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Old 09-17-2012, 09:57 PM   #391
The Bigfella OP
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There's a few bamboo and stick bridges to cross along the way



Loading onto the boat here was much easier than the other day... no lifting here...





I had a few "swap" requests



Wanna buy some white powder? Yeah.... it wasn't salt...



The guys there would have given me some, but, no thanks... I did accept a shot of Lao Lao (rice wine) and a slice of melon... sorta like a waternmelon sized cucumber. They were here



The powder was on all the flat rocks on the road and they had a barricade there to stop people driving through. I'm not sure if they were doing it as a toll or what.. I gave them 5,000 kip (65c) for the Lao Lao. They offered me some boiled pumpkin too, but I had to make tracks, it was getting late.

No AK47s here... its all home made.... using iron balls and gunpowder from old munitions









The safety is a bit of inner tube under the hammer



I saw a couple of ex-military rifles... complete with bayonet, but it isn't an AK. Not sure what this one is.. Chinese?



Still weaving the old way...



I had my sphincter tightened more than once, but this was a ripper ....



That's a 200' drop on the left, its wet, slippery and less than a metre wide. Yeah... my heartrate was up too. The little I know about landslides is that unstable soil and water are the key ingredients... and there was far too much water for my liking.

Nice scenery.... not a sign of human occupation here...



Bit muddy in places though



That came from this little puddle. It was a hell of a lot deeper than I expected and it drowned the bike for a brief moment... my guess was an electrical short that dried out pretty quickly. Yeah, there was plenty of this, but in isolated areas... this was the longest stretch of it, but I could see I was headed into different terrain, so I didn't let the air out. The slipperiest stuff I encountered was just before I got to Route 7.... real nasty, greasy red clay - no photos of it though.



Did stop to take a photo of how deep the ruts get.... this one was only one-sided... but you do get footpegs dragging on these ruts...



Nice views every way you look



Non-stop landslips in some areas... countless landslips.,..



This was an interesting stone and stick dam I passed.



I rode into this village to check I was on the right road... there were a few landslips and diversions that meant I was "off-route" a bit.



Pick your plank and away you go... I chose the fat one on the right... the ones on the left were falling down



"Found" some jars on the way in... a long way from the tourist spot ones...



It was a bit naughty wandering around there.... no UXO clearance signs, but I reckon they've been well picked over by locals looking for scrap munitions now.



You'd want some spare filters with you if your bike had fuel injection...



It was a fair way out of the village for these ladies, collecting their clean drinking water for the day



This is as close to a titty shot as I'll post.... She was sitting on the stool, buck naked, combing her hair.... and no, I didn't take any titty photos of the ladies hanging them out while they bathed...



.... and yes, I'm on the Ho Chi Minh Trail now. This particular area, around Phonsavan is the most heavily bombed place on the planet.

I'm not so sure about the medical services here though. Came across this on the side of the trail... nice dentist's kit... a few good sets of pliers... even had anaesthetics.. no single use needle though and certainly no sterilisation.



Extractions only... the spitoon was the ground... and it weren't pretty.

Scared quite a few locals on the way through...



The older kids were often OK



but some just dropped their bundles and dived into the jungle



I'd have loved a shot of those two kids... poverty personified, but it wasn't to be.

I was going to say something about lift and separate... but that'd be crass





Nice cafe decor... I got into Phonsavan about 6pm... just in time for lunch



Doing 9 hours on just a bacon and egg bagel was a bit taxing.... but I sure as hell enjoyed the day. Sore today.
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Old 09-17-2012, 10:23 PM   #392
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Damn... had to post that quick smart when P'Bucket froze up again...

Here's the missing photos I was going to put in...

Interesting village name



It wasn't all mud and slush. There were some 6th gear tracks, some 4th gear stuff... and some 1st gear stuff. This was great



at times it got a lot rockier than this, but nothing too hard to ride



As usual, the butterflies were stunning. This pair are enjoying a nutritious bit of buffalo shit



This guy went past while I was taking a leak. The scooters manage OK but don't get any speed up



Oh, that landslide... the GPS had told me to take the right hand fork here... but I went with the left, as I could see the local motorbike tracks were going that way and that the two tracks joined again....



