November 04, 2004 GMT
16-10-04 STAGE 6 - THROUGH CAMBODIA

D2 and I left D1 at the THAI border crossing at CHANG MEK, we immediately seen the difference in riding on LAO and THAI roads. More traffic and crazy THAI car drivers!
We intended to get to a provincial town called SI SA KET. From there, D2 can visit the ruins that I mentioned previously, and I can get to the border crossing, into CAMBODIA at the border town of OSMACH.
An appropriately named town, as far as I was concerned, the highway into CAMBODIA was 4 lanes, for about 100m, then deteriated into a motocross track for the next 160k.

I have at this stage of my journey, began to question, “What the bloody hell, am I doing? D1 has a job to do in LAO, and get paid for it, D2 is on a pension from the States, and R1 is playing the stock market. Every one of them has an income in THAILAND. Except me, how do I sustain this life style, …. Easy, sell off the family silver, shit, I haven’t got any! So it’s back to OZ to make a bit of money to continue my travels through ASIA.

That’s in a couple of months; right now I am concerned about the next stage of my travels in CAMBODIA.
Well as far as I am concerned, the local governments can stick their budgets up their ;proverbial. Bums, if they are serious on tourism, get your bloody roads in order!

You have to be joking, when a road is marked as a highway, and ends up as a goat track, ye, right… I know this is a 3rd world country, but how much do they spend on the local bloody Buddhist Wat’s?

I come to grief twice on these lousy roads, the first, I had to totally strip DORIS and walk her over a creek, 2m above the rice paddies, then pay the resident local elder 100b as a donation.
The second was more serious, as I was navigating this road from hell, when I was confronted with a washed out bridge, over a rice canal, with about a 2m drop to the water, I gave DORIS a gut full of juice, the front wheel followed a 12’ Diameter log, but the back end lost traction, and ended up between 2 logs, with the immediate result of an instant brake.
I ended up under DORIS on my left side, about 2m above the water, I managed to physically push DORIS upright and kick her over, as she had stalled when I dropped her.
I was lucky to be wearing my riding gear, as all I sustained was 2 bruises to my hip and elbow. You don’t want to seriously injure yourself in CAMBODIA, if you do, make sure you have enough money to medivac yourself to BANGKOK for treatment.

Once you get on the bitumen highway, the remaining ride into SIEM REAP is dull and uninteresting, except for the hundreds of school kids, riding their bicycles, two abreast back to their village for lunch, at least it’s a reprieve from the previous road from hell.
The usual chaotic Asian traffic prevailed, with the added noise of constant honking of horns from every vehicle from motorbikes to trucks.
As I had, by this time, lost my sense of humour with CAMBODIAN traffic, I found the closest hotel near the centre of the town, for $15US a night, I was so exhausted and dehydrated, I sat under the cold shower in my room for over an hour, crawled into bed and slept for about 4 hours, waking up with aches and pains everywhere, I rang reception and got a great one hour massage for $5, great value.
I spent 2 days in SIEM REAP, most of the time riding around ANGKOR WAT, I fully recommend it, one of the wonders of the world.

18-10-04 PHNOM PENH

The road south to PHNOM PENH is a typical 2 lane bitumen road, traversing through numerous villages. Taking 4 hours to travel the 340 odd k’s , I arrived in the capital on a hot and dusty afternoon.
I had previously been in contact by email, with my riding mate from CHIANG MAI, Robert, the American, on his BMW GS1150, his brother Mark had flown over from California with his 950 KTM, and I had arranged to catch up with them, and ride together through the southern areas of CAMBODIA.
PHNOM PENH is a well laid out city of over 1.5 million people, it is getting back on its feet after the Horrific POL POT Regime.
You can’t help but feel pity for the many deformed and maimed beggars in the streets, and the many children just begging for food.

A visit to the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum at TUOL SLENG, is a must. How human beings can do these things to each other is beyond logic. The scale of this Genocide was even worse than the Nazi’s in WW11, yet the West just sat back and did nothing. Ironically it was the VIETNAMESE that crossed the border and overthrew the KHMER ROUGE.

A couple of nights in PHNOM PENH are enough, to see the city, I hired a motorcycle taxi, with a young rider called KOKE, he is 29 and studying English, a great little bloke, and better than riding your own bike, for $6 it’s good value. Just sitting on the back of his old KOREAN built 100cc Suzuki, and snapping off photos was a very relaxing way to wile away the day.
I caught up with Robert and Mark that night and we decided to leave in the morning for SIHANOUKVILLE, about 260k’s south and on the coast.

21-10-04 SIHANOUKVILLE (OR LOONEY TOONE VILLE)

First of all I must comment on riding with rich Americans, I have previously mused about Robert’s single mindedness, other than that (no one is perfect, shit I should talk!) he is an excellent long distance rider.
His brother Mark, however, is a bit of a worry to ride with. He firmly believes that America is the greatest and everything he does is right.
This guy is a millionaire and roams the world at whim, and unintentualy insulting people in every country he visits!
Too much money, an imagination of extraordinary proportions about his own ego and talent, and the ability of the bike he rides.
Bloody hell, no wonder, when you read the adventure bike web sites, set up by these yanks, you think us bikers down under are fuckin wimps! They have the greatest imagination and ego in the western world.

Now that I have got that off my chest, Mark is not a bad drinking buddy, and it’s a bit of a laugh teaching him Aussy slang.

Our ride from PHNOM PENH, began innocently enough, until I realized that Mark did not possess any riding gear, the guy had turned up from California, in shorts, joggers and a short sleeve shirt, ok, at least he had a helmet and gloves! All on a KTM950 with knobblies!

About 100k out of P.P. the pace was pretty slow, because of the school kids and the occasional farm animal crossing the road. I decided to up the pace and took the lead, sitting on a comfortable 100k, expecting the big boys to follow, or even pass.

Thinking they would only be a couple of minutes behind, I stopped at the centre of a town, called KAMPOT, now this is a major intersection on the Cambodia’s road system.
(There is after all only about 3 bitumen roads in the entire country).
After waiting around for approximately an hour for my American riding mates, including a phone call to mum and dad in OZ, to break the monotony of waiting.
Oh ye, I was also offered some sexual favours and some illegal drugs.
I realized my riding mates may have come to some grief, so off I went, back up the road for about 30k. No sign of them, shit, what’s happened?

Retracing the road back to KAMPOT, I find a bypass route around the town square; the mongrels had to have taken this road. (I told you they have no idea)

I really got up Doris, thinking I could catch up with them, I was continuously hitting 140k an hour, not good on a fully loaded DAKAR.

After about 140k’s and a couple of hours, I ended up in LOONEY TOONE VILLE, now this little town on the CAMBODIAN coast, is straight out of a wild west movie, I pulled up outside an Aussy bar, called the G’DAY BAR, run by an Aussy guy called Mick, an ex PATTAYA bar owner, and of dubious background. It soon dawns on me that the whole expat. population are of the same ilk.

I can honestly say, that the type of people LOONEY TOONE VILLE attracts, are the most desperate I have met in Asia.

I finally found the hotel that the boys and I had previously agreed to book into, cleaned up and waited for there arrival. The boys arrived a couple of hours later, explaining there little detour, apologies accepted, it was off to find a bite to eat and a few beers.

The next day we wanted to investigate a crazy resort and casino that the French had built in the 20’s. way up in the mountains. It is now part of the BOKOR national park and about 80k’s east of the coast.
We decided to ride there, but on arrival at the parks entrance, it was immediately obvious that we were going to have a hard time on the badly eroded road, all that remained of the bitumen road was the rocky, loose road base, with sharp granite 4” rocks strewn across the track.
Now I am into taking calculated risks, but after discussing the situation with my fellow travelers, it was decided to hire 3, 250cc trail bikes from the Rangers, for $5 a bike.
It turned out to be the right decision, as the road actually deteriated so badly that we would have put the big bikes and ourselves at serious risk.
So much for the BIG ADVENTURE BIKE IMAGE!

On arrival at the top of the mountain, (it’s actually a high plain), you are visually confronted with the most eerie buildings that I have ever seen, anywhere in my travels.
Imagine a haunted house in the British moors, that’s the casino, and a deserted church in some Hollywood horror movie, with the wind moaning through the glassless windows, the whole place is down right spooky.
We finally descended to the ranger’s headquarters, a distance of about 60k return ride, gave back the little 250’s and began our ride back to LOONEY TOONE VILLE.

That night after a conversation with the gay Swedish hotel owner, Robert and his brother become interested in investing in the local real estate, so Henry (the gay hotel owner) arranged a meeting with the local wheeler and dealer.

The next morning at breakfast a real shady type CAMBODIAN, with the name of Mr. 10% turned up, in an old DATSUN coupe, wearing a hard hat, and accompanied by a well groomed young guy, who spoke little English.
Now I have been around a bit, these guys appeared to be ex military or even worse, part of the old POL POT Regime!

Mr. 10% immediately becomes immersed in high finance conversation with the two Americans. A shit load of money was bandied about, and after a couple of coffees it was off around LOONEY TOONE VILLE in the old DATSUN.
First stop was a run down hotel with about 30 odd rooms, and one guest great potential!
The two yanks were off on an imagination trip, with renovations already getting vividly described to Mr. 10%.
Thinking he had a couple of suckers, with a shit load of money, old 10% also showed the Yanks two more hotels and a block of land opposite the beach… for $220.000US! Remember this is a 3rd world country, even the Americans thought this was over the top!
Anyway, all parties agreed to meet at 10am the next morning, with Mr. 10% getting all the prices, from the owners, on the properties inspected.

True to form, my American friends had second thoughts (after getting Mr. 10% so hyped up) so we flew the coupe at 8.30am. Giving the gay hotel owner instructions to tell the CAMBODIANS they weren’t interested…..mm, you got to wonder, haven’t you.
So it was off to the border, about 240k away. The first 60k or so was of good bitumen. Then true to form the road gradually deteriated from a good gravel road, similar to the fast dirt in Aussy, into corrugations, potholes and then ultimately motocross track.
About 160k of dirt and 4 river crossings, 3 on very small ferries, we eventually arrived at the Thai border. We took over 6 hours to do the distance.

The border crossing went smoothly for me and Doris, (Carnet’s come in handy) as usual the 2 Yanks spent about an hour, talking the Thai customs into letting their bikes into the country.
It was then a low flying run to the ferry crossing to KHOH CHANG, to get the last ferry at 6.30pm.





