Can't believe it's 5 weeks since I arrived in Singapore. Spent a week there, waiting for bike, watching football, and trying not to spend any money (it's expensive). Met up with my aunt Judy and cousin Tarryn, in town for a wedding, and trying to do their best to boost Singapore foreign currency reserves.
Bit of stress extricating bike from the port (6 hours) taxiing all over town with my fake paperwork to get the right stamps and papers. Everytime I get in this 'beyond my control/out of control' situation my stomach ties itself in knots and I feel like jumping under a bus. As usual everything was alright in the end. I'm never sure how close a call these situations really are. How long do you have to be on the road before you get the necessary serenity to cope with it all?
It was, as always, good to be back on the road. Left Singas in really heavy rain which naughtily stuck around for a few days. Everything got wet and smelly. Tried a few ports up the coast to see if there was an easy way in to Sumatra, meeting up with Swiss overlander, John, who had (and has) the same idea. The sun came out, and as I easily tire of practical hassles I decided to have a bit of a look round 'peninsular' Malaysia (for those of you who's geography is as bad as mine, Malaysia also has a couple of states at the top of Borneo too).
First up was a bit of a stroll in the Cameron Highlands, a big hilly area of jungle, tea plantations, strawberry fields, and cream teas. Watched the world cup disaster, a few of the 600(!) DVD movies on offer at the hostel (camcorder in the cinema jobbies) and got ill on Thai 'whisky'. Met up with John again, and a Dutch couple on BM's (Martin and Jan), and a Canadian (Doris) on a chopper. The Dutchies, John and I hatched a plan to meet up later and hire a banana boat to get the bikes over to Indo. All this will come to pass in a few days (fingers and toes crossed).
Had a great days riding out of the Highlands over to the East coast on a road under construction through the rain forest. The road is a year or so away from being opened, with most of the enormous bridges still under construction. A good mix of fast dirt (watching ahead for the missing bridges) and then steep twisty descents/assents (downs and ups). Got completely covered in red mud (looked 'the buisness', ahem)....
Parked the bike in someone's yard and spent a disappointing few days on the 'very beautiful' Perhintian islands (well, the one island that everyone goes to). Exclusively backpackers, very expensive cans of lager, and strangely no atmosphere. Maybe I was in a mood?
More beach time further south and back on the mainland - much more like it, with a few outings on the bike (with new, ahem, friend) to see caves and waterfalls.
Good twisty roads back inland to Taman Negara national park (allegedly the oldest jungle in the world). Really beautiful. Trekked for 4 days and spent a couple of nights in the woods. Hard going. Bought a machete with a nice leather holder (holster?) for 3 pounds 50p. Lost count of the number of leeches I picked up (trousers and socks were covered in blood), didn't get sick from drinking 5 liters of river water a day, but also didn't see any tigers or elephants. Saw some elephant footprints and droppings, but not quite the same.
I am now in Malacca on the West coast (Dutch/Portuguese/English colonial town, along with the Malay mix of Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and Pizza Hut makes it a colourful place) for the rendezvous with the others. It's been a nice easy introduction (apart from the walking bits) to Asia, but definitely time for something more adventurous.
.... but not missing banana boats!
See you, Jason.
Hello what is it your name boss, where you from
Manchester? Michael Owen?
Bali's actually quite a nice place. I don't know why,
but I was expecting it to be awful. There's a few
tourists (me included) here for sure, and there's way
too much traffic, which makes getting about a hassle
(same as much of Indonesia). It's got some beautiful
countryside, though, cool culture and great beaches,
and the tourist centre (Kuta) has got everything you
need to have a good time before bedtime (and possibly
I arrived from Java, travelling with Swiss biker
(John) 12 days ago. We hope to leave here at the end
of the week and in a change of plan for me, we will
ride across Lombok, Sumbawa and Flores to Timor and
cross into East Timor. From Dili John ships his bike
to Darwin and I will ship back to Singapore and head
up into Thailand.
I have spent half the time here working on the bike. A
few months ago, in Sumatra, I managed to break the
driveshaft and in the course of finding out what was
broken also discovered that the clutch was in it's
death-throes. Both parts were repaired locally
(there's no BMW bike dealers here), but halfway across
Java it was clear that the clutch fix wasn't going to
last. Luckily a contact in Bali (thank's Steve) had a
friend and fellow BMW nut coming to visit and managed
to arrange for a new clutch to be brought along
(thank's Bruno and Dee Dee). We changed the clutch and
I also gave the bike a major going over. On a ride
around Bali the following day, however, I broke the
repaired drive-shaft with the newly available power
increase. Back to the workshop! Another repair with
some fancy glue, and that broke too! I will have to
take it easy until I can get a new part in Singapore.
Getting good at taking the thing apart now, but
definately no more through the box wheelies.....
Went to a Bali bike meeting a few days ago. Lot's of
real ancient Euro stuff around (and that's just the
ex-pats!) - it's good to see old bikes being used.
Still there's not much choice here as the only
officially imported bikes over 200cc are $30k Harleys.
Did a few sidecar stunts with Dee Dee (hopefully
picture to follow....) much to the amusement of the
Balineese long hairs.
Feeling a bit home-sick (again!), if I'm honest.....
and only a month after I was back in England!