Should've gone with the GPS... Would've missed a chat with these kids though



Another stick bridge





A bamboo one that wasn't rideable. There was a sign saying "teeth cave 200m"... so I wandered in for a look



Left all the gear on the bike, thinking I had my wallet an passport in my backpack... nope.. in the tankbag, but all was there when I got back

She wasn't touching it...





I only crashed through it once

I stumbled around in the jungle in full riding gear looking for the damn cave



I called a local farmer over and he re-cut the path...



All to no avail





At least he let me walk back through his field. They were harvesting the rice



Oh yeah, while I think of it... I spotted an LC4 that parked near the Joma Bakery while I was having brekky yesterday. Didn't see the owner...



and can someone tell me how to overtake these things? This was back at Luang Prabang, taking a diversion around a street market... at walking pace. Sheesh



... and on that note, I'm off to take a look at the T72
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Old 09-17-2012, 11:11 PM   #393
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Good stuff Ian.
From Phonsavan are you heading down to Xaisomboun? That was the road I had the most muddy sphincter-tightening 'fun' on. Ruts as deep as those deep ones you showed, but full of flowing sucking clay, etc, etc. 7 years and the opening of the restricted zone may have improved that road though. It seemed like there was something of a road going east from Xaisomboun but it was pretty hard to find information when I was there (particularly as we weren't mean to be there).

It must have been raining a lot in Luang Prabang. That waterfall was a pure milky aqua blue when I was there.

Have a blast, I'm very envious.
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Old 09-18-2012, 06:03 AM   #394
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Great report Ian.
Fellow inmate here ( Gav), myself and our partners arrive in Vientiane on the the 21st of next month for a 10 day trip so it's good to get an idea of what to expect.
Thanks again for the post. Has been thoroughly entertaining.
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Old 09-18-2012, 09:26 AM   #395
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great thread, pics


This is a SKS. developed in Russia shortly before the AK47.
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Old 09-18-2012, 03:11 PM   #396
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Originally Posted by n16ht5 View Post
subscribed!

great thread, pics


This is a SKS. developed in Russia shortly before the AK47.
Specicfically, the Type 56 Chinese made.
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Old 09-18-2012, 05:09 PM   #397
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Originally Posted by The Bigfella View Post

and can someone tell me how to overtake these things? This was back at Luang Prabang, taking a diversion around a street market... at walking pace. Sheesh



... and on that note, I'm off to take a look at the T72
Just signal him to drop one of the ramps......
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:46 PM   #398
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Gawd, if its not the internet, its me... I just somehow deleted a post. Damn big fingers, little keyboard.... speaking of which, I finally snagged a massage here yesterday evening. All above board... organised by the lady who owns the Maly Hotel. The girl that turned up was tiny. I almost asked the owner to see if she could get someone who could actually do the job. However, she turned out to be great... got stuck into it, stretching using her arms and legs... and what body weight she had etc... but on the subject of big fingers, little keyboard... I did catch her taking a peek or two. Yeah... my knickers were on! She was also fascinated by my chest hair. I have had a massage lady call me a monkey earlier in the trip, because of that chest hair....

So - thanks guys. Hans - I'm not sure mate. I'm out of here tomorrow, I think, current route is down the trail, but I would like to go over and see the airstrip. My current thinking though is that I'll leave this bike in Siem Reap and come back for another ride.... but Siem Reap is a long way from here yet.

Yesterday turned into a funny day.. as they often do. Cruisey morning... updating here, etc.... then slipped the shoes on and went out for a look at the Jar sites. Don't believe everything you read on the internet... a lot of sites that should proffer better advice say that their purpose is unknown, not many lids found, etc. I saw a dozen or more lids yesterday and there has been proper academic research. These things held human bones. Over time, burial practices changed and some have smaller openings - because cremated remains were going in. I didn't see any with the smaller openings at the sites I visited (2 & 3)... but I think I did up in the mountains the other day



Here's some from Jar Site 2



Yes, that's a lid

One with bomb or bullet damage



.... and a bloody great bomb crater right next to one. The crater is maybe 40'-50' across and 15'+ deep.



