hadn't seen any signs, and it was getting late, so I headed back 10km or so to Sam's Jungle Guesthouse... where I was the only guest. Plenty of interested dogs there though



Sam wasn't there, but his "worker" as Sam called him when his "worker" phoned Sam, sorted me out. I liked Sam's stash of timber. I don't think it was teak, it had some very nice figuring on it.



I took a look around and found a bus/boat interchange and had a chat to some of the drivers



There's some big dollar resorts on the river apparently... about 3 of them

I was happier talking to the locals



I'd already been into the strangest restaurant back in town for dinner, but went back to this place for brekky the next morning I don't often photograph menus... but this one was good



.... and that's it for this computer again for a while.
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Old 08-05-2012, 07:33 AM   #336
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Really enjoying this, Thanks for taking the time to post.

I live in Bangkok so if there is any help or advice you need give me a shout. Always happy to help out a fellow inmate.

Cheers
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Old 08-05-2012, 10:22 PM   #337
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Thanks Satonic. Bangkok is the planned end of the ride. I'm toying with parking the bike for a couple of months until the wet season is over, but won't decide that until I get further north. I just got a message from a mate asking if I want to sail East for 3 to 6 months. I'm not sure he's thought it all through, as you want to be out of the South Pacific islands by November... again for weather related reasons. Fiji and Tahiti sound very attractive as I type this, listening to the rain. He's got a pretty nice Bavaria 44 that's just had a full refit.

So, Hellfire Pass. It turned out that I was only a few km short of it. Its a place that epitomises the evil of the Imperial Japanese Army of 70 years ago. A lot more lives were lost on the construction of the Death Railway than should have been due to an aircraft crash that killed the Japanese General and his 9 senior engineering officers right at the start of it - they were surveying the route. Juniors took over and didn't know what they were doing.

Most of the route follows a British plan from earlier on - early 1900's I think - that was abandoned due to construction concerns. The Japanese were wanting to transport 3,000 tons per day... but only achieved a maximum of around 1,000... and often only 300 - 400.


This from wiki:

Hellfire Pass (Thai: ช่องเขาขาด, known by the Japanese as Konyu Cutting) is the name of a railway cutting on the former "Death Railway" in Thailand which was built with forced labour during the Second World War, in part by Allied prisoners of war. The pass is noted for the harsh conditions and heavy loss of life suffered by its labourers during construction. Hellfire Pass is so called because the sight of emaciated prisoners labouring at night by torchlight was said to resemble a scene from Hell





It isn't just one cutting... the one above is the largest though, at 75 metres long and 25 metres deep. Construction started on it on 25 April 1943. ANZAC Day.

The bridges in between the cuttings are all long gone here, but the bomb craters from raids on the Death Railway later in the war are still evident... with 11 craters like this one from a 1,000lb bomb. The raids didn't stop it until very late in the war though... mid 1945.



The bridges here... and there were a lot of them... were built like this.



A lot of men were killed in accidents building them... they either fell to their deaths or the bridges collapsed during construction. The men were being fed on 1/4 of what was necessary to sustain life... let alone work. 69 Aussies were beaten to death here by their Korean and Japanese guards. IIRC, 700 Aussies died building this stretch of the railroad. In all, over 100,000 Prisoners of War and Asian laborers died building 415km of line....

This fence marks the end of the section you can walk now... 2.5km after the main cutting. The track was cleared by the Australian Government in 1987 for 4km, but access to Compressor Cutting has been restricted by the Thai Army who control this area.



This section was bridged with a trestle bridge, long since gone.



... and most of the work in these cuttings was done manually - using a tap drill and an 8-10lb hammer to drill a hole for gelignite.



There's only this very short section of the original rail that's been re-laid here. The Thai and Burmese governments ripped the rail up, by agreement, for 100km each side of their border after the war. The nearest part of the line to here that is still used is 18km away.... starting at that trestle bridge I showed.



Some of the original teak sleepers are still there... along with bolts for the bridges, etc



My advice to any prospective visitor... and this is a site that is visited by many (it was mainly built by Aussies and Asians, but also British, Dutch and Americans)... would be to do it as an independent traveller. There's a "don't go further" sign for members of tour groups quite soon after the first (and main) cutting... missing a lot of what I thought was the most interesting areas. I spent a bit over 2 hours there... but saw some people being turned around after less than 20 minutes.

