Trip Start Jul 29, 2007
55Trip End Dec 20, 2008
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Sorry about the last 3 blogs being so long and boring, and sorry for this one being just the same. I was gonna try and keep this one a little more brief but then i thought ‛Fack it', I'll do as i please.
Thanks for all the feed back from my last blogs everyone called Froggie. X
I'm now in Koala Lumper getting pretty embarrassed about how long this trip has taken me. I thought i did pretty good, racing across the face of the planet, until i hit S.E. Asia and then took it pretty easy. But now i have only two countries separating me from a massive ‛rideabout' in the big red desert and i can almost smell the kangaroo pies and XXXX from here.
I dunno what happened to my initial plan of having a pint every 1000 kms, if this was the rule I'd have had to have cycled to the moon and back by now, and admittedly, I've poked a few more McDonald's cheeseburgers down my throat than I'm proud of.
So what's it all mean? I've spent shitloads more than i originally intended.
So after finishing a rather leisurely stretch of island hopping on 3 of Thailand's best east coast islands, I've decided to pull finger, and try high tailing it. We did pretty well, getting to KL on daily averages of just over 150kms and because it's a predominantly Muslim country, I've decided to be sensitive to their religious beliefs and go alcohol free here. Oh, and because the beer costs way too much. I think I'll pick the skill up again in Indonesia though.
So i think I'm about to book a flight out of Bali on the 31st of July (into Darwin) to give me time to ride to Singapore, ferry boat to Sumatra, across Java, and maybe a week or two in Bali to have a bit of a relax before the onslaught of around 3000kms towards Brizzy So if any of you lads are keen on a coldie with me on Kuta Beach sometime in the last week or two of July, I'll see you there. You'll be the first person i know that I'll have seen all trip, since i left London all those moons ago.
Elke has been a little champ on her new cycle since Bangkok, but after Singapore, we're going our separate ways. She's done plenty of research on Indonesia, and got the following reply from one cycle tourer pro - suss it;
I've just returned to Bangkok after 2 years living in Indonesia... which
is to say, I've studied the problem, ah, in-depth.
Java? The short answer is that isn't any good paths - the roads being full
of cars, pollution and speed demons.
So in fact, having cycled it once, I'll never do it again....
It's possible the far west of lava is OK... not so many people, but then
that won't get you to Bali.
The only way through is either Jakarta to Surabaya and on to banyuwangi,
or through the center - Jogya etc, but whichever way you go, you're going
to hit BIG TRAFFIC.
Re "alone, female" etc, I wouldn't worry too much in Indo - it's pretty
tame really... and remember, if there's no hotel or losman, just stay in a
brothel - which may sound outrageous to you, but honestly, they're often
the best places - lots of company, often quite cosily decorated, the
girls look after you well and are pleased for the distraction.... I stay
in them in Indo by choice - no joke! and really, believe me, I'm not
talking about the sex; they really are good places, strange as it may
seem.... I must write an article about it all for the site sometime.
OK, let me know if I can help any more... yeah, Indo, it's a trip! :)
Yeeeeehaaaaa, Whorehouses all the way! Do you wanna buy a bike and come join me Whit?
So here's an outline of the last couple of thousand Kms since Bangkok (BTW my odo is now 20 km short of 18,000km, so I'm guesstimating I'll have 25k kms under my belt by the time im all done);
Again, up to our old tricks, the 4am alarm clock. I'd said to Elke the night before ‶If it's raining at 4am, we're going back to bed (The forecast was for about four or five days of rain), hoping like hell that there was rain. No cigar.
I thought it was a little embarrassing dressed up like ‛Sport Billy' riding past the few stragglers in Siem Reap. This was ‛same same' times twenty. The boozers were still happily chugging down jugs in abundance in most of the hotel pubs we passed on our way to Mc Shat for breakfast.
By the time we stuffed down the debatably delightful Mc Donald's, we'd hit the road by 6 again, just as things were starting to get light.
It took a couple of hours to get the fack out of a city that size, maybe I could have cut that time down if I'd realised a little earlier that a new Ipod mini-speaker I'd put in my handle bar bag was tugging on the north seeking point of my compass needle.
The skies blackened, the temp plummeted (down to about 27 i reckon). It looked like we were in for an on-board wash so we stopped for lunch at 12 sharp and scoffed down a rice dish and a drink each for $3.
The only sign of rain was that the roads were wet 5 k south of where we had lunch - dodged it all, luck was with us today, apart from the rashy groin i got from my new cycle shorts.
One thing becoming more of a problem is the willingness of dogs to flare up at us again, almost Turkish-like. I was luckily riding not too far behind Elke (She's hard to keep up with now on her gleaming new machine) when one large Doberman looking mutt gave chase and tried chewing on her new waterproof pannier. Elke was cruising along with her ipod on, oblivious to the dogs amusement she'd become. I had to put on the big angry voice and start waving old No7 (golf iron) to make it realise it was being a bad doggy.
When the alarm went off at 4am this morning i found, to my delight, it was raining outside.″What shall we do″? Asked Elke. ‶Go back to sleep″ We'd had such a shat night sleep that I was hanging out for a few hours more. 2 ½ more i got.
I gave Elke puncture repair lessons today as her new machine suffered from impotency of the front tyre overnight, just to add to the delay.
We had to search the streets high and low for something to eat, plenty of stalls about but not knowing whats available and ordering something in a town where English is scarce.... We found noodle soup, Viet style, just like the old Pho Ba but pho something else as it was with chicken not beef. This left that hungry, unfulfilled sensation in our stomachs so at about 9ish, we explored the shelves of a 7-11. Elke discovered ‛make your own hot dogs' for B22. I sampled one. It was good. I can see these becoming the staple in the next week or so.
Mid afternoon, i saw what I'd been expecting to see for a long time, almost preparing myself mentally for it. A snake sliding out in front of me. I stopped and yelled at Elke to stop, which she did, a good 2 meters short of it. I took photos as traffic rushed by. Each time a vehicle went past it would pull its head back in a sort of evasive ‛side-step'. It was still determined to cross a rather busy road and who am i to argue with Jake. Didn't even make it to the centerline when a motorbike gave him some tail trouble. Dance, gees it could dance, looked to be in considerable pain though. As it limped back to our side of the road we noticed it had a rigid section just behind its head. It curled up under my bike which I'd laid down in my haste to get camera happy. He was just a smally though, under a meter long and surely with the fight taken out of him so i carefully lifted it off him and made off down the road without getting bit.
