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Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by The Bigfella, Nov 10, 2011.
Love that Norton - get me one too.
Anyone else? I guess you could rustle the odd one or two up, but all that takes time. If I'm lucky I might find a Vespa at the right price
Mine just got compressed... time that is. It looks like I'm back into Laos next week.
I've been to Hongsa in Laos twice and this would be the third time. There's three villages there that we are looking to get aid to. Two of them are only reachable by boat. 800 people all up. Very poor people. Clothes and blankets, basic stuff. Looks like we've got about $8k so far... $10 a person, but that's a start. We think we'll be taking two ute loads of stuff, I'll go on the Super Enduro if I can or drive a ute if I have to ship it beforehand.
Meanwhile... I've still got bikes (and me) to get home.... and after an "insufficient funds" message at the bank, I've been enjoying the vagaries of international transfers.....
Another update to follow in a day or two. There's lots to catch up on.
I went out looking for a Vespa yesterday. I can't see it happening. They are in the $2k to $3k range here. If I could pick one up for $1k, I'd probably throw it in the suitcase and take it home for the cappucino run of a morning. Too much else happening though....
The run back into Laos is on. Next weekend. It's a "give something back" run... kids clothes and blankets to three remote villages. One is reachable with the utes, the other two are working elephant villages that are only reachable by boat. Som is out buying 400 blankets now and a similar number of sets of warm kids clothes - winter is actually quite cold up in the hills. Its not a big event... its come about from a few guys who want to do something for some of the poorest people there... and they aren't into giving money to NGOs only to see large chunks disappear before things get to the needy. I won't say any more at this stage, but will write it up later.
So... Cambodia..... I guess I better finish off that section before I repeat myself too much.
Cambodia used to be my favourite Asian country. These days, I reckon I'd rate Laos as my favourite. I'm still in love with Cambodia, Flores & Sumatra (Indonesia) and NW Thailand... but Laos, away from the bitumen, is simply brilliant. I've had a few sessions at Riders Corner in Chiang Mai with guys who have a lot of riding (and running tours) in Cambodia. I've got some ideas for when I go back. One of the guys was riding in Cambodia back when Pol Pot was still popping people off. Hopefully, he might be in on part of my next ride. A few things I want to see are the pyramid temple (only one in SE Asia I believe) and the elephant sculpture that's a difficult single-track ride to access... and then I want to have a shot at the smuggler's track through the Cardamoms. That one's best done with a riding partner.
One of the things I really wanted to see in Cambodia was the lake with more water in it than when I was there at midyear last time. I'm rather worried for the future of Tonle Sap.... given all the dams being built in China and Laos in particular. I posted some photos of my trip out there... here's some more.
I posted a shot of me driving the tourist boat earlier. The controls on this boat were a lot more advanced than the one I drove a couple of years back. This one had a proper pedal box. Two years ago, the throttle was a bit of wire attached to the engine.... whack your foot down on the wire and go... not easy to finesse. Here's the good one::
At a guess, this is some sort of tourist development under construction
The villagers here are in the water left right and centre.
Every house had several of this style of boat tied up to it
Most of the powered boats were inboards, rather than rat tails
Like I said.... in the water everywhere
Not much paint used
This one shows the construction
In the dry season, these houses are 20' and more above water level
I'm not sure what the story is with these little shacks. I was told by Ellie that up in northern Laos little huts like this are retreats for lovers. Here?
It was nice to see waterbirds in their natural environment... rather than in the cooking fire
I showed the secondary school in an earlier post. This is the primary school
It was wall to wall boats up the channel
The shot above shows the stern tube on the boat, out of water here... and its missing its shaft and prop. These things are normally driven with a 5hp Honda stationary engine... or something similar. Very different to the rat tail boats on the rivers.
This next one shows them drying shrimp.... or as the Aussies would say, prawns.
I'll leave it at that with Tonle Sap. There's more, of course... but I think that's enough. Phew... not a single bike shot eh?
