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Old 09-25-2012, 03:56 AM   #406
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Hi Ian
Mentioned earlier we are heading over in a couple of weeks time. If you need anything in the way of parts or home comforts we will be in Vientiane on the 21st and again on the 1st Nov and then in Phnom Penh on the 3rd Nov.
Only to happy to bring along anything you need.
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Old 09-25-2012, 04:27 AM   #407
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Thanks Dave. Should be right by then (better be....). My Laos visa runs out on the 12th, I think... so I plan to be in Cambodia around then.

I didn't get the promised call back from the bike shop in Vientiane, unfortunately.... I had the feeling I wouldn't. At least he has the bearings. The trick now is to get the money to him... and get him to get them on a bus. There's a 5:30 pm bus which arrives in Nakia at 3am. That's going to be fun eh? I'm at a guesthouse in Nakia now (the bike's back in the village).... but it won't be tonight. Hopefully tomorrow night... then I need to get back to the village. No new seals available, but such is life.

I got helped out by a nice guy from the hydro power company. He's the only person I've met today who speaks English. Quite interesting talking to him about local issues surrounding the new dam... its only been here two years.

Pity about the blackout here though....
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Old 09-25-2012, 04:39 AM   #408
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Whew Ian. Don't scare me like that. I read the first sentence and thought there was a face plant story following.

Enjoy the rest. Have a massage.

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Old 09-25-2012, 03:34 PM   #409
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Sorry about that Sleepy John..... didn't mean to even hint at that. It seems a friend of mine, Henning, is having an enforced stop for just that reason, about 140km north of Luang Prabang. He's OK btw.

He has half a dozen stitches in his foot from a minor altercation between his Minsk and a car. Henning would be known to many Oz inmates - he organises the Alpine Rally. I met him on the Bells Line of Road about 35 years ago when I stopped to see if his green machine had broken down - of course not - and he ended up staying with us in Orange that night.

In an annoying twist, it looks like we were both in Phonsavan at the same time but missed each other.

I'm feeling a tad slow this morning after meeting the local cops last night. They play a little bit dirty. They tried tag team drinking me under the table, but failed. I bumped into them in the back lane behind the cop shop as I was trying to find somewhere to eat in the blackout last night. They threw some Lao "whisky" my way - rice wine - but I escaped to go and eat. It got damaging later... self infllicted of course. I took a case of beer back to them after dinner. Phew.
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Old 09-26-2012, 04:03 AM   #410
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Well, its been a slow old day here, wandering around dusty old Nakai. I found a branch of the Agricultural Promotion Bank and got the Kip through to the bike shop in the capital. Its been a bit of argy bargy since though... the bus to here didn't run this evening.... no customers. Now, I'm to grab a bus to Thakhek in the morning... another 100km away and hopefully the bearings will be there in the morning. All good fun.

I damn near stepped on a snake earlier, not 10' from the door of my $3.50 a night guesthouse. Pretty sure it was a Red-necked Keelback... listed as dangerous, seeing how one killed someone here recently. Poisonous because of their diet of poisonous frogs.

So... that's that. Dare I wander past the cops again? I'm still a bit hazy after last night's marathon booze up. There was discussion of showing me the police cells at one stage. Might be worth a look? Can't afford to miss the bus in the morning though... it leaves at 5:30am or maybe 6:00am or maybe 7am.... which, unfortunately, means I've gotta get there and sit around just to make sure.
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Old 09-27-2012, 06:06 PM   #411
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nice to see you are still out in the fray.
enjoy the ride man. enjoy the ride.
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Old 09-28-2012, 12:43 AM   #412
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Yep, I'm enjoying the ride thanks Swamp... and I'm back riding thanks to Fuark Motorcycles in Vientiane. He got the bearings onto the bus to Thakek and after a ride down there and back in a crappy old Chinese bus of some sort, I got back to Ban Nian today and retrieved the bike. The bus ride (same bus down and then back a few hours later) was an experience worth doing. I could watch the road go past under my feet, just like on a bike.... what with the holes in the floor. Definitely a non-synchromesh gearbox too. Not a single working instrument and the brakes just produced a bit of a swerve and a slight decrease in speed when a truck pulled out in front of us. Wouldn't like to be in a tight situation with them....

