Monday, February 4, 2013

Welcome home

Heading south in convoy, more than 30 bikes
Meeting up with about 30 bikes in Joondalup just north of my final destination before we rode the last 30km into Perth and the last stop, was quite emotional. I didn't expect that many guys to turn up, everyone was really nice and congratulated me on the trip. We rode down the highway in a convoy with me at the front. I was really honoured that these guys would follow and support me on the last leg of my journey. Amazing!

It was even more heartening to see even more bikes parked outside Perth council house when we arrived there.

Perth Mayor Lisa Scaffidi with letter from Scottish Provost
The lovely Lisa Scafffidi, Perth Mayor, greeted me with open arms and all of this was captured by TV and media. I felt like a rock star for 5 minutes. Absolutely amazing!

This was overwhelming and I was unsure how to deal with it really, but there I was, some ordinary bloke on a bike arriving home having ridden 28,800km from Perth to Perth.

No big deal surely, but this event today was a big deal. It was magic, everyone was wonderful and I felt really special, welcomed by friends and family who braved the heat of the day to meet me.

So that's it. The END.

The end of this amazing adventure. I'm happy to be able to complete what I started out to do but sad at the same time. Will I ever be so lucky to do something like this again? I hope so.

The last few months have been an amazing whirlwind of ups and downs,  mostly ups. My trusty bike has a place in my heart, not like a person, its a machine, but I cant help but feel some affection for this amazing bike that has transported me across the world. Its a motorcycle, one of many similar on the road everyday but this one is special.Its witnessed all of my moods, from good to bad, it's accompanied me over potholes and gravel  saved me when other vehicles were trying to kill us both, carried me through torrential rain without a hiccup  taken me through horrendous heat and cold,  kept me alive and given me a life at the same time. How can I not feel some affection or connection with my close companion that is a motorbike after all.  I now have to send it back to UK and I now  know I should now sell it for something new but that will be very hard to do.

My Dad and me. February 2012
My family have been supportive through the whole trip, especially when I lost my Dad and I had to rearrange all plans. My wife has been the support crew behind me, when something goes wrong, I can rely on her to do whatever is required to get help or solve any dramas. I didn't have a support vehicle behind me but I don't think that's needed really. As long as I have someone at the end of the phone who can do something to help, I never felt alone. She was the one who heard my moans when I was down, she lifted me up at my worst and told me off when I needed to be grateful.

Sad to see the end, now it's back to work and routine. I need to recover so much money now. Yes it's rather expensive but I wouldn't change that for the world, worth every penny. So if you are thinking of doing something similar, stop thinking about about it and just do it before you can't. Life is short.

So what now?

Did you know there is a Perth in Tasmania?

Fancy that! A Tiger in Tasmania. In Perth as well :)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Share us yer grog mate

Middle of nowhere
Halls Creek is in the middle of nowhere. Its 1100 km from my starting point in Darwin which leaves another 3000 km to Perth to go. This is a small town with some shops, two hotels and a pub. I park up up, shower, change and head for dinner. Today I reckon I'll go a bit more fancy and order a bottle of the finest New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy with the meal. When I'm finished, I'm invited to sit and chat with some of the locals from surrounding Aboriginal communities. They all seem a nice bunch and we chat for a while on various topics from motorbikes to racism. The nice waitress sees  my bottle of wine still 2/3 full and brings it out to me. The woman next to me asks, "share us some of yer grog mate", I reply, "of course, help yourself"
She pours the entire remains of the finest wine into an empty pint glass, downs the lot and thumps the glass back on the table! Another lesson learned.

Cable Beach, Broome
I'm going to get new tyres in Broome, and call a bike shop there, unbeknown to me its diverted to Perth and the guy tells me he has what I need in stock. I've sent a message to my support team (wife) on the very limited Internet access asking her to arrange tyres for Saturday morning for me. The bike shops in Broome don't have any tyres and cant help without flying the goods overnight. The cost of air freight is fairly expensive, road freight takes a week so my wife decides to bring them herself in a suitcase. Just as well Broome is a lovely holiday destination.