What an amazing journey to follow! Kudos Bigfella! What you're doing, and the way you're doing it, is exactly the way I want to do it, to experience the real experience, to make real friendships with faraway people, to help where possible and to come home (America for me) with a greater appreciation for our blessings where I can't.
It's a shame you have to censor some of your postings, as it ends up being a "sanitized" view of your experiences. If only more people could really see and understand how fortunate we are - so many just have no idea.
Just fantastic! You are truly blessed; what an amazing wife you have, and your kids seem like they are quite well rounded like their dad! Just fantastic!
Thanks. Its certainly been interesting over here.
I'm off to Laos at sparrowfart in the morning and will probably be off-line for four days, so I guess I better get an update in now eh? I managed to be the only guy around the place this morning when 400 blankets arrived... and the little Thai guy who delivered them wasn't going to help unload them. Muggins here got to lug them in... 50 at a time. I'd never thought of blankets as heavy before.
So... with one last gratuitous temple shot... and another showing where the 525 is having a holiday, I'll call an end to the Cambodian leg of the trip
I flew back to Chiang Mai via Bangkok... and for the second time in 20 years, I just transited through the airport.
Maybe I'll visit the city eventually....
It was back to my base in NW Thailand... and my first sight of the Super Enduro in just under two months. She cranked up pretty well, but spluttered a few times on her first ride. I'd run her dry, but not drained the dregs from the carbs, so I guess a bit of varnish went through. That first ride was a charity run to a school about 60km from Chiang Mai... up in the hills.
It was a quiet Sunday, so Phil and Som each rode their bikes, I doubled one of the staff... and one got left to cover coffees, etc. Som setting off on her Harley
and clowning around at our first stop. Breakfast at a bar where the rest of the riders assembled
along with a group of monks invited by the organisers
You wouldn't see this mix of shirts too often in Oz. Lots of different 1%ers involved
Our Norwegian friend and his wife on their Rocket III trike were up front, with us not far behind.
It was pretty orderly at the start, but we spread out a bit once we got into the twisties... KTMs (Phil was on one of his 990's and me on the SE) at the front... Harleys to the rear
Being a typical Thai event... there was a bit of stuffing around and speeches... and then we set off. Right up front was a police car, lights flashing, sirens on... the whole way. We did red light runs, blew through towns at speed and watched the cop force oncoming traffic off the road out of our way.
There were some interesting Japanese-based bikes
Lots of these things
.... back with more soon
About half the bikes on the run were Harleys,
That last one had some nice accessories
There was only one dirt bike...
But this is what the ride was all about....
These kids come from very remote areas and this is a boarding school
There were the hand out ice creams and clothing
But the real point of it all was to hand over some cash. There were 32 cash awards to deserving and high achieving kids to help keep them at school.
The kids strutted their stuff... dancing in their tribal costumes, playing in the band and so on... parents did the food, Chang provided free water and discount booze (seriously).... and of course, the skimpy Chang girls. Hmmm.
This lovely lady made a guest singing appearance with the band
Phil, Som and the Riders Corner staff beat an early retreat to get the restaurant open... but were able to take in the dancing.
That be Phil with the camera
If I new my tribes, I'd tell you what they are... but I don't
It was just great, watching them perform with a big bike backdrop
The wider audience was loving it too
This is the 5th such run for this school. There's a Futsal challenge between staff and bikies... won by the teachers
That's a concrete surface.... and guys going over on it...
Geez... I hope I don't look like a dirty old man posing with schoolgirls...
Anyhow, a fun time was had by all and the money got to where its needed...
The return ride was a lot slower without the police escort... but such is life.
Oops. Missed this one. While we were fueling up. Local traffic cop....
.... and I suppose we can't have too many shots of a cute chick on a Harley, can we?
... and here's a shot that Phil just posted over on RideAsia.net that's worth pinching....
