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this is the end [Aug. 24th, 2009|02:37 pm]
stevenchella
[Tags|, ]
[Whereami | Canberra, Australia]

it seems fitting to cite 'the doors' for this journey. i had a ipod playlist full of acid rock for charging through the vietnam jungle... the doors, the rolling stones, hendrix to name a few.

i should have finished this off a long time ago - its been months now, and i've found myself lacking in motivation to bring this blog up to date. unfortunately, this premature ending does mean you miss out on some stories. you'll never learn about the kid who pimped out his bicycle that needed kick starting. what of the french resistance, and who's motorcycle is this? what is the difference between jam and marmalade, and is the answer enough to win at pub trivia night?

i miss my time in southeast asia, but i know that after the bike ride through vietnam, nothing else was really going to compare. it was time to head home, and for now home is canberra, australia. i know i won't settle for this comfortable place for long, and i look forward to the new adventures waiting around the corner. for now though, i'm starting to focus a bit more on work, but in a fun way. i'm taking more control over what i do, and when, and how. there's less security, but i'm hoping it's worth the risk.

so, this big trip has ended. the blog will reappear sometime soon, but probably in another guise, with a different meme.

so long, and thanks for all the pho :)
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The Belligerent Motorcycle Club [Aug. 24th, 2009|02:09 pm]
stevenchella
[Tags|]

DSC_2623.JPG
Ian, Jo, Chris and Adam. Plus me, we're the BMC.

southeast asia is a popular backpacker destination. it's cheap, there's lots to see and do, and it's cheap :) the thing is, once upon a time this area was a "frontier land" for tourists; 15 years ago vietnam had just opened its borders to foreigners, grenades were thrown into a political demonstration in cambodia's capital, and probably much more. these days, there is a well trodden path crisscrossing the region, full of backpackers heavily laden with lonely planets, gigantic backpacks and ludicrous zoom lens cameras.

the sad thing for these fellows is that they miss out on so much the region has to offer by staying on this path. being a slave to the train or bus timetable, only allowing a week or even less per country. and its expensive too; while you *can* survive on a pittance, it is easy to allow yourself to be overcharged for everything: food, accommodation, tour operators and the like. i guess if you enjoy yourself, it doesn't really matter... does it?

it is in this question that the BMC was born. the lads and i had our own timetable and our own means. jo and chris had spent something like £800 *between them* in the 2 months they'd spent in vietnam. we had taken roads few foreigners ever ventured on. we even went on roads before they were roads!

when we hit a larger town, we typically stayed for a couple of days to rest up and get our bikes fixed. invariably a lot of beer would be consumed, but only at the places where the price was reasonable. i don't mind admitting that after a few, we looked down somewhat on the "lesser" travellers, having to get up at 6am to get on their tour bus, or walking down the streets with massive suitcases on wheels.

and after a few more, we would get a little... belligerent.

boys will be boys, and who were we to buck the trend? it wouldn't always be our fault: who knew the german guy would take offence at jo's "the who" tattoo ? whatever the source, it usually ended in some calamatous event, like drinking beers in a tattoo parlour, or clothing items being lost, or midnight bike sortees.

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but a recurring theme throughout our journey south was one of belligerence. for good or bad, we stuck true to our name.

i often wonder if the BMC will meet again... baku perhaps?
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hue to hoi an... in the dark! [Jul. 20th, 2009|03:28 pm]
stevenchella
[Tags|, , ]
[Whereami |hoi an, vietnam]
[Feelin' |happyhappy]

we spent a couple of days resting up in hue, but decided to push on to hoi an. we got a few things sorted out, including my bloody electrics - for the first time i what seemed forever, i had a working headlight. joe got his tyre fixed, and a couple of spare headlight bulbs, but there was something wrong with his electric transformer box thingy, so he was still without lights.

we spent a great deal of time at the "stop and go" cafe in hue, where the lads had spent some time before and had made ffriends with the owner and his son. these guys loved the old minsks and gave us a lot of help in sortingg our bikes out, so if you're ever in the area, pop in and grab a beer and a bite to eat. they also do bike tours, so all those lazy bus-driven backpackers can experience something different by jumping on the back of one of their bikes for a few days.