16-10-04 STAGE 6 - THROUGH CAMBODIA

D2 and I left D1 at the THAI border crossing at CHANG MEK, we immediately seen the difference in riding on LAO and THAI roads. More traffic and crazy THAI car drivers!
We intended to get to a provincial town called SI SA KET. From there, D2 can visit the ruins that I mentioned previously, and I can get to the border crossing, into CAMBODIA at the border town of OSMACH.
An appropriately named town, as far as I was concerned, the highway into CAMBODIA was 4 lanes, for about 100m, then deteriated into a motocross track for the next 160k.

I have at this stage of my journey, began to question, “What the bloody hell, am I doing? D1 has a job to do in LAO, and get paid for it, D2 is on a pension from the States, and R1 is playing the stock market. Every one of them has an income in THAILAND. Except me, how do I sustain this life style, …. Easy, sell off the family silver, shit, I haven’t got any! So it’s back to OZ to make a bit of money to continue my travels through ASIA.

That’s in a couple of months; right now I am concerned about the next stage of my travels in CAMBODIA.
Well as far as I am concerned, the local governments can stick their budgets up their ;proverbial. Bums, if they are serious on tourism, get your bloody roads in order!

You have to be joking, when a road is marked as a highway, and ends up as a goat track, ye, right… I know this is a 3rd world country, but how much do they spend on the local bloody Buddhist Wat’s?

I come to grief twice on these lousy roads, the first, I had to totally strip DORIS and walk her over a creek, 2m above the rice paddies, then pay the resident local elder 100b as a donation.
The second was more serious, as I was navigating this road from hell, when I was confronted with a washed out bridge, over a rice canal, with about a 2m drop to the water, I gave DORIS a gut full of juice, the front wheel followed a 12’ Diameter log, but the back end lost traction, and ended up between 2 logs, with the immediate result of an instant brake.
I ended up under DORIS on my left side, about 2m above the water, I managed to physically push DORIS upright and kick her over, as she had stalled when I dropped her.
I was lucky to be wearing my riding gear, as all I sustained was 2 bruises to my hip and elbow. You don’t want to seriously injure yourself in CAMBODIA, if you do, make sure you have enough money to medivac yourself to BANGKOK for treatment.

Once you get on the bitumen highway, the remaining ride into SIEM REAP is dull and uninteresting, except for the hundreds of school kids, riding their bicycles, two abreast back to their village for lunch, at least it’s a reprieve from the previous road from hell.
The usual chaotic Asian traffic prevailed, with the added noise of constant honking of horns from every vehicle from motorbikes to trucks.
As I had, by this time, lost my sense of humour with CAMBODIAN traffic, I found the closest hotel near the centre of the town, for $15US a night, I was so exhausted and dehydrated, I sat under the cold shower in my room for over an hour, crawled into bed and slept for about 4 hours, waking up with aches and pains everywhere, I rang reception and got a great one hour massage for $5, great value.
I spent 2 days in SIEM REAP, most of the time riding around ANGKOR WAT, I fully recommend it, one of the wonders of the world.

18-10-04 PHNOM PENH

The road south to PHNOM PENH is a typical 2 lane bitumen road, traversing through numerous villages. Taking 4 hours to travel the 340 odd k’s , I arrived in the capital on a hot and dusty afternoon.
I had previously been in contact by email, with my riding mate from CHIANG MAI, Robert, the American, on his BMW GS1150, his brother Mark had flown over from California with his 950 KTM, and I had arranged to catch up with them, and ride together through the southern areas of CAMBODIA.
PHNOM PENH is a well laid out city of over 1.5 million people, it is getting back on its feet after the Horrific POL POT Regime.
You can’t help but feel pity for the many deformed and maimed beggars in the streets, and the many children just begging for food.

A visit to the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum at TUOL SLENG, is a must. How human beings can do these things to each other is beyond logic. The scale of this Genocide was even worse than the Nazi’s in WW11, yet the West just sat back and did nothing. Ironically it was the VIETNAMESE that crossed the border and overthrew the KHMER ROUGE.

A couple of nights in PHNOM PENH are enough, to see the city, I hired a motorcycle taxi, with a young rider called KOKE, he is 29 and studying English, a great little bloke, and better than riding your own bike, for $6 it’s good value. Just sitting on the back of his old KOREAN built 100cc Suzuki, and snapping off photos was a very relaxing way to wile away the day.
I caught up with Robert and Mark that night and we decided to leave in the morning for SIHANOUKVILLE, about 260k’s south and on the coast.

21-10-04 SIHANOUKVILLE (OR LOONEY TOONE VILLE)

First of all I must comment on riding with rich Americans, I have previously mused about Robert’s single mindedness, other than that (no one is perfect, shit I should talk!) he is an excellent long distance rider.
His brother Mark, however, is a bit of a worry to ride with. He firmly believes that America is the greatest and everything he does is right.
This guy is a millionaire and roams the world at whim, and unintentualy insulting people in every country he visits!
Too much money, an imagination of extraordinary proportions about his own ego and talent, and the ability of the bike he rides.
Bloody hell, no wonder, when you read the adventure bike web sites, set up by these yanks, you think us bikers down under are fuckin wimps! They have the greatest imagination and ego in the western world.

Now that I have got that off my chest, Mark is not a bad drinking buddy, and it’s a bit of a laugh teaching him Aussy slang.

Our ride from PHNOM PENH, began innocently enough, until I realized that Mark did not possess any riding gear, the guy had turned up from California, in shorts, joggers and a short sleeve shirt, ok, at least he had a helmet and gloves! All on a KTM950 with knobblies!

About 100k out of P.P. the pace was pretty slow, because of the school kids and the occasional farm animal crossing the road. I decided to up the pace and took the lead, sitting on a comfortable 100k, expecting the big boys to follow, or even pass.

Thinking they would only be a couple of minutes behind, I stopped at the centre of a town, called KAMPOT, now this is a major intersection on the Cambodia’s road system.
(There is after all only about 3 bitumen roads in the entire country).
After waiting around for approximately an hour for my American riding mates, including a phone call to mum and dad in OZ, to break the monotony of waiting.
Oh ye, I was also offered some sexual favours and some illegal drugs.
I realized my riding mates may have come to some grief, so off I went, back up the road for about 30k. No sign of them, shit, what’s happened?

Retracing the road back to KAMPOT, I find a bypass route around the town square; the mongrels had to have taken this road. (I told you they have no idea)

I really got up Doris, thinking I could catch up with them, I was continuously hitting 140k an hour, not good on a fully loaded DAKAR.

After about 140k’s and a couple of hours, I ended up in LOONEY TOONE VILLE, now this little town on the CAMBODIAN coast, is straight out of a wild west movie, I pulled up outside an Aussy bar, called the G’DAY BAR, run by an Aussy guy called Mick, an ex PATTAYA bar owner, and of dubious background. It soon dawns on me that the whole expat. population are of the same ilk.

I can honestly say, that the type of people LOONEY TOONE VILLE attracts, are the most desperate I have met in Asia.

I finally found the hotel that the boys and I had previously agreed to book into, cleaned up and waited for there arrival. The boys arrived a couple of hours later, explaining there little detour, apologies accepted, it was off to find a bite to eat and a few beers.

The next day we wanted to investigate a crazy resort and casino that the French had built in the 20’s. way up in the mountains. It is now part of the BOKOR national park and about 80k’s east of the coast.
We decided to ride there, but on arrival at the parks entrance, it was immediately obvious that we were going to have a hard time on the badly eroded road, all that remained of the bitumen road was the rocky, loose road base, with sharp granite 4” rocks strewn across the track.
Now I am into taking calculated risks, but after discussing the situation with my fellow travelers, it was decided to hire 3, 250cc trail bikes from the Rangers, for $5 a bike.
It turned out to be the right decision, as the road actually deteriated so badly that we would have put the big bikes and ourselves at serious risk.
So much for the BIG ADVENTURE BIKE IMAGE!

On arrival at the top of the mountain, (it’s actually a high plain), you are visually confronted with the most eerie buildings that I have ever seen, anywhere in my travels.
Imagine a haunted house in the British moors, that’s the casino, and a deserted church in some Hollywood horror movie, with the wind moaning through the glassless windows, the whole place is down right spooky.
We finally descended to the ranger’s headquarters, a distance of about 60k return ride, gave back the little 250’s and began our ride back to LOONEY TOONE VILLE.

That night after a conversation with the gay Swedish hotel owner, Robert and his brother become interested in investing in the local real estate, so Henry (the gay hotel owner) arranged a meeting with the local wheeler and dealer.

The next morning at breakfast a real shady type CAMBODIAN, with the name of Mr. 10% turned up, in an old DATSUN coupe, wearing a hard hat, and accompanied by a well groomed young guy, who spoke little English.
Now I have been around a bit, these guys appeared to be ex military or even worse, part of the old POL POT Regime!

Mr. 10% immediately becomes immersed in high finance conversation with the two Americans. A shit load of money was bandied about, and after a couple of coffees it was off around LOONEY TOONE VILLE in the old DATSUN.
First stop was a run down hotel with about 30 odd rooms, and one guest great potential!
The two yanks were off on an imagination trip, with renovations already getting vividly described to Mr. 10%.
Thinking he had a couple of suckers, with a shit load of money, old 10% also showed the Yanks two more hotels and a block of land opposite the beach… for $220.000US! Remember this is a 3rd world country, even the Americans thought this was over the top!
Anyway, all parties agreed to meet at 10am the next morning, with Mr. 10% getting all the prices, from the owners, on the properties inspected.

True to form, my American friends had second thoughts (after getting Mr. 10% so hyped up) so we flew the coupe at 8.30am. Giving the gay hotel owner instructions to tell the CAMBODIANS they weren’t interested…..mm, you got to wonder, haven’t you.
So it was off to the border, about 240k away. The first 60k or so was of good bitumen. Then true to form the road gradually deteriated from a good gravel road, similar to the fast dirt in Aussy, into corrugations, potholes and then ultimately motocross track.
About 160k of dirt and 4 river crossings, 3 on very small ferries, we eventually arrived at the Thai border. We took over 6 hours to do the distance.

The border crossing went smoothly for me and Doris, (Carnet’s come in handy) as usual the 2 Yanks spent about an hour, talking the Thai customs into letting their bikes into the country.
It was then a low flying run to the ferry crossing to KHOH CHANG, to get the last ferry at 6.30pm.







