Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kamikaze Cat

Indonesia the final test, in the way of traffic, its crazy, there are 225 million people in this country and I swear each person owns at least 2 motorbikes! There are millions of them, along with cars, trucks and an array of other contraptions which don’t fall into any of the already mentioned categories, its madness.

I got my bike in, well of course I did, what other option did I have but it came at a price. I tried my best to get it in without paying a penny but I failed and I tried everything, I tried all the tricks I used for other countries but failed every time. Basically Indonesia requires a carnet, that I did know but so did places like Iran and Kenya and I won in the end but not this time. With Akis and Vula waiting patiently I had no option then to pay what they call a security bond, basically if one does not have a carnet they can put down a deposit and then get the deposit back when you exit the country. When they asked the price of the bike I said 1000 dollars, I should have lied even more as this is the amount that I have left with the customs. I wonder weather I will see that money again, they assured me that I will, here’s hoping. The thing is I have not come this far to be stopped by the second to last country, please East Timor let me in, to be stranded here in Indo so I paid, I felt I had to, well I did plain and simple.

Along with the Greeks we headed north to Bukit Lawang to hang out with the Orangutans a while, wow these creatures are just amazing, I have seen them before but it was worth the whole 2 dollars to go see them again. Then the big decision, head north to Banda Aceh or just start the long journey across Sumatra. It’s all physiological not wanting to head north when its south that we wanted but we went north, why not.
Their feet are like hands.
Of course, bananas for lunch.
Amamzing creatures.
In one day it all went wrong, I first did a wheel bearing but with the help of Akis we fixed it in no time at all and then after our lunch break things went from bad to horrible, the Greeks car seemed to seize, the engine was locked tight, they were going nowhere. So that was that, out of all their options it was back to Malaysia to Kuala Lumper to get it fixed so after 2 nice days traveling together I was on my own again. As I rode into Banda Aceh I imagined the Tsunami that hit, the streets would have been as crowded as the day I was there and the people would have not had a chance, to think that over 200 000 people lost their lives here in one day! So now I was as far north as a could possibly be, as I turned the mother ship south I thought to myself this is the last time, its all down hill from here.

The Greek's getting towed to Banda Aceh.
Some evidence stil of the massive Tsunami wave.
Another Xmas on the road, it was my third, the first one Amy and I spent on the Niger river in Mali with Del and Leo, seems so long ago, my second one was in the Omo valley, amongst ancient tribes, with my Spanish and Dutch friends, and this one I was alone at Lake Toba, fortunately in the most populated land of Islam the little island on Lake Toba is Christian so there was a Xmas feel about the place. For me Santa bought two new tires, he could have fitted the bloody things! Well I bought them in Penang and now had to fit them, on Xmas eve I got a puncture so Xmas day I spent fixing the hole and fitting the new rubber but what a difference they turned out to make. Indo is lush and green, everyday at some point it rains, mostly in the afternoon. That has not stopped me from camping, I have managed to camp every night besides Toba, I have slept in a bank car park, under a mechanics tin shed, an old restraint and in the jungle one night. But this comes at a price, I smell , I don’t think I have ever gone so long in the whole journey without a shower and boy at one stage I did not think I could sleep in the tent with myself. I even had a conversation with a nice local, a lot speak ok English, and half way through the conversation he asked me if I wash, hmm I knew what he was coming at but I said, well yes of course I do, he then said "you smell" I had to laugh, aint that the truth I thought.

For the 5th and last time, accross the Equator

Oh and yes the title, how can I forget, even the cats here have mad road sense, on my last day in Sumatra I had been going no more than a few minutes on the wet and slippery road from the overnight rain and then it happened, a crazy cat ran full pace from the bushes, now I could see it had timed its run to late and I gripped the bars ready for my first feline casualty, I dare not break as that would have meant me sliding down the road with the cat, so it was the cat or the both of us and I already new what I wanted, sorry cat, so I held my line then at the last minute it launched at me like a Bengal tiger, well not quite but it leaped into the air and slamming smack bang into my engine bars with a great thud, I looked in my mirror to see how it fared and there it was walking a bit wobbly back to where it first ran from, I guess he was not on his last life……….got me thinking I sure hope I have not used up all mine in this chaotic, no rules, anything goes mayhem called Indonesian road traffic!

Friday, December 19, 2008


I am now in Belawan, Indonesia, without my bike...........well its here and I have seen it but there is a problem, 'no carnet' as I expected. The Greeks and I arrived late in the afternoon and Customs had closed for the day, so we set about trying to find somebody to help us, eventually we ended up in the right place and it was here I was told I now have to wait til Monday, its Friday night now, for Customs to open and try to sort something out. The answer may be a cash deposit that I will have to front and then receive it back once I exit the country, hmm I don't like the chances of seeing that money again, now if its only a few dollars then great but I am sure it will be a fair sum, its to stop me selling the bike in Indonesia, if they only understood how badly I want to get this bike back home after all I have been through!

