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Month October 2015

back to Chiang Mai

Not many pics for the next few days return to Thailand. Plus we’re going to wrap up this China tour blog quickly: it was not our most successful month due to being on a very badly managed ride plus some external factors which didn’t help. But I don’t feel like sitting here complaining about them. I have a friend who’s going to write-up the ride report and I’ll link to it when done.

Lincang to Lancang
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We took a detour to the Mekong
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Actually it was the best thing that could have happened because we ended up with the best Mekong valley view we’ve had yet. Through the hills here
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to this
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We rode down to the bridge and enjoyed this. The scale is deceptive. it’s possibly a mile or so of river here
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Later we had to wait for a landslide to be cleared. We’ve had a few of these recently
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Other side through first unfortunately
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At some point today Andrew and I had a scary experience with a car overtaking us.  It nearly took Andrew out. China is by far the scariest place to ride a bike yet. There’s little respect for others on the road, an understanding of space or speed. Or a sense that cars, bikes and trucks have to be cooperative. It’s dangerous, we’ve all had near misses almost daily, Greg was hit and we’ve witnessed bad things. Everyday we woke up and thought, holy shit, here we go again. Not good.

Lunch town
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Like Costa Rica, I’ll remember the green
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Cows, the first time I’ve seen this type we think
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Last village of the day
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Lancang to Mengla
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Today we are absolutely beat. We start tired, and end tireder. So just 3 pics
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Mengla to Chiang Khong
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We’ve been looking forward to seeing Laos again, even it’s just for a couple of hours passing through.

I stop here and immediately the kids start gathering to check the bike out. Watch this little kid in green. First he’s making some hand signs at me I don’t understand
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Then, making sure he has my attention
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He does this. What a little bastard! lol
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The girls area bit better behaved. This all reminds me of the kids in Indonesia who brilliantly set up the fake roadblock and long muddy detour
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Chiang Khong to Chiang Mai
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As per the first day.

So that covers some of it. I don’t have the enthusiasm to write at any length about it right now, more water has to flow under the bridge. Then I’ll write a post about impressions of China.

to Lincang

Shangri-La to Lijiang
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Huge drying racks in the valley surrounding Shangri-La
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A little out of town up on a ridge
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Following the Jinsha south
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Greg is at the hospital, we’ve visited him and he’s being flown out for surgery. His bike will be shipped south in a truck. In typical Aussie fashion he’s uncomplaining and good-humoured about the whole thing. We’re more than aware it could have happened to any of us and as you can understand we ‘re all riding with a little extra caution.

For reasons I can’t remember,  we’re in a hurry at the point below, but Andrew, Anita, Jamil and us stop for photos here, beautiful spot
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Lunch town
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Park here but eat across the street when everyone else shows up. This is where my starter motor shows the first signs of serious distress. For the last week it occasionally plays up but starts with only minor complaint. Here, it won’t start and I’m starting to drain the battery. Andrew pulls jumpers out of his huge inventory of bike parts and it starts almost first try. But not the battery, we know
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Then an uneventful ride into Lijiang, one of the most important towns on the old Silk road
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A beautiful place
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A rest day, so we spend it walking around and on-line. Andrew and Jamil have gone out for a day ride to Tiger Gorge, but I badly need to use the VPN-enabled internet at the hotel to catch up on some chores and do some forward planning. Until today there’s been no Gmail or other ride essential internet from behind the Chinese web-wall
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Small plots in the middle of the town
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We’ll frequently see young Chinese couples having wedding photos taken in important places, it’s a common and fun sight
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Lijiang at night. It’s Jamil’s birthday, we go out and celebrate
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Lijiang to Dali
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Anita’s last day. A pic of her and Bpui
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A very different day today. We ride into a huge valley
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We ride through this for hours
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And then the three of us split off and ride a road around the lake
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This was a dead-end but a lucky find, very pretty
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Haven’t had a Lucinda selfie in a while
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We stop here for coffee
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Hired scooters everywhere on this lakeside route
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Through small streets for a few miles
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Couldn’t figure these out
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This was different. Wealthy homes with plots in a formal grid
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I can’t remember where this was!
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But the town had this temple in the middle
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Dali to Lincang
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Andrew and Jamil were leaving separately to drop Anita off at the airport. Temple close to our hotel
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I set off with R and Stephan/Bpui on polished, damp roads and medium-heavy traffic on the highway out of town. I knew following R’s sketchy navigation out of town would be stressful and it was. After a few tentative corners we got into the main traffic flow and accelerated up to speed in a group. Just a minute after settling in there was a huge crash sound from behind me. I looked into my right hand mirror and there was a truck no more than 50 feet behind with what looked like a bike wreck attached to the front. He was hard on the brakes, so were we, immediately in front of him. R headed off the right curb, Stephan to an escape lane and me in front of an island, just behind him and Bpui. I jumped off my bike and there behind the truck was a man on the ground screaming, blood everywhere and his leg completely removed. The truck had hit him head-on and he’d been run over, scooter still attached to the truck. I turned around and ran to Bpui and Stephan, yelling at them both to not look back. But they had. It was a shocking sight and no one would approach him as he went silent and we assume died there quickly. There were further details but’s that’s enough.