hue to hoi an isn't very far so we didn't leave until lunch time-ish. or maybe that had something to do with our hungover state. either way, with only 140km to cover, we figured we would get in around sunset.

does anyone else see a recurring theme here?

we were making ok time, but we knew we would be cutting it fine - something we didn't want to really do, with joe being headlightless and all. we had the option of ditching the hui van pass and taking the newly constructed tunnel, which would save us about 30 minutes. at least, that was an option until we got there, and saw that no bikes were allowed in the tunnel.

the hui van pass is a spectacular ride - up and downs, lots of corners, lots of fun. except joe and ian both had bald rear tyres. we decided to take it easy and see how we were going for time afterwards. on the way up, we saw a good reason why not to rush: an oil tanker had taken a corner too quickly, spun out and crashed the front of the truck into the inside or the corner. luckily it was empty - probably the reason why the back slid out - but there was still plenty of broken glass etc on the road. no photos of that i'm afraid, but i did manage to put together a stitch from the top of the pass; we were inside clouds at the top while it was sunny down below:

huivan

the ride on the southern side of the pass into hue pretty much follows the railway, which is quite picturesque. we had fun chasing the train for a while, but our paths diverged when we entered da nang, in what passes for peak hour, i  suppose. mind you, the traffic always seems hectic, but everyone seemed to be on their bikes at this time of day.

once we cleared da nang, it was sunset, and i guess we were about 40km out of hoi an. our solution for riding with someone missing a headlight was brought out again; i would leadd and joe would follow behind, just off to the side. after some time we had a pretty good system working: i would stay on joe's left, shielding him from oncoming traffic that might not see him. when we had to overtake people, i would speed up and joe would swing around behind me, while i shielded him from the slowpoke viet, then i would swing aruond joe and take up my position to his left again. adam said it looked pretty cool and it felt like that too - we were definitely synchronised. i can see a new olympic sport in the making!

after what seemed like an age riding in the dark, we finally pulled into hoi an, found an old favourite guesthouse of the boys, and hit "treats" cafe for some food and drink. i recall eating a mass of cheese, bacon, beef and salad in the form of a double everything burger. i also recall having to sit still for the following 20 minutes while my body struggled to digest this fat, carb laden feast. good times.

we had a lot of fun in hoi an, where i think the "bmc" was officially formed. more on that later.

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photo updates [Jul. 15th, 2009|07:31 pm]
stevenchella
[Tags|, , , ]
[Whereami |hue, vietnam]
[Feelin' |happyhappy]

brought to you by adam briggs, md - that's monkey doctor to you.

joe waiting for roadside assistance to turn up


loading the bikes into the truck


and then onto a cyclo



update: and one shot of the broken bridge from the "road of bones"


not far left in the big trip now, but still a few stories that need to be told. coming soon!

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hello darkness my old friend [Jun. 30th, 2009|03:39 pm]
stevenchella
[Tags|, , , ]
[Whereami |hue, vietnam]
[Feelin' |exhaustedexhausted]

looking back at this stint of riding, we really had some bad luck. for those still reading, apologies once more for being so behind schedule. now's as good a time as any to mention i left vietnam over a month ago, but let's notlet that get in the way of a good story!

we all awoke around 11am, thankful for a bed of any description. i wasn't so thankful for ian's disgusting shoes and socks being in our room though - i thought he smelt bad on the outside!

there wasn't much left to do in khe sanh apart from fuel up, get some food, and head off to hue, about 200km away. the only problem was the torrential downpour that set in around 11.30. all up, we didn't hit the road until about 1pm: averaging about 40km/h would see us arrive in hue at 6pm - right on sunset.

i would have gladly taken that at the beginning, if i knew what was to happen today.