The ride out was a bit rough... the Lao government has "improved" the road so the tourists can get there... bloody big sharp-edged rock rolled into the clay. Its as rough as guts. I was regretting my decision to ride in shirt, trousers and shoes (and helmet). There's a local restaurant at Site 2 and they sell some of the souvenirs made at the war scrap village. They melt down shot down plane scrap and make spoons, bottle openers, bracelets, etc.

So, I got there in the middle of a tour bus invasion of the restaurant.... walked in and heard a table of Aussie greyhairs talking, so said "G'day". It got funny... especially with one of the guys. "Where are you from?" says he... 'Sydney'... "How'd you get here?" ... 'rode my motorbike' "Nah, how'd you get here from Sydney?"... 'rode my motorbike'... "Bullshit".... so I leant over and flicked back a couple of photos from the day before on the camera. They turned out to be a nice mob.

Nature, as always, will win out with these things. This tree has claimed one...



Here's another lid, from Site 2.



I went over to the waterfall that's between Sites 2 and 3. No tourists there.... although they have dumped loads of rock along the middle of the road, so it looks like they are trying to "improve" it.

The only living thing I saw there, apart from birds, was the snake I nearly trod on. About 3' long, green, yellow and blackish... not a python. He buggered off and I got a couple of shots. Doesn't look much in the photos, but I liked it more than most I've seen. The water was absolutely charging down... and it was a cascade rather than a vertical fall...

Up top



Further down



There was a little creek crossing, about 18" deep on the way in there. Bugger of a thing... concrete pipe in it that had to be climbed, which was easy enough, but bloody big rocks you couldn't see. I should've walked it... but it wouldn't have mattered... I stalled it both directions... both feet down... so now all my footwear is wet.



Plenty more at Site 3



There was a writeup on UXO over at Site 3... which I got to read while I waited for a rain squall to mostly pass over.



and I'd figured out these



.... stay in the white. But I need to go have a chat to the MAG folks. They do the de-mining ops here. I may have been a bit naughty. There was a fence around the Russian tank... and I climbed it. Got back to the hotel and read a tour brochure which talks about a visit to the "Russian tank and minefield" Oops. It did cross my mind at the time that there weren't any MAG markers showing it'd been cleared..... but the tank had certainly been picked over for any removeable scrap. Served me right anyhow, because I ripped the leg out of my only pair of trousers on the way out.



There's a bit of spatter damage on the back of the turret... not much, but enough to know what it was...



and there was a hole in the floor just behind the engine bearers, dead centre of the tank, but towards the rear... and spatter damage on the bearers. I'd say they went over a magnetic mine at speed. I wouldn't like the chances of anyone who was inside when that went off. I've got a photo of the internal damage... which isn't much. I've had to lighten it up with Photoshop... and if I can figure out how to reduce its file size, I'll post it up later.



I have been told its a T72, but I seriously doubt that. Its turret is welded, not cast. Its overall construction is too thin to be a late model Russian tank. Any tank experts?

After the rain, it was, of course, bloody slippery for the ride "home".... and it rained again.

Bit hard to see, but the long dark buildings on the hill to the right, which look like horse stables are the high school



Speaking of war scrap. Its everywhere here... The candle holder next to my computer now in the dining room is the rear half of a mortar round. Here's my hotel. There's four 50 calibre machine guns in this shot, including the gate post. There's a series of bombs in the gate and the seat out front is an aircraft fuel drop tank.

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Old 09-18-2012, 10:29 PM   #399
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Love catching up on your travels Bigfella, well done
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Old 09-19-2012, 05:20 AM   #400
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great update Ian,we used the same hotel a few years back and it was really dry and dusty when we there,we had to laugh when you mentioned the mine field around that tank,we too climbed all over it!
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Old 09-20-2012, 04:28 AM   #401
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I went past that tank again yesterday and the second time past, there was a guide there with a couple of Malaysian women. Had a chat to him and he says its safe to go in. Reading up on the local tourist info... those first jars I pulled up at wouldn't have been cleared... about 9 sites with jars have out of many dozens.