Getting to Thakek wasn't as easy as it sounds... asking about getting there produced stories of a bus that leaves at 5:30am, or 6am or 7am. Well, all that was at the bus station, at the markets, at 5:30 was me, the ever-present street cows, some dogs and the earliest of the market setups. One lady held up 8 fingers when I asked her. Yep. it turned out to be 8am

Trudging to the bus station in the dark and rain was fun. I scored the odd cowpat on the shoes, of course.... until a bike headlight came the other way. A waved banknote stopped him, and after sorting through the 13 cent notes until I hit a $1.30 note did the trick and I got a lift the rest of the way. Yeah... the smallest item of currency here is the 1000 Kip note.... 13c. The largest note I've seen in 50,000 Kip. When I was in the bank branch the other day, an old woman walked in with a bag and unloaded 163,950,000 Kip onto the table. About $22,000. That's a lot of banknotes btw.... and given the GDP here is around $1,130 per capita.... a hell of a lot of money.

This morning, I convinced a young bloke who spoke a little bit of English to take me out to Ban Nian. I couldn't win with the motorbike riders in town and eventually he said he'd do it in a truck. 100,000 Kip ($13) did the trick... I'd tried for 50,000 but it wasn't happening. He skipped work as a "planner" for the government for the day and drove me out.

The bike was almost where I'd left it. It wasn't up on the block I'd left it on any more... It was sitting on its forks. Someone climbed on? Dunno. Nothing was said... we just lifted it up again and I got to work. Fitted my spare brake pads while I was at it. I bought a Boule set and took it out with me. The lady at the bike shop was ecstatic when I gave it to her. I told her it was for the kids, and when they turned up it was like Christmas present time.

Of course, as soon as I finished working on the bike, it started to rain. Great. I waited that one out but got caught by another decent shower as I got back to Nakai. Enough to get me nicely soaked. I'd already decided to stay over. Got some nice Imodium-needing action happening, which helped convince me to stay. Fancy that... stay longer at the place where the food's crappy. Must check my logic sometime.

The main reason for the stay though, is that there's boat racing on here tomorrow. I got bailed up at a village about 5km out both ways today... in the truck and on the bike. Local women with a basket, looking for contributions for the festival. On the way back, on the bike, there were a couple of cops there as well and they were giving a local a going over... pulled him off the road and were checking his load, etc. Plenty of soldiers there too, AK47's and all.

I got caught up with the local cops again last night. Walking into town in the dark to get dinner, there they were, music on, little table with some takeaway food and a few power company guys had brought them a case of beer. They don't grab a bottle each, its one glass.... filled and passed to someone, then refilled and passed to the next person. I escaped after about the third (small) glass. I'll call in again tonight on the bike if they are there. I don't think I'd do that back in Oz... no mirrors, no brake light, illegal LED headlight, no indicators... no numberplate (its in my backpack).... and so on. Actually, I think the only motorbike I've seen with a numberplate in this district might be the police bikes. There's three Lifan 125cc police bikes there... but two of them are totally covered in dust. I haven't seen any of them move in 3 days. All of them sit there with the keys in, even if there's no cops there.

I found this really incongruous restaurant here. Its decor is great, its food is delicious and hell's bells, its even got French wines. I did... I lashed out and had a bottle of Chateau Moulin de Ferrand - a nice little 2009 Cabernet Melot from Bordeaux that I didn't intend to finish. Oops. Blowing $30 on a bottle of red when beer is $1.30 would make a backpacker cry. I've eaten at that restaurant twice. Last night it was a pork fillet in mustard sauce. Lunch the other day was a delicious beef fillet with blue chees sauce. Just delightful. I've been the only customer both times.... and that makes me a tad suspicious at times. What was I saying about a gut upset? This place just doesn't fit in this dusty little town. Its got cheaper local dishes.... but its just not drawing the crowds.

I've only seen one other Farang in town. I bumped into a girl from South Australia at the market today. She's volunteering on some environmental project work around the hydro electricity works. I did spot a small group on rental bikes the day my bike did the wheel bearings in. This town is on "the loop" that Lonely Planet recommends. Folks hire a scooter in Thakek and come through here and back down to the river. The loop includes a few sights, there's the Buddha cave and there's a SAM site not far off the road. I'll visit it tomorrow or the next day.

Yesterday's snake was a Banded Krait. Quite a pretty snake. Big bugger too, about 6'. Spotted him in a drain as we crawled up a hill in the bus.