This is a broken off compressor drill. They did bring one petrol-driven compressor in for this cutting, which was being built during the "speedo" period... trying to get the line finished. The US Navy had pretty much sealed off the Straits of Malacca by this stage of the war and the IJA was desperate for a land access route to their troops in Burma. The line operated for the last 2 years of the war, with some interuptions from bombing raids, mainly on the bigger bridges.





I posted this shot of one of the bridges further southeast earlier, but its worth including it again I think.



Not far from Hellfire Pass was the Pack of Cards Bridge... for which no photos are known to exist - so named because it collapsed three times during construction.

Most of the deaths here were from starvation and tropical diseases. I've seen photos of the dying troops... absolutely horrific ulcers, gaunt faces, etc. A lot were also killed during allied bombing raids.

Lest We Forget





One of my mother's cousins died "in Burma" during all of this... but I'm not sure of the details. I'll have to try and find the info when I get home.

Some subsequently quite prominent Aussies were at Hellfire Pass... Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop, Sir John Carrick, Tom Uren... and more. The latter two are on the audio commentary available from the museum up near the road.

Tom Uren came back in '87 and looking at this view (I'll try and get the panorama together and loaded later).... which looks across the River and Kwai Noi valley towards Burma, which is 47km away, beyond the mountains...



... and said "they've absolutely raped this land.... all the trees are gone, they've just left the bamboo". This was a teak forest.

This is a stand of teak, at Erewan Waterfall... which is only about 25km away as the crow flies... planted in 1963. I've seen plenty of teak plantations, but it'd be nice to see it somehow more prevelent in the forests.



The museum and the work done to enable access to and understanding of this site is an absolute credit to the Aussie Government. Listening to the stories of the former PoWs was amazing... and the production was superb.

The Thai staff were excellent and their advice was good. I was given a 2 way radio because I was going beyond the tour group turnaround ... and apart from 3 Thai workers clearing bamboo incursions, I didn't see anyone for 3/4 of my time there... not a single tourist went beyond the first cutting !!!!.... so they wanted me to have the radio. They were supposed to do 1/2 hourly checks... and the first one came in on schedule. I didn't get one for the next 1 1/2 hours though... presumably because I was out of range... which sort of makes one wonder. Here's the bamboo workers



My GPS didn't list Hellfire Pass as a point of interest, and its only signposted at the entry...



When I came out after changing back into my riding gear (hey... after Erewan Falls, I wasn't making that mistake again)... although I have to say, two bottles of water, as recommended by the staff, wasn't enough... there was a GS1150 on Thai plates parked next to the Katoom. Didn't see the owner.



and a nice British couple travelling on a new scooter....



They, like me were headed for Sangkhla Buri near the Burma border and I mentioned the name of the guesthouse I'd been recommended by a group of volunteers with a guide who were headed the other way... but I didn't see them again.

I got into it a bit on the ride up, but did a u-turn to say G'day to this guy from Bangkok, who was running in his new BM.... and had stopped to take off his wet weather gear. Hmm.



The view ahead was impressive, but told the story of the rain.



It absolutely dumped on me, then stopped and I dried out while riding, then it dumped again. Welcome to the rainy season Ian...

Plenty of nice hills around... sorry about the ugly mug...



Long open stretches at times



.... and a reminder that a lot of folks here don't watch what's going on.



This mob had cleaned up a local farmers ute

... and a couple of random shots from up near the border





There's a whole heap of Buddha statues as you arrive at Sangkhla Buri



,,,, and I got my first view of the Mon Bridge... of which I'll say more later. Its the longest wooden bridge in Thailand, built in 1984



I finally found the P Guesthouse... but they were full. It seems lots of European religious groups end up here and that's what the place was full of.... along with 8 guys from Bangkok who said G'day... come back and join us. A couple of them ride.. R1 and a Blackbird IIRC.... so I went 100 metres down the road to the Forget Me Not Guesthouse, which was OK, but lacked the restaurant/bar of the P. He's got a nice collection of cars there, 4 different generations of Mercedes, including an old W108 (I think) with a bloody great intercooler. He's also got a beautiful old Fiat





,,,,, and with that, I grabbed an A/C room to dry my gear out in and wandered back down the road to a table with 8 Thai guys, several cases of beer, some cognac and the like.... and we thoroughly pissed off a few god botherers, I think.... but such is life. We were just being lads.
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Old 08-07-2012, 10:01 AM   #338
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I'm in a spot of bother here. I went out to the rubbish tip with a young American woman today, to see the poor Burmese people who live there. I got back and was bent over washing my boots and my back seized... big time.