With all the delays and facking around today we weren't gonna make our 160Km goal so we re-adjusted our destination to this national park, which we even had trouble making to there before dark. Again I'm struggling to keep up with Elke speed demon when we're in a hurry at the end of the day.
We could have dropped into one of seemingly hundreds of beach resorts along the way but they're expensive, and more importantly, Elke's been dying to go camping ever since we met. The weather had been cloudy, no rain all afternoon so conditions seemed favourable...
I got the tent up just on dark, then it started to rain. It was a 3km ride down to a restaurant for food. Glad it was there or we'd have had to live off the land for the night.
Wow! What another supershat night's sleep last night again. Two people and all our bags jammed in a tent, no fan, a few mosquitoes, only one thermarest (mattress, for those of you who live in a house) and sweltering hot. No opening the zip (door, for those of you who live in a house) as more mozzies would swarm in and eat us alive.
Main event of this fairly boring standard day was Elke getting a flat tyre, right at the worst possible moment. As we rolled off the road into a paddock to fix it, it started to rain which made for a pretty quick inner tube swap and re-inflation time.
The rain was warm enough for me to not bother with my raincoat, yet heavy enough to puddle on the road. One truckie got the stiff finger from Elke the bad-ass biker girl when he drove past with 9 of his 18 wheels creating a tidal wave out of the accumulating water, dowsing Elke totally. Totally funny to watch.
Wearing sunglasses indoors, at night, or when the sun ain't shining hard is deemed ‛trying way too hard to be cool' in my books, so i take mine off. A few minutes later a small (as they are) fly flies (as they do) into the corner of my eye and gets stuck there. It disappears right down the passageway to my nose so i try flushing it down with some of Elke's contact lens solution and blowing it out. No boggie. I pull my bottom eyelid down enough to fold it over my cheek and look to one side while Elke the exploratory surgeon digs the little bastard back out with a cotton bud way too late, he's way dead. No way he was gonna go down the plumbing lines and out my nose, what was i thinking?
15th (Day off) (I'm sore)
We pissed around most of the morning making little adjustments to our bikes and fixing Elke's punctured tubes. I'm on holiday mode so nothing was happening fast today. For example, by the time I'd packed up my tools and looked at the time, it was 4 o'clock.
Last night we'd been casting our eyes across the water to some land on the other side of the bay. There were a couple of places lit up like something was happening there. ‶They must be big holiday resorts‶ I said, speculating that, ‶That must be where all the other tourists are hanging out.″ We rode around the bay and across the bridge to find all the lights were a fishing wharf. Barely interesting enough to snap a photo of but i took one anyway.
We stopped for lunch while one heavy as hell shower lashed away at the thatched roof shelter of the tiny family restaurant in front of a family home. Nasty stuff to get caught in if there wasn't any shelter around. We covered our share of hills today, nothing nasty but slightly more than ‛gently rollimg' hills. I was struggling to keep up with Elke again so by the time the second nasty downpour hit us, we'd taken cover under separate shelters.
I was about to make the most of the stoppage time by snacking on a packet of biscuits but was soon joined by a fat schoolboy on a motorbike. This dude looked like he could really eat so i thought I'd see how many biscuits he'd eat if i kept offering them to him. The experiment was just about to start when a second equally sized school kid rolled in on an identical motorcycle. The raw materials bill just doubled as the brothers, both technology students at the local college, helped me demolish a packet and a half. Almost as amusing as watching Anna-Nichole-Smythe eat a whole pot of ‛Ben & Jerrys″ on a TV host show one time.
We ate dinner with a random German traveler we'd met outside the guesthouses. He'd just come from New Zealand, done a working holiday there, absolutely loved it, (familiar story) worked on the vineyards in Blenheim for the minimum wage of $13.50. Very respectable. Things have changed a lot in the last 5 years since I've been mainly absent from there.
Our plan was to ride to Ranong and cross into Myanmar, for a day or so, just to refresh our Thailand visas, get another 30 days so we don't have to go rushing things. We saw a sign in a travel agent advertising ‛Visa runs' with a private company for 1200B, inquired about it and pretty much booked it on the spot. It included a shuttle bus to Ranong, a ferry ride to a Burmese island resort, a one day Burmese visa, (they're a little funny about handing out visas, especially to much needed foreign aid workers after the May 08 cyclone) and the return trip, leaving at 1PM and returning by 7. This would save us a day of back-tracking as the islands, one of the tourist highlights that we wanted to experience are off the east coast.
The shuttle bus ride was pretty full speed. A full-on race driver behind the wheel had us there in a couple of hours, in plenty of time to catch the ferry to ‛The Anderman Club'. A privately owned Myanmar Island. The immigration formalities on both sides went fairly smoothly and although they simply held on to our passports on the Myanmar side, we received every travelers ultimate trophy, the immigration officer's rubber stamp.
It was kinda weird being there, less than two weeks after the storm that killed (whatever the final death toll is), devastated the country, and astounded the rest of the world by the way the military handled the situation, refusing foreigners permission into the country. Weird in the sense that we were here on this privately owned Island with one of the flashest resort buildings on it that I've ever seen; pool, bars, casino, hotel, restaurants, neatly dressed staff everywhere, and not a blade of grass out of place. There was definitely some back-handers going on here, the heirachy enjoying the finer things in life while the masses wait for a sack of rice to get dropped to them so they can eat.
To Ko Tao Island
The car ferry was the smallest one i ever seen, maybe room for 4 cars or so but not with all the building materials and food supplies that were crammed on. It must have seen better days. They had about 20 beds made up to sleep in inside so we got a few hours kip, the rocking motion of the boat helping me doze off after we were out of the river mouth.
Elke hit it off quite well with Sali, the Spanish girl, she loves talking Spanish at every opportunity. Sali offered us her bungalow floor for the last few hours of the night but when we saw the hammock outside her beach front room, we just decided to sleep, one in that and one on the sandy beach below it. Elke was a little scared of dogs but we had a couple that hung around us and barked their heads off occasionally at the wild dogs that roamed past. One of them taking an early morning bath as it got pushed right into the tide and jumped on by one of our ‛guard dogs'.
By 7 it was light enough to have a bit of activity so we went to a cafe for a good morning shit and some breaky. I then decided it would be a great idea to head out 3km to the other side of the island for accommodation on the basis that it's remoteness would provide great value accommodation, immaculate bungalows at cut-rate prices, the remoteness being no problem for us, having bicycles.