Posted by Tom Forde at 04:51 AM GMT | Comments (0)
December 21, 2004 GMT
22-12-04 THE BORING CHRISTMAS BREAK (OR SO I THOUGHT)

After getting total rejections from every VIETNAMESE Consulate, in Thailand, Lao and Cambodia, about traveling with my bike in VIETNAM, it was time to bite the bullet and retreat back into Thailand.
The countries of China, Burma and Vietnam, are really stifling motorcycle traveling in Asia.

We got to the lovely island of KHO CHANG, found some great little huts on the beach, and settled in for a few days of R and R. The first thing to do was to look after our bruised and battered old bodies, (after all we are all over 50). Our bikes were next, with a welcome clean at the local car wash, (a little Thai guy, with a bucket and sponge).

It was great to swim in the ocean again; the sun and salt combine to reinvigorate the old body.
The beach resort was run very efficiently by Kattoys, Thai lady boys, and was really set up for rich Thai families, not 3 old foreign bikers, with dubious morals.

The inevitable trouble began on the 2nd day, when Mark wanted a Thai message, from the local girls that frequent the beaches. He wasn’t happy about lying on the sand or grass, so off to his hut he went with the masseure.
There was an immediate reaction from the management, accusing Mark of laud behavior. The end result was a very pissed off Mark. And a very cold management.

So it was decided to head for Pattaya the next day, reluctantly I agreed, I really enjoyed chilling out on a relatively unspoilt island, unlike Pattaya.

The highway west to PATTAYA is the typical 4 lane THAI road; most cars are sitting on 110k, with the occasional fast mover.
A good speed for us was 120k/hr. so it was PATTAYA in a couple of hours.
An interesting fact about the bikes involved, at the fuel stop, DORIS took 13 litres, and the KTM and GS1150 took 18 litres. This is despite DORIS carrying a heavier load, and all 3 bikes arriving together.
It certainly vindicated my decision to ride a GS650 through Asia.

We finally got through the ever increasing traffic of PATTAYA, and booked into a good hotel in the centre of town for 650b, complete with pool.

That night, I went around to a well established bar, called TIM’S, the owner is a middle aged Thai lady, who has been in PATTAYA for over 25 years. I was introduced to Tim by a colleague from SHANGHAI, when I worked in CHINA, over 5 years previous.

After telling Tim about our bike travels, she informed us of a poker run by the local chapter of THE MAD DOG MOTORCYCLE CLUB, on the following Sunday.
TIM gave me a contact phone number of the MDMCC, his name was also TIM. The contact made, the three of us chilled out with a few beers at TIM’S BAR.

Sunday morning arrived, typically hot, sunny and humid, Mark and I arrived at SALLEY’S bar (the official Bar of the MDMCC) at around 10.30am for the 11.am start.(Robert decided to give the ride a miss, as his girlfriend was arriving from CHIANG MAI)

People in THAILAND don’t get out of bed real early, so the 11am kickoff passes, and a few HARLEY’S turn up, mostly from the JESTERS M.C. all Scandinavian guys, with good jobs on ships and oil rigs.
The bulk of the MDMCC arrived after 11am, with big hangovers from the night before, I was surprised to see colours from SINGAPORE and THE PHILIPPINES, the guy’s just fly up (it’s cheap) and rent a bike, anything from a VMAX to a HOG.
Hell , our two dirt bikes looked like the two ugly twins!

After all the hand shakes, hugs and back smacks etc. (I’ve seen it all in OZ, riding with my mates) a bewildered Mark, on an out of place 950cc KTM and me on DORIS, join in the run.
Forty odd riders begin to get in to some formation, in the usual staggered position that these type of rides are accustomed to.

The first drama of the day occurred, the little pommy guy on the scooter, who was commissioned to take a video and photos, got a flat tyre, and so a replacement bike was arranged.

Then a late starter arrived, and immediately, grunted his HARLEY, with his THAI girlfriend as pillion, and totally threw her off the back, dressed in shorts and a flimsy top, she hit the tar rather hard!

The rest of the poker run was running quite smoothly at a very unaccustomed slow pace (for us anyway), until we stopped for our 2nd card at the WHEREHOUSE BAR, about 30k out of PATTAYA.

For all you bikers that are old enough to remember a Clint Eastwood movie, called “ANY WHICH WAY, BUT LOOSE”. The totally bizarre happened.
Imagine 30 odd HARLEY’S lined up, with their back tyres to the gutter, the riders, having a beer in the local inn. When all of a sudden, a Toyota pickup truck, rams into the first bike, setting off a domino affect on all the bikes! Luckily Doris and the KTM where parked a little distance away and didn’t sustain any damage.

Over 30 odd pissed off bikers surrounded the pickup, to find it had no driver, with the steering lock on and the gears in neutral! The vehicle was parked across the road and had simply moved down the slight incline under gravity. The police were called and a perplexed Thai cop, scratched his head and wondered how to write this one up!
Soon a middle aged plump Thai woman turned up, admitted to owning the vehicle, and then went into some via tribe about karma and Buddha!

As they say, the party goes on, so leaving the damaged bikes behind, the rest of the poker run continued.
The 3rd stop was a bar in the north of PATTAYA, unfortunately, Mark is not confident in Asian traffic; he lost the entire 30 odd HARLEY’S, and DORIS, and went back to our hotel.
Another HARLEY broke an accelerator cable and had to be towed back to the bar.
(I have ridden over 20,000k, through ASIA, and haven’t had this much drama!)

It was back to SALLEY’S bar and a free BBQ, the blokes were great, and after a few beers, it was time to head back to the hotel. Any bikers traveling through PATTAYA should give TIM and his mates a call at SALLEY’S bar, they are good value.

Two days in PATTAYA for any sane person is enough, so I decided to head for BANGKOK and stay at a mates place for a few days before flying down to KHO SAMUI on personal business.

As I left PATTAYA on the main highway, I seen one of the most disturbing sights I have witnessed on my travels so far. The traffic in front of me had come to a sudden crawl, and as I passed a policeman controlling the traffic jam, my eyes suddenly focused on a young girls body, just lying there, on the hot bitumen, arms and legs contorted. All she was wearing was shorts and tee shirt, no helmet or safety gear.
There was no effort to help her, or cover the body, it appears she was dead.
Her motorbike was 100m down the road, and a car was in the grass drainage ditch, between the traffic lanes.


Riding the 140 odd k’s to BANGKOK is pretty boring and dirty with all the diesel fumes from the trucks. Being aware that no motorcycles are allowed on the expressways, I struck to the ground only roads, not the overhead ones. Little did I know that both are classified as no go areas for bikes!

Flying along at 120k’s an hour, the absence of motorcycles was noticeable, until two traffic cops on 750cc Hondas stopped me in traffic and motioned me to a nearby café.

One of the cops, who could speak English, was really pissed off, and yelled and grunted at me, about riding on the expressway. I just put up my hands and smiled. Now remember, these guys are armed, so when they asked me were I was going, I showed my friends address to them, they immediately asked me to phone him, and as he spoke Thai, a protracted conversation commenced.

After the cop hung up, he said “you pay, how much money you have?” I quickly got my wallet out and produced 200b. Both cops immediately broke out in a fit of laughter, and said, “ok, now you go to police station.” Now the last thing I want is a lengthy problem with the local cops, so I said, “how much?”
“1000b” was the immediate replay, “Piss off! ,“ was mine. I then decided to phone my Thai mate again, maybe he could strike a better deal. 500b was their final acceptance.
They explained to me as the offence was very serious, not only had I entered the expressway, I traveled the full length of it at over the speed limit!

Ok, I gave in and handed over the 500b. Immediately the serious tone vanished, out came 3 bottles of beer and three plates of Thai food.
An hour later I was on my way, making sure to stay off the expressway, courteous of the local police. Now that’s what I call diplomacy!

Two weeks can go by very quickly, especially when I am staying in my mate Ken’s hotel on Lamai beach in Koh Samui.
I had to get back on the road, so it was a quick flight back to Bangkok and a 9 hour ride of 850 odd k’s back to Chiang Mai, along the boring 4 lane highway 1 and into the best bike riding area in Asia.

I eventually caught up with my two riding mates, Dave Unkovich (D1) and Dave Early (D2), who had just got back from an epic 6 week ride through LAO, so we had some wild stories to exchange. Remember, I left them in LAO when I carried on south through CAMBODIA.

D1’s Africa Twin had to be towed back to CHIANG MAI with some electrical gremlin, stopping him from riding his beloved stead. It didn’t stop D2 and I, so after a health check for the bikes from Joe’s Bike Shop, it was off on a day ride to the highest mountain in THAILAND. This is supposed to be a leisurely ride of around 200k’s, so after a hearty breakfast at the KAFE in CHIANG MAI it was the usual 10am kickoff (gentleman’s hours of course).

Well it did end up as a very casual ride as predicted, it was a great feeling to ride the twisty roads again in Northern Thailand. The dramas began as we were just about to leave the national park. Dave stopped at a dirt road, with a sign in Thai and English, pointing to a “cave”. Dave mentioned that he had often passed this track and wondered what was down there, so off we went, down this gravel track, that prior to our LAO adventure, we would have been very hesitant to take.
This time it wasn’t the bikes that give us dramas, it was the track up the mountain that we weren’t prepared for, straight up through the bamboo and into the bloody clouds, we just kept walking, straight up for about an hour, with no water, both of us were about to give up, with me constantly checking my pulse rate, this was really hard work.
Just as we were about to give up, we got to the top of the hill, then surprise, the sign pointed down the other side! So off we went following the near vertical decent, straight into an eerie cave with stalagmites and stalactites hanging from the huge cavern which was around 30m high and cut into the mountain for about 100m.

An exhausting walk back to the bikes, and a quick ride to the nearest café for a couple of litres of fluids, then head back to Chiang Mai, for a shower and a nap, talk about stupid ideas, from now on I will stick to riding my bike.


The 2nd DECEMBER, and a quick ride to MAI HONG SON.

The usual suspects take off to spend a few relaxing days riding through the mountains, near the Burmese border, we spent the night in Pai, with its recycled hippy community and headed for MHS the next morning. D1 and D2 were in front of me going around the twisties, we were just relaxing, enjoying the beautiful winter weather, when about 8k out of MHS, I rounded a bend, and in front of me lays D2’s, TDM Yamaha, lying under the front bumper of a truck.
Many thoughts go through your head during emergencies like this, is your mate ok? What if?... Then I see D1 in front of me, waving me down, I immediately stop, and expecting the worst, look up the road and to my amazement, standing next to the truck was D2, he just walked away, one lucky bastard.
His weekend ride now cancelled, D2 arranged a pickup truck to get his bike back to Chiang Mai and straight to Joes Garage. He caught a flight back to CM the next day, D1 and I just kept to our schedule and finished our ride, there wasn’t anything we could do.

