This is a report of a trip I did last year- my first time overseas. It's not so much about riding extreme roads as it is about a very eventful cultural and geographic experience, featuring everything from Thai hookers to being (a little) lost in the Sahara. Think of it more as a trip report than a ride report. I write a lot, so if reading ain't your thing, just look at the purdy pictures, or watch the movie.
Its still a work in progress, but if people like it I'll keep going.
Chapter 0: Prep – Are you sure this bag is 60 liters? ??? - 24 August.
My watch showed 2200. With only 8 hours until my train departed, you wouldn't have though my floor would look like this:
I remembered the 11mm socket for my GPS mount, but not toilet paper.
The pile wasn't actually as big as I thought it would be for a trip of this scale – 3 countries, 17 days, and almost 3000km. The whole trip had originated as a plan to join a friend of mine from the UK, Lyndon Poskitt, on a trail-biking tour in southern Spain as part of a fundraising effort for his 2013 Dakar rally attempt . Of course, when I'd seen the price of the flights, I quickly realized spending that much on one weekend wasn't much value for money. Cancelling the trip was out of the question, so I went to the other extreme – make it as long as possible. It was only when I started route planning for 2 weeks in Spain that I realized Africa was only a short ferry ride away. And so, a plan was hatched.
Landing in Malaga, Spain on the 27th of August, I would hire a motorcycle and head south to Tangier, Morocco. Having been warned by more experienced travelers on the mayhem of African border crossings and roads, I had two plans. I would strike south from Tangier towards the Fez, and see how far I could get before exhaustion or nightfall (having been warned strenuously against riding, or indeed being out after dark). If I made Fez, I would attempt the marathon route: cross the breadth of the country and spend a night in the dunes at Erg Chebbi on the northwest brink of the Sahara. If I didn't, I would do a relaxing lap along the coast and around the Rif and Atlas Mountains in the central north of the country. Being the shorter (and cooler) route, this was the one most of the Pommy experts advised me to take, particularly if I wanted the Moroccan cultural experience. But I'd be damned if I was going to Africa and I didn't try and see the Sahara. Either way, I had to be back on the ferry to Spain by the 31st, for a weekend of ruining the Andalucian hills with the sound of Husabergs with Lyndon and his mates. And after that, I still had 5 days to burn in Spain. I hadn't even begun to plan where I'd go there, but I figured rest of the boys would give me some suggestions over the weekend. Of course, I was getting ahead of myself here. I had a 24-hour stop-over in Thailand on the way there, and I sure as hell wasn't letting that go to waste either; a hire-bike was waiting for me in Bangkok.
By sacrificing such frivolous items as spare underwear and cold weather clothing, I'd managed to make space for the important things like phrasebooks and carbon fiber tent poles. For the kit-geeks out there, other notable superfluous accessories included a Pacsafe 55L steel cable cage for my bags, a Pouchsafe 150 for a body-wallet, my faithful Canon 500D, an EPIRB (yes, they do work overseas – you just have to rely on the locals to pick you up) and a Garmin Montana GPS, which had been dutifully loaded with way-points for hotels, campsites, fuel stations and hospitals from the UK GS'er Morocco Knowledgebase. Riding gear was my trusty Klim Latitude pants and jacket (which for and all black, fully waterproof Gortex suit were going to get their venting merits pushed to the limits), a Shoei Hornet helmet, Sidi Adventure boots and some ratty clapped out old Dri-Rider gloves. After great internal debate I also decide to include camping gear, mainly based on romantic notions of pitching tents on top of sand dunes, and wanting dearly to test my MLD Trailstar (last kit plug, I promise) in the field. Even with my clothes cull, not everything was going to fit into the single 60L hiking pack I'd settled on as my between-pannier carry-all. So I resigned myself to wearing my jacket and boots and carrying my helmet, crammed everything else in the pack, and caught the last 5 hours sleep I'd by having on Australian soil. Not to worry, I heard sleeping on long hauls flights was really easy.