How wrong can a guy get? After scaling an almost vertical hill climb, we had to descend into Ao Laouk Bay down an unsealed dirt drive-way that Elke couldn't even ride down. We turned up in a lather of sweat to find prices starting from B600 to B1500. Couldn't wait to get out of there but it took well over half an hour to back to the top of the hill, only just barely managing to wrestle my bike up in stages, then having to go back down to help Elke with hers.
We got a clean-as room with a shared bathroom for B200 just around the corner from Sali's bungalow, settled in, then took a bottle of Johnie Walker, which we'd bought duty free from Myanmar, and some cold cokes down to the beach.
Shortly after, Sali and her Scottish boyfriend, Graeme turned up. Was a Scottish guy not gonna drink Scotch whiskey? Hell no. That was pretty much us for the day. A series of swimming (piss breaks), talking politics, and talking shit until the sun went down.
When I'd fucked up with my Laos border visa and Elke had decided to return to Hoi An to see me, she'd forfeited a free scuba dive that was part of her ‛learn to dive course'. She'd made inquires about doing a couple of dives last night while i was in a drunken stupor. The boat left at 6:45 for a half days diving. I was in no condition to jump up and out of bed with her to meet this deadline but I'm a man of my word (sometimes) and Elke had voiced her concerns about the whole nervousness of it all and going out on the boat without knowing anyone. I'd said ‶I'll come too and go snorkeling while you're diving″ I'd just managed to get there in time but by the end of the day I had no regrets.
Like white-water-rafting, as soon as your head goes under for the first time, it takes your hang-over with it, and when there's a whole plethora of tropical fish to stare at, as they stare back at you in ‛fish amazement', ‶ooh my head hurts″ doesn't come close to registering as a thought in your head.
The coral was not so colourful but jesus the fish were, something i cant see from my bicycle seat unless things are going horribly wrong. Last time i went snorkeling i was amazed at my buddie's ability to hold his breath and dive down a few meters to get close ups of the sea floor. It was out of the question for me with light asthma and general un-fitness. But the warm water here and the fitness earned from 16,000Kms of pedaling allowed me to keep going deeper and deeper (once I'd got the hang of holding my nose to kill the extreme pressure pain in my ears). I stayed in the water as long as i could, returning to the dive boat by 11am. The water was clear here but there was no way i could see the bottom... unless I dived down, which i did. All the scuba divers were popping up all around with their tanks on their backs. ‛Tanks - smanks' i thought kicking my flippers as hard as i could to get down there. It took a while to get down, and a bit of energy to do so, so i didn't fuck around down there trying to pat fish, pick up coral or urinate in my swim shorts. I pulled a nice smooth U -turn and headed back up for what seemed like eternity, not holding back on velocity at all. The water finally got warmer as i neared the top, puncturing the layer of air above with such vigour that my waist was well out of the water as i sucked in a much needed breath.
I asked one of the dive instructors what the depth was beneath the boat. 15.2M was the answer which surprised the hell out of me, I was thinking 6M or something.
It's the day before the legendary ‛full moon party', some kinda mass piss-up that every other traveler we talk to asks ‶have you been to one″? We gotta hit one up just for the notoriety. We hear that accommodation gets pretty scarce there with the influx of other revelers so decide to use the afternoon to take the ferry x kms south to Ko Phangan. The Tickets are B350 each but the price for a bike is B500.
Fack that i thought. We'll take the wheels off our bikes and carry them on as luggage. It worked well and saved us the money but i seriously had second thoughts about whether it was worth it or not dismantling it in the hot sun, sweating like a mother-fucker while over hearing some fast talking dive instructor chatting up one of his students over a cold beer.
The stress and rush was all for nothing as the ferry was delayed for an hour.
Re-assembly at the other end wasn't any less stressful as the sun was getting lower and lower and we had 10 Km to ride down to the ‛happening' end of the Island. We should have cut the journey in half an hour if the roads was flat all the way. It wasn't. It got that hilly and steep for the last 3 Km that it was almost impossible to just push the bikes up the hill. We persevered and got there in the end.
Before we had a chance to inquire about any such bungalows, some European lady on a motor scooter told us that everything was booked out but she knew a place for B500. We agreed to follow her to check it out. It wasn't ideal for cyclists as we headed , once again up pretty steep unpaved roads with deep drainage crevasses in them. We get to the bottom of a ‛travelator' type thing, a home-made cable car that runs up the side of this mountain, about 200m at roughly 30 degrees, on two steel rails at maybe 1-2 km/hr. Primitive but effective (for 3 people). At the top there's a restaurant, a shack with huge balcony with two hammocks and loads of cushions looks pretty relaxing but no resting yet. This would have been a good training run for Sir Edmond Hillary. Another 50-100m of steps cut into a cliff face and we reach the owners shack. I'm considering my ability to ascend to these heights under these conditions in an almost legless state. Another 50m up from there and we reach the bungalow. Very rudimentary. Corrugated iron roof, gaps between the rafters and top plate, wonky as fuck floor, holes in the mosquito net, two massive 30cm long gecko-lizards and wooden slats where the glass is meant to go in the louver windows. What a shit-hole for 500B. The view was great though so we took it. What seemed like an hour later we had our bikes up at the restaurant, our bags in our room, and the geckos singing in our ears.
We ate dinner at the restaurant overlooking the mystery of what was below us, the lights and sounds of a small town that goes absolutely bonkas once a month.
We could see the fire stick-twirlers and the crowds start to gather on the beach, maybe rehearsing for the biggy tomorrow night. We were in need of an early night and slept through most of the doof doof music that was substantially loud despite being a good kilometer away.
We browsed the streets and found a bar to get comfortable in, the Outback Bar. A bit of BBC on the big screen, a couple of feeds, a movie, then it was time to go mountaineering (home) again as we still had a couple of bottles of duty free to deal to.
We showered and went to get dressed which was when i discovered how long it had been since I'd organized any sort of washing. It was a case of wearing the least smelliest shirt out tonight. Hopefully everyone will be too off their head to even notice, including myself.
Swinging in the hammock slung between the poles supporting one end of our shack, we dealt to half a bottle of scotch and washed it down with plenty of Coke while we discussed the world and all its problems.