Last night, discussing bikes and rides and planning the ride into Laos
From my left, Greg Frazier and his wife Noor, Phil and Auke - who made the North Thailand Off Road Map (paper and GPS versions both available from Riders Corner - best damn pieces of GPS mapping I've used, that being it and the Midnight Mapper's Laos map, also available there) then in the bright blue shirt, Craig and then Leigh, both from my old home town... I used to race against Craig's dad as a teenager... then Neil and Clarissa, who live a couple of suburbs from me. Neil and Leigh are about to ride Laos and Cambodia. Auke, Phil and I are off to Laos tomorrow.
If I new my tribes, I'd tell you what they are... but I don't
I think their Karen (not sure if thats how it's spelt) I remember seeing costumes like that on girls in villages near the Burma border 25 yrs ago they were worn day to day not just special occasions. And still loving the read, a pity we didn't cross paths, just back from Laos and Cambodia
I'll check on their tribe later on. There's some experts around here.
I'm back in Chiang Mai.... chasing my tail getting shipping organised. The bike is very, very dirty and needs to be spotless for Oz customs.... as does my gear.
I've got a couple of very interesting rides still to write up, but can't see that happening before the weekend.
Here's a teaser from the Chan Chouy Noi ride ("I give a little") I just did over to a remote area near Hongsa in Laos.
... stayed longer than planned as we came across a little old lady that we had to get to hospital. She'd have lost a leg, or more likely, died so we couldn't leave her there. She had an open 30mm wound in the ball of her foot and she was out working in the fields... no shoes (too poor). She's still in hospital, but should be OK.
,,,,, and before anyone comments on my boots.... about 15 km further up the road, I had to stab that one into the ground when I hit some marbles in thick bulldust. It was a bit like doing it wearing flip flops.... tape doesn't give a lot of support to the ankle. All's good though... I didn't go down (again - I did on the other ride I have yet to write up... two-up too!)... and yes, I'm "retiring" those boots now. This one was a bit of a yahoo ride though... I've got one photo I took while I was careering down a rocky hill, unable to stop.... but it'll have to wait.
... back to washing, etc.
You're killing me! Hot Thai chicks on sportsers?! Hoooly cow!
I'm about to quit my job and move! You lucky devil - keep up the updates!
Wating ..... waiting....... no pressure Bigfella just hurry up. Seriously you're doing a great job
Soon guys, soon.
Good news is that Mon, the woman we got to the hospital is on the mend. She's been there for a week now, on IV antibiotics, etc and is improving. I'll be writing some updates over the next few days.
I'm goin' cold turkey here Bigfella without your regular updates - get typing! (please)
There's a town up near the Burma border in NW Thailand, Mae Hong Son, The Mae Hong Son loop ride is becoming rather well known, with its 1864 curves. We (Neil and I) decided to do it slightly differently, cutting out the Chiang Mai - Mae Sariang - Mae Hong Son bitumen section and going up the guts on the local truck and elephant tracks... ie, on the dirt. I'd already done the Mae Sariang to Chiang Mai section.
There was an event on:
The poster from the previous event gives an overview of the Loop
Our trip through the centre was around 220 kilometres and quite an interesting ride. Looking back at my Garmin log, which for some reason broke the trip into three parts for the day, we did the last 111 km, which some folks know as the elephant trail, at a moving average of 33 kph. We went through Ban Doi Rim Tam, Mae Sap Nua and then the Samoeng Wildlife Reserve. There was an "out" if it rained. We could have bailed at Yang Moen and gone north to Pai and got back onto the bitumen.
Neil, on his modified airhead BMW 1000. With his KTM forks and modified rear suspension, he's got 300mm travel at each end
This was my first ride with a pillion for a long time other than the first part of the bitumen-only charity ride and I was taking it easy.... however.... I was about to spoil a record of not binning it with a pillion on that had stood for decades. When we first got to the dirt, Neil let his tyres down, but I decided to leave it and see what it was like for a while in case we were just on a short stretch. Oops. I was taking it easy through a right hander and the front hit a rock in loose gravel and over she went. Funnily enough, I saved it. I reefed the bars - which wasn't kind to the muscles in my arms and shoulders ... and the Katoom came back up. Didn't save me from a shoulder thumping from my pillion. I stopped and let the tyres down.... but it wasn't over yet.