Chapter 1: Bangkok – A city that lives up to its name. 26 - 27 August.
I imagine I looked quite the greenhorn traveler, bumbling around through customs in my riding boots and carrying my papers in a makeshift helmet-come-man-purse. But I made it through my first ever customs passage without making too much of an ass out of myself, and settled into the chair that would be my new home for the next 8 hours. The in-flight movies were all new releases, and so 8 hours later I landed, having taken my Spanish phrasebook aboard for no reason whatsoever. My first introduction to Thai traffic was the 140 kph cab ride from the airport, and so by the time I'd checked in at the hotel and unpacked, despite being 2200 h again (or about 0100 h Australian), all traces of jet-lag had been forgotten, and I was keen to get out and see Bangkok by night.
With a fistful of Baht I waltzed out the hotel front door, only to be immediately accosted by literally a half-dozen 'helpful' cab drivers, offering to take me wherever I wanted. In my naivety, I agreed to have one of the ones with better English, a 'Mr. Johnny' (which I'm sure was his real name), take me out to show me a cheap place to eat and some interesting places to see – and all for only $12 AUD. He dropped my at a very clean little seafood restaurant and promised to return in half a hour, and I sat down to a meal of shrimp which the waiter had assured me were cheap, in his very limited English. It wasn't until I was presented with a 2200 Baht ($70) bill, that I realized something may have been lost in translation.
The most expensive meal of my life.
I literally didn't have the money to pay, as I demonstrated to the waiter by emptying my pockets onto the table. If it was a scam, it was a good one – even the manager came out to verify what was going on. Just as I thought I was about to end up washing dishes or losing my watch, Mr. Johnny showed up. A few minutes of rapid conversation in Thai, and Mr. Johnny had settled the remainder of the debt (if perhaps reluctantly), based on my promises that I'd repay him back at the hotel. Seeing as I had 'rich dumb white guy' written on my forehead, he trusted I had the money, and after I'd payed back what he was owed, plus his cab fare and a bit extra as thanks, he suddenly became my best mate again, and suggested we should go get a 'Thai Massage'. I agreed, but added an explicit caveat to it: “Just a massage”. But when we rounded a back-alley corner to park below a large pink neon sign proclaiming only 'ENTERTAINMENT”, I suspected I may have again become lost in translation...or worse. Upon entering the building I immediately noticed several things: the short but rough looking bouncer on the inside to keep people from leaving if required, a very distinct smell (which would have made me sick if I didn't have $70 of shrimp in me), and of course the rows of naked Thai women behind a glass wall at the end of the lobby. That last one clarified my suspicions nicely: Mr. Johnny had taken me to a brothel.
When I confronted him with my reluctance to get a 'massage', or indeed even sit in one of the chairs, he reassured me vigourously: “Oh no no no! These good girls! Vely clean! Vely Preeeety!!”. As the madam sidled up, sat us both down and passed us two menus (one for the drinks, and one for the girls), I gave Mr. Jonny a long stern look and said quite clearly “I think we've come to the wrong place.”. Looked a little abashed, Mr Johnny exchanged a few quick words in Thai with the madam, who looked at me once, laughed, then said “What? Nosex?”. Seems that I didn't live up to their expectations of the typical Australian tourist. Excusing my reluctance with tales of a fictional angry girlfriend, Mr. Johnny then took me to a proper massage spa that featured a very re-assuring sign on their lift door:
Avoiding any potential 'misunderstandings'.
As I payed, I couldn't help but note that the services of the girls at 'ENTERTAINMENT' central had been cheaper than a legitimate massage, and for that matter, my shrimp dinner. It was 0100 local, and Mr Johnny looked tired. We went back to the hotel and I thanked him for turning my night into quite the little adventure, then took a long hot shower with extra scrubbing, and went to bed. Tomorrow, the 2-wheeled adventure began.
Jdeks screwed with this post 03-15-2013 at 08:14 AM