New Tyres
The local bike shop will fit them for me and in order to save some money, I remove and fit the wheels myself. I'm rather cheeky and ask if I can do an oil and filter change at the same time.

Now I have my own portable hotel again
Next day I'm off to Port Hedland. This is not one of my favourite places in Australia. Thousands of workers in white utes, wearing goaties, drinkin piss ... bugger all to do except drink piss as they say. So with this in mind, and the mining boom in these parts, how easy is it to get a cheap hotel? Impossible, they all want $300 a night! Even the shitty roadside pub. The single men accommodation camp  across from the airport wants $290, for a bloody 'donger'. (part of portacabin)

I find the cheapest deal at $250 at a hotel in town but I'm annoyed I didn't think of this sooner. Tomorrow, I'm going to K-Mart and will buy me a cheap tent, no way I'm paying silly money simply for a bed.

I was planning to rough camp without a tent, but this is wet season, it usually rains heavily through the night and mosquitoes are everywhere.

$17 Tent. You get what you pay for.
Armed with my new $17  tent and bedding I'm aiming for Carnarvon but I wont make it before dark. There is a road house where I can stop at on the way. Nanuturra roadhouse has camping, showers, oh and a bar as well. My pitch costs $10, the tent takes 5 minutes to put up, and ask myself why I didn't do this sooner. I get the answer later that night. 11pm, It's still bloody hot and I struggle to breath in my new hot and sweaty $17 plastic bag. The vents don't seem to work and I have to open the door fully to get air and cool down. I then spend the next hour or more with small torch in hand killing off all the mossies and other weird looking bugs now sharing my abode. I think I get to sleep around 2am. The 4am beep beep beep of trucks reversing wakes me up and I'm fairly grumpy now. 5am and I decide to get up and go, making use of cooler part of the day to travel.

Carnarvon is famous for bananas
I arrive in Carnarvon where the temperature is a lovely 26, find a cheap hotel and sleep like I'm dead.

Next day I'm on the road to Geraldton, slow and easy, its now fairly cool on the coast so I don't need to leave so early. I grab myself somewhere to stay, not your usual hotel but this time its a house. Much cheaper but rather eery as the key is left for me in a lock box to the rear with instructions on how to get in and what room to stay in.

Its starting to get dark and this place is deserted, at least I think it is although I was sure I could hear some moans from one of the locked doors along the corridor inside. I've found the light switches and found my room. This really is a lovely place, beautifully decorated charming and homely. I'm here alone, this is my last night on the road, tomorrow I hit Perth and the journey is complete. This is my last night and I should be partying, but no one is here.
Geraldton Yellow Submarine!

Next day I visit the town and whilst filming a wee bit at the yellow submarine, the high winds blow my camera and tripod over. The camera hits the ground hard and I can do nothing to stop it. The camera survives but the microphone on top breaks. Ah well, its made it this far

Tomorrow I'm meeting up with some other bikes just north of Perth and will continue down to meet with the Perth Mayor to hand over a gift from the Lord Provost of Perth. That will be it, the end, the final destination, the conclusion of this mammoth trip across the world. I'm feeling a bit sad about this but happy to see my family and Friends again.

Next: Welcome Home

Middle of nowhere

Crossing into temperate climate

Last time I did this it was snowing, I was a bit bored by now, I thought it was apt.
The Pinnacles in WA

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cancel the homecoming?

Old Carnet
I'm back in Australia finally and will be travelling West from Darwin towards Broome, all I need now is my bike. The bike has landed at the port but I still don't have an updated carnet document. This means that I cannot bring the vehicle into the country without this document, I have no idea what to do, should I cancel the homecoming scheduled for next week, probably best idea.

I've been sending emails to government departments. All of the responses are not good. Most replies are not positive and I'm wondering if I'll ever get the bike released. I've heard of some people being stuck here for weeks whilst the government issue a "Vehicle Import Approval" or VIA" certificate for the bike.