The road became a track
Quite pleasant riding, but not fast and with a fair way to travel
Given we had a BMW along for the ride, we had to stop to fix it (yeah, yeah.... I've got 4 of the damn things.... including an airhead).
Neil could smell burning oil. It was driveshaft oil leaking through a buggered boot, down onto the muffler.
He did the appropriate thing... tore his shirt into strips and wrapped the torn boot.
Hmmm... just noticed that. Is that a handbag hanging from my bike? My pillion had disappeared up the track in search of a public toilet or something like that. I think she found a corner in the track, which served the same purpose. Thinking back on that now... I'm wondering if that's what we crashed in? Neil got away before me and I heard his engine die and then get going again. We went around the corner and BOOF... straight down. No hope in hell of saving it.
There was this strange thumping on my right shoulder again while I was laying there under the bike. Hang on Ma'am... enough of that... here... out of the way please while I pick this up.
It turned out that Neil went down twice.. and with my earlier save, I quit the dropsies after one. The track wasn't too bad, but slippery enough to have the paddles out in places
I watched Neil go up one hill and end up with the back wheel 18" in the air... at which stage my pillion got to walk up. It turned out that it would have been OK... maybe.
There were some small villages and signs of agriculture on the way, with lovely views of the mountains too
Neil's mascot seemed to have got a dose of the runs
Might have been from the food this group of riders / drivers gave us earlier on. We pulled over for a "chat" and they gave us some sort of very bitter green nut thing, dipped into some sort of salt. Could've been betel nut and heroin for all we knew.... but they seemed nice.
As we got closer to Mae Hong Son, some of the steep sections were concreted. The concrete had broken up on the steepest stuff though.
I had a very close call on one of the concrete sections with a 4WD. He was fully on the wrong side of the road... which is wide enough (just) for a bike an a ute. I propped when I saw him... as did he... He swung left and stopped... fully blocking the track. I pulled up 300mm from his back wheel. Neil saw my rear wheel skid mark and was able to stop too. There's no point getting angry... I waited for the guy to gather his wits and get out of the way.
The views continued in northern Thai fashion. ie fantastic
The road opened out again and dried out.
Phil, from Riders Corner in Chiang Mai had said to not do it if it rained. Spot on advice. It was a bit slippery without rain. With it, that hard packed, rutted clay would have been "interesting"
Not much of a waterfall... but an appropriate spot for a wee break
We were getting close to Mae Hong Son, it was getting late, but the views just had to be soaked up
Both sides of the road. We'd been riding the spine of the ridges for ages
The ride down from up there was interesting. I rolled down the mountain with the engine off. Silly boy. Two up and with no engine braking, the rear brake boiled (it'd already been boiled recently, so it didn't take much effort to re boil it... its now been changed). With zero rear brake, I took it easy.
The run into town was pleasant too
We tried a few places looking for rooms and eventually found some about a kilometer from the music at the lake. I'm not quite sure I was a fan of my bathroom decor
Neil decided to check out the drivechain boot properly. Try this with a GS1200
Most of the lads in town for the music were on street bikes
The music was good and the scenery was up to par too. One of the muso's has played with a number of famous bands, including the Rolling Stones. IIRC he was the guy in John Nash's Aussie Experience... playing the trombone.
The Long Neck Trio were playing too and were nice enough to pose for photos with me
If I'm not mistaken, they aren't as stretched as some I've seen. From what I've read, they don't stretch the neck so much as force the rings down into their chests a bit... or they used to
The crowd were getting into the spirit of things with ricepaper lanterns
Neil WAS told....