This is the Red-necked Keelback. I nearly trod on one here at the guesthouse the day before. Very pretty snakes

Pics borrowed from the net... I've got a shot of the Keelback, but I'm lacking bandwidth here. The only one I've seen today was a dead'un on the road. Happy to keep it that way.
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Old 09-29-2012, 06:05 PM   #413
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Sorry no photos again today, I'm still bandwidth constrained... and I ran out of internet credit yesterday. Quite surprised to actually get some here in Vilabouri, a sleepy little town on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Fabulous day yesterday... some real high points, which may come through in some photos later.

Attended the boat race festival in the morning, the only falang there, then headed down to some of the less-touched HCM Trail areas.

A huge variety of riding conditions... truck ruts 3' deep, slippery mud, narrow, rocky, and in parts great open flowing track. Plenty of rivers and creeks. The first wide river nearly claimed me and my gear. It was the fastest flowing water I've ever ridden through and was taking me sideways - I got to within a few metres of going over the weir. I've got that one on video, but there's a rude word very audible at one stage when the bike stalled. The next big one was a boat trip... a guy at each end paddling, I had to ride down a bank and onto a 20' x 3' punt... the balance the bike while they paddled across a 100m wide river... again with a decent flow. We were shipping water over the bow until we got it all balanced... left about an inch of freeboard at each end. The bigger bike would have needed two punts and a lot of work to get across.

Only one snake yesterday.... big black thing, very fast. Took up half the track as it went across in front of me. Must've been near 8' long.

Got some great people shots (I think... haven't blown them up yet) of folks in some very remote villages. Later.

MAG - the Mines Advisory Group - have about 10 teams operating in Laos. I came across the team that is all women yesterday. I'm a bit cynical about this sort of sexism, but if it grabs the publicity for this issue, as it does, then well and good. They were on their lunch break, and none spoke English, but I was a bit naughty and wandered in and took some photos. Later.

OK, that's it. I've finished my pork intestines soup... time to find the trail again.
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Old 09-30-2012, 06:33 PM   #414
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Well, here I am in Phin. 10 days until my Laos visa evaporates, but more importantly, maybe two or threedays until my remaining cash evaporates. The internet sorta says there should be an ATM in Phin, where I spent the night, but I haven't found it yet. I should be in Pakse in 3 days.... where there are definitely ATMs, and I do, of course have a small stash of USD and some Baht. I'll count it all up later and be a bit careful. My little wheel bearing exercise sucked a bit of cash for a while.

I'm being profligate with my internet though. I've got about 300 photos I want to upload, but I've just had a go at getting a few done. Some got through... very, very slowly.

I mentioned attending the boat races. Here's the first boat coming through in the first race. This is on the Nam Theun 2 Reservoir... a somewhat controversial hydro power operation that's been running for 2 years now. It flooded a lot of territory. I believe (was told) it produces 150 MW of power, some of which brings in foreign exchange (Vietnam, China and Thailand are all chasing electricity from Laos).

More photos of that later. Watching the crowd there was fascinating.

I mentioned having pig's intestine soup for breakfast. I didn't pick it as such until I picked up the first bit of "meat". I chose it because it arrived at the serving table when I was there, steaming hot (a good thing)... and it was the only dish not covered in flies. Gawd, talk about fatty.

Here's the SA-2 missile that I stopped at. Its missing the initial stage rocket booster (photo of one of them later) and it'd obviously been shot down.

.... as had this American chopper....

I did some more looking around yesterday, branched off to go into a village up a dead-end track, that sort of thing. Photos later, but here's one village I stopped in. I was interested in the women cracking the corn for the animals in these big timber pestles. Check out the cheroots they are smoking. Banana leaf wrapping by the look of ito idea what the substance is. Just about everyone in this village came over to take a look at the Falang who'd stopped.... except the semi-naked woman sitting in the doorway of her hut. She just sat there, unconcerned and watched.

Here's the leader, if I'm not mistaken, of the women's Mines Advisory Group team that I stopped at along the track

The team was well-equipped and was funded by the US State Department. It'd be nice to see another few hundred similar teams at work. So far, 40 years on, 0.3% of the worst affected areas have been cleared. This team had, so far, pulled 20 unexploded bombies out of this area.

If I remember correctly, I've got a pretty rough section to get through in one of the National Forest Protected Areas today. From what Karlee told me, you are supposed to have a permit to get through these, but I've got through others so far, although I have been stopped. Justin, who sold me the bike tells me that there's a bit of rough stuff here.