the first few hours of riding were beautiful, coming down off the mountain and onto windy, hilly roads, dotted with villages along the way. lots of hand waving and smiles were shared with kids along the way, and even some older locals who are sometimes a bit standoffish.
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it all went a bit wrong when we turned off the ho chi minh highway to cut coastwards, to hue. it was here, on national road 49, that my recollection turned out to be rather...wrong. in my defence, it is often the beginning and end of a day's riding you remember, and not the bits in the middle.

the road wasn't bad, but it wasn't easy going, especially on the other guys bikes: brakes overheating, joe and ian with bald rear tyres. lots of steep downhills with tight corners, and the introduction of loose gravel *everywhere* made giong really slow. it must have been about 10km in (70km out of hue) that i decided i had better make a dash for it and get as far ahead as i could before sunset. remember i didn't have a headlight, the road was winding and loose, and it was looking increasingly unlikely we'd beat the sun.

so fly i did; sliding around corners, taking the optimal racing line, i think i came close to falling off 5 or 6 times. by 5.30 i ws maybe 30 or 40kms outside hue, but the road had opened up a bit - the worst was behind me.

in more ways than one. i went to call the other guys to let them know how far ahead i was, and saw adam had been trying to call me for the past 20 minutes. phone reception was poor, but i eventually got through to him. and the news wasn't good. joe's rear tyre had a puncture, one that couldn't be repaired. the wheels on his bike are bigger than the standard scooter the locals use, and sourcing a replacement was proving to be impossible. added to this was news that chris' headlight had also gone: 4 bikes, 2 lights. we figured i was about 20 or 30kms ahead, so ian would ride up to me and we would both head towards hue, trying to find a replacement inner tube for joe. meanwhile, chris would do the same, and/or hope someone would give them a ride into hue.

an hour passed, and no sign of ian. nearly 2 hours later, he turns up. he's had problems with his clutch plates overheating. the only solution was to let them cool down.

ian and i head to hue, stopping at various mechanics along the way. by now, its nearly 9pm, and most are closed. those that are open don't have the size tube we need. i call through to adam and let him know, and that we're going to head on to hue and see what we can find there. after some more riding in the darkness, we arrive at 11pm.

but so much more has happened behind us, with joe, adam and chris. a drunken mechanic tried to help but unsurprisingly, couldn't. chris had to ride him back and forth - without a headlight - numerous times. chris ended up taking the plastic guard off his sole indicator and used that, although these things aren't directional: i can only imagine what that was like.

in the end, chris forcibly stopped a big truck by standing in front of it, and explained they needed to get 2 bikes and 3 people to hue. this was a government-owned truck, and the guys driving were up for a bit of moonlighting, but certainly not into the centre of hue. they agreed to take them to the city's outskirts.

now i wasn't there for all of this, and i'm sure i'm not doing the story justice, but somehow they boys got their bikes loaded into the back of this massive truck and climbed into the cabin. i seem to recall chris saying his seat was a plank of wood that sat on the engine. naturally, there was no ventilation. i have seen trucks drive on these smaller roads, and from the outside it's scary enough. basically they believe that because they're big, they have right of way. lights stay dipped until oncoming traffic is seen, at which point hi-beam is engaged. brakes are seldom used, and downhill sloped are taken in neutral (to save on fuel).

chris has some footage of all of this, including the drunken mechanic. i'd love to see it in full some day.

so the truck drivers, true to their word, drop the boys off outside hue. they even help them negotiate some cyclos to take them into the city, making sure they pay a fair price! have a look at that picture of a cyclo linked above, and try and figure out how you get a full size motorbike onto it. and passengers. good luck :) i'll try and dig up some photos if i can.

all up, the lads arrived in hue about 12.30am. ian and i had already gone to sleep after gorging ourselves on pizza, beer and snickers bars. one again we had been defeated by the night, but at least we were now in a big city where we could rest up, relax, and get some work done on the bikes.