So looks like a nice few days in the beautiful port city of Belawan.......................yes beautiful and port city do not go together!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Mother Ship sets sail

Although today was a long day it all went quite smooth, after all the paper work was completed it was off to the Port in Butterworth to load Akis and Vulas 4WD and my bike, both bound for Sumatra.

The consignment waiting at the dock in Butterworth.
Hmmm I sure hope the wooden boat does not sink.
The first impression of the boat was a little worrying, old and made from wood but then I thought back to the boat I took across from Djibouti to Yemen, this boat was the QE2 compared to the Yemen boat, so I assured myself very quickly.
First the Greeks 4WD.......

.....and then the mother ship.
The boat left immediately and will arrive to Indonesia in 16 hours, as for us we will catch the fast ferry in the morning and arrive tomorrow at about 3, then begins solving the great mystery of the carnet problem or there lack of. The last country I have to get through with out the carnet, can I do it?? Well of course there is East Timor after Indo but I think it will be OK.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Waiting for the boat in Penang

Only three more countries to get into, including Australia. I made it into Malaysia with out having to produce my rego documents, was the easiest of border crossings, I wish they were all like that but then again where would the fun be if they were!

I travelled down the coast of Thailand with a short stay in Ao Nang to experience more tourists than I have ever seen, was not for me that's for sure, I was in the same place 5 years ago and boy has it changed since then, makes me miss the adventure of Mongolia, the unknown that Africa presented, the wild scenery of central Asia, its more of a holiday now. So that bought about a quick trip down here to Penang, Malaysia where I have been for a week. I sorted out the ferry to Sumatra for the bike, it leaves tomorrow and me the following day, Friday, the same day as the mother ship will dock, fingers crossed I can pick it up on Saturday, but I have been informed that the port is closed on the weekend so Monday is when I will be able to fetch it from Customs, which also is a questions, I was also informed that without a Carnet Indonesia is not possible and that the last guy that tried to take his bike in without a carnet was fined 600 dollars!! But I have heard all that before, remember Iran, Kenya I think was another place I was told I would never get in without the carnet, so again a little fun awaits me across the strait of Melacca, can't wait.

Its a small small world, I have bumped into my Greek friends, Akis and Vula who I first met in Mozambique then again in Ethiopia and recently Cambodia and now staying at the same Guest House on Penang island, they to are heading across the water to Indo so we may head across Sumatra together, at least some company for Xmas and the new year, which I did hope to make Bali for but alas the waiting for the boat has changed my plans.

Rickshaw in front of the Hong Kong Bar, Penang.

I am all ready for the last and final two countries to Oz, it's a long way across the length of Indo to East Timor, around 6000 k's and all of that is windy roads and of course I here millions of bikes, so I think it will takes around 4-6 weeks to cover, so around the start of February I will be on home soil.

For those of you who have asked, the mad Belgium, brother Dirk has arrived today in Dili, East Timor and will be in Darwin as soon as he gets his bike on Perkins Shipping. And I am sure he will be in need of a very cold beer once in Darwin. Merry Xmas everyone

Friday, November 14, 2008

Just another obstacle!

Here I am in Bangkok again, it’s the forth time in a few months and boy am I ready to escape it. After arriving back from Dubai I headed north to Laos and gave entering Vietnam a shot with the bike, sometimes you just never know what is possible. I explained the situation to the border guys on the Laos side so they did not give the bike an exit stamp for Laos, otherwise if it did not work out I would have to pay again to get the bike into Laos which I only exited 20 minutes before. So the short ride to the Vietnam border post with my fingers crossed, the idea of back packing did not appeal what so ever. Things looked promising as I put on a smile but then they discovered that it was a 750, well the sticker on the side of the bike saying 750 is a give away and its not rocket science that there are not many 175cc bikes out there with 2 cylinders, so that was that, a failed attempt.
Quickly I rode back to Laos and found a building that stored corn and paid the owner some cash to park the bike up, packed myself a little bag, far welled the stead and walked back to Vietnam. Then began an epic journey to reach Hanoi.
The truck driver taking a drag!

The slow slow Kamaz.

Fixing the flat tire.
First it was aboard the back of a scooter for the first 50 k’s to a village where I could board a bus, once in the village I was told there was no bus till the next day, great, so I had a bite to eat in a local shop and luck had it I befriended a truck driver who told me I can go with him and his two mates, fantastic I thought. My new ride was an old Kamaz truck loaded to the top with bamboo. So the long trek began, they new I wanted to go to Hanoi but communication between us was difficult and I understood that they could get me close to another city, well this would do me, worry about that later. The truck was slow, I swear I could have walked faster, the driver smoked his bamboo pipe to make the slowness of the journey not so painful, what was in the pipe I think provided him with quite a kick!
Every time I asked how far to go the distances seem to get further and further so in the end I gave up and just sat back to ride out the journey, then in the middle of the road there was an accident between a scooter and 4WD that blocked the whole road, which was quite skinny so until the police arrived we went nowhere, that took over an hour then further down the road a flat tire on the truck, my new Vietnamese friends set about fixing it. Then finally after a very long long day we arrived to the main highway at 11pm and fortune had it I flagged a bus down instantly and was on it to cover the last 100 k’s to Hanoi, I finally arrived after midnight.