By 9 we were descending down the mountain at a breakneck 1 Mph on the cable car platform. The doof doof music growing in volume as we neared it. We got all night to listen to that sort of shit music so we headed to the only bar in town with live music. It was fabulous. Everyone was dancing on the bar, tables, chairs, and a few sensibles (us) on the floor. I explained to Elke about the Kiwi / Ozzy bars i used to frequent back in London. They'd have such a party atmosphere happening inside that, it didn't matter how many ‛primers' you'd drink at home or on the bus on the way there. Once you walk in the door and hit the wall of energy being exerted by the party goers, you'd feel instantly sober. The same thing happened here, but hearing covers of ‛Crazy Train' and ‛Run To The Hills' got me into the swing of things pretty bloody quickly.
The band must have wound up at about 1am and everyone had pretty much the same idea - down to the beach where the ‛Full moon party' was happening.
People were everywhere. The guidebook states that 8,000 people turn up to one of these in the off-season (now) and around 30,000 in peak season. The beach was packed so i found it hard to imagine that this was running at roughly 35% capacity. If i couldn't have found amazement in the shear masses of people, then the sound systems were quite something else. About 10 different parties all happening on the one beach, most of them jammed in the southern corner. I figured it would be a mish-mash of sounds with all these piles of speakers interfering with each other. It wasn't the case. Stepping a couple of meters to one side would switch channels so definitively.
It was great to see everyone having a good time, dancing away, pilling off their heads but thats not really my scene so i found couple of square meters of spare sand between the crowds of ballistic legs and got to work on a sandcastle. Those that weren't pilling were buying ‛buckets'. Kids little plastic beach buckets with a handle, full of crushed ice. They'd come with a variety of fillings such as vodka & red bull, whiskey & coke, tequila & whatever etc... I managed to secure a leftover one and form a base layer of 16 castles with it. Quite a few others joined the construction team, mainly English i think, as they sat around talking, not doing much work. Things were interrupted on the second layer as someone stole our bucket and it took a while for a replacement one of a similar casting to be located and transported on site. It seemed to take hours for completion and as soon as we got the flag (an inverted empty plastic water bottle) (usually dead expensive in London nightclubs, but evidence that ecstasy was being taken in abundance) implanted on top, a stupid English 16 year old came and kicked it in. I guess she was showing off to her two friends so when i went to have a word, the ‛impress your friends' game continued. My hair band got ripped off and thrown to her mates and a game of ‛Piggy in the middle' quickly ensued until Elke came to my rescue and wrestled it off one of them while i subdued another one, asking why they felt the need to go around annoying people rather than helping them have a good time. They went a few meters away, regrouped. I thought they were really gonna be spoilt little English bitches and get a whole group of guys to beat the crap out of me but instead they came up and apologized for their behavior.
Maybe they'd learned something tonight and were gonna dedicate the rest of their life to making others happy. Ahhh.
An hour or two later the sky was starting to turn from black to dark blue then just got paler and paler so we started heading home, weaving our way through the masses of pogo-ing bodies when someone grabbed Elke by the arm. It was Jill the Scott (again). She was supposed to be in Laos somewhere but had met up with a whole bunch of Israelites and started following them around. She didn't stop dancing while her and Elke talked and i didn't want her to think i was too cool to dance (even though i am) (way too much so) so i eased into the rhythm of things too. It was more of a constant stumble-and-recover cycle than dancing but i think i bluffed my way through it for half an hour or so until it was time to vacate the beach.
It was well light by the time we were back up in the hills looking down on the carnage that remained below. The music was still full-noise but the numbers had dwindled. I ignored the lot as soon as my head hit the pillow.
As soon as all the hype of the full moon party was over and people left the island, the bungalow prices plummeted so we made the most of it and landed a luxurious little pad down near the beach, 2 mins walk to town - no hills. Sweet.
The remaining days we spent on the Island were a real holiday. Lying on the beach, a few beers at night, and a sleep in each morning. We hired a motor scooter one day to go exploring the island, the gradients of some of the roads were even too great for the bike to reach he top with two people on. Elke did a little bit of up hill walking.
We'd also bumped into a Chilean guy called Roberto. We'd met him in Si Phan Don, again in Siam Reap, so this is the third random meeting we've had with him i a third country. We'd last spotted him in a bar in Siam reap, on a date he was with a girl from New York. The date had gone really really well, so well in fact that he'd started following her all around the region, with a chronic case of what we refer to as ‛cock-steer'. We arranged to catch up with him later on that night and had a beer or two over dinner.
All this salt water was starting to make my hair go manky. Put a comb through it? Yeah right. Elke somehow talked me into a trip to the hairdressers. She couldn't even put a comb through it after giving it a damn good shampooing. ‶Sorry″ i said as her comb got snagged in it and she looked at me helplessly. She cut off a little more than i asked for but shit she did a good job. I was thinking how lucky i am that i kinda sorta need this chop in Asia where my hair's compatible with their styling techniques. I imagined sitting down in a barbers chair in Africa and having them wondering what to do with a skull without any fuzz on it.
Jesus she got it silky smooth though. My sunglasses and hairband just kept sliding right off for the next few days until it became manky again.
On the 26th we'd decided we'd worn this island pretty thin. We'd previously had quotes to get our bikes across on the ferry to Ko Samui for 50B extra, which i thought was ok compared to the hassle we went through of dismantling our bikes in the hot sun on the last ferry trip. Elke had a moan at the fat guy, which is usually my job, to try and get them on for free. It worked. We just bought two tickets, no one mentioned the bikes and we wheeled them on without any one saying anything. Victory.
Ko Samui Island
We got off the ferry and rode around the northern tip of the Island. Elke had researched accommodation on this Island and wanted to find somewhere quiet and close to a beach. Lamai came up as the favorite on the list. It was hard for me riding through Chaewang, which appeared to be where all the action was, Geezers sporting white sports shoes and bad sunburn everywhere. This place was just generally busy, it even had a cheap imitation ‛Walkabout' pub in it which i later found out wasn't so cheap. It's somehow satisfying asking the price of a beer and turning my back on them and walking out shaking my head without saying anything when they're blatantly over-charging.
Onwards to Lamai Beach, a little more expensive than Ko Phangan but we found a beach side shack, slightly better in quality than the one up the hill on Ko Phangan but half a stones throw from a sweet ass beach.
As we'd discovered on our way to Lamai, this Island had it's share of hills also, so motor scooter exploration was a full days adventure on this one. It had rained pretty heavily the night before so some of the remote roads were a little boggy. I got stuck and covered the bike in mud while spinning the back wheel trying to get out. Damn, that'll have to get cleaned before it goes back. Some dude in a truck yard saw me outside filling a beer bottle up with water from a puddle and waved me over saying ‛free clean'. Thats what i love about the Thai people, they're genuinely friendly and helpful. Scabby Vietnamese would have definitely had their hand out here.