These boats are known as "Bomb Boats"... not technically correct, as they are made from aircraft drop tanks. I saw dozens of them (more photos later)...

Lots, like this one are half a tank with water excluders added fore and aft and some seats. Simple, effective and long lasting... 40 years so far.

There's plenty of much larger ones, constructed from panels and flattened tanks.

Since I'm discussing boats. Here's me waiting my turn for the punt across a river.

Yeah, he's got an AK47 slung over his shoulder... I saw dozens of them that day (day before yesterday)... mostly AK 47's with a smattering of the older SKS's.

We were pretty marginal on the boat... we shipped a lot of water over the bow before we got the balance right. I was a tad nervous, having seen one of the race boats go belly up earlier that day.... and I was remembering that I hadn't waterproof-packed the computer and camera when we were mid-stream.

Made it. 20,000 Kip (a bit under $3).

The loggers had carved the road up a bit too. This section was damn slippery... and my rear tyre ain't too flash

Another slippery section from yesterday. Pick a path... and yeah, it'll end up with you in the slop... any path.

Pick a bomb... any bomb. How many would you like? I reckon the US Air Force ought to come over here, get some details and whack in a warranty claim on all these duds. Money back from the manufacturer please. What's a million tons of unexploded bombs worth?

This last one for now is a section of the original Ho Chi Minh Trail that has been sort-of preserved. It's fenced... except the locals have removed lots of sections of fencing so they have better access to their houses. Its also getting degraded by the vegetation, as it isn't receiving traffic. A bit of defoliant might be a good thing... This section was originally constructed by the French, but was heavily used by the North Vietnamese.

.... and on that note, I hope to find a better breakfast than yesterday, I'd love to find some money.... and then its time to head south.
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Old 09-30-2012, 08:02 PM   #415
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Originally Posted by The Bigfella View Post
I've only seen one other Farang in town. I bumped into a girl from South Australia at the market today. She's volunteering on some environmental project work around the hydro electricity works
Was her name Kate?
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Old 10-01-2012, 04:12 AM   #416
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Originally Posted by Finch. View Post
Was her name Kate?
Close. Karlee.

I did see a couple more Falang (some say Farang, some say Falang... westerner)... Karlee came into the same restaurant that I was at with Somphang and his mate. She had her field trip group with her. Two European couples. It turns out that incongruous restaurant is owned by a Belgian guy and his Lao wife. Karlee was heading upriver for 10 days, through the National Protected Area, visiting villages, etc. Haven't seen any since though.

I came through a National Protected Area today. Technically, you are supposed to have a permit, according to Karlee. I just approached the barrier quietly... its always up at least enough for the locals on bikes... and once I've snuck under it, don't look back. Did see a few soldiers with AK47s, but I always just give them a wave. Haven't been stopped for over a week now.

Damn tough day today. I got stuck twice to the extent that I needed outside assistance. It was step off the bike and walk away stuff... the bike wasn't going to fall over. Stuck big time.

The first one worked out well... some locals going the other way got stuck at the same spot. I helped them, they helped me. The next one, there was a soldier and a young guy camped there. They stripped off, we unloaded the bags off the bike and eventually, the three of us, all pushing, got the bike through - but we had to dig one rock out. I had to sit down to recover and break into my emergency water. They offered me some water out of an oil container... but I passed on that. They also offered me some roasted egret or heron, but, sorry... I'm not eating forest birds on principle. I damn near wilted though... it was 2:30 pm and I hadn't had breakfast... still haven't, unless you count the Beer Lao that the lovely lady here at the Guest House went and got me.... or the two "orange juices" I found in a remote village... pity that they didn't have water or food too.

I'd love to hit the shower (not sure the hot water is working though)..... but I haven't got the energy. Seven hours in the saddle sounds easy to say, but I reckon that might qualify as one of the toughest days yet over the last 14 months. Brilliant riding though, highly technical for 45 km of it. Mostly first gear, down mud slides, up clay banks, up and down over big rocks. A trials bike would have been perfect. Very energy sapping.

I lost the route on the GPS three times.... got miles away from where the track is supposed to be... because once the track gets too bad, they just make another one. Its all being sanitised though. I met a team building "bridges" over some of the crossings. In a few years, the Ho Chi Minh Trail will be hard to find. I should have some nice photos of a couple of the big bridges that were bombed during the war and some video of the hard riding. The big bridges have never been replaced. Now its a little ferry.... a couple of punts with a planked area on top. That route... about 140 km, took the Justin, who I bought the bike off, 4 hours when he did it. It took me 7... and I wasn't taking it easy anywhere. Different time of year, different conditions. The monsoon will tend to slow you down. I'll see if I can find a photo later...