Neil... they go this way mate
We'd met up with a couple of guys from Coffs Harbour, my old home town, at the music festival. Craig and Leigh joined us in the morning. They were out and about on rented CRF250 Hondas for a week, while they waited for a new gearbox output shaft for Craig's DRZ400, being prepped for a trip through Cambodia and Laos.
We headed back towards Pai and Chiang Mai, but turned left not far out of Mae Hong Son to head up to the Burma border for a look. I was hoping our Thai speaker could help get us across the border a Ban Rak Thai
Nice bitumen roads
There were some lovely sections with fabulous corners on the way up to the border too. There were a couple of snakes on the road and we passed one large one that had a group of guys standing around it. I was in the lead and only a few hundred metres ahead, but between me passing it and the guys behind, the bystanders had put a tin can over the snake's head. Hmmm
We stopped at the border town, which is a common stopping point and had a tea tasting session at the Lake.
They had an amazing range of teas and dried fruits. One we loved and all bought was a particular type of dried almond. Absolutely no idea what they'd done to it, but it was brilliant
Up at the border post, which is on a narrow lane out of town, there was no way the guy was letting us ride in. We should have tried the senior officer that I saw from a distance later, but such is life. The guy on the gate let me go in to no-mans-land for a wander around, but the bike wasn't allowed.
This is the viewpoint over the Burmese village on the other side
and this is Burma
This is the border control post on the Thai side
and here's some old codger wandering around in no-mans-land
We took some back roads back to the Mae Hong Son to Pai road and did some sightseeing along the way.... always mindful of the advisory signs
I was still having trouble with the rear brake, so the lads on the 250's would harry me on the downhills and then get the irrits when I'd blast away... 98hp to 22 will do that.
We pulled up for the night at Cave Lodge just near Lod Cave. Its a lovely area and the road in through the forest demanded and got a blast. Narrow and curvy but with good visibility and a fabulous surface. One of those really memorable roads.
We were lucky and managed to get enough rooms. Quite comfy.
Well... mostly comfy... I had a cold shower on arrival. She's a wood-fired boiler and I think they only fire her up in the morning.
Nice sink carved out of a log
I think this young Canadian lass was quite taken in by all the old bikies... but she did sit with the only young one there....
The plan had been to get Tum, our pillion back to Chiang Mai for a slightly late start for work the next morning, but she rang in and got clearance to stay another day and join us on a caving/canoing expedition.
It was interesting talking to the folks there about the area. About six years earlier, "they" had come through, shot a village headman and jailed/gaoled the farmers growing dope. Fortunately, I'm a non-user.
Our canoes for the morning were inflatables. The water level in the river was a bit low and the rapids got up to Grade 2. With more water, they get to Grade 3. Guys were sent solo, women went with the guides. Hey... we just do what we're told...
You're doing it tough, Ian.
It proved impossible to get photos in the rough stuff... if I wanted to stay in the canoe
There was one causeway which everyone bar one guide negotiated safely
Wandering around in the caves was interesting too
Some folks couldn't approach the task seriously
There were a few big, fast spiders in there
and thousands of bats and swifts using it as a roost. Lots of bat shit
I took a bit of a tumble here. I climbed over that fence, thinking that was the way the others had gone and went into a very deep hole on the other side. I kept the DSLR out of the water by millimeters...
We wandered off through the jungle to another cave but I didn't do the scramble in. I'd run out of drinking water by this stage and was feeling it. This was one the way.. a couple of monks live up in there
We got back to the Lodge and headed for Pai... getting there and finding rooms just as a thunderstorm hit
Lots of northern Thai scenery to be seen on the way...
Delicious roads... but more trouble with my rear brake. You'd think that in this day and age that wouldn't be a problem eh? Helloooo Mr KTM.....
There were a couple of kids at one lookout... looking for a few baht for a photo.
I must be getting soft in my old age, I handed over 20 baht and took their pics