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!!!