Got pulled up by the Army yesterday too.... "no photos.... no photos"... OK.... so can I go in? "No, no...." I kept smiling and being nice and the officer calmed down in the end. I'd been trying to get onto the airfield to see the Mig 21 Fishbeds. Wiki still lists them as being in service with the air force, along with the An-26. I don't think so....

Maybe some, but certainly not all.... and I doubt any







I think whoever parked the Antonov is in trouble



I'd been given a contact who it was thought might be able to get me in, but unfortunately, he died 3 years ago. Bugger. I extended my condolences to his widow and asked her what she thought. She suggested the tourist info office... but nah... they didn't have a clue what I was talking about, or if they did, they weren't letting on. I actually rode through the gate at the airfield... but stopped just inside, as the security guy had crossed his arms. Didn't want a bullet in the back. No luck with him either. Never mind... I saw them, didn't take (m)any photos either.

I didn't realise how close I was to the war scrap village the other day... so I went back yesterday. More damn slitherers. Ran over one while avoiding cattle, nearly hit another on the way back, and think I may have hit one while watching it. Sheesh.

Should I mention again that riding into a village like this one on a bike means that the women at the water point don't realise there's farang about... more titties. Nice titties... No photos for here though.... Got a big smile afterwards from the woman who'd looked up and spotted me... I just waved.

So... this village, Ban Naphia, which is 26km from Phonsavan, not 40, like the internet says... is where some folks started melting down aluminium war scrap - downed planes, choppers, drop tanks, etc.. and producing spoons. There's also bottle openers, bangles, chopsticks and the like. I saw three or four places doing it and stopped at one. First up though, some farang have helped extend the industry and theres a building with a goup of women weaving in it....



I bought one of their scarves, not cheap (relative term) at $12.... but good to support them. I bought about the same in war scrap castings... chopsticks, etc. Posted it all home today, along with a damn heavy silver neck chain. Hope it makes it there.

Here's some new moulds, air drying at the foundry.



The foundry. That's some wing spars going in at the right. I have my suspicions that there might be some virgin material going in... but I didn't any evidence of it at all... and I did look.







The track out of the village to the next one was only cleared 2 years back... 6 bombs removed from it. That's 6 bombs everyone's been walking or riding over for 40+ years...



... and the cleared width is two metres wide. Gawd there's a huge amount of sh!t still in the ground. 80 million bombies apparently, then the big bombs and the landmines and ..... the list goes on.

Here's what half a load of bombies looks like... and a third of them didn't explode...



The locals play boule with them

The candle for dinner the other night was in one of these



and did I post this one? Damn cold... its stuffing my thinking up



How much war scrap do you want?



Part of the restaurant wall display at the Maly Hotel



I've been the only guest for the last 2 days.... paying bottom rate in the top room. Pity it took me two days to figure out that fiddling with the hot water switch until it was in the almost on position would actually produce hot water.

Check out the age of this kid I passed...



Today, I've done absolutely bugger all except for a shopping trip. I came down with a damn head cold... its that season here - and it slowed me somewhat. The second pharmacy I found actually had some gear to keep things under control. I also managed to get a new USB stick, so hopefully, I'll have internet down south.
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Old 09-21-2012, 07:21 AM   #402
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Fantastic

Hey Big Fella

Got into work a bit late today because I spent most of the night reading your report, haven't done much work today as I'm still reading it and only on page 14...

Your a biking ambassador dude...

Heading for Laos in November if your still about

Brilliant report

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Old 09-22-2012, 08:16 AM   #403
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Thanks Steve. Come November, I should be just exiting Cambodia, or already back in Chiang Mai to get the Super Enduro home. I need to be home by the start of December.

I've had a couple of slow days with a damn head cold. Didn't get out and about until 3pm yesterday... but I bought a couple more rolls of insulation tape for the boots. Can't get any duct tape here unfortunately. Its insulation tape or sticky tape.