The lookout points were not so shit-hot on this island but there was definitely that sense or satisfaction of climbing rapidly up the steepest of hills with just the twist of a throttle.
We had a few beers in a bar one night and got yakking to an American couple who had just arrived from Ko Phangan. They had also hired a motorcycle there but had been pulled over by a random police check point, unfortunately ol' mate had a joint in his rear pocket. He spent the night in the slammer but reckons he came out of it all laughing as he wasn't in jail and is now free to go and earn back the fine. ‶how much was the fine″? We asked. US$2,000. Yeah laughing! He wasn't so happy when telling us about having to cut Australia out of his travel plan though.
One thing that was becoming a major problem for me was the blisters I'd received on both of my second toes, from the flippers i wore while snorkeling (very deep). I knew they were irritating me at the time but i was having way too much fun seeing fishies seeing me. These blisters had become infected and weren't looking too good at all. A pool of puss sat in a gaping hole that had opened up. A trip to the pharmacy for some detol and fusidic acid cream seems to be halting the advancement of the holes.
The alarm must have gone off a couple of times and been put on snooze by Elke because i didn't stir ‛till the 4:20 re-run of ‛di di da diiiiiiit'.
It was only just getting light by the time we headed up the road for a couple of hot dogs from 7-11. There was an absolute European bum sitting outside, maybe not much older than i am, swigging on a bottle of beer. He'd obviously been drinking the whole night through and didn't want to stop when all the bars had, so, just buy the cheapest beer in town and drink it right outside the door. Some people have high hopes in life. I looked at him and his mullet and wondered what had reduced him to this embarrassment to travelers and i wondered what he thought of us, ‛what the fuck could they possibly be up to'?
It was nice and light when we reached the ferry terminal at 6:30. Just in time to buy the tickets and get on. Almost the last ones on, by the time we'd tied them up to a pole, the drawbridge was up and the ferry was reversing out. The scenery was quite tranquil as we sailed past a whole host of protected islands across flat water but we were more interested in the inside of our eyelids.
We awoke far too soon to the sound of the (assumably) massive marine diesel engines easing to an idle as we approached the mainland once again.
The riding was good in the early stages, we hummed through jungle, farms orchards, coconut palm plantations all in the first hour.
About 10 kms from Nakhon Si Thammarat i noticed no Elke behind me. There were massive thunder claps and lightening up ahead so i pedaled on a bit till i found a shelter to wait for her. 5 or so minutes later i was turning back to look for her. I'd only just started riding when she turned up on the back of a ute waving away like Queen Elizabeth on parade. Flat tyre. Some nice ladies had seen her pushing her bike and taken pity on her. Id been teaching her to fix punctures lately but she hadn't done one from start to finish herself, so... this was the test, I supplied the puncture repair kit and said ‶I'm gonna start eating this packet of fruit Mentos, you can have whatever is left over when your ready to go again. She got 3.
We rode another 10 mins when those thunder clouds delivered their promised goods. We sheltered for close to an hour before i wrapped my shoes up in plastic bags once again, to bear the remaining half hour of light rain.
What a cock i was, not only looking ridiculous, this facking town is supposed to be (i got the idea from someone) 7 Km long but only 300m wide. I decided we couldn't miss the hotels we wanted to find so dissed Elke's claims of seeing signs to the train station (just around the corner from our hotel) and took her the whole 7 Km to the souther end. Yep, she was pretty unimpressed with that effort, another 7 Km back to the northern end and she was almost too tired to choose a hotel room.
Bit of a shit night's sleep last night. Elke woke up with a headache which i didn't have any Panadol for. ‶Drink heaps of water babe, you're dehydrated″ i said as i rolled over ad went back to sleep. We'd had a 1.5l bottle of water each beside our bed before we went to sleep that night. I awoke to the sound of Elke heaving up in the toilet. Thirstily, i fumbled around for my bottle of H2O. Gone. ‶You ok Elke″? ‶No″. ‶Have you eaten some dodgy food or somethin'″? ‶No, Bluuuuuurrrrrgh! Wuuuuuuur! Its just water coming out″. That explained the thief in the night, she'd drank her whole bottle of water and half of mine. Now every body can relate to the humour concerning the bodies inability to digest corn. Funnily enough that was exactly the last thing she had to eat last night so it was a sign that nearly all the water was out. I went on to explain that the body only has the capacity to process so much water at once, the rest just gets passed straight through (or back out, as in this case) multiple frequent small sips rather than binge drinking of water. We only had an indicated 99km ride on our hands today so when the alarm went off, we endured another 2 hours of alarm beeps ‛till somethin' past 6.
A slight short-cut had us briefly getting lost out on a back-road, through the smallest of villages, a cosy little railway town, one of those places you could swear you're within one of the first 100 whities to ever pass through. Even the narrow country lanes were impressive smooth works of tree canopy enclosed shade. Getting lost - try it sometime.
Dinner tonight wasn't cheap. We'd stumbled across a steak restaurant serving NZ beef and had to have some. We were toying with the idea of crossing the border tomorrow into Malaysia and still had around B600, so for the first time in ages, we got the sensation of having ‛money to burn'. We didn't go bankrupt though, when we ordered a second dish and it still hadn't showed up after 45 minutes (the first round came in 10 minutes), we paid the bill and left, dumbfounded that they'd either forgotten about it or didn't say anything about it when we left.
3rd. Into Malaysia.
Elke, bless my little researcher, had found a travel warning of her ‛Rough Guide' regarding South Eastern Thailand. Many of the provinces there are subject to violence and had fallen into ‛Martial Law' (whatever that means - it was tempting to go there just to find out). Therefor many governments have issued travel warnings advising their citizens to stay away from these areas. This usually means that my travel insurance doesn't cover me here, as was the case in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran (Bollocks to the rules). But in this case it's easy enough to go around, so we turned off the main drag (Highway 4) at Rattaphum and took the 406 down towards Satun. Violent cants, go get facked, you're not taking me and Elke today!
The Yank we'd met in the outback bar in Ko Samui had explained what all the trouble was over. Muslims. They want an independent state, from the southern tip of Thailand all the way up to the ‛8 km zone', the skinniest part of Thailand. Wow. I'd heard people say before that ‛they are the most intolerant people of all the religions'. I blame all religion for differentiating mankind.