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i rode all night [Jun. 14th, 2009|10:51 am]
stevenchella
[Tags|, , , ]
[Whereami |khe sanh, vietnam]
[Feelin' |exhaustedexhausted]

(following on immediately from the previous entry)

we sat down at our roadside "diner" and drank heaps of water, planning what to do next. our arrival, coming off an unfinished road caused quite a stir in the area. enough, in fact, to bring us to the attention of a government official, who sleepily but forcibly demanded to see our papers and interview us one at a time. we were a bit worried now, as joe didn't have ownership papers for his bike: enough on its own to have the bike impounded.

we slowly explained where we were going: khe sanh, about 100km away. he didn't think this was a great idea - winding roads, nighttime riding and all that. looking back, he didn't want to have to deal with foreigners being involved in any motor accidents while he was on duty. we kind of explained i had ridden this way before, and that we would ride slowly and carefully. he didn't speak a word of english, by the way.

khe sanh was our only option. it was at best 3 hours away, but it was the closest town where we would find accomodation. he finally consented to our plan and went back to sleep.

the next issue was one of fuel: the other guys' bikes can get about 200km on a tank in normal conditions, and they were all empty. we were charged about triple the going rate for shitty quality stuff, but had little option but to pay. but then, a new problem arose: my battery seemed dead, and it seemed like the alternator wasn't charging the battery properly. this meant i had no headlight, which is a bit of a problem riding in the dark.

still, no choice - it had to be done. we agreed that chris wouldd ride up front, i would follow closely behind and to the right, which joe and ian behind. i would be riding off chris' headlight. now its worth mentioning that their bikes' headlights are hooked up to the alternator - their bikes don't have a battery. so to get enough light to see, the boys had to rev their engines a lot.

the road to khe sanh is beautiful, in the day. lots of jungle, windy roads, hill climbs, the works. at nighttime, its a different story: everything you don't want for an uneventful journey. it had been my call to take this route, and it was all going wrong... if only we had been granted access to the national park!

i remembered there were some minor roadworks en route, but the first one had changed considerably since my last time riding. the road had been replaced with a landslide, and a big earthmover was clearing it away, creating mini landslides of his own. chris gave me a look of death and said "steve, what have you gotten us into?" i felt terrible. we had to attract the attention of the earth mover and skirt around it. my bike stalled on some big rocks, and i couldn't get a good enough footing to kick start it (no electrics, remember?). i had to push my bike only about 20 metres or so, but it was hard going. luckily some workers emerged from their tent and helped me.

we were taking it really slow, and because of the headlight issue (the guys having to rev their engines to see), the bikes were overheating, so we had to stop for a cool down rest. admittedly though, the scenery was breathtaking: clouds rolling down off mountains, into the valleys. if only it was daytime!

we rode for a long time, hour upon hour of darkness. we finally stopped for a bit of a rest. it was 1am. we just lay on the road, looking up at the stars.

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khe sanh is the site of an old american airbase, nestled in the mountains. as we got closer, we started going through fog, or rather, clouds sitting on the mountains. 4 bikes, 3 headlights, heavy mist. not a good combination. chris motioned for us to pull over. chris wears glasses, and they were all misted over: our front man couldn't see. having taken this road before, i said i would go up front as long as someone sat close behind me, so i could use their headlight. the final 15 minutes or so of the ride into khe sanh was lead by myself: riding blind, through the fog.

we rode into khe sanh at about 3.30am. i figured the biggest hotel in town would have a 24 hour concierge, and although it would be expensive, we could get a room. but no, as we entered the hotel parking, i noticed it was full. of cars. of cars and vans, all bearing military number plates. i quickly motioned the other guys to cut their engines (their 2 stroke bikes aren't the quietest) - we didn't want to attract unwanted attention. chris and i went into the hotel and woke up the concierge, who told us she had no rooms left. mind you, this hotel has about 300 rooms. looking back, i think the military people had probably booked the entire hotel out for a conference.

we went back to the others to relay the news. we all walked our bikes out of the parking area and started them up on the road. we then went around, knocking on guesthouse doors until we finally found a room. it was now about 4.30am.

finally, some sleep. we started our day's riding about 17 hours ago, and kept going on a small breakfast, biscuits, milo powder, water and cigarettes. tomorrow should be better: it was only 180km or so to hue, the ancient capital, and my recollection of the road was favourable...