I was getting somewhat worried about money when I hit Saravan. First ATM wouldn't give me money... and it should have, and that's two ATMs in a row now. Found another that wouldn't accept either of my cards. Went back to the first one, tried both cards and the machine died. Found the third and last one in town, same brand as the one I killed.... and it told me I had a zero balance... take your card. Luckily it gave me the million I'd asked for... and another million.... and another. I'd not have got a cleansing ale tonight (and its only a bit over a buck for a big bottle) if I hadn't scored more cash.

I'm inclined to call a "lay day" tomorrow. I am trying to get to Pakse to meet some Aussie friends that I met in Malaysia... but I don't think it'd be wise to do another big day on top of today..... and if this rain would stop... I might go find a proper breakfast. It is 6pm, after all
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Old 10-01-2012, 05:11 AM   #417
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Originally Posted by The Bigfella View Post
Close. Karlee.
Nuts. A friend of mine is doing something similar in the same area of Laos. There can't be too many South Australians over there.

I'm in Adelaide now but get back to Thailand on the 13th. One night in Bangkok, then back to Koh Tao. I'm still keen for a beer if you are around.

Finch. screwed with this post 10-01-2012 at 05:22 AM
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Old 10-01-2012, 02:09 PM   #418
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Mate, a beer always sounds good.... but probably unlikely on current timings. Unless I extend my visa, which is unlikely, I'll be heading into Cambodia on or before the 11th. I'll probably not do too much riding there, other than heading for Siem Reap to park the bike at my mate's place, head back to Chiang Mai towards the end of October... and then down to Bangkok in November and head home. As it stands, I want to come back and ride more of Cambodia and there's some other parts of the HCM Trail I'd like to see.... preferably when its a bit drier.

Here's some photos from yesterday. Pretty much straight away after leaving Phin, I was in the Dong Phou Vieng National Protected Area... a lovely forested area of 1,970 sq km. It contains 31 ethnic minority villages. I would have thought logging would be prohibited, but maybe the locals are exempt. I wish I'd been able to get the camera fired up quicker here, but I came around a corner and met this squadron of guys on scooters, about 8 of them, all loaded up with big timber blocks. I only caught the last two.... and of course, this bloke is on my side of the road.

I saw the first of three snakes for the day along that stretch. All three managed to get out of my way. Very pretty critters, not sure what any of them were though.

Here's the remains of the Tad Hai Bridge over the Xe Bang Heing River. It was designed by Souphanouvong, who became the first President of Lao PDR in 1975. Built in 1942, it was destroyed by American bombing in 1967.

There was a rickety couple of planks with a bamboo handrail to get me up to the top of the end pier for that shot.

Here's another bombed bridge further on, taken from the "ferry". This one only cost me 10,000 kip because I got on with a local on his scooter and just paid the same as him. The first one charged me 20,000 (a bit under $3).

I just had enought room to do a 15 point turn to turn the bike around for disembarkation..... down a plank, of course.

Same place, might be a better view of the bridge

There's a lot of pretty rugged "houses" along the Trail. This was by no means the worst of them. Some were at quite an angle and a lot had virtually no walls.

Towards the end of the day, after the rough section, which lasted 45 km... first and second gear stuff - and bear in mind, this thing is low geared, I can run 6th gear from about 45 kph, a hell of a lot slower than the Super Enduro..... there were plenty of wooden bridges - many dozens of them. I wouldn't call any of them as being good.... and some were less than flash

Speaking of the rough stuff. This was the first one that stopped me. Had not half a dozen locals come along on a "tractor".... one of those Chinese single cylinder diesel farm implements with a couple of big wheels and a trailer... I'd have had to unload and try and drag the bike up out of that clay. It was solid enough to hold the bike upright... but too soft to get traction.

Lovely stuff, eh?

Plenty of humidity to make things interesting when you try and push and drag. I'd tried to drag the bike back, but got nowhere.

Here's the young guy at the next one coming down to help

I'm not sure if he was a soldier too, but his mate was. Here's his camp where I rested up for about 10 minutes after that little bit of exercise

He was happy to share the bird, and I probably should have eaten.