Looking back at Dali when I stopped to breathe again
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Into the country
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Lunch stop
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R had pulled in here and assured Stephan and I there was nowhere else on this road for food. I don’t eat pork, so I skipped and walked around for photos. Hanging, ripe pork
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Down the road a bit
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The only other picture I took
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What a fucking day.

to Shangri-La

Shaxi to Weixi. This looks surprisingly like the track from 2 days ago, another double-back
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Mountains to cross today
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The upper Yangtze, called the Jinsha at this point
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We follow it for half the day, over there behind the trees somewhere
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There. Today is stunning. This is one of the reasons to come to Yunnan
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With some good riding on small roads
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Undisturbed villages. Stopped here to watch tobacco leaves being sorted
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Here. She’s got the most sorted
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Different method
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What they’re doing is tying them to small poles to hang
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Slacker! He’s just thinking about his leaves so far this morning
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Then you turn a corner and you’re back to the huge river
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Still Chinese traditional building so far, as we travel north, but this is the transition zone. More soon
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It’s constantly beautiful and not like anything on the big ride so far. Giant scale, very green
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These homes are more Tibetan. No raised corners, smaller windows. But the changes become more pronounced soon
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The biggest mountains we’ve seen on this ride so far, ahead
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The last of the agriculture for the day, as we enter the mountains
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Choppy, patched pavement, a big river, full Ti Akrapovic system booming off the walls, heading north in China, that’s more like it
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Then we do a monster climb and descent, and no photos for some reason.

Weixi to Deqin
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Another big climb later today, but we stay high this time
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A mountain village in every view
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A Polygonum in classic pink
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Now here’s something. Right beside the road, in the scree
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The bloom looks like Incarvillea, a couple of which come from here, but the plant is shrubby and the foliage isn’t right. We spent a few minutes just now trying unsuccessfully to find the species name
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And this. Scrambling all over everything happily
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A Clematis, how nice. Clematis akebioides.
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Three very decent plants in one day, without leaving the road. Heartbreaking in a way as this is a plant collector’s paradise, but this is too late in the season, we’re not alpine enough and we’re on a group ride. Somewhere up there, at some time maybe a month or 2 earlier, Gentiana farreri, for example, was blooming. Epic adventurous plant collecting history was made here by Forrest (who died in Teng Yueh here), Delavay (died somewhere unspecified in Yunnan), Cavalarie (murdered outside of Kunming, Yunnan), Farrer (who died near the China/Burma border). David, many others. If this piques your interest, here’s the wiki entry for George Forrest. Victorian era plant collecting heroism
A river again, this time the Mekong
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We stop at an interesting village. Now the Tibetan thing has really kicked in. Color, crisp lines
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Here’s Anita is making us lunch. Jamil is strictly Halal. So that he doesn’t starve to death he’s come prepared with all kinds of stuff for emergencies, like this. Anita plays Mom and we all join in. Well, the four of us on three bikes, now that we’re basically not talking to the rest of the group. OMG. Solo is so easy!
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I flip-flop at lunch between being loyal to my friend Jamil and eating the local fare. I usually decide after a look at what’s on offer both ways. This kitchen for example looks excellent
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The market, a few doors up. I took some photos at the end of this table of things I wouldn’t publish here, btw. I know we’ve gone private blog, but my daughters read this and would be upset. So things are very different everywhere you look in Chinese markets
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Two characters. Judging by their dress and demeanour, big wheels in this town
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Off again
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Classic Tibetan now. A little further north for the final touch
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Here’s a hint, flags along a steel bridge over the river
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At that’s Lucinda, half way across
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View from bridge