Think I will stick to the Honda....and whats that guy doing at the back????
So then for the next 10 days I visited Halong bay and then north to Sapa to visit the Hamong tribes, Vietnam the land of tooting horns and crazy drivers, I was glad not to have the bike there I think but also I was very glad to return to Laos and find the stead exactly as I left it. Then it was back to pleasant quiet, peaceful Laos- a wonderful place. After another week and just traveling across the north again I entered Thailand.
Takes me back to the days of the Sonik.

Rice fields in Sapa.

River crossing in Laos.

Yep Sapa was close to China....this is proof.

It was here I struck some problems, earlier in the piece you read how I rode the bike to Laos-Vietnam border well when I arrived at the border I went to grab my rego papers for the bike and could not find them. I had a photocopy with me to use and just figured that I left the original back in Bangkok and a bunch of other things I left there to pick up upon return, as in now. So there I was at the Thai border with a photocopy of my original rego papers, this paper basically states the bike is mine and some places do not except copies, they want to see the original. Now since I arrived to the late in the afternoon and Thai customs was shut they told me to return the next day to do the paper work, but of course it did not mean back to Laos, just stay there in the borer town the night and come back in the morning. So the next morning I went to go see them and clear the bike but for the life of me I could not find my photocopy of the rego documents, I looked everywhere it could be, but it was gone, hmm, this was a problem but not as big as I realized it would become. So now I had no proof the bike was mine what so ever but I still believed that the original was in Bangkok. Thai customs where great, since the previous day the officer did see me with my papers and now I told him I lost them he let me simply copy the chassis and engine numbers from the bike, so the bike was in, no problems.

The amazing long neck tribe in Thailand.

Beautiful Long neck girl.

It was a quick visit to Chang Rei to see the longneck tribe then Chang Mei. Then it was onto Bangkok where the real problem was discovered, yep you guessed my original rego document was not here, but still I thought I can just ring the department in the UK and get a new one sent out, wrong, wrong, wrong I was, after many phone calls to them they have told me that since the bike has been out of the country longer than 12 months it’s been listed as exported and they can not issue me with a new copy just like that, it will take a letter from me, which I sent and then an investigation by them to decided weather to issue another and this takes minimum 6 weeks! So here I am in Thailand without any proof that my bike is mine and to cross borders I need something official to say the bike is mine, so yes it was my own silly fault for loosing both the rego papers but beauracy in this world makes nothing easy and takes the fun out of it completely. But there will be a way, there always is, I have to get home with my bike.

24 hours on and some progress has been made and I am heading south again. I managed to find a copy of my rego papers on email and print it out, it’s only a copy but I would rather continue on and give getting into Malaysia a shot instead of waiting around for 6 weeks for an answer that could be bad anyway, then its only Indo and East Timor from there. So here I go, the final part, let it be smooth going and let this photocopy get me through.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Journey Continues

I am back in Bangkok, it seems all a little surreal, did I go to Dubai, did I run around like mad and organise to compete in a race, did I do it, now I am back just like that, I guess I was only gone 18 days, what a whirl wind trip I went on, I rode, I conquered, I returned! I arrived to a dirty old Africa twin which I knew needed some attention as the last day I rode it turned out to be just another adventure in The Hard Way Home or just another normal day I suppose, more on that later this is how I got to that day, the day I flew to Dubai.

After uncrating the mother ship, enjoying some much R & R in Bangkok and giving the vibrating toothpicks to a Thai family, I fair welled brother Dirk and headed the ship north again to Laos. I then headed the rest of the way south down Laos, this time in more comfort, the bike did not vibrate, parts did not fall off and the seat was like a sofa compared to the toothpick! The south was not as beautiful as the north but Laos is quite something. I arrived at the border with Cambodia late one evening and stamped out of Laos, rode the 1 k to the Cambodian side and was told that customs had gone home for the night and that I had to go back to Laos, this was not an option, after a discussion much to our displeasure the Cambodian officials said I could stay there in there hammock, so for the first time in 2 years and about 40 border crossing I was stuck for the first time at a border, that night the mosquitos nearly carried me away and the heavens opened up in a tremendous show of lightning and thunder whilst the rain hammered at the tin roof. The following day saw one tired person and onto Cambodia I rode.

About half way to the capital I decided to attempt a slight detour, yes I will never learn, that would take me to a remote village but half way there the sun was setting and it had just rained causing the front tire to build up so much mud between it and the mud guard that the wheel stopped turning, I fell once but escaped unharmed, it was very tough.
I were defeated, it was dark and I turned back to the last town I had passed, tried checking into a guest house but they all smelt rat infested and stale, then an angel appeared in the form of a young Cambodian girl who invited me to stay with her family, amazing could not have asked for anything better.