I took in the documentary on the Ravens yesterday evening. An amazing story. Reminded me of an American guy I knew, Chuck Phillips who died last year.... he flew in Vietnam. The late owner of the hotel I'm at, the Maly, was in both that and the documentary I saw the night before, "The Most Secret Place on Earth". Both are about the secret CIA air base at Long Tieng (aka Long Chen, Long Chieng or even Long Cheng). I'd been hoping to get there... even plotted a route.... but the war is still being fought there. Seriously.

The town I'm in at present, Phonsavan, was the centre of the most recent known attacks, with Hmong insurgents (the CIA enlisted and armed the Hmong back in the 60's) rumoured to have killed 50 Laos Peoples Army troops here in July and there was an 8pm curfew for a while. Its currently a 2am curfew. Definitely no traffic noise. I wandered across the road to check out the pub that's been making a bit of noise every night... and got invited to join a table of young Hmong guys, one of whom is turning 21. Yep... there's troubles here with the Hmong and the government.

So... Long Tieng is out.

Two of the guys at the table last night spoke English. I asked one of them why the guy had no girls at his party. "If we take the girls out, the parents want us to keep them... forever" There's a cost involved too... US$500.

Back to the Ravens... the guys flying the forward air control for the bombing raids. It seems quite a few were involved in the tour that the documentary was made around, up to Brigadier General rank. The late owner of the hotel Sousath, was a Colonel in the communist army here and was their tour guide. This is from his library



I went up to the two war memorials yesterday. This is the Lao / Vietnamese one



and this the Laos one



The Laos one gives the impression that they ran out of money or interest



there's four of those walls, but only one is partially filled with the names of the war dead. Strange. Both stupas are reputed to have the bones of thousands of fallen soldiers in them

On an entirely different front, this is a Chinese silver ingot, sold streetside for $400 US to local craftsmen.





Most jewellery here is claimed to be 92.5% silver. Beyond me to know the truth.... I'm just hoping the chain I posted home makes it there.

The morning started with a warning....



That's 50 metres or less from my hotel. Didn't hear it, and the couple of people I asked about it said that it was OK, but I'm not so sure... there was a full scale investigation going on... painting vehicle localtions, etc. Gotta keep your eyes open. The thing to note there is not the orange cones... but the green vegetation. See that on the roads here watch out... somethings happened. Trouble is they never clear it away after the trouble goes... but its still a good warning.

Damn near got shot today.... there was a 4x4 pulled up on the wrong side of the road, driver's door open. At the last second, I saw the driver and the rifle barrel. He was shooting in the direction I was travelling. I locked up and slithered to a halt beside the ute just as he fired. Great hunter. He shot a Kingfisher.... all of about 4" long.

Here's where I slithered to a halt, just as he fired. It I hadn't braked, I'd have been in the line of fire. Whether he'd have still fired???????????



And the reward for this hero hunter... a still flapping Kingfisher.



Betya that boosted his ego

Speaking of keeping your eyes open... I saw a few of these today. Hit that at night, you'd stop in a hurry



I offered this old lady a lift, but she was nearly home.



I picked up an old guy the other day... he was in the middle of nowhere, carrying some petrol in water bottles. We had a bit of a fight over who got to use the only footpegs on the bike... but he got the message. He was really thankful. It never hurts to be nice.... but I can't bring myself to offer girls a lift here. Don't wanna end up a couple of stones lighter.

Plenty of craters out that way. This is the most heavily bombed province in the most heavily bombed country in the world. Just to be correct about that... Cambodia had a few thousand tons more bombs dropped on it... but on a per capita basis, Laos wins by a country mile.



... and here's a quick ride through of a remote Laos village with a couple of streams thrown in. The vertical rise and fall of the bridge is about 5'... doesn't show well in the video.



Here's some paintings, done at the time of the bombings that appear in the doco "The Ravens"





A still of one of the bridges in the video



More craters





and another old dear, who insisted on whipping off her hat for the photo... and yes, I ask.

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Old 09-24-2012, 04:40 AM   #404
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There were plenty of oldies on the road yesterday and today. These are from yesterday (no uploads yet today). Yesterday I rode for almost six hours... Phonsavan to IIRC Khangviang (?) and today was about 5 hours to Lak Xao... about 20 miles from the Vietnam border. Absolutely delightful scenery, although the land had been raped in places.