But first chance I get, early morning I visit the shipping guys at Darwin port. Long story, but short version is, get in touch with customs agent, pay him to import and pay the duty charges, quarantine and the 10% GST on its current value. OK its a lot more expensive than I planned but lets try it. 24 hours later I get a call to say its cleared customs, just needs a quarantine inspection and I'm free, unfortunately, its Friday and earliest appointment available is Monday 11am. This means there is no way I can reach home for scheduled homecoming event by next week-end.

Whilst there, I met up with a Dutch guy who was in the same boat, no carnet document. His dilemma was slightly more exciting than mine as his was stolen from him at gunpoint in Dili East Timor along with everything he had in his bag. He was however, actually quite positive, happy to be alive and not caring about his situation.

I have in my bag, a letter of civic greeting from the Mayor of Perth in Scotland which I shall deliver to the Mayor of Perth Australia. This was to be an organised and official affair, and I have no choice but to delay for another week or so.

So I have all week-end to waste so spend a fair bit of it here at the local Irish pub talking rubbish.

Monday I'm with the quarantine inspector at a shed on the wharf. They open the door and I'm pleased to see the bike intact, some dust but that's it, no damage. The quarantine guy goes over the bike looking for dirt or traces of seeds or dust from alien countries, he runs his fingers under the mudguards, under the seat. He checks under the seat and is satisfied I've done a great job of cleaning the bike. I open the panniers where I've squeezed all my bike clothes and to my horror one has an incredible amount of mould growing all over my things. I'm thinking that this will almost certainly be a problem and I'll be stuck another few days whilst the bike is cleaned again. The quarantine inspector hands the mouldy contents to one of the customs agents and asks him to run a hose over it! Thats it! All good, sign some papers, stamp some documents and I can leave.

Freedom! Bike on Australian roads
I still don't believe how easy it's been and until I'm on the other side of the gate, I still won't. Thirty minutes later I return with some more paperwork, open up the warehouse, start the bike, ride suspiciously and slowly towards the gate with another bit of paper, show the guard, the gate lifts and I'm free!

Pleased as punch,  next day I'm off, first destination is Katherine, around 360 km South, from there I'll turn to the West and head for home.

A fairly easy day, stop for the night then head to Kununurra. This is when I learn one major thing. Always carry spare water with you. I have a 2 litre backpack Camelpak. This is exhausted in one hour and another hour later so am I.. I'm not exerting myself much but the hair dryer wind could dry even the wettest washing in 10 seconds. I'm 200 kms from anywhere and I've run out of water, the temperature hovers around 38 degrees C but in some regions where bush fires have blackened the surrounding bush, the air gets even hotter, almost unbearable. I'm starting to get a bit worried as I'd not seen any other vehicles for at least 30 minutes. There is no shade here either, the trees are too small to sit under so imagine my joy to see a sign to a 24 hour resting place ahead.
saved by a shelter
This place has a covered areas with tables and toilets. There is a water tank but a sign on the outside says that it's not suitable for drinking. Bugger! At least I can use it to wet my clothes in an attempt to cool down, so I pour the hot water over my T-shirt, inside of my helmet and over my head. This is just enough to get me to the next petrol station where I make sure I now have two water supplies, I even go as far to buy some biscuits as rations, just in case I get stuck.

forgot about crocs
I arrive into Kununurra a lot wiser than before. Yes, I've heard it several times about travel in remote areas, yes I know to take adequate supplies,  I know, but ignored for some stupid reason. Another thing you must not do, don't enter rivers on foot or by bike if they are known for crocodiles. Yes I did that too.

Next day Im in Halls Creek and have some drinkies with the local Aboriginal community.

Next: "Share us yer grog mate"

Friday, January 11, 2013

Love you long time

Bangkok traffic
Arriving in Bangkok as planned, rather behind schedule, but happy to be back on the road, I will air freight my lost laptop to the airport hotel in which I'm staying. I'm still amazed its all there, all complete with my Carnet Document for the bike which I need to enter Malaysia and Singapore. Without this I'd be stranded in Thailand.