The 10th DECEMBER, and CHIANG MAI BIKE WEEK.

I have been to many bike shows over the years in OZ, the usual Harley posers, the outlaw bikers, with all their intimidating black leather riding gear and colours, telling the world of their tribal tendencies.
Also I expected the usual entertainment, you know, wet tee shirts, strippers, heavy rock bands, etc.
WRONG! The Thais and resident expats certainly turned up in all there regalia, their custom bikes were over the top and a credit to their owners. They were also dressed in there mandatory denim and black leathers, with colours.
The difference is that their behavior was beyond reproach! Bloody gentlemen, no biker moles, just beautiful Thai girls, out for a bit of fun.
The entertainment was a cross between funky dancing and traditional Thai dancing, all performed by fully dressed beautiful young Thai girls, very tasteful, and the food was great.
Full credit goes to the organizers, police and major sponsors, I enjoyed a great weekend.
The Thai’s really do things differently than us foreigners!

I am flying back to OZ for XMAS to see my family and friends, planning to continue my journey next January, leaving Doris in the capable hands of the BMW Dealer in Chiang Mai.



Posted by Tom Forde at 11:01 PM GMT | Comments (0)
March 07, 2005 GMT
22-02-05 -INDONESIA - SUMATRA


Yesterday I put Doris on the SS MITRA UTAMA, a 60ft timber hulled tramp steamer that ply’s its trade between Penang in Malaysia to Belawan in Sumatra, Indonesia.
The forwarding agent in Penang was recommended by my fellow traveling companion from Laos, Simon, who is now in America with Suzy, his wife who are about to complete their around the world ride.
If you are ever in this part of the world get in touch with CAKRA FORWARDING AGENCY in Penang. 187 2nd Floor,Lebuh Pantai 10300. Ph. 2618419.

Getting back to Doris, it took about half an hour to get her cleared through customs and checked into the warehouse on the dock, the whole process on the Malaysian end was very painless for a total cost of $85Aust and about $3Aust for the wharfies, who looked after Doris, attaching the appropriate rope slings to her and hoisted her effortlessly onto the little tramp steamer that will get her to Indonesia, which should take about 19 hours.

Unfortunately, I can’t get on the little boat, I have to use the fast ferry from Penang, which takes around 6 hours, so it’s only the second time in nearly 12 months that I have traveled separately from my bike.
Penang is a funny place to stay, I have been here for 4 days and have had enough time to ride around the Island, go to a couple of beaches and have a look at the night life. My conclusion is, that unless you come here on a package deal, you know, luxury hotels, pools etc, and are oblivious how the island works, you will think you had a good relaxing holiday in a tropical paradise.
If you do it on a budget, and stay in a guest house, in the middle of China Town, you then understand the amount of influence the Chinese community has on Penang, they are like the worker ants in a giant nest, working and living on top of each other, with a constant din that goes on for 24 hours a day. Were the Indians are the money lenders and the Muslims, seem to blend in and are not as conspicuous, other than the noisy wailing from the mosques and of course, the veiled women.
I won’t be disappointed in leaving Penang, the place is so oppressively hot, much the same as Melaka, were I stayed on my way up. Although saying that, it must have been a hell of a place 100 years ago.

22-02-05
Well, you can’t say I wasn’t warned about the corruption on the docks in Indonesia, I caught the 9.30am Hydro Ferry to Belawan, Indonesia as planned, the ferry was chock a block full of Indo’s going back after a few days of shopping. The boat flew over the 270 odd k’s in 5 and half hours and got into Belawan at 1.30pm (Indo time).

The immigration is as chaotic as any Asian port, with all the Europeans singled out and made to pay the $25US for a 4 week visa. Total confusion arose, when 3 young American backpackers, 3 hippy Germans complete with a 5 year old daughter and myself were herded off to a little kiosk to be processed and given our clearances, the trouble was the yanks only had travelers cheques and the Germans only had loose change in a number of currencies and also refused to pay for their daughter, being the only seemingly normal person amongst this motley lot, I promptly paid the visa cost and was on my way.
Well, so I thought, as soon as you leave the comparative safety of the terminal, you are immediately confronted with a myriad of taxi and bus drivers, really in your face, touting their services, combined with the afternoon heat, it’s all you need when all I wanted was to find Doris and get on my way.
I was fronted by a young guy called SALOMO, he spoke excellent English and noticed that I was carrying a motorcycle helmet, and enquired if I needed some help in getting my bike, as he had helped Simon and Susie a few months before. These blokes are pretty sharp.
So I engaged him to find Doris, and then get me to the Freight Forwarders, this he did, in his beat up old mini bus, I paid the small sum of $3Aust to the Freight Forwarder, who happened to go to school with SALOMO, then it was off to the wharf to get Doris.
So far so good, then the inevitable shit happened, the foreman demanded close to $30Aust to release my bike, I first laughed at him, and told him he can do better than that! (After all, the Malaysian wharfies only asked for $3Aust) After a deliberation with his wharf mates, he came back with his counter offer, exactly the same as the first! This time I have an audience of about 10 hardened little Indo buggers, so I give in and paid him.
As soon as I kicked over Doris, a shit load of water spewed out of the exhaust, shit I have blown a head gasket, then I looked at the dash, my $2 compass that has survived since leaving Oz, was broken. That’s it I thought, I turned off Doris, dismounted and approached the ogling throng in a way only a half crazed Irishman can do! Were is the foreman? I demanded, he turned around in the crowd just as I screamed insults at him, and thrust the broken compass in to his hand, immediately demanding compensation!
It did the trick, he new he ripped me off, so giving me back $5Aust making him look good in front of his men.
This little altercation over, I asked SALOMO to find me a hotel and decided to have a good nights sleep and leave the morning for Lake Tobo. Hopefully someone was having a little joke with Doris, and put water down the exhaust, she is running ok at the moment.
You can contact SALOMO on 08126052651, Port Belawan, good bloke, and only charged me $10Aust for the whole afternoons work.
Next morning, I crossed my fingers, checked Doris’s oil and fired her up, no signs of water, no condensation. Great let’s get out of here!
Straight out onto the 4 lane highway, and towards MEDAN, until I got to the toll gates! Were I was ordered to turn around and told in uncertain terms by a policeman, “no motorcycles allowed on toll way”. I then suffered the undignified process of joining the great unwashed crowd of Indonesian back road traffic on a road from hell that on the toll way would have taken 20 minutes; I was subjected to an hour and a half of the worst road and traffic conditions so far on my travels.
Finally I fought my way on to highway 25, the mighty Trans Sumatra, no more than a 2 lane bitumen country road, I filled up with fuel and I was off on a reasonable ride to Lake Toba.

What a great tourist destination, the 2nd largest fresh water lake in the world, nestled a 1000m in the mountains. There is an island in the middle called SAMOSIR ISLAND, you get there on a vehicle ferry and takes an hour. I stayed in a great guest house on a peninsula called TUK TUK. I spent 2 days here, circumnavigating the island and just checking out the natural sites it had to offer. Thougherly recommended.
Alas, I have to keep going south, so I caught the 10am ferry to the mainland at a small resort town called PRAPAT, which has a bank with an ATM, but no money!
Bugger!
Straight down the goat track they call a highway for about 200k’s at a moving average of 30k/h, not much fun, considering the vagaries of Indo traffic, lots of mini vans in dilapidated condition going very slow and stopping anywhere they wished, and even slower Vespa’s with sidecars, used as taxi’s, combine this with the heavy, smelly diesel trucks on some of the worst roads in Asia, and you have the recipe for a very uncomfortable ride indeed.
I arrived in a small dirty backwater town called PADANGSIDIMPUAN around 4 in the afternoon, and looked for a decent hotel, this would have to be up there with the dirtiest towns I have stayed at in all of Asia so far, and the accommodation was no better. But I needed a room and a shower, at around $12A it was a total rip off, there was a thunderstorm approaching so I really needed to get Doris undercover before the downpour.
The bathroom consisted of a squat toilet, a leaky concrete water container with a bucket that you used for a multitude of uses, including your shower, cleaning your teeth and flushing the toilet. Typical backpacker crap, but at $12A? At least the bed was clean.

An early morning start and I set a course for BUKITTINGI, about 290k south. The road winds through the mountain range and presents a beautiful landscape, sometimes rivaling North Thailand, only diminished by the lack of rules that constitute driving in Indo. Therefore your concentration level is way up there; especially through the villages which are dotted along the road, basically they look all the same and are just dirty, smelly road blocks with the inevitable market centrally located with gridlock consequences. Good for playing chicken with the slow moving trucks.
You also have to watch the pedestrians, as the road is only 6m wide and the houses are around 6m away from the edge, you occasionally get a local who is not really concentrating on what he is doing, and walks straight on to the road, unfortunately the guy I encountered had a 6m piece of bamboo balanced on his shoulder, with 3m sticking out across my lane of road, fortunately the other lane was empty.
I even rode across the Equator without realizing it, about 50k north of BUKITTINGI.

I made good time on the twisty road and arrived in BUKITTINGI in around 5 hours; this town has a real lay back feel to it. I stopped off at a café in the centre of town, ordered a coffee and immediately started up a conversation with a Dutch guy who comes here twice a year and stays at a lovely little lake called MANINJAU. John recommended a hotel close to town for $10A a night, what a difference to the previous night! Total security for Doris, I locked her up in the hotels foyer, and really friendly staff too.

Because most of Indonesia is Muslim, I thought I was ready for the usual morning and afternoon indoctrination that this faith loves to indulge in, Oh no; I was totally off by about 100% the noisy barrage of intruding noise begins at 4am, lasts for 2 hours and is totally intrusive to these sometime Christian ears! It begins again at 6.00pm with the most monotonous drone I have ever endured; at least I could find a bar for a bit of reprieve. I personally don’t know how anybody gets things done in this environment, perhaps they don’t, the guys just sit around, drinking tea or whatever and the women seem to do most of the little work that appears to happen. With this observation, I don’t think the West has anything to worry about, especially productivity!
The next day John invited me along to have a look at his Chinese mates bikes, so off we went for a short ride to Johan’s place, (funny name for a china man) anyhow Johan lives in the typical 2 story buildings you see all around Asia, the ones with a shop with a roller door down stairs and a flat above. Arriving at the said abode, Johan greets us with a huge grin from ear to ear and opens his garage door.
To anyone who is into bikes it was Aladdin’s cave! Sitting along one wall was 3, 250cc BMW’s ranging from 1953 to 1958, with the later dressed with a home made sidecar, moving further along you come across a 1938 500cc NORTON, then a 1933 MATCHLESS. Christ! They are all in mint condition.