Hopefully being on the move again will cure me. As a
rough plan I will be in Thailand for December and
January, then set of in a loop around Laos, Vietnam
and Cambodia and back to Bangkok. This will probably
be the end of this adventure - from there I will ship
whats left of the bike home in time for summer. Can't
face India, Pakistan, Iran etc at the moment. I'm sure
you must be able to do all this on the 'net anyhow?!
And I bet the photo's are better quality....
'Til next time, Jason.
Dra-da dra da da da (chukka), dra-da dra da da da,
Du-du wha whah-whaaah....., du-lu du dwaaah......,
There must be some kinda way out a here......,
Says the hooker to the sheik(sp?).....,
You have to use you imagination a bit (especially for
the smoke and shell fire), but it was kind of cool
crossing into East Timor. All the UN army types in
their machine gun nests, razor-wire and baseball caps,
calling out and giving us the thumbs up as we ride
down the bombed out road - 2 wheeled storm troopers
back from the front line. Yeah baby.
The border was easy enough, which was just as well as
I didn't want to hang around any longer than
necessary. We'd heard there was a bomb at the border
that hurt a few people the day before.
There was a bit of a buzz with the people in Dili. It
sounds like they've gone through an awful lot to get
their own country. Coming from Indonesia it was a
shock to see lots of money about. Every other car was
a fancy new Landcruiser. I won't pretend to understand
the economics of it all (but) how can you pump in 3
billion dollars of 'aid'/future debt into a country
with 750,000 people - most of them living as they've
always done in grass huts and off the land?
Anyways, East Timor looked like a nice place. Hilly,
with a beautiful coast-line, and no where near as
populated as anywhere I saw in Indonesia. Definately a
place to go back to in a few years. Glad that I changed
my plans to carry on east from Bali. All the best riding
I did was from Lombok on.
While we were sorting out the shipping (Gion's XT to
Darwin, and my bike back to Singapore), a Canadian
couple (Mike and Mellie) I'd first met nearly 2 years
ago at the start of the trip in Mexico turned up. They
are now on a 2 bike trip from New Zealand back to
Canada hoping to go via Russia and Alaska(!). Really
good to see them again and swap stories of daring do.
Now I have a few days hanging around (waiting for your
e-mail!) before I get to do the jumping backwards
through flaming hoops that is Singapore customs.
I am hanging around in Bangkok for a few days, resting up after a visit from my pal from back home. Good to see someone from the real world and talk about house prices and carpets (only kidding, Jay!).
Quite a few 'overland' bikers about here. Well done everyone. Can't remember the last time I had a good jaw about aluminium boxes. There's talk of a wander down to Ko Chang for a sit on the beach for Xmas, so we'll see how that works out.
Thailands been really different from my experience so far in Asia. Wow, there really are a lot of white folks about here! Good though. Easy to do stuff. Looking forward to exploring the north and getting into Laos and Cambodia after Xmas.
Today I did something really stupid.
Arrived in Laos yesterday and had 200kms of dirt to do
today to get across to a town on the 'main' drag.
160kms on and everything is going well. The conditions
are perfect and I'm really having fun riding this
beautiful dirt track. I get to the umpteeth river
crossing and it's another long one which I can't see
the bottom of. I am just about to get off the bike for
a look when to the left I see a disused log bridge 2m
above the water. The last few meters of planks are
missing but I think I can ride it on the logs at the
side. Too lazy to get off the bike again. So I start
off but decide to stop half way for a look. I put my
foot down but the plank just falls away and before I
know it I'm falling of the bike, helmet first into the
river. For a split second I think the bike has somehow
managed to stay on the bridge but then there's a big
splash and the bike tumbles in on my back. The water
was only about 18 inches deep but I find myself
pressed to the bottom face down. I really struggle
hard but can't get free and then I think I am going to
drown. I put my hands under my chest and with all my
strength I do a big press up and stretch my neck as
far as I can. My helmet is still full of water and I
don't know whether to try for a breath. I have to, but
as well as some water I also get some air. I cough it
out and push up again. This time it's all air, so it's
back under water and I manage to get a knee up and
twist out from under the bike. I can't describe the
feeling! I was so elated. The bike is upside down in
the river but still running. I get the bike up, and
feel that soon it's going to hurt. I work to get the
bags and boxes up on the bank, have a quick look to
the bike - the clocks and mirrors are damaged and the
rack is broken, a few marks but it all looks OK. I use
the remaining adrenalin to dig a track up the river
bank and then wait for help. After 45 mins 2 men turn
up on a rotorvator, and after laughing their heads off
we set to to drive and push the bike up the bank. I
tip all the water out of the boxes and my boots and
slowly strap everything back to the bike. I give the
guys 10 dollars each, a lot, but I feel so grateful to
still be here I could have made it 100.
So tonight I have a 3rd arse cheek growing on my back
and I ache everywhere else. The bike will be OK.
Nothing I can't fix. Stuff will dry out, but
unfortunately my camera's had it. I hope when I get to
a shop they can save the film as I finally took some
pictures of the bike in a long-tail boat when we went
across the Mekong.
So the moral is: If you're travelling alone in remote
places on a motorbike, don't do something stupid.
Tonight I feel very, very lucky.
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