Bangkok traffic is easy but there is so much of it. It took me five hours to get from airport to city and back. Next day the heavens fall down and I'm driving through the city on a 3 lane river following the wake of other vehicles. I've been soaked through but its a cool change from the hot and sticky 35 degrees of previous days. Its also washed the bike for me for the first time since Amritsar in India.

Jeroen and the KTM
Remember Jeroen and  the adventurous 990? His bike was supposed to be repaired in Delhi, they promised all but couldn't fix it. Jeroen now an expert in pick up trucks and motorcycle logistics transported the faulty bike to Bangkok in the hope of some technical expertise. The KTM guys in Thailand seem to have the skills and knowledge and for now solve all problems.  I know it won't last.

We catch up in Bangkok and as has been the way so far, share a few beers. There are many nice places in Bangkok, there are many seedy places as well. We've managed to fall into one of the latter where I share the bathroom with several Thai beauties, most fixing their hair or make up, one in underwear proposing her eternal love for me whilst I stand pissing at the urinal. I've never been
all sorts of weird stuff here
proposed to in this way, I do prefer a bit of privacy at such times. "I love you long time" she says. I'm not sure what she means exactly and didn't want to ask, preferring to run to the safety of the bar and my beer bottle. This seems a common thing in Bangkok and everywhere I go, I'm offered all kinds of pleasurable pursuits, some involving condoms, bananas and even a ping pong ball or two. After a few days I start to feel self conscious. It seems that there are a lot of middle aged men with young pretty girls on their arms. Their is also a lot of creepy looking middle aged men wandering the streets near the seedy bars. Is this what I look like? After many offers of massage and other delights I return to my hotel room in a huff having failed to simply find a bar which doesn't involve sex with an 18 year old. Boy or girl I must add.
I'm waiting in Bangkok for my laptop to arrive, for some reason its delayed and I decide its better to head off to see some more of Thailand.   Im heading north to catch up with a mate who's planned a few days away. Simon is originally from UK an has been here for a few years. He is fairly handy when we have to communicate with the non-English speaking locals. After the much slower but mad pace of India and Nepal, it's great to be able to move faster without being killed by dippy suicide driver. Freeway speeds in Thailand are pretty much same as France or Italy. I never looked at my speedo but we're around 160 km hr again. :)

Simon guides me around Thailand
This will sound smug but I think I might qualify as a pretty fair rider, having had survived many different countries, did I mention India? but watching Simon weave in and out of the lanes of traffic make me nervous watching from behind. I'm sure the cars will run him down but they don't. Thai motorists are very patient and similar fashion to many other countries, kindly move over to
allow bikes to pass.

So we head north to a place called Nan, stopping on the way at Sukhothai Temple for a few hours.
Sukothai Temple

We get to Nan on a Saturday and we're entertained by one of Simons Thai friends. I've since forgotten names, it was a good night. I didn't even put my hand in my pocket to pay, such is the generosity of some people. Next day we're off to find some amazing twisty roads in the hills. These are recently laid and the surface is perfect. I take advantage of the safer road surfaces manage to finally wear in the remaining edge portions of my tyres. Both my tyres and me have been waiting for this since Turkey some 10,000 km ago!

Back to Bangkok for a few days then south to Phuket, not to be pronounced "foo kett" apparently!
2pm everyday this happens
There one thing I learned about Thailand. The weather at this time of year is simple, sunny and hot until around 2pm when the skies open and deluge the country for the next 4 hours. I should have
been a bit smarter and left early in the morning but thats too sensible for me and everyday I get soaked thoroughly.

In Phuket, I become the tourist and visit the islands surrounding the area, especially the James Bond rock, filmed in the cheesey "The Man with the Golden Gun" way back in the early seventies. We drop by a few islands on a fast speedboat but I've been not well, the hangover of a lifetime after having downed some free shots the night before with friends  I also have a drama with funny tummy and drop toilets, the ladies I may add. No lock, no balance, no paper and some people trying to push in isn't very dignified.