Onto Phnom Penh for a few days break where I had the pleasure of catching up with a mate that I had not seen for about 12 years, Jarrod Monaghan who is teaching sport in a school over there, the beers went down well and stories of old flowed. With time running out I then headed to Seim Reap where I bumped into Akis and Vula, the greek couple I met in Mozambique almost a year ago to the day, they are going around the world in a 4WD, its such a small small world. After taking in the splendors of ancient Ankor Wat it was west to Bangkok.

This brings me to the day I flew to Dubai, I left Siem Reap early with about 500 k's to do, cross a border in the middle, grab some left luggage from down town Bangers, then find Harley Davidson Bangkok to park the mother ship with Ross the general manger who I had been put in touch with through another mate, piece of cake, or so I thought! I set of and remember saying to the stead, just today don't let me down I need to get on this flight at 8.30pm. All was well the road was rubbish but a little last minute training I though as I had the big bugger air born on a few occasions, crunching down hard on the suspension with a smile under my helmet. But the of course it happened, 10 k's before the border my bike just stopped, hmm what the hell is this, I took my helmet of and instantly knew the problem and this meant deep shit! I could smell acid, sulphur, my battery had exploded, therefore the battery was been over charged byt the rectifier, I had it before so I knew. What to do, the strangest things happen, a guy, local looking rocks up on a chopper, dressed in leather, chains and rings oh and not to mention tattoes, he spoke with a deep American accent, and explained he lived in the US but was original from Cambodia, I quickly discovered he was rotten drunk, his breath almost making me sway, then he offered me a huge spliff, I declined saying "right now my friend I need to be as switched on as possible" maybe it would have taken the worry away, who knows. So he started to preach all about how us 'Bikers" stick together, then he suggested he tow me to the border, hmm I could see that ending in complete disaster, not the airport I would have been bound for but more like the morgue! I quickly decided to flag down a ute, eventually after a few minutes one stopped and we made a deal, I was desperate and they wanted money, so we loaded it in the back whilst my new friend worked on his giant spliff. Then he tried to ride off and his bike broke, shit I felt bad, he stopped for me but here I was driving of leaving him behind, I just said sorry mate I need to catch a flight, good luck, some how I don't think he will even remember I was there!

Now I was at the border, or at least in the border town on the Cambodian side still, time ticking away til my flight and with 350 k's to go I figured I had no hope, after asking about I found a battery from an old bike leaning against a workshop wall, it was not the correct size but it would do, in it went and away went the bike when I hit the button, great I was back in action. Off to the border after been relieved to much for a second hand battery again I was desperate and they had the battery. Now at the border I stamped out of Cambodia no problems, even skipped customs, figured I would not be back, then the Thai side, all of a sudden I needed insurance, aw this was not good, thinking quick on my feet, which seems to be something I have picked up of late, i showed him a piece of paper that had all the writing washed away as it had been in my pocket in the rain, I said this was it, sorry for the print, he studied it, I could see the little mouse in his head going a million miles an hour, then with a few baht he filled out a form and let me in, it worked, now it was off to Bangers, the road was good and I arrived there at 6pm, got my luggage from left luggage and then found Harley Davidson, met Ross, packed mt bags right there in the car park, sculled a tiger beer, jumped in a cab and shot to airport, just in time to check in and board the plane, it was a relief to be sitting on the plane, what a day, but again "in the end it will be alright and if its not alright its not the end"

So I spent the day at Harley fitting a new battery then testing the rectifier, yep it was done for, luckily I had been to Dubai and picked up my old rectifier from the bike that was stolen that the cops found, so I had a spare, I fitted that and hey presto it works, then riding home in the dark my bike stops, I rolled to a stop on the busy street of Bangkok and started to find the problem. Right there and then I experienced something that I did not expect, I was relaxed and calm, completely, I simply started to take all the stuff of and go through in my head what it could be, right there in the dark, not phased in the slightest, usually I might curse saying truck and poo a lot! I think with all the problems I have faced and again knowing that I will solve it it the end finally naturally came over me, there is never a problem to large. For the next hour I went over everything, cars whizzing by, found two wires touching which caused the main fuse to blow, got it going and rode onto the guest house.

Monks at Ankor Wat

Ankor Wat

I would really like to take some time to thank every body for the messages I received about the race, your comments are priceless and I will have them forever, they mean a lot to me. And not just for the race I always enjoy your comments, don't be shy now. Also I get a lot of people saying "they envy what I am doing" or "I would love to do that" plus I hear from some that they are inspired to get out there and do something, that gives me such a great feeling, if I can inspire one person well thats one more person chasing their dreams, dreams do come true and I have learnt that I can make my dreams come true, you can to, don't envy me, get out there and do it yourself, you can, all of you can, anything is possible, every day during the race I just kept telling myself to make it to the end, just keep going and I made it, I made it to the end second, how about that!