to be continued! :P

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road of bones [Jun. 9th, 2009|02:47 pm]
stevenchella
[Tags|, , , ]
[Whereami |100km north of Khe Sanh, vietnam]
[Feelin' |exhaustedexhausted]

charlie boorman and ewan mcgregor had to contend with russia's road of bones in their "long way round" television series. for those who didn't see it, the road became inpassable and for a lot of the time, they hitched a ride in the back of a massive soviet truck / tank thing, and even then it wasn't exactly easy.

we came accross vietnam's version of the road of bones by accident. my initial plan was to show the boys the best riding in the country - about 150kms of ho chi minh highway snaking through the phong nha-ke bang national park. the actual highway bypasses the park, but there is some amazing scenery in this park making the diversion well worth the effort.

except, we couldn't get in. an over-zealous park ranger refused entry, and wouldn't even accept a "fee". no, we had to go back 30km and get some travel papers from some government building. we backtracked, waited for the 2.5 hour lunch to be over, only to be told the director and deputy were away on business, and nobody else could approve our papers.

so we had to skip out on what i considered to be the best riding between saigon and hanoi. very disappointed.

the alternative route took us back towards the cost, which is nice, but the jungle mountains are a lot more fun. we suddenly came across a bunch of policemen who said we were speeding! or was it that some of us had headlights on? either way, we were white and they wanted some money. 3.5 million vietnamese dong later, we were on our way, but i was looking for an alternative route - there are no police on the real ho chi minh highway, so i wanted to get back on that.

taking out my blue road atlas, there was a "national road 10" marked, about 28km in length, that would get us back on the road we wanted. the road was marked as being low quality, but still sealed. even taking it slow, 28km would easily be covered in an hour, so we all agreed to take NR10.

we left NR10 some 6 hours later.

as soon as we got on the road, it was obvious "sealed" meant something different to westerners. the road was rough, rocky and dusty, but still passable. soon we came across a roadworks siggn, saying there were roadworks on NR10 (at least we were on the right road!) for another 11km. a short cigarette break took place, and we all decided to press on: we could put up with 10km or so of bothersome road, then be popped out onto some nice stuff - hopefully the sort of road you don't need to be standing up for, and can go into 3rd or even 4th gear.

on the map, NR10 was strightforward - there were no other roads or even tracks branching off. imagine our surprise then, when we came to a series of 3 or 4 intersections. things were beginning to turn ugly... sometimes we stopped and asked, other times we just took the busiest looking track.

when we reached the 11km end marker, there was no marked improvement. in fact, the road deteriorated, becoming nothing more than coarse ungraded gravel (what would be used under a railway line) at best, boulders at worst. soon enough, another sign stating another 6km of roadworks was up ahead. our decision to push on through was looking shady, but we were almost halfway through, so nobody gave any thought of turning back. we had been on the NR10 for about an hour now.

the road just kept on going, and never got better. at one stage we had a small creek to cross, and i managed to get a fair way ahead and dismount, and got my camera out for some creek crossing shots:

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(for those interested, i have some animated gifs available as well, for joe, chris and ian.)

ian's crossing was the most stunning, in no small part due to his crash at the other end. perhaps my cries of "more power!" weren't such a good idea :o

but from here on in, i have no photos. neither does adam, because things just got to hard. dirt and dust gave way to mud. the road became a trail with big water-filled truck ruts winding through it.

and it just got worse! soon the track was a set of parallel ruts, all filled with water - effectively a mud road. we came across a big river, which had a bridge over it. well, half a bridge: one of the 6 supports had been swept away, leaving one side of the bridge half collapsed. there was no other way to cross, so we all walked our bikes across the 75cm section where the bridge still looked normal. our shoes were muddy and the bridge is flat steel, so we were sliding all over the place.