Islands off Phuket
I'm still pondering continuing via Sumatra and Java but running out of time and decide to continue as planned all the way to Singapore where I will ship to Darwin.

Heading south to Malaysia I stop at the border controls to get my passport and carnet stamped. It seems they don't really care but i get it all in order just in case I have a problem trying to leave the country. Much of the same weather and environment, my bike cllothes certainly don't need washed as they are well drenched every day, I continue via Penang and down to Johor on the border to Singapore.

Loading bike in no mans land
I was going to drive across the causeway separating the two countries but insurance cost, permits and other things make it silly expensive for the 10 km ride so I hire a truck and we take it straight to the docks where it will be loaded onto a container and set sail for Darwin.

But there's a problem. My existing carnet document does not include Australia, yes I should have added it at the start of the journey but original plan was to use another bike in oz instead. I've applied to the carnet people in UK weeks ago, but still there is delays. Several emails, phone calls and faxes later, I'm still waiting, but remain optimistic all will go to plan.

I'm going to fly to Darwin via Bali to meet up with family and have a few days off. In this time, hopefully all will work out. This is not the case when I arrive in Darwin and the carnet people tell me I cannot get an updated document to enter Australia, just when I need it. So now the bike sits pretty in the bonded warehouse as I wander the Darwin streets wondering what to do next.

Meanwhile, Jeroen has problems of his own and needs some spares flown in to Penang. Will he make Australia?

Next: Cancel the homecoming?

Happy chappy at one of the many temples of Thailand

Ferry made of canoes

Enjoying ferry ride 

Triumph factory in Thailand

I'm not the only one with a hangover

Islands off Phuket

The boat hotel in Malaysia

James Bond island

Kuala Lumpur

Last stop before heading to Singapore

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Will I ever see it again?

lost forever?
I must be one of the world's most absent minded people. I know this well and realised that on this trip I developed a routine for packing everything in its place so that I don't misplace anything else. I realised this after losing, yet another pair of sunglasses, camping equipment,  money, papers and so on. But the classic has to be leaving a laptop case, complete with backup drives and backup thumb drives in a Kathmandu taxi. A taxi you cannot identify, no reference numbers, no phone number to call, no brand or taxi company. This is just a white Suzuki car about the same size as a toaster with no means to identify it other than the registration number. Apart from Rain man, police and trainspotter types, who reads  registration numbers? I don't.

My freind Rajesh assured me they'd find it. "Don't worry" he smiled. I'm trying to acknowledge his confidence but I feel he is either deluded or knows something I don't. How on earth will you track down a small black bag in a sea of taxi's. What low paid taxi driver would hand in equivalent of a two months wages? I think that impossible. Rajesh is still confident as I bid him farewell and run to catch my plane still seething at my stupidity.

I'm flying back to UK for a week or so before rejoining my planned route in Thailand. When I land in London, switch on the phone, check for text messages ..... "no news - sorry" - Rajesh"

So now I've accepted that the computer, ipad and all my video back up files have gone. I have lost weeks of video footage, I have no other copies and feel completely low. I'm trying to pick myself up and as I head for the Edinburgh train I give myself a slap, try to look at the positives, I may have lost the equipment and a lot of video, I can still put something decent together maybe. I am still on this amazing adventure travelling across the globe, so be happy!

My phone was switched to silent to avoid annoying other passengers on the high speed train north. As we roll into Berwick on the Scottish border I check the phone and to my utter amazement that I got the news from my friend Rajesh that he'd found the case,  complete with all items intact! I thought this was impossible and still couldn't believe it but somehow, he managed to succeed. I'm not sure who he had to convince but as we'd put up a reward of 10,000 Nepalise Rupees, ($80) which is not a lot by our standards but enough to get the job done. I do suspect however, Rajesh went above and beyond the call of duty for this one, does he have powerful freinds in high places? He never tells me but I suspect so.

I can't explain the relief but I'm so happy to hear the news and share this with the other train passengers opposite me. I had to, since I was punching the air and muttering "fuckin brilliant"! or words to that effect.

Next: Thailand - "Love you long time"!