Thank you everyone for sharing my trip with me, so now begins the last leg to Australia, I am headed north to visit Vietnam, then I will head south down Thailand to Malaysia, cross to Sumatra, Indonesia and island hop all the way to East Timor and load the mother ship onto a boat to Darwin, then from Darwin it will be a short 3-4000 k's to the farm, Turriff. Along the way I hope to team up with Clint, there you go mate you have to come now, and another great couple of mates, Wierd Al and Magilla, yep Aussie boys with names like that and cross the Simpson Desert, one last desert crossing for me, I just love them! So I think the adventure is far from over although I feel very close to home, there is a lot to come yet, so enjoy the last few months of updates because once I am done your work day might seem a little dull after that! I know I am in for a shock to say the least.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dreams can come true

The prologue, this consisted of a quick lap around the Dubai motocross track to determine the starting order for the following day, now all this was new to me and with 60 bikes and 20 quads entering the race I thought to start around 50th would suit me fine, that way I could just follow the tracks and not worry about the navigation side of things. I went around the track slowly but confidently enough wondering if the hour I spent in the desert two days before was enough training for what was to come. After the prologue was finished I had myself a starting position of 57th out of 80, that will do for me. So it was back to Dubai for one last nights rest. I was not nervous at all and had really no idea what to expect or what lay ahead.

Day 1, what a day, my fist experience at racing and what an experience it was, I will leave nothing out so here goes. Firstly I must thank Colin Mercer for helping me out to get to the start line and then without Sean Mayer's help throughout the race it would not have been possible, so Sean and I got up at 4am loaded the bike onto the trailer and set off for Abu Dahbi, 150 k's away from Dubai where the start was to take place at the Emirates Palace. We had gone no further than 10 k's and noticed a bag in the back of his truck missing, yep his boots and clothing bag had fallen out so turning around quickly to find them but only having luck with his boots, the clothes bag was no where to be seen, what a great start I thought, on we went. The ceremonial start was up over a ramp with a hand shake from Sheik Mohammed Bin Salaem, down the ramp i road with a liaison of about 50 k's to the start of the special stage. Each day consist of liaison stage's which is just the part you have to ride to get to the start line of that day or back to the bivouac at night, its not a race stage and then the special stage is the race timed stage. I made it to the start line in time to see the likes of Marc Coma and Cyril Depres scream off into the desert on their factory KTM's what a sight, I wondered what I would do, scream off, take it easy even fall off who knows but as the clock ticked away my time came closer, still not nervous at all, i felt good. Then it was me I got the count down, 20 seconds, 10 seconds, then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 go!!!

Getting geared up in Abu Dahbi for the start.

By the end after my big fall it did not quite look the same but what a machine it turned out to be

Away I went, naturally almost as hard as I could, its a long race and people had been telling me that a lot of people burn themselves out on day one by going to hard, so I went at about 3/4 pace for a long time, the going mainly flat with out much sand. Concentrating on working the road book and learning how to use the navigation but the skill was quickly acquired and got on with the job at hand. I passed a few bikes early and wondered if I was going to fast, my only fear wondering if I was on track to burn myself out like people say. The day went on and I grew in confidence, felt settled on the bike and finally the deeper I got into the desert the more sand began, passing a few more bikes I still felt good, remember these bikes started at 30 second time intervals ahead of me so it meant I was making up time on them. Through out the day I passed about 4 quads all parked up, the riders OK on their mobile phones, indicating their machines were broken, what a disappointment it must have been, I prayed that mine would just keep going on going to the end.

Day 1, the sevice point, after I fell off I had to wash the sand off my face, thanks Sean.

Riding the dunes.
I had covered about 270 's or so of special stage and still felt perfect so decided to get into it a bit as there was only 40 k's to go, through the dunes like a boat in ocean swell, rolling with them, I was enjoying it, then one caught me out, two fast off a drop of and I fell to the side as the bike went down my head slamming into the side of the dune, a little rattled I picked up the bike, quick inspection, everything including me beside a mouthful of sand and off I went again reaching the finish line shortly after, then with a 120 k liaison to the bivouac. Now a funny thing happened on this liaison, of course I had been re hydrating like nothing else, drinking so much water so not to get dehydrated in the desert, another big thing that stops riders. But i had dank clearly way to much and was consistently busting for a pee, eventually I had to stop by the side of the road to relieve one self, as I did I was so busting that when I went number one and and actually farted number two decided to rear its ugly head, as one would say. Hell here I was now with a problem, I swung my leg over the bike and stood up all the way to the next fuel station, climbed off my bike in front of a few Arab's who looked amazed, here's this rider all kitted up, with a race number and looking like I was apart of a major event, which I was, wondering off to the loo. cleaned myself up, lost the underwear and rode all the way to the bivouac minus my jocks!!! Anyway as it turned out I managed to have the 17th fastest time of the day, i was stoked with my efforts and felt still on top of things, not tired and looked forward to the next day.