Johan was going for his usual Sunday ride, and of course he asked us along. The big surprise was he asked us to take all the BMW’s for a ride because they haven’t been used for a while! Of course we said yes, so off we went, following Johan in the BMW outfit on a cook’s tour of BUKITTINGGI.

The next morning I a woke to the usual drone from the mosque, it was raining lightly, so I packed up Doris, put on the wet weather gear for the first time in 4 months, and headed for PADANG on the west coast.
The 90k ride goes through some great mountain scenery and often crosses a defunct railway that the Dutch build in the colonial days. PADANG is a sea port and quite busy, as Indonesia is devoid of Road signs, I had to rely on my GPS to find the coastal road that will eventually get me to Southern Sumatra.
The road is only a secondary road, about 6 metres wide but good bitumen. Even a cruiser could manage this road. It hugs the coastline for about 50k then heads inland through the mountains, its twisty and pretty challenging, with the usual obstacles you expect in Asia, except with the worst drivers on the Planet!
This road rivals some of the scenic routes I have taken in Northern Thailand and Laos, however I could only manage a moving average of around 50k/h. so the 400k run to a little village called MUKO MUKO took me 8 hours.
I found a little hotel called the WISMA TERATAI, its run by a family of very nice people, who asked me to have dinner with them and generally made me feel at home. They were totally fascinated with my digital camera, they never seen one before!
Ask for Ian, he’s the father of the clan and a great host.
I was planning to head south to BENGKULU, an old British colonial fort, about 250k’s south and spend a few days there, Ian reckons I would be better going past there and staying overnight at MANA, which is on a new coastal road just finished in the last 2 years, which doesn’t show up on my map, so we will see what eventuates tomorrow.

1-03-05

I awoke at around 5.30am not to the screams of Islam but Mother Nature’s answer to whatever man can muster, the loudest thunder clap I have ever heard, it must be something to do with the tropics because it literally got me out of a very tempestuous dream, and I had ear plugs in! Anyway, Ian offered breakfast, so not wanting to offend mine host, I sat down to a fried egg and some rice washed down with strong black tea, Ian ate with his right hand fingers and I with good old spoon and fork. They use there left hand to wipe their bottoms you know.
I followed the storm south for the next 410k, on a road that you could only describe as having as many curves as a Bangkok Bar Girl. It makes the Mai Hong Son Loop seem like a ride to the corner shop. The only thing good about this road is that an Aussy construction company, called Transfield built all the new bridges across the rivers. It’s obvious the Indo’s built the approaches, because they are totally stuffed, and usually have a dirty big pothole waiting for you as you exit the bridge.

So far I have done over 800k of twisty, sometimes diabolical coastal country road, without a single straight more than a kilometre long and I have still about 400k to go.
I eventually got to a little town called MANNA, found a guest house in the centre of town for $7A, complete with the usual Indo bathroom, and right now I am trying to dry all my riding gear out, because I got pissed on for the last 120k, at an average speed of only 50k/h its bloody hard work.
So far the road kill stands at 2 chickens that I decapitated with my front wheel, a small parrot that tee boned my helmet, one small goat that I run over with my rear tyre and a large pig, that someone else hit, thank Christ it wasn’t me.

The next morning I am about 420k to my last destination, a called BANDAR LAMPUNG, it is the gateway to Sumatra, if you are coming from Java with an airport and cargo port, you get the vehicle ferries from BAKAUHEN, about 90k’s south.
The road hugs the India Ocean for most of its 320k south, then heads inland through a mountainous national park.
With longer straights and fewer villages, you can average a much higher average speed, sometimes the road meanders inland to avoid mountains etc, and again the scenery is awesome.
I was really enjoying this section of the ride, only about 160k to go; it’s only 11.30am and as a bonus, very little traffic. I was at that time glad I took Ian’s advice.

You know the feeling, when you turn a corner on a great ride and all you can see is gridlock traffic. You come to an abrupt stop, then wait a moment, get your senses in order, then consider your options, turn around or deal with the problem at hand and try and forge ahead.
Well I had the same problem, except in front of me, wandering up a mountain at the beginning of a nation park is the most disgusting quagmire of brown oozing mud that I have ever seen, churned up by the bogged trucks and slow wading motorcycles. The mud was about 12” deep, with trucks in both directions trying vainly to navigate the sticky slush, this horrible cake mix was about 100m long, with the only vehicles getting through were the little Asian motorcycles, these little buggers will go anywhere.
It was now midday and the sun was overhead and the temperature was rapidly on the increase.
What to do? I thought, just then a local bloke waded over to me and beckoned me through a recent trough gouged out by a 4WD.
Stuff it, I gunned DORIS, through the ruts, she was up to the task, until the ruts got too deep on each side and my bloody aluminum boxes were dragging through the mud, acting like great bloody brakes! I come to an immediate stop, about 20m from the end of crap. I just slung my leg off the bike and left DORIS wedged in the goo.
A couple of Indo truckies came to the rescue and gave me a push for the last 20m.

You beauty, out of the shit and on my way again, still climbing on a rutted out gravel road, I turned another corner about 1k from the last, and in front of me was an even bigger mud hole than the last, and this time only pedestrians and small bikes were getting through.
I decided to strip Doris down, and wade her through, and then walk back through the foot thick mud to get my gear, this plan worked, just keeping DORIS in first and using her good amount of torque from the big 650cc single, she just plowed her way through.
Then I walked back the 200m or so to get my luggage, this took 2 trips and I was totally stuffed when I finally loaded up Doris, and continued heading southeast.

Disaster again hit as I navigated this road I dubbed SATINS DUNNY, I come to yet another quagmire, the third so far, I was so tired, I just gave DORIS a gut full in first and hoped for the best. Half way though, the back tyre lost traction, and with the weight of my boxes, gravity took over and DORIS, doing her best imitation of a water buffalo having a mud bath, fell on her side.
I was total stuffed, it takes 2 people to pick up this bike fully loaded, so I just sat there, covered from head to foot in shitty Sumatran mud, waiting for an Indo bike rider to give me a hand. Then suddenly there was a thunder clap and the heavens opened up with buckets of tropical rain rapidly filling all the ruts in the sticky mud, then turning into little streams running rapidly down the mountain.

At this point I thought I could be sleeping in the jungle for the night. Throwing the bike cover over DORIS, I just sat under a nearby tree, waiting for the rain to stop and hoping the Cavalry arrives before dark. I decided to walk back down the road to see if I could fetch some help, I passed a sign with a picture of a tiger on it and something written in Indonesian, I later found out it said “do not stop on road at night, tigers about”.
The Cavalry eventually arrived in the form of 2 young Indo’s on bikes, they gave me a hand to get DORIS upright and soon I was on my way, covered in all sorts of crap towards BANDAR LAMPUNG.

Doris’s management system was handing the situation a lot better than mine, I was totally exhausted, I arrived at the first shit hole at 11.30am and it was now 3.30pm, a full 4 hours to go 30k, and I had another 130k or so to my destination, on a bike that was now on reserve and seriously needing a hose down before hitting any bitumen at speed.
Ah ha! A river crossing with kids washing their bikes, there must have been about 40 of them lining the shallow pebbly shoreline.
I did a youie and headed under the bridge to the now screaming and astonished teenagers, most of them totally naked, washing their little Asian bikes in the river.
I just rode DORIS, straight into the river until the water was about a foot deep, put the side stand down and jumped straight into the water, I just laid there, fully dressed in all my riding gear, helmet, jacket, boots everything was soaked, but I didn’t care, I just lay there watching the mud gradually dissolve and depart from my very tired body.
I was then confronted by about 20 young teenagers, many naked, offering to wash my bike… for a price.
A half an hour passed and I was still laying in the water, however I did manage to get my helmet and jacket off, and the kids were well on the way to getting the heavy mud off DORIS. I exchanged about $2A with the kids and took off toward my destination for the night, a very soggy 130k run, I eventually had to refuel at the typical corner shop establishments that are dotted along the road, as there are very few petrol stations.

I booked into an excellent hotel for $22A a night, put a cover over the bike, had a shower, and hit the sheets totally exhausted. Without a doubt, SUMATRA’s roads are the worst I have encountered so far, if the Aussies hadn’t built the bridges over the many rivers that this coastal road traverses, it would take you weeks to get down the coast.
I have decided to spend 2 days of recovery in BANDAR LAMPUNG and give DORIS a thorough going over before catching the ferry over to JAVA.
I have done a total of 2630k’s in SUMATRA, at a moving average of 55k/h.

VERDICT: Real potential for experienced adventure motorcycle riding, on REAL trail bikes only! A minimum of local language advised, the people are usually friendly, but reserved and shy, the food is so so (not close to Thai food). And everything is cheep. Shit I wish I was 20 years younger!


Posted by Tom Forde at 06:09 AM GMT | Comments (0)
March 28, 2005 GMT
4-03-05 - JAVA to EAST TIMOR


After giving Doris a thorough check over after the horror ride of a few days before, it was a high speed run from my hotel room in BADAR LAMPUNG to the vehicle ferry terminal at BAKAUHENI on the southern tip of SUMATRA.
The guide book I have with me describes the road as a scenic drive through the countryside; I think someone has been eating magic mushrooms! Hey, you can’t see anything for the bloody diesel fumes, the whole place is so polluted, you are screaming for oxygen every time you manage to get clear of the ponderous lorry convoys and the kamikaze bus drivers.
I managed to do the 90 odd k’s in an hour and a half, just making the 9.00am ferry that would take me to MERAK in EAST JAVA. At the speed I was traveling I knew I was taking a considerable risk, due to the traffic conditions, but no one at the hotel knew about the current ferry timetable, the only info I had was it leaves every 2 hours, is that a 9.00am or a 10.00am departing time? No one new, so I gambled for 9.00am, shit it’s the first time I’ve won anything since my kids went to primary school.
The one accident I saw on the road was a fully loaded bus, just off the ferry, head butting a house on the left side of the road, the front of the house was destroyed, and there appeared to be the remains of a smaller bus upside down on the other side of the road, no ambulances, no police, so it must of just happened.