It just took me 15 minutes to get out of bed. I've iced it (I could feel the hot inflamation)... so I've got a wet bed now too... just lovely. I can't take anti inflammatories... so time will tell what happens here. I don't know if its related to the virus I had the other day... it had the symptoms that worried me about Dengue Fever.... sore joints etc. Its times like this you wish the missus was here to moan to.

Enough of that... here's what life's like if you live at the rubbish tip..... about 70 families live here... The Thai police come in and raid the place every month and knock the huts down.... the people run off and hide in the dump.




We took a big tin of biscuits out to hand out. It would have been nice to take something more nutricious... but we were on the bike and we could carry something that wouldn't run out half way around the houses.... about 60 to 70 of them.



Wandering around, I was wishing my boots didn't have holes in them. The ooze from the dump did a good job of getting in... Its amazing seeing people picking through the rubbish. Vicki, my 21 year old companion from New York, said that they want to be here because they can make more money... up to $4 a day at times... than they can in Burma.



Its pretty confronting



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Old 08-08-2012, 04:31 AM   #339
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Sooner or later, you've gotta go home... Don't ya?
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Old 08-08-2012, 04:54 AM   #340
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Good reading mate. Keep it up. + love the photos..
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Old 08-08-2012, 05:28 AM   #341
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleepy John View Post
Sooner or later, you've gotta go home... Don't ya?
Oi.... don't be like that. There's still Laos and Cambodia.... but yeah, this last couple of days! It isn't much fun when it takes 15 minutes to stand up.... and I did warn my son he might be needed to ride the bike to Bangkok and ship it.... but I do want to finish what I'd set out to do... the HCMTrail.


At least I can get out of bed sort of OK today. It wouldn't have been fun riding today anyhow... its bucketing down.

The next stint may be a long one, depending on accom at a town up the border.... the plan is to head to Chiang Mai, so I'm pretty sure I won't be riding tomorrow either. I'll decide in the morning.


I'll do some updates if I hang around here.
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Old 08-08-2012, 08:02 PM   #342
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Thanks Hodgo.... plenty more photos to come. Will try for an update today, but am going to have to try and find a doc first, methinks.... my pillow looks like a warzone this morning - bleeding gums overnight, another of the symptoms of Dengue (and probably a million other things). I'm aching and energy-less. Bugger. Sleepy John might be right. I sure as hell can't do the ride to Chiang Mai at present.

Only reason I got out of bed is I'd promised to sit down with my American friend's Karen girlfriend (her name is Thai) and write her biography for a humanitarian visa application to Australia. Vicki, the other American I've met here, who wants to do Peace Corps work when she graduates from college is going to sit in on it and hopefully we can improve the process I wrote up when I was in the refugee camp. More on that later.
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Old 08-09-2012, 12:23 AM   #343
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Ahh, life's interesting at times. Thai didn't show this morning (she and Tenzin are on their way here now though)... and I raised the white flag on the medical front. I set off on the bike to find the private hospital. I got 150 metres and the bike shit itself.... and I had a pretty good idea of why.... water in the carbies.

I'd been sensible and decided to keep my only pair of shoes dry. Ever tried paddling a 950SE along in thongs in the wet (thongs = flipflops)? It ain't easy. I reckoned I was too sick and sore to try getting off and pushing - I figured there was a 100% chance of me biting the mud if I tried that. Some old bloke saw me trying to turn around and came running out "motorcycle repair... 100 metres" pointing down the way I'd been headed.

So... for the last 3 hours+, instead of finding a doctor, I've been pulling the carbs off the SE. Yep, they were full of water. I've also found the limit of my lithium battery and I think the bike shop killed it trying to recharge it. The battery they pulled out of a sports bike is flat too... and on the charger.

So. Time will tell.

I think I need one of Adventuremoto's "Take a spoon of cement and harden the F up" t shirts.
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Old 08-09-2012, 05:45 AM   #344
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have been following your report avariciously.... went thru the malaysian peninsula and thailand when i was in the navy years ago, and would love to go back on that KTM!!!.... its not hard to see that you're a pretty tough old b@st@rd with a fine heart and sense of humanity, so i expect you to get some proper medical attention and quit mucking about (isn't that what aussies say?...), pronto.... then get back to it!.... get to the hospital, and then get back to it so i have something more to dream about!.... thanks again for the excellent report!...dave moss
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Old 08-09-2012, 06:20 AM   #345
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+1 Bigfella , get some medical assistance and stop fecking around - bleeding gums doesn't sound particularly good !!! Beside us couch potatoes need regular updates from you bike not from some hospital bed!!
Good luck and get well. Rob
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