Day 2-Its hard to remember exactly all the race but day two saw an early start, every day was an early start, first rider away at 6am and the higher you finish the closer you are to that time. I had another good day this time I managed to stay on my bike all day and spent most of it alone not been able to catch anyone nor anyone behind me catch me, over 300 k's out there screaming around in the desert, at the beginning I did come over a rise and see a bike on its side and then the rider about 30 metres in front of it laying on the ground, already another rider had stopped so I continued on when they gave me the thumbs up, I thought it can happen so easy, just be careful and don't get to excited, get to the finish line. Its very much a mind game out there, how hard to push, are you going fast enough, are you going to fast, its a long way to the end and the idea is to make it, for me never ever done such a thing I had no idea but just rode my bike best I could and at the same time careful enough. Again at the end I felt good and this time I had finished 13th overall, again I could not believe it, I was up against some amazing riders and plus I was aboard a 450 and half the field on the big 690 cc's, the dunes and tight stuff more suited to the smaller bikes I guess.

Simon Pavey, Aussie who has done the Dakar many times.
Day 3-what an amazing experience I had on this day. Since I started in 13th position it meant i was surrounded by some well know riders and once the stage got under way a group formed, in it were two factory ktm's, these guys have only ever been names to me, and here I was, in total there were 4 690's and two 450's, me on one of course and for the next 300k's we stuck together, I think their shear speed pulled me along faster than I may have gone on my own, the pace was blistering, sometimes 120 and more across the desert, at times going down huge dune slip faces, in a row, for me it was a sight to see, it was an amazing experience but then toward the end n the last 40 k's I fell on my side and by time I picked it up they ahead, I tried to catch them up but then fell again, I told myself to get a grip, let them go, I had kept up with them long enough, composing myself I made it almost to the line when faced with one more huge dune, i was getting tired by this point, almost got to the top and over again, picking up the bike I jumped on rode a metre and fell over the opposite side, I was exhausted, picking it one more time with a huge grunt, I rode carefully back down the dune turned around and roared up it, this time up and over to the finish line, another day down and now I was feeling the body, feeling the tiredness but what a day and my time was great, i think I finished 11th overall, not bad for a guy that only practiced for an hour!!

The mad Russians flew through the desert in thier Kamaz

Tim Trenker from Dubai KTM.

The winner of the cars. BMW X5

Day 4-Realising now that I did not have to conserve energy I would go for it all day, I knew my body would stand up to it and not run out of steam. I pushed all day but felt slow in the morning and my time proved that, I think I dropped as far as 20th in the first half of the day, I never was a morning person! But after the half way point I would get into it and made up my positions again, not sure where I finished but around 15th fastest for the day, with one to go things looked good and my nerves started to kick in. I was sitting 4th in the 450 class and that day the top Portuguese rider had taken a fall and broken his back, which of course was not good but it moved me into a podium place, 3rd looked good but the other Portuguese rider, Rodrigus was fast and I only had a 30 minute lead on him which if I kept it together would be enough to beat him across the line on the final day. But due to this possibility my nerves came for thefirst time in the race, going into the last day I was as nervous as hell!

On day 4 The number one in the world Marc Coma's bike failed, thats him getting a lift from a spectator!!

Day 5-the final leg that would see us back to Dubai, it started with a liaison of 118 k's to the start and then taking us out of the dunes and into more flatter terrain and requiring a lot more navigation as the stage found its way through camel farms and around roads. I felt good as I went and by the time I got to the halfway point to have my compulsory 15 minute break i was told Rodrigus had only made up 30 seconds on me so now more than ever I had to just get across the line and third was mine. Off I went for the final leg, not long after there was a bike parked on the side of the track, it was a 450 and it was the leader, he was out as he just gave a disappointed wave to me, this meant I was now in 2nd spot, then I made a navigational error and had to come back on myself about a kilometre or so, clearly I had time up my sleeve but I had to cross a series of dunes which took time, I told my self to calm down and just ride carefully, I did not listen to myself one bit, I hit about 90 right as I hit a small dune on the road and I flew landing on a huge mound of dirt on the other side, the bike bucked and I went flying on my own, spinning end oer end in the air, I was there that long that in my mind I had enough time to think to myself, shit this is going to hurt, an hurt bad! I landed with my head and then rolled down my back feet landing last and my momentum left me sitting up right, I paused stood up and could not believe it I was fine, I felt perfect, I ran back to the bike picked it up and pushed my road book back to its normal position and then found the map cover about 10 metres from the bike, ran got it, put it back on, started the bike and rode off. At that point I thought nothing was going to stop me finishing the race, I am meant to finish it as with a crash like that I was not really meant to even stand up but I was fine. But I had ripped the power cable out of the gps and navigation was now hard, I slowed to wait for a rider behind me to pass so I could follow him in to the finish, I stuck close to him and after the last set of dunes I could see the line, gave my leader the thumbs up and away I left him to cross the line, what a feeling to cross the line, 2200 k's out in the desert, every one of them flat out, I had made it and not only had I made it I had gotten a position, something I never ever thought would happen, all of a sudden i felt fine, I felt I had all the energy in the world, what a relief!
Tim Trenker at the finish line.