I've seen a lot of soldier's camps like that. Sometimes one soldier... wandering around with a slung AK47, sometimes three or four, lounging around. I've seen them out cutting bamboo.... presumably to build more of these shelters.

Two young kids came along while I was there... about 9 and 12 at a guess. Both smoking cigarettes. I've got a photo of the young one puffing away.

I mentioned the Super Enduro ealier. I wouldn't have got through here in one day on it... if at all. I had several slow speed near "offs" that I could save because of this bike's lighter weight and slightly lower height. I'd have been picking the 950 up numerous times I reckon... and that's energy sapping. I'm glad I switched bikes for this leg.
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Old 10-04-2012, 09:20 AM   #419
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I took a "lay day" in Salavan and worked on the bike. Changed the oil, tightened the chain, cleaned the air filter, and so on. Couldn't get the right sort of oil, of course, but Honda's SAE 40 will have to do in the meantime. Then Huey sent it down. I had to walk down the flooded street to get dinner. Not what you want the night before you head down a clay road.

The morning (yesterday) brought its own problems. The restaurant had "got" me again. For the first time ever, I was on Imodium for two days in a row... and I broke out the Gastrolyte and loaded up on some water... hoping to avoid the dehydration issues suffered a couple of days earlier on the run to Salavan. Yeah, right. As it turned out, I wouldn't need to pee again for 22 hours.... despite stopping whenever I saw a "shop" in a village. None had water, but I grabbed any orange juice I could and even a few Red Bulls.... trying to make my 2 litres of water go the distance - which it did.

I saw my first snake of the day pretty much as I was leaving town. Cute thing... followed not too long later by one of those ugly greased lightning speedy 8'ers. I don't like that particular snake... reminds me of the 8' King Brown that came at me up behind Taree about 20 years ago. Didn't see any more after that... and for the first time in recent memory... I didn't see a single snake today. Too muddy I guess.

Heading out of Salavan, there's a nice cable suspension bridge. Gets a bit of a sway up, but not too bad.

The next river didn't have a bridge... but two girls with a "catamaran" were on their way over....

Its all very civilised. You ride up a plank onto the platform and away you go. This one cost me $1.30, as did the next. The last one of the day was 65 cents.... despite being the longest ride.

Power is the usual little single cylinder rat-tail engine

Where there were bridges, the standard was pretty ratty

... and the guy had to bail plenty of water out of this ferry before we set off

About a half hour out, I was doing it tough. I'd had a lot of mud, had to do some pushing and had done a lot of sliding. First village, I stopped. No water.... but I did get handed this. No... not Beer Lao... but it came from that bottle. Yep, the local hooch... and this is more than a regulation shot. I did the honorable thing, downed it in one shot and handed the glass to the next guy whilst praising the brew. They were happy with that. I passed on the next shot... with sign language about drunken riding.

I bought all their orange juice - had two for me and handed the rest around the kids. Had a Red Bull too.

By the time I'd drunk mine, I'd handed out a dozen drinks to the kids. Didn't cost much btw.

Nice friendly kids here

That changed a bit as the day went on... lots would run away as I came up the road, but if I stopped and "spoke" to an adult, they'd come back

I didn't much like this little crossing. That plank there was needed... the trick was to get to it and hit it straight. Not easy. There used to be a bridge here....

One more river crossing after that... a particularly nasty one with a whole heap of submerged logs... put there to make it shallower. Worried me a bit... looked like a damn good way to break an ankle. I must've been on the verge of drowning the bike because I went around the end, but still ended up having to climb submerged logs and expended a bit of energy. I came into a minority village after that.... and they all hid from me. I went what looked the logical way and came to a gate... and I was heading at right angles to what the GPS route was telling me.... so I went back, into the village and yelled out. I roused a brave soul and I asked directions... got pointed down the only other road. It was 90 degrees off track too and damn nasty. I had to push out of a couple of buffalo wallows, etc... and turned around again. I found the correct route... tightly locked up. There was no opening this.

It was back to the village and some brave old lady ventured out... followed by about 30 others of all ages. I can't remember the ethnic group offhand, but its the mob that arrange their huts in a large circle all facing each other.... interesting arrangement, but it makes it hard for the casual visitor to find their way out. Anyhow, she and a few young guys pointed me back to the first track I'd taken.... and that was the end of my GPS route for about 30km. I was dead reckoning until I hit the Sekong River. Not to worry... I got there.

Met these lads on a narrow section of track. Harelip. No attempt made at corrective surgery, of course.