The ferry crossing took exactly 2 hours as advertised, and so far I was pretty impressed with the transport system in Java, especially at a grand cost of $5A. That was about to change! I could even see Krakatoa on my starboard side, I was really impressed!
We disembarked at 11.00am and I was now on JAVA soil after over a week in SUMATRA, I wonder what the differences will be?
Almost immediately the traffic was moving a bit faster, great! There is more traffic, not great! And there is another bloody toll road, no bikes! Shit I have to flow along with the great unwashed again on roads that the Indonesian government deem roadworthy. It began almost immediately, the sight of little green and sometimes blue, minibuses all over the place, just stopping at will, with no indicators, just nothing, not even brake lights, holding the whole of Indo’s highway system to ransom for a R1000.00 fare, (about 10c US) when they stop to pick up customers, the whole highway system stops.
This was the driving conditions I was faced with, sure the road conditions were better, but JAVA has at least 4 times the traffic of SUMATRA. I had my first night penciled in at a place called BOGOR, which the guide books describe as a sleepy mountain town. It’s obvious who ever wrote this, traveled by train and not road, the town itself is a dirty little country town, with the only redeeming factor of being famous for its botanical garden. I did however find a great little guest house run by 2 crazy sisters who are half Arab and speak very excitable English, they even put Doris in their garage for safety and arranged a massage from a little Indo lady who resembled an EWOK! Give the WISMA GUEST HOUSE a look, good value.
Saturday morning, 8.30 am, and it was off East to my next designation on the south coast of JAVA to a surf spot called PANGANDARAN, it was a good days ride of around 350k, I estimated about an 8 hour ride. I really underestimated the average road speed I could maintain, the traffic congestion is the worst I have ever experienced, the ultimate gridlock, nowhere to go, and all because of those little green and blue bloody taxi buses. I was very concerned at the wear on DORIS’s clutch by the time I had traveled 85k’s I had been in the saddle for 4 hours, there was no way I was going to get to my destination at this speed.
Just as I was getting used to navigating my way around the taxi buses, I become gradually aware of another menace on the road, the local ROSSI look alike imitators, on anything from a clapped out Vespa to a piped 125cc Super Racer, these guys will buzz you at a very close range, on 1 occasion, I kicked a guy over to my left and behind a truck that I was about to pass (he tried to pass between me and the truck).
Another rider then come out on my left, braked and run into my left Pannier, then pissed off, I caught up with him, pulled along side and give him a thick ear for his trouble, the last incident occurred when I was in such a shit fight of a traffic jam, that I seen a gap and gunned it, some guy coming from the opposite direction, tried to cut across me, he braked, and my right pannier ripped off his front mud guard. I just kept going. Then as I was negotiating the same traffic jam, I miss judged the gap size that I could fit through, and took out a green minibus’s left taillight with my pannier, revenge is sweet!
Some guy approached me at a service station, while I was filling up, he spoke good English, and we kicked off a conversation, you know the type, were are you from, what’s your name, how much does the bike cost, were are you going, I am bloody fed up with this shit, especially in Indo, they are not as polite as the Thais. Then he come up with the ultimate question, what do you think of Indonesia, well, sometimes I am not known for my tact, I give him the usual response, friendly people, good tourist potential, and the worst fu…ng drivers in all of Asia, driving on the worst managed fu…ng road system in the world!
His response was calm and swift, “you should come here on Ramadan, its quiet then! No way am I going to organize my holidays around some religion. Bloody Muslims!
By 4.00pm I had only reached a town called TASIKMALAYA, about 130k short of my initial destination, it began to rain heavily, so I gave in, found a hotel and decided to leave for the ocean tomorrow. I can’t even relax with a couple of whiskies! Bloody Muslims!
This is the worst fuel consumption I have achieved since leaving Australia almost a year ago, and the second worst moving average, only bettered by CAMBODIA.
The hotel was surprisingly comfortable, and doesn’t get a rate in the travel guide, so the buggers haven’t stopped everywhere! Because Java is such a large Island and the few tourist spots of interest are few and far between, I had to average nearly 400k a day on the shit road they call highway 25, next stop was YOGYAKARTA, funny name for a town, I thought. Well, it’s within reach, so at a blistering average of about 60k/hr, I got to YOGY at around 4.00pm, you guessed it, afternoon rain again, I found the local railway station, and using it as a landmark, I tried to get myself orientated, and find myself some lodgings, GPS compass set, map out, I was totally involved in the science of navigation, when a young bloke on a bike turns up and says, “you need a hotel?” I said “yep”, well follow me!
Off I went following a little 80cc Yammy through peak hour traffic, give me a break! We eventually got to a little hotel, right in the middle of the arty part of town, (YOGY is the rough equivalent to CHIANG MAI..Indo style) the young bloke done me a favour, the management spoke English, and the place even had a pool, all for $10US a night, including breakfast, what was the catch? It was next to a bloody Mosque, 4.00am screaming again! Except for the early morning human rooster calls, I could spend a bit of time in YOGY, unfortunately I could only afford 2 days, because of the restrictive 30 day visa, so once again it was off down the mighty Highway 25 to a recommended stop over on the way to BALI, called MT. BRONO, an active volcano approximately 3000m up in sky. Shit there is a lot of activity under the ground in Indo! I made the turnoff in around 6.5hrs, with a surprisingly decent ride, except for the usual Carbon monoxide poisoning from the pollution belching out of the trucks and busses, I only got run off the road twice.
The road up the mountain was absolutely fabulous, is this Java? Or am I in some 18th century European country, this would have to be the most scenic part of Indo I have seen so far, its right up there with Lake Toba in SUMATRA. You just keep climbing, 3000m in around 18k, small European type villages are placed delicately along this beautiful little road, the whole landscape is totally rural, with most of the villagers working the land, much the same way that they have done for centuries.
They have a different look about them too, they are short and stocky, much the same as the Moungs in LAOS, except the young woman have the most beautiful complexion and faces I have seen so far in Indo.
Then you start to smell the Sulphur, it begins to get stronger as I ride even higher into the clouds, even Doris sounds different, gasping for more oxygen as we rise. Then you see it, you are confronted with a scene straight out of the PLANET OF THE APES, a huge open plain, about 500m deep with an active volcano right in the middle, letting off a ominous plume of white steam. Boy, this looks bloody dangerous! It was now 4.30pm, so I settled into a great lodge, built right on the shear cliff overlooking MT BRONO.
The next morning I wanted to get to BALI, about 180k away, so up at 6.00am, with an outside temperature of 12 degrees C , was off down the track on Doris to confront this huge beast of nature. You can actually ride along the black sandy base, most tourists take a package ride in a 4wd bus, but my bike will do nicely, good for a few photos too.
You have to park in a designated area, where all the hawkers converge on you selling the usual tee shirts and crap. Its about a kilometre walk to the summit, or you can hire a horse, what the heck, I hate horses, they are one animal on the planet that I have a healthy mistrust for. Anyway I’m short on time, if I want to make the ferry to BALI, so up I go into the saddle, and “Thomas of Java” is immediately created! The young horse handler walks in front of you guiding his trusty sure footed stead up the narrow path, leading to the summit, sore on the bum, but saves the legs. He waits for you to come down, and then gets me back to Doris in no time, I was even starting to enjoy my little equestrian adventure, when my little horse started to pig root another of his kind, just as I was dismounting. Give me a motor bike anytime!
Saying goodbye to the Mountain, it was off on the final section of highway in Java, thank God! The same usual shit confronts you as you make the Easterly turn onto highway 25. I was making good time, then around 25k from the ferry wharf at Ketapang, the heavens opened up and I got totally drenched in buckets, right through the last bit of tropical rain forest in East Java, the foliage was so dense, that the GPS couldn’t get satellite cover. No sooner had it began, it stopped, the sun came out, the ferry was about to depart, and I could see BALI beckoning, about 1 hour across the narrow straight.
Total kilometers traveled: 1600k at an average moving speed of 46k/hr. with a top speed of 116k/h.

BALI, THE FABLED ISLAND OF AUSSY PARTY ANIMALS.