Marc Coma at the finish.

Me followed by Vinters on a 690 at the Finish line.

Some where not as lucky as others!

Cyril Depres, the winner of the open class.
Sheik Mohammad presenting me with second in class back in Dubai.
Then it was a short 45 k liaison into the Dubai Marina, for a beer, that went straight to my head, plus I think it was a light beer as well!! Over the ceremonial finish receiving my medal in front of a crowd and also live on TV. Then after a nice shower and a change of clothes it was the gala dinner to receive a trophy, and boy lucky I have other stuff to ship home as it would cost me a fortune alone to send it, it weighs a tone!
All I can say is it was worth it, what an experience, it does go to show that anyone of us can do anything we want to in this world if you want to do it bad enough, does not matter who you are, believe in yourself and keep telling yourself you can do it and you will get there, I did. I have made my dream come true in every way, I finished 11th overall, 2nd in 450's and 1st in my category of rally production, not a bad effort for a non sponsored rider that just rode 7000 k's on a Chinese motorbike, maybe that was the secret!
..............and if this is what racing is about count me in!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen start your engines,

Wow, what a crazy week it has been, getting everything sorted for the big race, I never realized there was so much involved, I think the easy part will be riding the bike! I just can'twait to get into it. I have had two days of scuterneering making sure the Honda CRF is up to scatch, all went well except for a few wiring problems with the sentinal, which is the device that warns me if a car or truck is about to overtake, a loud buzzer goes off, since the bikes start first then the cars and trucks I sure hope not to get passed by any trucks, if I do I guess I will be having a bad day. But again I just keep telling myself to get to the end, enjoy it and have a great time, after all its not everyday one gets to race around a desert with the highest dunes in the world! Better not crash out on day one now!!

Nervous, well not yet but I am sure that will come, but excited I am, I cant wait. Tomoorow is the prologue, just a quick lap around a short track to determine the starting grid of the first day. There is 5 days covering a total of 2200 k's, the actual race legs range from 300 to 400 a day, I am not sure I know what I've got myself in for, to late now, hmm I wonder if Marc Coma is thinking that right now.....some how I don't think so. In total there is 60 Bikes, I am number 57, 20 quads, about 25 cars and a few trucks, for my second race in my life I kinda picked a big one.

Again if your interested to see how I get on go to http://www.uaedesertchallenge.com/. Oh and by the way for those of you you who are wondering who Marc Coma is he is the number one in the world, the only time I will see him is in the meal tent at night if I finish in time of course!!!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Next Challenge

Right then there is another twist in The Hard Way Home, its a little of the track but I am now back in Dubai, I can see a few raised eyebrows out there for those who don't know but I am competing in the UAE Desert Challenge, its an endurance race through the desert for 5 days, its always been a dream of mine to do the Paris to Dakar but of course its expensive, now the Desert Challenge is more affordable but still on a world level, all the top riders of the world will compete, the cars and the trucks, for me it will be a challenge which I think most of you now know I enjoy and I believe more than ever if you can make your dreams come true you must, anything is possible! I cant say I will exactly be racing against the best in the world but at least in the same race as them! I will pilot a CRF450 X rally bike, of course a Honda as my weapon of choice, what else is there, maybe a Sunik, nah clutch problems!

The race starts on the 24th of October and goes for 5 days, it is a test of man and machine at the highest level, I cant wait and I would be lying if I said I am not as nervous as hell!! So I hope that I have loads of support and the more encouragement the better, I do always enjoy receiving emails from everybody and anybody, the race can be seen online at http://www.uaedesertchallenge.com/ and it will have live updates as it unfolds.

My goal is to just make it to the finish line. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Beautiful Laos

We rode up to the border of China and Laos on the last day of our Chinese visa, perfect timing. Now how would this all go, what would happen to our vibrating toothpicks?? They asked for the papers on the Chinese side and we presented the receipt and another piece of paper that simply said how many gears the bike had and other particulars, useless really but we had to give them something, and again it worked, we received our exit stamp and rode out of China, now to get them into Laos.

We made it into Laos!

The Laos side was so so pleasant, I had forgotten how friendly these people are, such beautiful people, they stamped us in and asked for the bike papers, we again handed over the receipt of purchase, written in Chinese remember, the customs guy looked at it and said I cant read this and we both replied well either can we, he laughed and waved us in, holy shit we now could ride across Laos to Thailand on our Toothpicks, we were not happy because we love riding them we were happy to the fact that we did not have to back pack and we could ride that bit further, it was only Thailand now that remained the question, could we actually ride all the way to Bangkok?