I've seen far too much of this stuff over here. Cripples walking on their hands... women walking around with huge mouth and throat cancers (from chewing betelnut... with garden lime), and so on. I've been asked for drugs numerous times too... medical drugs.

Here's another one... just down the road. A bloke with a golfball sized ulcer on his back... asking for pills. I told him to go to Salavan.

I had to laugh when I came across this sign. "Have a Good Trip"... I'd just been sliding sideways up their roads for several hours... trying to stay out of the truck ruts. I didn't get into top gear... 45 kph (under 30 mph) until I was 4 hours into the day.... and I was bleeding energy fast.

At that stage I was averaging 10mph.

Met my first hunter and asked him what he had. Giant squirrel....

Another ethnic minority village and the women were cracking corn an entirely different way. They were pounding it with a treadle here. In the shade under their houses.

I found another village with a "shop" and stopped for more liquids. I loved this lady's bong.... damn near as big as her. Tobacco only... they grow their own

She was a wee slip of a thing... quite friendly though

... and yeah... I'm starting to look ragged.

So, here's the evil weed... tobacco, drying beside the road.

While the kids watch my every move

This girl wandered over... she looked like a teenager and I was told she was 17... and then 22. I dunno. Baby on the boob, bong in hand....

There was plenty of that with this particular ethnic group. Schools out, let's build bridges and blow a bong...

And, the family that bongs together, stays together...

Same family... the girls at least were doing something productive

Each village had some sort of NGO-supplied notice board. This one had a couple of MAG / UNICEF posters on unexploded bombs, and the good old Aussie government had also posted a sign. Good on yer lads.

Some enterprising souls had built a toll bridge here. I was a cheapskate and rode through

... and these guys got a free duckpond courtesy of the US Air Force

I eventually got to Sekong and fueled up, because it was 80km still to go to Attapeu. Nope... not the way I came here... I came down the dirt road.... 180km.... but that's what I came here to do.

Last ferry crossing of the day... but far from the last water crossing

You have to take it easy with these.... even the concrete causeways can have holes in them, and reinforcing rod sticking up.

Plenty more bridges

A few nicely graded sections

... but they were exceedingly rare. This was the normal standard. If you wanted to stop... just lean the bike on the side of a rut

I felt a bit guilty not stopping to help these guys... but there were three of them and they didn't ask and it was getting late. They didn't have much of a clue either.

I dashed through a cloud of blue tyre smoke, past the screaming engine.

This was an unusual hut design. From one of the bong villages. Reminded me of the Maori in NZ

.... and this proved I was getting tired. I was riding the centre section... and I bloody well fell off into the rut. Bang. Didn't drop it... but sheesh.

Doesn't look possible eh... but I was getting knackered... and it's been a twisting climb up onto that bit... and then I rode straight into the ditch.

All this looks easy, but pick the wrong line and you end up stuck. It gets damn hard on the hips and legs too

Nice scenery. Plenty of forest, some farming

Lots and lots of chewed up road

This bit is deceptive. Its a 6' drop down into the section the trucks have dug down here. You notice that sort of thing....

One thing I try to do is follow the lead of the locals. I was doubting it here. It was a nicely graded section and the locals had climbed 60' or so up a ridge beside the road.... then the road turned to a morass of truck ruts. Another win for the locals. I'm about 40' above the road here.

And they even build little bridges off the road

I was up in the clouds and it was getting dark fast and I didn't know how far I had to go. This cleared area had been an airstrip, but it was cratered too

I stopped at some huts after a creek crossing and spoke to the guys. One spoke a bit of English... not much, but he said Attapeu was another hour. I set off in the dark and the GPS routed me down a bit of single track which opened out onto a slightly wider track. It was the hypoteneuse of a triangle... shortest distance... but it took me to a gate...

Sort of place that makes you look over your shoulder in tiger territory.

A bit further on I came to a creek crossing with some logs... basically, a "don't do it" message... and at that stage, I turned and went back to the hut. I'd started the day feeling unwell, and I'd done a tough 8 hours for about 150 km. Slow, hard going.

I got back to the huts, parked the bike under their awning and made the sleep sign and the food sign... and got invited straight in. Justin had suggested waving 100,000 kip around .... and I did that, but they refused it. I gave it to the woman of the house that I slept in the next morning... and the guys saw that and nodded. I think she'd been a bit apprehensive when her husband told her they had a Farang guest.

I ate with the guys.