The road down to DENPASAR has the best surface, so far in Indo, its about 120k’s to the beach resort towns of KUTA and LEGIAN, so I settled back and decided to cruise into town at a very leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery. The first thing I found in BALI, the motorcycle riders are even more ferocious than in Java, if you sit on a leisurely pace, your space is immediately invaded with every description of little bike you can imagine, even the young girls were giving me a bad time! Stuff this, back to highway mode, knock back a cog, GIVE ME WARP SPEED SCOTTY! Leaving the poor little buggers in Doris’s exhaust note, I had to ride offensively all the way to Legion Beach, which, meant reasonably hard riding, with your finger constantly on the horn. Consequently by the time I got a cheap hotel on the beach at Legion, poor Doris had blown a fuse!
I can really pick the time of year to travel, BALI is now celebrating its Hindu New Year, and you would think that would be a time for a good party, especially here in Party Animal Town. Not the Balinese, they close the whole Island down and lock all the tourists in their hotels for 24 hours! Give me Thailand any day, and I complained about Thailand’s 1.00am Bar Curfew! Shit I haven’t had a whiskey and soda since arriving in this godforsaken country!
KUTA and LEGION are really just a cheap holiday for Aussies and Euros, it reminds me of a rundown Surfers Paradise, it’s obviously not the real BALI, but I can’t really comment on that matter, because I’m locked up in my bloody Hotel!
Since getting out of BALI, INDONESIA has revealed a few surprises to say the least, first of all, I thought riding for a 100k’s or so through the BALI landscape would reveal some of her hidden charms, not so, maybe I was on the wrong side of the island, who knows, anyway Bali just wasn’t my cup of tea. So it was off to the ferry wharf at Padangbai, to catch the 10.30am ferry to LOMBOK.
You should never assume things will go your way in Asia, I rode for 2 hours on the congested roads to Padangbai, through the usual kamikaze bike riders, that I have become used to in Indo, only to be confronted by a crowd of around 100 bike riders milling around the ticket box trying to get their tickets to Lombok, it was only 9.45am, plenty of time to get a ticket in a civilized way. No, not in Indo, push, shove, elbows flying in every direction, I thought to myself, “I’ll just be patient and wait for the crowd to die down.”
That worked fine, at precisely 10.15am I paid my money to the uniformed ticket man. “One motorcycle and one person to Lombok please”, he replied “24,000R”, with my ticket between my teeth, I ride over the short distance to the embarkation ramp, to join the hundreds of other bikes and pedestrians with an assortment of farm animals, chickens hanging by their tied legs, piglets in string bags, perched over some old ladies shoulder, you know, the usual sights that you become accustomed in Asia, plus the most tenacious hawkers this side of Vietnam, selling anything from cigarettes to DVD’s.
We waited patiently for the ferry to disembark all of its cargo, then waited and waited….
Then a little guy comes up to me and says “one hour late!” So we waited and waited…then finally it was time to leave, you beauty, I rode up to the armed guard who was checking the tickets and he immediately asks, “Motorcycle bigger than 100cc? You must pay double,” pointing to the ticket box, so back to the ticket box I ride, the one I visited 2 hours earlier. If you think I was getting pissed off by this time you weren’t wrong.
We finally got on our way to Lombok, with smooth seas and some interesting scenery, except there was no were to sit, the ferry was chock a block full, people were sleeping in the walkways on makeshift ground sheets of newspapers, curled up with children, farm animals and numerous domestic pets, It was a long 4 hours.
The ferry arrived in Lombok amidst a heavy tropical storm, great, it’s 4.00pm and I have to find a bloody guest house on some god forsaken island that I have never been too.
Oh well, let’s get on with it, following my GPS in the general direction were I knew Senggigi Beach was, I finally passed a few resorts, then I recognized the sign, “Batu Bolong Guest House”, this establishment was recommended by an Aussy bloke from Darwin who I had met previously a few nights before in Bali, he reckoned his mate owned it, and would look after me.
I did a youy, drove through the entry,( remember it was raining and I was soaked to the skin), I asked to see a room, and before you know it, I was sitting on the first floor balcony of my own waterfront bungalow, overlooking the ocean for $20A. I was a little puzzled with the info that my drinking buddy from Darwin gave me, so I asked the reception who owned the Guest House, it was definitely not an Aussy, but she did inform me of an Aussy bar next door.
Ah ha! That night as I watched the ever increasing lights of the fishing boats gather on the horizon, loud music accosted my ears from next door at the Aussy Bar, it was INXS! Shit I haven’t heard them since that Michael fellow docked himself. “I have to go an investigate this,” I said to myself, there is life in Lombok after all. Bloody oath there was, I approached the entry to the bar with a little trepidation, but once I turned the corner I was confronted by a brightly lit bar, decorated in a way only an Aussy could do. Sitting around it were about 10 of the roughest and course bastards you would want to meet, all speaking a language I could understand.
The first greeting was one that’s universal down under, “how ya goin ya ol bastard”, I was in friendly territory for the first time in 6 weeks. The night just got noisier and noisier, everyone passing on insults after insults and consuming as much alcahol as my mates back home. In the group was the owner, an Aussy bloke in his late fifties, who has been married more times than you can count, and has had countless businesses in Asia, from Trucks in East Timor to bars in Thailand. His offsider, Mick, was a big Yank from New Gearsy, whose father was an Irish seaman and his mother was a Scot, he run away from the draft in 1969, joined a biker gang and eventually ended up in the South Seas. The rest of the motley crew consisted of construction workers from Perth and fishermen from Darwin, including my new found mate from Darwin, Beachy, who had just arrived that afternoon.
It was the first time since Thailand, 6 weeks previous, that I had had a big night, so what a bunch of Aussy piss heads to get mixed up with.
The booze was running freely and as the night progressed, someone mentioned that the local disco was raging, so off we went, we were the oldest there, but it didn’t matter, the local women just wanted to dance and play pool with us, against a backdrop of loud Indo rock and roll, dim lights and gyrating bodies. The place closed at 2.00am, and since my bungalow was next door to the bar, I called in for a night cap, to my surprise, so did most of the crew, just listing to louder and louder music and drinking more booze, except the owner had gathered about 6 young local girls, I didn’t ask, I just paid my bar bill and politely said good night, after all it was an 8.00am start for SUMBAWA, the same morning.

16-03-05
It was 6.30am, and feeling a bit seedy, I ate a quick breakfast, packed up Doris and headed for the ferry terminal that would take me to SUMBAWA. I arrived there just in time for the 10.00am ferry and got to Poto Tano, 2 hours later. I think I will return to LOMBOK, next time with my 8ft surfboard!
I had a full tank of juice, so following my map; I headed down the mighty Trans Sumbawa highway. The road meanders around the coast, hugging the extinct volcano’s and mountain peaks that make up this comparatively dry island. It’s almost 400k from west to east, were you end up at a little fishing village called Sape. This is where you catch the ferry to FLORES. I didn’t expect to do it in one shot, considering my previous experiences with Indo’s roads and traffic, but surprise, surprise, the western road was in good order and made good time, then through the centre of the island, were you ascend into the mountains through twisty roads and endless villages, with the road gradually deteriating as you descend through the mountains towards the east coast.
It was 3.00pm and I had 180k to go, “bugger it”, I thought, lets give it ago, I found myself gradually rising into the mountains, with some spectacular scenery, with the road getting ever increasing steeper and twistier, shades of the roads in North Thailand! It began to rain lightly, and with fading light I rode into Sape, and by 7.00pm in complete darkness I arrived at the ferry wharf, only to find out that the ferry to FLORES doesn’t leave till 4.00pm the next day and takes 8 hours! I found a Losmen next to the wharf, for $8A and rested, let’s see what tomorrow brings.


17/03/05 – Saint Patrick’s Day
I find myself writing this Diary update at 7.00am in an Indonesian Restaurant, having a breakfast of fried eggs, rice, orange juice and black tea. I am waiting for the ferry to the island of Flores, in a little fishing village on the Island of SUMBAWA, called Sape.
What a place to spend this holy of holier days! Miles away from anywhere, and I am the only white bloke within 500k’s. The guy that owns the Losmen, were I am staying, suggested that I wile away the time while waiting for the ferry on a deserted island. He arranged a boat to drop me off and later pick me up, so supplied with enough water, off I sailed in an old noisy timber boat. Promising to pick me up before 2.00pm, so here I am accompanied by a flock of goats and some very inquisitive monkeys, which are eyeing me off suspiciously from a distance, preferring the shade of the rocks and trees, I wonder if they will knock off my gear if I go for a swim!
It’s going to be a long day, the ferry doesn’t leave to 4.00pm then it’s an 8 hour voyage to Labuhanbajo on the west coast of FLORES. At 3.00pm I waited patiently at the ferry ticket office to purchase my ticket, no surprises, Doris is over 100cc, I have to pay double, then the surprise, the ferry is delayed, its having some repairs done.
A walk out to the wharf reveals the familiar shower of sparks and brilliant light from an oxy welder, they are patching up the front access ramp. Meanwhile all the pedestrian traffic embark, so presumably they get the best seats, the rest of us finally get aboard at 9.30pm, only 5 and a half hours late!

18-03-05
The ferry finally docked after a horrendous 8 hour voyage to Labuanbajo, on the west coast of FLORES, it was a night voyage, so I missed seeing the fabled Islands of Komodo, oh well next time.
With some sleep degradation and an empty stomach, I jumped on Doris and headed for the east coast, quite aware that my 30 day via was running out and it was still a long way to go to Dili in East Timor. I had to get to ENDE, a port on the South side of the island and where the ferry leaves for KUPANG in TIMOR, and its about 300k non stop.
Within about 10k of my journey, I was fully aware of my average traveling speed, the road was rapidly rising and twisting through magnificent rain forests and towering volcano’s, that’s all very well if you have the time, but I haven’t, bloody visa.
I was averaging 40k an hour, so I elected to stay the night in a mountain town called Bajawa, 15OO metres up in the cool air. Nice place to stop off, cheap hotel, except you get an early morning wake up call from that human Moslem rooster again, shit don’t those buggers sleep!
I made my way through the mountains the next morning, and arriving at ENDE, (an appropriate name for a town) I again try and locate the ferry wharf. I finally find the place, why do the Indo’s make all their roads in towns, one way! To confuse foreigners, that’s why. Anyway, after a number of conflicting stories about ferry times, different towns, you name it, these Indo’s will tell you anything, they are just bloody annoying sticky beaks, volunteering all types of bullshit, perhaps just to make them feel good, I don’t know. Anyway I found a shipping company and the guy, who spoke good English, informed me the ferry leaves on Monday at 10.00am. Shit a 3 day wait in downtown Ende!