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Flag close-up
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This town is only 30 minutes from our destination. We stopped to load up on beer
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We noticed this bike shop
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Walked in to check it out
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Here’s the Tibetan/Chinese take on bikes
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This. The frills are part of the equation. One more detail a few pictures down
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Now the ride to Dequin, along this road
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Stop to watch local Tibetans walk past
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Wow, would love a week or two here
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There’s been a landslide and some heavy equipment is working on clearing it. We wait for about 40 minutes
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A nice-looking family waits too
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The angelic daughter on Andrew’s bike. She’s gregarious and loves playing to the small crowd
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Here’s the last important Tibetan detail on the bikes, the super-ornate, vividly colored mud splash. All the bikes have them
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This one has a boom box up front
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And this, beside the road, while we waited. I haven’t found what it is yet, because it doesn’t really ring my bell, although far from weedy
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Dequin. Amazing place, very small. Tibetans make up 80% of the population.
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It’s all about this. The view across the valley to the Himalayan Plateau, but in particular to this mountain, Meili Snow Mountain, right on the Yunnan/Tibet border. Also this is where the Jinsha (upper Yangtze) Mekong (Nu) and Salwan (Lancang) flow from, and beyond, with combined drainages that include half of Thailand, nearly all of Laos, some of South Vietnam, most of Cambodia and a large percentage of central China. So one of the more extraordinary places on the planet
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There are 13 peaks in immediate view over 6000 meters, with Kawagebo below  at 6740 (almost the same elevation as Huascaran in the Cordillera Blanca, much missed because the riding was so much better) We’re viewing from 3550 meters
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We were tired from the day, crashed early and were up early to watch the sun on the peaks, above. Apparently we were lucky as they’re usually clouded in.

Deqin to Shangri-La
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Now we head southeast. Deqin was our northern most point on the route. Twisties today, as below
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Up to 4400 meters
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Monastery before the climb
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Near the top
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The top. The story here is that there are snowstorms all around us. We’ve threaded our way through but the group wants to hang out here as the snow is dusting us, the rest of the group has zip experience of alpine road conditions and Anita says she has never even seen snow. Lucinda and I are never the first to get nervous in any group, but here it’s obvious any weather could happen immediately. It’s below zero, the clouds are swirling around us and puking snow on surrounding peaks and we’re trying to hustle everyone along, with little success (they’re taking photos), before we get snowed in for the winter and resort to murdering and eating the girls first. So we tell them for the third time this is not a good situation, we don’t want to eat anyone, and take off, trying to force the issue. Fortunately, they follow shortly and all ends well. It was fun, really, but was possibly more serious than my friends realized
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And over the top to this
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Skies clearing
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Downhill from here
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Andrew, a fat bike, a slim bike, a fat bike, Jamil
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View back at the switchbacks
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Villages again
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Towards a famous gorge to
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the Moon Bend of the Yangtze river
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Lunch town. We were surprised at how hot it was. We were freezing a few hours ago, now it’s around 80 or more again
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A fantastic ride through the afternoon
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Those huge walls opposite bulged and overhung towards the camera. A sport climber’s paradise
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Then the first view of the lake. Shangri-La is on the north shore. It look magical already. We all stop and think about the ride to here.

Shangri-La is a fictional name and place from the book Lost Horizon by James Hilton. The original name is Zhongdian but they changed it in 2001. The Chinese liked the fictional name and it’s good for business
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The it starts to rain gently. We all stop to look at the above view. Bee gets off Greg’s bike and jumps into the truck, to stay dry, rather than cover up for the short ride into town.

Reed, Andrew and Jamil take off and I follow Greg into town. To make a long and horrible story short, Greg overtakes a semi just as it swerves to miss 2 pigs and gets sideswiped hard. We’re immediately behind and watch the bike explode and Greg get thrown over the guard rail into a 3′ deep concrete ditch. Nightmare.

We pull over and jump into the ditch with Greg. He’s got lucky and has just broken his upper arm (and clavicle, we find out later) But in huge pain. The truck stops, calls the riders ahead, and Bee joins me in the ditch. We do the standard things to help Greg and wait for the ambulance, which takes forever
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A temple in the main town
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A Yak for Chinese tourists to ride. A very strange animal. We eat Yak regularly for dinner, it’s good. Jamil is OK with it as the killing method is sufficiently Hamal for him. And in fact Stephan had a Yak burger here and said it was the best burger he’d ever had
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The next day was a rest day and we headed to the temple. It’s the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Yunnan, built in 1679, completed 2 years later
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The temples within the huge compound
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We weren’t supposed to take pictures, but at one point one of us (who because of his own strong religious convictions is our moral decision maker on these things) whips out his camera and we all take a photo or two. This isn’t a good one, but you can see the extraordinary detail, color and scale. It’s the most impressive interior I’ve seen in Asia
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to Shaxi