This older lady was blocking most of the road. The log on her back was at least 2.5 metres long. She looked like she'd been going a fair way too, but there was a village just ahead.



A much older lady at a petrol stop.



Speaking of petrol.... with this bike as well sorted as it is, I'm damned if I know how the previous owner put up with the damn crappy petrol cap on it for so long. It leaks fuel all over the bike and me for the first 60+ km after a fill ... lots of it.... and I'm thinking it may also be the cause of the sudden engine stopping I'm getting. Its happened several times now.... bike just stops. Switch to reserve... nothing. Take the fuel cap off .... bike will start again. Its definitely fuel related but I can't see how a leaking fuel cap would cause a vacuum fuel stoppage. I dunno. I sure as hell wish I could walk into the local bike shop and get a decent fuel cap.

There was plenty of slop on yesterday's roads, but virtually none today. This bit yesterday was a long steep uphill slog. My GPS said that the gradient at one stage yesterday was I think 26%. I know it was damn steep... not this bit, fortunately a section with sharp, grippy rock surfacing.



I wish I'd gotten a better shot of this old geezer, but he was on a mission... a long way up a mountain.



Yesterday's stop, Khangviang (?) was about 16km past Muang Mok. Nice little place - gensets only for a few hours in the evening. Didn't get much in the way of food. Guesthouse was being run by a teenage girl and there were some kids around. Only adult was the other guest, a Vietnamese guy who was packing into the mountains with a guide. I've seen a few of them doing that btw.

Here's the place



I got there just as the heavens opened... and it poured for ages. All I scored was a couple of packets of crappy instant noodles.... and that was lunch and dinner. Oh, and a couple of warm beers. Yeah, squat toilet, no paper, drains straight out the back wall. Cold rainwater to wash with, out of a barrel. Not that bad though.... I've stayed in a lot worse.

At least I found a brekkie place today for some proper noodles and gristle.... with a bit of Spam thrown in.

Riding today was a bit tight for the first hour... I saw plenty of people on foot, but only one bike in that hour.

I scared the crap out of some poor woman... late 20's to early 30's. She was heading down the road to a creek that I was crossing... I went to wave and she just bolted.... flat out running away. Sheesh, I know I'm a tad ugly, but really luv. Same thing later on with a boy of about 10. Instant run away response. Not long afterwards, I got stopped at a military checkpoint.... rope across the road. No real worries with them... smile, be friendly, wait for the boss to come down and check me out... and off I went.

I got stopped again about 65km short of Lak Xao. No rope... just waved down. About 8 soldiers and cops at this one. Had to get the Passport out here and a cop wrote about half a page in his exercise book. Got photos at both places. Departed from both places "appropriately" too. ie... smoked her up. Being a bit careful about that. The rear tyre ain't good.

I had to cut my "good" boot off yesterday when the zipper totally crapped itself. So the morning ritual now involves taping one boot on and taping the sole onto the other one. I wish I could get some more gaffer tape. I've got a small bit left, but I'm not using it just for a day's ride. At least I can get insulation tape.

More photos some other time....
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Old 09-25-2012, 02:30 AM   #405
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Joined: Apr 2010
Location: Dooral Dooral, Eastern Oz
Oddometer: 2,449
I think I get to sit for a few days.

.... and wait.

There I was, barrelling along on a nice bit of road, very gravelly, but much nicer than the rocks I'd been hammering over... when I started having trouble with the gravel. I thought I had a front flat.... looked down and saw a 2-3" wobble. Oops. Lost all those wonderful little balls out of the front right wheel bearing.

Yeah.... in the middle of bloody nowhere. Nam Nian.... down the road a bit from Nakai.... near the Nam Theun 2 Reservoir. To quote Fuark, the guy in Vientiane, who I hope is sending me bearings.... "very remote".

I can't get seals, but bearings will do. I'd have got some spares in Chiang Mai if I'd had a few more days to chase around. I've carried spare fronts and rears for the whole rest of the trip.

It'll be interesting to see how it all pans out.
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A man should only do the work that is required of him. To do more is a form of greed.

Ride through Oz and Asia
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