And as we got further south, Islam was clearly in our face. Mosques, head scarfs on the women and prayer caps on some of the men. They're nice people here though, as we head into territory not frequented by approachable travelers, everyone had a smile and a wave for us. Warming.
We ‛d decided to get to a turn-off 16 km before Satun and make a decision whether to ride through Thale Ban National park which has a border crossing with Malaysia, or head just past Satun, and catch a ferry around the land and into Kuala Perlis, Malaysia. We had plenty of time on our hands, hitting the decision point at 1 pm, so decided to go see a whole array of wildlife that live there, such as Tapirs, Malayan Sun Bears, Clouded Leopards, Barking Tree Frogs and a variety of butterflies ‛as described in the brochure'. We saw a few butterflies, heard what we thought was the barking tree frogs and if a Tapir is a giant lizard,then we saw a couple of those too, no leopards or bears to incite a bit of defensive golf club swinging thankfully.
The border crossing went without a hitch, it was a bit untidy on the Thailand side, 100m worth of street stalls with shit laying everywhere, not such a great first impression for travelers crossing the other way. That don't concern us, ‛we're outta there'.
We told the Malaysian border official that we were planning on riding another 45 Km to Kangar. ‶Very far″ he says ‶no (fucking) problem″ i say. ‶Oh, but the mountains″ he says. I'm thinking he's having a laugh, pulling me pud, until we hit the hill, and she's a beauty too. Not too big though, maybe a half hour hard-out slog.
Before the hill, I'd led us both a couple of kilometers down a dead-end path. I blame it on the new map. The ‛Rough Guide'. The cover of it rates itself pretty highly, nicely self promoted. Someone needs to point out to these pricks that a large scale map doesn't mean you should get a small one and simply enlarge it, leaving it mainly detail-less. The nightmare begins when one starts using it for its sole intended purpose, to guide you. Rough.
This hill was so steep that, going down the other side, i hit a new personal speed record of 82.1 km/hr. Fast man!
We then proceeded into Kangar and for the first time since somewhere in Cambodia we had to track down a hotel to stay in without a guide-book to lead us there. No worries for seasoned travelers such as us.
04-06-08 147 Kms to Georgetown.
The plan for today was to do a nice 120 odd kms to a city called Sungai Petani and see how we feel there. Our bodies are now aching after 3 days riding following 2 weeks of blobbing out like useless people.
Elke wasn't feeling all that good by the time we got there but i announced that we should push on anyway. What a bossy bastard. I figured it would save us finding a cheap hotel in a city (without a mention in a guide book) again, getting up and riding the remaining 35km in the morning. Lump it out in one big haul is my mentality.
By the time we'd popped out of the other side of the city we only had 29 kms left to cover and that time just came and went. Occupying our minds was the abundance of traffic here. These west coast roads seem really busy and the constant sound of traffic in our ears makes me look real forward to finding a lesser road to ride somewhere.
The cars remind me of home. Plenty of boy racer type set-ups, cheap cars with mags and spoiler kits. Neat.
So we've finally limped into Butterworth, the port town for Georgetown and are following the road signs to the ferry terminal when we get to an over-pass clearly labeled ‛no bicycles'. We aborted at the last minute and rode up on the footpath, looking dumbfounded for a couple of minutes when an Indian looking guy with a really weather-beaten looking face on a motorcycle stopped at a red light and asked us what we were up to. We explained and pointed to the sign. ‶Follow me″ he said, ‶I am staff″. When the light turned green, we followed in hot pursuit, across car parks, under bridges, over railway lines, through gaps in steel barriers, the good ol' staff entrance! He pointed to an office and said ‶tickets there″.We'd popped out in front of the car and motorcycle we, right by the draw-bridge for rolling on and off the boat. Sweet! We were counting our blessings wondering what we'd have done if ol' mate hadn't come along and rescued us when the ticket bloke says 140 Ringotts (RM) please. Fick me! Thats 5 times more than we paid for our first nights accommodation in Malaysia! We stared at each other dumbfounded, then asked where is the ferry thats only RM0.60? ‶Aaah this both way he said, 1 Ringot and 40 sen please″. Laughter as we realised our mistake. How could we think it was 100 times the going rate? Maybe the heat, the exhaustion, tiredness had fried our brains.
We headed towards the cheap backpacker accommodation and were about to check out our first LP recommended guest house when some dude came and handed a card describing ‛SD Guesthouse' just a little further down the road. ‛Free wifi and internet and safe place for your bikes' he stammered out in his sales pitch. Normally i ignore these ‛pricks' but this sounded good and was close so no harm in checking it out i thought.
Upon inspection, i found it was pretty average so we sat outside trying to decide which one to inspect next. The LP didn't really have rate any of the others as superstars. I was facked, feeling a bit faint and couldn't be assed with anymore inspections, so we moved in.
While walking the streets at night, sussing out possible places to have a scoff, i saw the silhouette of someone in flip-flops and board shorts, another traveler i assumed, approaching us from the other direction. I thought nothing and looked away until i heard him and Elke erupt into excited greeting exchanges, it was Roberto. Again. We just keep running into this guy randomly, four different countries now. Wowee man!
5th & 6th Georgetown.
I could have done with a few more hours sleep but we got up at about 10 to go do some sight seeing, after a delicious brunch in an Indian restaurant. They placed these huge washed banana tree leaves down on the table in front of us and just spooned the food out of the various stainless steel buckets onto the leaves, which we ate off. Unique.
The sightseeing was going fairly ok. We'd whistled our way through 4 of the 6 sights we'd selected, gave the fifth one the arse as it had an entry fee and was just a Chinese temple which, I've seen enough of in Asia already.
On the way to the final point of interest we passed a bike shop so turned around and went in. It was well set up and had everything. The European accessories were quite pricey so i stuck to the cheap Asian imitations. 4 new brake shoes, some gel pads and handle bar tape while Elke splashed out on a puncture repair kit and tool kit. She'd previously been using mine while learning to fix a flattie, now she'd be independent.
I'd changed my brake shoes in the hot sun outside so got hot and bothered, not really in much of a mood to see the last landmark or whatever it was that i missed out on so we headed home but got lost but found the massive shopping mall, with McDonald's Sweet, ice-creams and a couple of hours of air conditioning.
I'd initially planned on avoiding the west coast of Malaysia because of the monsoon season here, but Elke, research-master-second-to-none, had found that someone had written on the internet ‛you can almost put your clock on the monsoon rains here, usually between 4 and 5 pm each day. Luckily for us, they've been a little later than that and we find it quite refreshing walking the streets in the rain, umbrellaless, looking for some tasty street food for dinner.