Better food than a lot of the restaurants. Boiled eggs, duck, pork, vegies, rice. No booze. There were a three Lao guys, including what I took to be the guy who owned the farm, a 66 year old ex Pathet Lao soldier (officer) / teacher who was establishing a coffee plantation here. There were 4 Vietnamse guys too. The other Lao guys, including the married guy with his wife and young daughter, lived across the road in a nice new hut made from the local pine. I think I got the single guy's "bed"... a bamboo mat, pillow and quilt. I was rather glad I'd packed my sleeping bag, as it got cool... and I used the quilt to soften the floor a tad.

Oh yeah.... I scored the mossie net too... which was needed given the holey canvas wall

Mine host brought out his photo album... showing him standing to the right of the President...

Not as primitive as some villages... but not too flash either.

The privvy was a bucket... so its got some development work needed.

Kitchen to the right, another hut on the other side of the creek

Not many mod cons in the kitchen

Plenty of coffee bushes still to plant

I taped the trusty old boots on again and was on the road well before 7am. Two coffees in the belly and nothing else.

I'd gone 22 hours without a pee... which might give some sort of clue as to how dehydrated one can get here. I need to think about how to carry more water. I haven't broken out the Pur microfilter yet, but I've gone close.

Here's the turnoff to the right that the GPS sent me down last night. Set to shortest distance still. I ignored it a few times today...

... and just a bit further up, for some reason, I rode into this bog... which again sapped more energy getting the bike out. It'd bucketed down for hours overnight and the track was super greasy.

Its this sort of thing that shows why you can't trust any of the puddles. This damn buffalo had been wallowing in a puddle on the road. They can dig them deep. You'll be riding along, go through a little puddle and ooops...

So... what's under there?

I still tended to follow the locals. There's not been any UXO clearances along this remote stuff of course, but this time of year, you either go around some bits... or get bogged

Funny I should have stopped and taken a photo here... because I made the wrong choice and it took me 20 minutes to rectify it. I took the local's track to the left.

About 20 metres further up, the local's track climbed back onto the road. With the rain overnight, I couldn't make it up... and I tried to backtrack, but finally dropped it here.

I had the tyres at about 10 psi... but at this stage I let them down a lot further and eventually plugged my way over the top... and pumped up again.

The road got a lot better after that, but it was still super greasy and needed to be treated with care. Sudden slippery bits get your attention. This sign here was becoming common though... Development road construction. Its why I'm up here now. These blokes are bulldozing the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Came across this bloke on his way to the market. The most pitiful sight and sounds.

If I'm not mistaken, this 6 x 6 truck... the local buses up here... is a Russian beast.

I took on some fuel when I saw how far I had to go....

... and did some descending

Oops... made another group of kids and a woman run away.... but stopped and showed them that I'm not the boogeyman

While I think of it, that truck was doing maybe 6-8mph up that road. It'd been sliding around in places too. There was another not far behind it, same speed, but belching diesel smoke.

Stopped at another Russian SAM... one that never got fired. Towed all the way here behind a tank from up north.

This one's got the solid fuel rocket booster attached.

Nice fence... made from cluster bomb casings

I'm guessing here, but it'd have to be an artillery shell, wouldn't it? Damn heavy

Lots of logging going on around here too

So, after 12 hours across two days, I made it 250km to Attapeu. A town which is the regional capital of one of the less visited parts of Laos (gets about 1% of the tourists)... and who's name means literally "Buffalo Sh!t". An average speed of 12mph. Ughh.

Still, the Attapeu Palace at 210,000 kip isn't bad value. That's $27 I think...

The marble floor in my room's a bit muddy though... at least its got a decent sink for washing socks in....

Looks like I'm off to Pakse tomorrow. Some deep rivers on the way though.
A man should only do the work that is required of him. To do more is a form of greed.
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Old 10-04-2012, 05:54 PM   #420
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Joined: Oct 2005
Location: Brisbane Bayside
Oddometer: 42

Those boots are farken disgrace Big Unit. Doubt the Locals would even be seen dead in them. I've always thought that the RFS katos would do poorly at deeper water crossings given that their air box is more akin to a bunch of plastic shrouds draped loosely around the air filter, but you don't appear to have drowned the big girl yet?

Looks like a very well set up machine with the oil cooler, bigger tank and after market lighting. I woudln't worry too much about not getting the 'right' oil as long as you change it pretty regularly.

Thankyou very much for taking us along on your ride.

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