The Plain of Jars

Images of Laos

We had at least 10 days to get to Bangkok before we would be reunited with our trusty great Honda's which we loved more an more every day with every kilometer on the Toothpicks! So some time for a slower pace, some Beer Laos and relaxing along the way. But of course when one has such adventure and the pace slows the mind gets thinking, instead of taking the nice normal road all the way South to the Thai border we decided to take a track through the jungle and of course its still the rainy season, what the hell why not. After visiting the plane of jars, which are huge rocks carved as jars on a plane, title explains itself really we set off into the jungle and of course it started to rain. And again what lay ahead were things I had never done, we started to have to cross rivers and the more it rained the higher the rivers swelled and the faster they flowed, one crossing my Toothpick was actually floating away as Dirk and I hung onto it tight not letting the current wash it down the river, other rivers we had to use Bamboo rafts to get them across. It was pouring so hard it was impossible to see but our toothpicks just slowly picked their way through the mud until one huge river were about half a dozen people already were sitting under a little hut, the river was to swollen and two deep. So we waited all under the hut, the locals said maybe three hours and it will drop, OK we have time. We waited about an our and on the other side of the river more locals arrived on their own little scooters, got off and 5 of them carried the bikes across the river, well if they can we can, we asked for their help and we all carried the 2 toothpicks across the river, with a round of hand shakes we were off again.

Steady she goes captain.

Another crossing, wide one this time.

Carrying the bikes across the river.

It may have a cheeta on the side but its far from fast!

Time for some fun, Sunik circle work.

Then came the muddiest road I have ever been on in my life, plus remeber there we were on Chinese 150cc's with three people and loads of luggage, mud so deep that the road was completely impassable for anything at all but we poked along mud hole by mud hole and eventually came out the other end, again we made it across another country on the toothpicks and the adventure was priceless, people would pay huge money to even attempt what we did, what a time we had.

The Mud caked onto the Toothpicks!

So with 3 days before our Honda's would arrive in Bangkok we were at the Laos Thia border, so after one last night in Laos we tried Thailand with our toothpicks.
We carried the bikes onto a small boat and crossed the Mekong river to the Thai side and then carried the bikes up a very steep flight of stairs, was quite a struggle but a few onlookers saw it was not easy for us and helped out. The Thai officials were lovely, they never said we could not bring them in but needed to find out what to do, after about 2 hours the paper work was done and again we were allowed to ride in Thailand, that was it, great I would be able to achieve what I always wanted and that was to ride a bike every inch of the way, yeah it was not the same bike but still a bike, besides I already had one bike stolen so whats it matter if it was a few bikes. I was so happy that we exited the customs compound and I looked left then right and all was clear well so I thought, Thailand is back to left hand drive and its been a long time for me to drive on the left, I pulled out looked up and there almost in my lap were to girls riding a scooter, I swerved sharply only just missing them, wow concentrate Robbo I thought, need to just get to Bangkok!

So by the time we hit the road to Bangkok it was about 1 pm, it was 700 k's to the capital and we would reach it in 2 days. We let the sun set on us so now it was already dark and I think we had similar thoughts lets go until we can't anymore. Then it rained and rained, so since now we were wet we thought lets go all the way that way we do not have to get up the next day and put on wet clothes, one thing is for sure we have determination, any normal person would have stopped along way back, either that or we are stupid, maybe its the later!! It became cold, soaked to the core, so here we were in Thailand breaking the number one rule of all the travel, riding at night and not only at night but in the pouring rain an freezing bloody cold.

We stopped for some fuel and were both shaking from the cold, hardly been able to move and both needing to go to the toilet we again had a similar thought, standing there already completely wet we just went to the toilet, it was so so warm, arrhh!

We pushed on all night, my clutch was slipping so badly that at times I could only get 60 k's per hour from the toothpick then with steady throttle control it would take about 10 k's to get the speed up to 90 again, plus when the rained stopped the engine would heat up and the clutch slip more but when it rained the engine cooled and the clutch slipped less so the faster I could go, bit crazy but of course the harder it rained the harder we went! With my tinted lens I had to ride with it up all the night, how I saw I am not sure, over taking trucks squinting through the mist until I popped out the other side, yeah maybe we are stupid actually.

We rolled into Bangkok at 1 minute to 1am, we made it, straight to a pub for a celebratory drink, we bloody did it, amazing, we rode the toothpicks from one side of China to the other and all the down Laos and onto Bangkok. The next day we got word that the Mother ship and the Old Girl had arrived early to Bangkok so off to the airport we went to be reunited, was it a great sight to see the boxes they were in and even a better feeling to open them up. It took us all day to clear the paper work and a few hours to put them together to ride them into town. The first time I hit the starter and head the rumble of the faithful V-Twin gave me goose bumps, what a sound. Riding off was a bit strange, wobbly, as it felt heavy, but boy when I screwed the throttle it felt like I was going to launch into outer space, out the airport terminal we went turned onto the highway and into it, I screwed the throttle hard, gave the handle bars a slight pull and up on the back wheel it rose, a bunch of Thai taxi drivers all pointing and hooting, we roared our way into Bangkok city, wearing flip flops, shorts and T-shirts, again it was exciting to have them back. We did it!