soon we got over the bridge, then we had to go up the valley, onto the ridge line. i absolutely gunned my bike, and made it up without incident for a long way. to call what we were on a road at this point was laughable - we were riding up a tributary creek that fed into the river. there was the choice of deep mud or slippery river rocks. the sun was dipping and we were going through clouds as the mountain ridge became closer. at one point i stalled on some rocks, but didn't drop the bike - something i was very proud of.

we were now riding in the dark, on mud, with no idea how far we had to go. at this point, the other guys' bikes were having some issues: ian's clutch plate was to hot to engage correctly, and chris' engine was generally overheated from taking adam as a passenger. the final phase of the "road" was a mountain pass - lots of muddy switchbacks, up and downs. chris and i took it in turns to scout ahead and report back to joe and ian about the conditions coming up. i finally spied the ho chi minh highway, but we had a real mudpit to cross before we got there. tis mud was thick, and deep: at least 60cm / 2ft. we had a steep descent, and the mud went all the way to the edge, where a cliff dropped down into jungle, at least 50m down. it was tough going, and in the end i blew some of my eletrics keeping my light on high-beas for the others, but we all made it.

6 hours for 28km. no support crew, not even mobile phone coverage. we all felt exhausted, but accomplished. big manly hugs ensued, then we spied a shack open for beer... say no more!

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the british are coming! [Jun. 6th, 2009|06:02 pm]
stevenchella
[Tags|, , , ]
[Whereami |vinh, vietnam]
[Feelin' |cheerfulcheerful]

meet joe,

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chris,

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ian,

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and adam,

DSC_2628.JPG

my new travelling companions to go from vinh to saigon. once i saw the boys, i then decided to travel with them instead of going to laos.

it was great to see chris and joe again - i had first met them the day before they left saigon back in march. ian and i first met in hanoi, which is where i also ran into adam, the other australian guy. in a strange twist, adam is also a canberran, and we know some of the same people. small world...

we had 4 bikes between the 5 of us - adam was our passenger / photographer. we fairly flew down the country but had some amazing experiences, both in the jungle and hills as well as the coast. i didn't keep my journal for this part of the journey, mainly because we were riding for so long each day. i know i won't have a problem recalling some of the days (and nights) riding... you don't tend to forget riding 17 hours a day, or taking 6 hours to cover 30 kilometres.

and nobody forgets a pirate :)

DSC_2604.JPG
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eating with the V.C - thai hoa to vinh [Jun. 1st, 2009|01:32 pm]
stevenchella
[Tags|, , , ]
[Whereami |vinh, vietnam]
[Feelin' |exhaustedexhausted]

this post is a mixture of journal notes and vague recollections... its also quite long and covers many places and days. not the best blogging effort, but to me this was all one big event.

today [may 6] really was the best of times and the worse of times. i fried my piston about 80km out of hanoi and was befriended by the nicest 24 year old boy i've ever met. he towed me to a service station, took me to his house for a shower, then to his father's house for dinner. this house was amazing, not thhe structure itself, but the fruit trees out the front, the dam next to them, teeming with fish and massive mountains beyond.

his father and friends had "freed villages" back in the day and given he was at least 50, i guessed what that meant. the food, incidentally was delicious. fried pork with bean sprouts, an earthy watercress soup, cold chicken noodles, lots of vodka.

these guys were so accomodating. left handednesss is something almost frowned upon in vietnam and they laughed at how i sat and ate, but i noticed one of the old guys was also left handed, and we had a good chuckle at that.

the bike is still fucked, and my schedule thrown out the window - that's what planning gets you! but if i hadn't broken down i never would have had this amazing evening with a bunch of local guys and their family.