We call into the 7/11 on the way home but unfortunately they don't sell hot dogs in them in this country. Boo hoo.
When the alarm went off the following morning at 5am, we both decided we could do with another days rest so turned it off and went back to sleep. When we did finally wake up, we had a pretty relaxed day; food, emails, route planning, snoozing, and more food, second time around was back at the ‛nice' Indian restaurant in a suburb called Little India. This time i noticed the sign; ‛No Spitting', which bought back all the horrible memories of a nation covered in blotches of that red slobber. The worst bit was the bill, they'd chucked some things on the table which we didn't order, then charged us for it. Elke noticed a couple of things that were priced higher than on the menu so we had waiter boy up about it. And apparently the extra stuff is ‛just what they do', and the menu; ‶we have new prices, that is old menu″. I didn't even need that to remind me about the deceptive way scum-of-the-earth Indians operate. I hope i can stop saying bad things about those cants one day. But i doubt it.
Big day this one, off to a good start, me and Elke sitting outside the 7/11 in the dark, munching away on cereal and drinking yoghurt's while Elke's throwing down some magie pot noodles.
We got the ferry back across without anyone even checking our tickets while we gazed at the vehicular route; a 13 Km long, 200 m high bridge linking the Island, Palau Pinang, with the mainland.
A couple of hours later we'd burnt up all the calories cereal, yoghurt and noodles had to offer so we stopped in at a roadside restaurant and ordered up a delicious as hell, cheap as hell meal and chatted to a young brother and sister duo running the joint. I'm guessing that being between two towns, they just don't get foreigners too often, if, at all. They both had perfectly good English so we had to answer all sorts of questions, especially ones on funding our ‛vacation'. And why i wasn't married just yet, the cheeky buggar reckons I'll be a 60 year old man walking my 3 year old daughter to school. I replied with the good ol' ‶No worries, no hurry″.He had a Man-U shirt on so i had to congratulate him on their league trophy victory last season and warn him that Everton will kick their ass next year.
We got to Taiping and it started to rain. That was it, on with the plastic bag over-shoes. The rain didn't really ease up all day, and in parts got alarmingly heavy. All the motorcyclists were taking cover in the somewhat rural bus shelters, not us, on with the show.
We found where the Malaysian Army trains its cadets, passing hundreds of them wearing dark blue combat gear and big black boots, holding guns, marching along roadside and deep in the palm plantations. What can you do with a whole bunch of 18 year old boys holding guns? Nothing but smile and wave and give them a few hellos while passing by, hoping none of them are suffering from mental illness. Elke ended up saying exactly what i was thinking; ‶Graham, i don't feel comfortable riding past all these young boys holding weapons, what if one of them is in a really bad mood?″ We passed the last bunch of them who were waiting in a bus shelter and the guy on the end of the line was the one who wiped the smile off my face, pointing his gun at us in a rather threatening manner. What a cant.
Elke could have done with a couple of those big black boots though. She went for a squat in between the palms, wading through the long grass, and came out with a couple of leeches on her. One she found immediately and pulled off, the other she found 15 mins later when we stopped for a snack in a bus shelter. She managed to pull it off and chuck it on th concrete floor. It was a lot bigger than the last one.... until i stood on it and a whole pool of Elke blood spilled out. Resilient little fukkar though, he crawled away, original size, like nothing had happened.
We found a KFC near our hotel tonight. I usually hate the shit but it was gonna save us trying to order something in a local restaurant with the language barrier thing happening so we headed on in. While eating i realised i had my ‛KFC' shirt on, A picture of two chickens standing in front of a bill-board of the Colonel with the big chicken saying to the little chicken ‶So he's the one who killed your dad?' I asked Elke to take a photo of me with the KFC counter in the background. I turned on digital camera No 4 (for the tour), and nothing came up on the LCD. Hmmm, this seemed familiar, a very similar problem to my last Olympus that i bought in India. I think after i bought this one, i justified my purchase of a second Olympus by saying something like ‶what are the chances of it happening to two Olympus's in a row?″ Well now i feel kinda stupid. It must be a common fault with the Olympus brand. Oh well, no use crying over split beer, i should be able to pick up camera No 5 in Kuala Lumpur.
It was a struggle to get out of bed this morning, and after all that effort, we get downstairs to find it still raining and Elke's bike has yet another flat tyre. She's susceptible to to them because the rubber on her tyres are so thin. When i lift up one of her wheels it seems to weigh half he weight of one of mine.
After KFC again for breakfast, we're riding along in the light rain and a good ol' headwind comes out to meets us keeping our efforts to under 20Km/hr. Should we have stayed in bed today? The traffic got busier and the road got boring, across vast rice paddy fields, nothing to see, going nowhere fast.
Things did improve in the afternoon though, the rain stopped and the road grew into 4 lanes to cope with the ‛helluva flow of traffic', a massive percentage of which seems to be boy racers. Very high fashion here to have a black bonnet, no matter what colour the rest of the car, & maybe a matching colour coded spoiler kit. I'm wondering if they've got the trend from those fast & furious movies or something, and also whether its hit a note with all the young dudes back home.
By the days end the wind had swung around and was pushing us along a little, and it did indeed seem a good idea to head out this morning despite the signs telling us otherwise, and with a fairly boring 145 Kms behind us, it felt good in the knowledge that Kuala Lumpur is only 70 something kilometers away. Sleep in tomorrow!
Reaching destination this early allowed for an excellent siesta on a big soft comfy bed. We woke up just in time to go out and get some dinner, 9pm on a Sunday night.
9th Into Kuala Lumpur.
We got out of bed when we woke up, - no alarm - it was blissful, alas, we got up at 8ish anyway. Half the reason we were so keen to get out of bed was the knowledge that we only had a short ride ahead of us today.
Leaving the coastline road (of which never once gave us even a glimpse of the water) we encountered hills inland which we quickly demolished with our enthusiasm for K.L.
My map has the city absolutely riddled with double blue lines which indicates expressways everywhere. We chose about the only way in according to the single red lines. The road got bigger than i ever imagined it would, we may as well have been on the expressway, going by these these 3 lanes of speeding traffic roaring past us. It took us along a massive overpass a good km - plus long. I was so worried about the ‛motorway traffic' i put my helmet on for the first time since somewhere in India.
Between the speeding trucks and boy racers, i managed to get the odd glimpse across the urban crawl to the central city and could quite distinctly see the Petronas Towers and communications tower in the distance, and the excitement mounted.