21-03-05
It’s funny how you meet some characters on your travels, I was having diner at the “SAFARI HOTEL”, (a reasonable standard by Indo standards, at $8A a night, I wasn’t complaining,) when a immaculately clean 1150cc BMW GS adventurer turned up with a spotlessly clothed rider aboard, I immediately thought he must be a rich local, with the obvious omission of any luggage. The guy was talking to the hotel owner in Indo, he eventually approached me, while I was in the restaurant having diner, after spotting my bike.
It turns out he is a rich Indo from JAKARTA, who is on 14 day “ADVENTURE RIDE” from JAKARTA to FLORES, with 6 of his also rich mates, all on $20,000A bikes, now don’t get me wrong, anybody who does that ride and back in 14 days needs a medal, until he informs me, he has also a full backup team of 2 pickup trucks, one with a qualified mechanic and heaps of spares and also the forward vehicle, which contains all their luggage and runs in front of the group with flashing lights and police type sirens! After comparing me and a fully loaded DORIS, the guy looked at me in a very puzzled way, I think he and his mates wanted to impress me, I said goodbye and headed for the ferry to TIMOR. Rich Asians have a very peculiar idea on what riding motorcycles are all about.
As there is no vehicle ramp to access the ferry at ENDE, your bike needs to be manhandled over the gang plank and through a narrow opening in the side of the ship. You have to pay the wharfies an exorbitant amount on top of your ferry ticket for the privilege. Just as I was sorting out DORIS, and bolting on my panniers, (she wouldn’t fit through the hole fully loaded) 2 more trail bikes arrived, get carried through the ships side opening with relative ease, and end up beside me, and at once complaining to me about the cost of the wharfies, as I set the precedent, little did I know that I paid double the going price of 50,000R,
The 2 guys are French, and have lived in BALI for the past 12 years or so, they make a living traveling through Indonesia on their 125cc trail bikes, buying and selling artifacts to dealers in France. They have even been to BURMA, dealing in precious stones, and around 2 years ago they bumped into my old mate David Unkovich on a trip to Northern LAOS. Both their bikes had a lot of functional, but primitive homemade improvisions, designed to ride as lightly loaded as possible, it made DORIS look like a bloody pack mule. As they say each to their own. True adventures, they were off to the East TIMOR border in the search for some primitive tribal artifacts. Talk about a contrast with the group I met earlier. Their age, 40 and 54, beats a mortgage and an office job.
The voyage to KUPANG in TIMOR took 15 hours, the ferry arrived in the right time, but we left 3 hours late, at 3.30am we disembarked and I immediately headed for the Indonesian Border, as my 30 day visa was on its last day. DILI was 430k away, with no sleep on the ferry, (I lay beside my bike, on the steel vehicle deck and using the bike cover as a ground sheet) it was going to be hard long 9 hour ride, with about 3 hours in the black jungle night. I arrived at the INDONESIAN/EAST TIMOR border around 11.00am, a quick stop for immigration and Carnet stamping then I was almost ready for my final ride to DILI, when at the EAST TIMOR customs shack (and that’s all it is) a friendly armed soldier asks to inspect ALL your luggage, so another half hour goes by, while 2 armed guards go through every bit of clothing and equipment that I carried on DORIS. Always asking the same bloody questions that are universal in this part of the world, “what is this?” “How much?” “Where from?” Shit you get fed up with this crap.
It is the first time I have had my entire luggage searched in all the border crossings I have crossed in 12 months of riding, and ironically into one of the poorest, they also sting you for $30US entry visa, one of the most expensive in Asia.
EAST TIMOR is one of the poorest countries I have visited so far, yet everything is in US Dollars, courtesy of the good old UN and the dozens of NGO’s, that are attracted through necessity or otherwise to these “emerging countries”. Just look at CAMBODIA and the consequences of over charging and exorbitant costs after the UN had gone.
Luckily for me I had sent an email to SDV Logistics in East Timor, about shipping DORIS to DARWIN, I knew that a ship was to leave on the 24/03/05. They are the shipping agent for PERKINS SHIPPING and are very helpful. So DORIS is now in a container ready for a 36 hour ship cruise to DARWIN. I am sitting at DILI Airport waiting for my flight to DARWIN.
BEWARE, EAST TIMOR IS EXPENSIVE!
Cost of shipping motorcycle from DILI to DARWIN: $260US, in comparison, from DARWIN to SINGAPORE: $180A.
Cost of a plane ticket, one way from DILI to DARWIN: $313US, in comparison, SYDNEY to BRISBANE: $120A
Cost of one shitty hotel room, with a clunky AC and no ventilation: $15US
Cost of a can of coke: $1.50US.
Fact: It has cost me more to get me and my motorcycle from DILI to DARWIN than from CHIANG MAI to DILI, including fuel, accommodation, ferry tickets and food!
Total kilometers covered from leaving EAST JAVA to DILI (not including ferry crossings, 5 in total, with an accumulated time of 30 hours.): 1619 km’s at a moving average of 51km/hr. with a top speed of 106k/h.


Posted by Tom Forde at 12:19 AM GMT | Comments (0)
April 22, 2005 GMT
24-03-04 - BACK TO AUSTRALIA

It was a really weird feeling as I sat in the small twin engine plane on my way to DARWIN. With a few whiskey and sodas from the cheerful air hostess, the memories from the last 11 months came flooding back. Nine ASIAN countries and close to 40,000k’s, were has all the time gone? Shit, I could have ridden to Europe.
The highlights and lows? The costs? Would I do it again? What does the future hold? Have I changed? Probably more importantly, how will I finance the next adventure, and when and were will I go? All these questions were raging through my head.
Before I new it, the lights of DARWIN appeared below. The small airplane’s wheels slammed into the runway, and with a slight slew to the left, I was back in my home country. It was 6.30pm and dark, as usual getting through Customs and picking up my luggage was a breeze (unlike Sydney, were I seemed to get picked on by the dike, female Customs Officers). Finding a taxi, it was off to the Golf Course Motel, were I stayed on my way to Asia,11 months earlier, for $40A a night, surprise, inflation is alive and well in OZ, its now $110A. Taxi! Find me a cheap Motel! I ended up finding a motel in Mitchell Street, in the middle of town, for $60A.
The following morning, it was off to PERKINS Shipping to enquire about DORIS, God all mighty, I forgot about Easter! All these religious holidays! I guess I should have done my homework, so now I have to wait in DARWIN for the holiday to finish and organize the release of my bike.
Time goes slowly in a strange town, especially on a public holiday like Easter, Darwin was practically deserted, there were a few overseas tourists, but as the official dry season hadn’t begun, it was conspicuously devoid of Aussies.

Finally the Tuesday after the Easter holiday dawned, you beauty I can now get my bike out of customs. As usual the Aussy Customs and Quarantine Departments are pretty efficient; however I didn’t expect to pay the QD, a sum of $75A for the privilege to let me know my bike was clean! I met up with the Customs guys at 2.30pm; there was 2 officers, a young woman in her 20’s and her superior, whom I had met at the office earlier. We all jumped into the Customs car and headed off to where Doris was waiting. The first thing I noticed was a ring of white salt, about 25mm wide, surrounding her, asking the officer what it was for, he answered,” just in case you brought some Indonesian snails with you,” I replied, “ thank God for that, I thought it was another bloody religious ceremony.’
By this time the younger officer was diligently checking my Carnet off against the bikes frame and engine numbers, the trouble is she couldn’t find the engine number, I asked her would the rego papers do? Her immediate answer was, “No! I must check your engine number in case you got a new engine in Asia, therefore you would have to pay import tax.”
Not trying to offend the young lady, who was obviously very serious about her job, I replied, “why would I swap over a perfectly good engine, that’s still under BMW Warrantee, with a dodgy Asian copy? Even if I could find one!” Hearing this conversation, the older officer calmly looked under the motor and asked,” what was that number again?” “Oh, here it is right next to the sump plug, just sign the Carnet and we can go home.” He gives me a wink and off they went, and I was left with a signed Carnet and a bike ready to ride south. That guy must have good eyes, because there is a bash plate covering the sump plug.

It was now 3.30pm, I had arranged with the local Honda dealer to use some his equipment to change the oil in Doris, and obviously I bought the oil from them. This done it was back to the Motel, and begin packing for an early start in the morning.

Tuesday, 29th March.
It was an early rising at 6.00am, I started packing up Doris for the 4000k ride to Brisbane, the first thing I noticed was my bike cover was partially pulled away at the rear. A closer inspection of the bike revealed about half a dozen cuts diagonally across the tread and a puncture wound, like the point of a Stanley knife into the tread below the cuts. Luckily the tyre was still inflated. Next to the bike beside the wall was 3 empty beer cans and a couple of empty bourbon and cokes.
This is in a Secured car park, under lights and supposedly guarded! In almost 12 months of riding through Asia, I have never experienced any security problems with my bike. Welcome back to Australia!
I made an expedient ride out of Darwin and headed straight for DALEY WATERS, about 500k south. I had some pleasant memories from there on my ride up; I wonder if old Knocker is still living there in his old bus? Sure enough, no sooner had I pulled up and walked into the bar, a big hand grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “ Were ya been?” A few beers with my old mate, a good cold shower, and I was ready to reacquaint myself with this very unique pub, it still attracts a disproportionate amount of characters compared with other places I have been in OZ.
You don’t realize how big this bloody country is. How flat and how boring it is to ride from Darwin to the Queensland coast in the East. The side winds you encounter as you head East across the Barkly Highway has to be believed, I sat at around 120k/h with the bike at a constant 5 degree lean, (from the vertical, I am definitely not Rossi!) The resultant fatigue, combined with the heat and boredom really takes it toll, and with 6 to 7 hours in the saddle, I had enough so it was always a search for a reasonable caravan park around 2.00pm in the afternoons to rest my weary bones.
I have also noticed the definite rise in the cost of living in Aussy since I have left, $1.45 for a litre of Premier Fuel, come on! Also a year ago, I could get a good cabin in a caravan park for $40, now its $60, gee, I hope my real estate has gone up that much!
Because this years wet season was not as severe as the previous, the number of Kangaroo road kills are way down, but the cattle kills are way up. The smell of death invades your nostrils every couple of k’s, and as you approach the carcasses lying on the side of the road, an immediate waving of wings surprise you as you rapidly close in on the carrion gorging themselves on the raw meat, often than not you have to take evasion methods to miss running head on into a very large eagle or hawk, trying to gain altitude with a full belly.
The number of road trains are down too, perhaps because I am a month early and the cattle roundup hasn’t began. Mum and Dad of the SAD’s club (SEE AUSTRALIA and DIE) are in fewer numbers too, maybe they leave later, with their expensive 4WD’s and Caravans, in convoy, meandering north, just like the predictable migratory patterns of the Sperm Whales, who swim up the East coast around Easter, who knows.

I had to get to Brisbane in six days as I had an interview for a new job, doing around 700k a day from Darwin to Brisbane is not what I call fun. The old saying “it’s the journey, not the destination”, doesn’t ring true on this direct route, probably the most boring I have encountered in 12 months.
As I got closer to the Queensland border, the amount of SAD’s grew ever larger, it must be the start of the great immigration north, a lot of Victorian registered vehicles, probably getting out of the cold weather.
I finally got to Brisbane at lunch time and immediately rode to Morgan and Whackers, the local BMW franchise, to book Doris in for a service and a general health check up. The foreman immediately booked my bike in and nonchalantly told me, “mate, we are real busy, can’t fit you in for 3 weeks!” Shit I’m glad I’m not a world traveler!

Well it’s all over until next time, now were is that map of South America?
I took 6 days to get to Brisbane, nursing Doris all the way, total distance, 3437k, max speed 130k/h, moving average 100k/h. The tyres I replaced in Chaing Mai, 12,000k have seen better days as have the brake pads. Interestingly the chain and sprocket set I purchased from the Aussy company “Chain Gang”, and had installed at the same time, come through with flying colours, not needing any adjustment, despite the hammering Indonesia gave the bike.

Posted by Tom Forde at 03:32 AM GMT | Comments (0)
 
 

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HU DVD Autumn Special!

Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!

Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).

The first in an exciting new series, Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers."Inspiring and hilarious!"

"I loved watching this DVD!"

"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."

"Wonderful entertainment!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.



Scottoiler automatic chain oilers. The most important accessory for your next motorcycle adventure!


Renedian Adventures


Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!


What turns you on to motorcycle travel?


Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!


New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.


Books & DVDs

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All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.


Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

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Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

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