[made it to bed at 11pm, after starting off at 6am or something. the next few days continue]

what a trying time this has been. have spent over 1 million dong on the bike so far and its ridable, but barely. set to spend another 2-3 mill on a new engine - going to try and get a new one right off the production line.

thuong (24 year old best friend ever) has been really helpful. there's no way i would have survived without his generosity, and its not like he has very much. he has a wife and a modest house, but no job and no profession. he teaches himself english from a few books and dictonaries. while he has been the most accomodating of hosts, i can't say i was always as receptive as i could have been. i awoke from a mid morning nap to find about 8 people waiting to have lunch with me. again, the food was great but i was tired and quite depressed about the bike, and the language barrier was tough. i declined vodka (at 11am!) at this point, after the first. and again at dinnner with more of his friends, i did the same.  i was probably quite rude to them, refusing to drink, but i was just over it.

thuong's parting words were "forget me not"... he was so sweet.

the bike was finally ready [morning of the 8th] but running like a dog and leaking petrol. i nursed it to yen cat before the first disaster, which was "fixed" by a guy puttting some petrol into the spark plug... said it was due to the engine losing oil or something. i bought a spark plug remover off him so i could repeat the fix should the need arise, and it did. but this time the problem was bigger... more clunky noises from the engine. i walked the bike about 4kms (in the middle of the day) before i came across a worker of sorts... he emerged from the jungle (right next to the road) and was clearing out his chainsaw. he motioned me to stop and i showed him how the bike was broken. he did all he could but to no avail, other than let me know the nearest mechanic wasn't all that near. i gave him my last cigarettes.

a few more kilometres up the road and once again i was amazed by the helpfulness of the locals. two roadside workers shared their watermelons and cigarettes with me and a lady offered me a can of red bulll. another guy had broken down nearby - flat tyre. i motioned to the mechanic that i needed to be towed to a big city for a new engine, and he obliged.

being towed on a motorbike is not fun. sharp turns are downright dangerous, and traffic is death waiting to happen. my mechanic didn't have any rope, but i gave him my knife and he popped into the jungle and came back with 20 metres or "stuff"... jungle vine. he towed me over 50km (nearly 2 hours) to thai hoa, a big-ish city where there are some big bike shops. i'm hoping they can sort me out quickly.

but of course they couldn't. no engines, new or old. i'm about 120km from vinh, a really big city where i know a good mechanic, so i manage to negotiate transport for my bike their. on a bus. a minibus. in the central aisle of the minibus. 3 hours later and i'm in vinh - its about lunchtime. my bike doesn't start, i have no indicators left (casualties of travelling in a small bus), so i push / roll the bike to my mechanic.. a mere 2km this time.

the guy recognises me immediately, and i explain i want a new engine. he laughs at this, because my model of bike hasn't been made in years, so there's no such thing as "new" for it. in the end i agree to a chinese engine, a lifan model. i comes right out of the box and into my bike, and lightens my wallet about 3 million dong. but, the bike is like new, better even. it runs fast, although not quite as powerful, and my man tells me its a lot more fuel efficient (i later estimated it at around 45km/L as opposed to the 30km/L of the old engine)



i check myself into the saigontourist hotel - usd$40 a night, but it has a pool and a bath... i feel i deserve some luxury at this point. at this stage i am contemplating what to do next, when i get a phone message from some english lads i met in saigon, then again in hanoi. they are about 80km out of vinh. i agree to meet up with them for a drink and have a chat...

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escape from hanoi [May. 29th, 2009|09:34 am]
stevenchella
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[Whereami |???]
[Feelin' |disappointeddisappointed]

the plan was to cover about 450km from hanoi to vinh, from where i would have an easy 80km ride to the laos border. i started at 6am... that's dedication.

the weather was beautiful, some slight drizzle but not much. clouds were just lifting off the hills alongside the road and it felt really good to be back on the bike,



until, a problem. the bike just stopped. i coasted along and luckily stopped outside a village mechanic. the cause: a broken rocker arm inside the engine, which basically means no power.



6 hours later and i was on the road. i still figured i could make vinh, but i would have to drive fast and be prepared for some night riding.

15 kilometers down the track, more problems. this time, no roadside mechanic. i was in the middle of nowhere, and about 3 people passed  me in 45 minutes. i was getting a bit worried, but then a young vietnamese boy - tuong - came to my rescue. armed with some rope he towed me to the nearest garage. by now it was 6pm, and i was maybe 80km outside of hanoi.

so much for making vinh.

the next few days were some of the most memorable on the trip. to be continued...

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