I'd recently been thinking i had puncture proof tyres, the new ‛clowns tyres I'd bought in Bangkok were heavier than my old touring tyres, mainly due to the thickness of them, and not having a single puncture since, led me to believe this.... Until we'd just got off the overpass. A hunk of something so big went in that all my air rushed out within 6 or so tyre revolutions, no warning. Could have been dangerous, could have happened half a k earlier, leaving me to either fix it or push it on a 300mm strip between the white line and the concrete barrier. So I'm comparatively happy about it.
The combination of a 1:800,00 scale road map and my guidebook's sketchy inner city map got us to where we wanted to live for a while without any wrong turns at all, great success!
There was time to get in a bit of sightseeing / city exploring due to our fairly early arrival time, but not much point in it if you ain't got a camera to remember it, and share your experiences with others. So after we made a fairly bad decision of checking into a rather cramped guest house, we got directions to a massive shopping plaza, camera shops galore, all i had to do was decide which one i wanted, then go round and get the best price, which is exactly what i did. It was fucking hard work leaving those Olympus's alone though, they appeared to be by far the best value, as in cheapest for the degree of specifications, but maybe their price reflects their quality. To keep a 5 x optical zoom with 8 Megapixlels, i had to go Pentax, no AA battery jobs here, rechargeable lithium ion job, with separate charger and lead, the exact reason i sent my first camera home. Oh well, I'm learning. Bon voyage camera #5.
We both woke up this morning a bit grumpy, 100% due to a crap nights sleep. Our guide book had stated that quality budget accommodation is hard to get in KL, they're not making that up. What seemed the best value for RM60 was in a guest house that had been running for 3 days. With expectations of spick, sparkling newness we actually got the smell of new paint, a plastered bathroom wall - no tiles (yet), plumbing and wiring that had been done by the fat useless cant sitting behind the reception counter, and the ‛slap it together quick so we can take money off tourists' theme had been carried out in the walls too. No ceiling under the floor above us so just stop the walls at the underside of the joists and leave a big gap for all the noise from reception area to head straight on in. Oh yeah, and we got tiny little hand towels for bath towels. Cowboys to the hotel industry.
We moved out the next morning, fuck that eh bro. Settled into one for RM85, bit of a budget breaker, especially seeing as it has no TV and a walk past reception gets us to a shared bathroom. Otherwise, it's flash as hell, plenty of room to swing dead cats. Elke was emotionally attached to it and insisted she'd ‛shout it'.
So hotel and camera sorted, i circled a few things on a map that I'd worked out I'd like to see, and with Elke as my tour guide (she's been here before too) we made short work of it, returning home before dark as the skies were threatening us all afternoon. Not the most colourful photos to be taken on my new camera but it encapsulated the menacing monsoon clouds we've come to deal with most days.
The highlight of our second days sight seeing was a trip up to the viewing platform of the Telecom Tower, maybe not quite the right time to go, after dark, but after i worked out how to adjust the Iso settings on my new camera, i got a few good pics looking down on even the tallest surrounding skyscrapers, until my battery went flat. It was enjoyable putting my camera away and just gazing out at the expanse of amber street lights fading off into the distance in all directions. It got me thinking how man, of all mammals has made his massive mark on the face of the earth, and whether we'll ever stop. Will all this one day be overgrown to be rediscovered like early European explorers did at the temples of Siam Reap, and Macchu Pichu? I looked out and wondered things like ‛there must be millions living down there, and thousands of cities of this magnitude around the world, wow, human beings man!' And looking down on the place from almost a birds eye view, i thought ‛out there somewhere, statistically speaking, there must be some serious crime going down'. I pondered for a minute as to what percentage of the population is into that sort of thing and was about to go down the track of ‛the necessity to weed the crims' out and contain them, separate from the rest of us, to allow us to live without them pissing us off when Elke snapped me out of it. I could have sat in an inspirational place like that all night and thought about modern civilization. What is it with altitude provoking thought anyway?
The next day also had a rather spectacular, although similar sightseeing highlight, the skybridge, 41 floors up, linking the two twin ‛Petronas Towers'.
Although we were only half way up, we were still looking down on all the surrounding buildings, bar the Telecom Tower. Blue skies with light whispy white clouds made for a lot better photos than what I'd have got hitting this one at night.
We decided to apply for a 60 day visa for Indonesia while here, not because either of us intends to stay quite that long, it'll just take the rush out of things and save us having to do a ‛visa run' to another country and back, which will easily cost more than the US$55 we paid for them, as would paying a fine, and would certainly beat possible imprisonment from overstaying. So we rock on up to the Indonesian embassy, park our bikes and i get told I'm not allowed in because I'm wearing jandals. ‛That's no way to impress potential visitors to your country' i thought as i waited in the hot sun outside with all the other blokes wearing jandals, for Elke to go in with my passport and do all the paper work. Anyways, a day later we had our 60 day visas in our well traveled passports, not a lot of spare pages in mine now.
Yeah, the authorities are pretty tough in this next bit of planet. Elke bought herself a guidebook for Indonesia and read out an extract to me, stating that ‛recently various groups of Australians had been given 20 year sentences for drug trafficking, and they were the lucky ones, the accomplices. ‛Those found with the contraband strapped to themselves in the airport got sentenced to death by firing squad'. Hmmm, not much of a holiday that one, all that sand, surf and sun there to be enjoyed, and they have to dress up with a bag over their heads and wait until the lights go out. Fun times.
Elke's starting to make plans to continue riding on her own after i go my separate way in Indonesia, she's a brave girl, bound to do well. So she's spending a lot of time down the road on the internet, organising flights and routes, while i sit in our hotel room, logged onto some nearby cafe's wifi for free, doing pretty much the same thing, trying to guess at my length of travel in Indo, and book a flight out at the other end, as part of the requirements for entry to the country. The price ranges are quite incredible for the 2-3 hour flight from Bali into Darwin, none of the low cost carriers doing the flight directly, and wanting to more or less charge per kilogram for the luggage - not really a cycle tourists dream. Garuda seem to do the trick for AU$330, but other than that, the rest of the quotes start at around $900. Where's the justification?
Hmmm the luxurious guest house hasn't turned out much quieter than the other brand spanking new shithole. The Cafe two doors down comes nightclub by night, and with the Euro ‛08 finals on TV each night the fans un-contained excitement either wakes me up or keeps me awake until the very late early hours. Ahhh, its all in the name of the worlds greatest sport though.