Jianshui to Shilin
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One more day of highway. After 3 days of rain it starts to clear
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Here’s a Chinese toll booth. Motorcycles pass free in the right hand lane. We’ve gone through maybe 10 of them so far
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Oil and damp steel. A little too much gas and you’re on your side. Paddling is the way
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Boring, nothing to see. We can’t read the signs and there are many
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I have a hell of a time keeping up with Jamil and Andrew on their GSA1200’s. Not only do they have a windshield, but their bikes are made for this highway.

And they can ride. Here’s Andrew on his track bike, the brilliant Aprilia RSV4
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And Jamil on his Duc 1098. Jamil at his most active put 100 track days in a 2 year period.
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They’re good friends. A classic bromance.

I think this is the Nanpan River, I just tried to mapcheck it, but maybe not
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We arrive, crash, and the next day head off to the Shilin Stone Forest like the tourists we are. It’s odd, but solo I never feel like a tourist. Here, in this group, I do, and don’t like the feeling much.

Anyway, the bridge across to the stone forest
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Unreal formations, not large, but interesting. Like free-standing, isolated hoodoos
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Lots of Chinese tourists come here
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We’ll be taking some photos over the next few weeks of Chinese ‘cool’. I’m interested in what their spin is. There’s a lot of visible wealth around the cities, the Porshe Cayenne being the suv of choice, in black
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Where were we? Oh yes.

(Jamil, Andrew and myself have ‘cliqued’ off from the others. This is a terrible thing to do, but it’s happened. The fact of the matter is, we know what we’re doing, the official guide and back-up guide don’t, and after 5 days of screw-ups we’re close to mutiny. We actually talk about mutiny, but the official Chinese permissions, at the most, require we exit the border and sign out as a group, at the almost-most that we stay together all the time. Solo is so much easier)

The 3 of us walk around the stone forest together
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Preparing the stone and chiseling in words is traditional here, and looks nice. I can’t think of anywhere else it would look as right
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Steps thoughtfully carved in. The stamp of the Chinese on the landscape is everywhere
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A yellow, robust pea relative, we think
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Not sure, maybe Nicky has a guess
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Here’s this spider again. It’s enormous, maybe 3 inches body length, with a web that we’ve seen span from tree to tree, 20 feet or more. We saw it way back in Timor-Leste, and before that, more than a year earlier a very similar one across the Pacific in Panama with Eddie. For some reason it’s really nice when these links with prior experiences happen
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A very still and deep pool. I check it carefully for life, nothing
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Shilin to Kunming
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Kunming (population 6.4M) is the largest city on the ride. It’s the political and economic capital of Yunnan province
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Wiki says it’s a significant example of China’s modernization effort
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Electronic signage lines the streets, the fashion ads are specially interesting. More later
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Green Park in the city center. Late fall, so little in flower
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Chinese dance. We see this often. Very slow and restrained with a central movement theme, but around that the movement can be free-form and individual but never at a different pace, everyone’s very slow timing is locked-in and it’s somehow satisfying to watch
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Musicians and singers in the various structures. The music is also slow and restrained. There are traditional 3 string bowed instruments of various shapes and sizes and frequently a violin
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Kunming to Shuanglang
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We’re headed for Eklai lake
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More of these…
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Into a small village before Shuanlang. Architecture chat later
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Lunch. General food chat later
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Fresh shrimp
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And bird-on-a-stick. I guess the strategy is to eat the body part and leave the head there on the stick. The eyeballs are glazed over which gives them an foetus-like lookP1020697

A kitchen off the street, with the traditional basket-steamer over a wood fire. Anything and everything could be in there
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Onwards
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Fishing cormorants. The wiki entry has a picture from this very lake, here
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Here we go again. Rich kids and their shades
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And to our destination, full of Chinese tourists
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Shot of Jamil, Anita, Andrew at our hotel. If you’re a riding ace like these two you can carry whatever vast top box you like and be beyond style criticism. Andrew had all kinds of amazing bike stuff in his, Jamil had all kinds of amazing food stuff in his. They were like Santa at times
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Fabulous rental scooters. We should have done this for an hour but it didn’t occur to me until now
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Shuanglang to Shaxi
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The track so far, from Chiang Mai
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How that looks on Google Earth
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Just south of the Himilayan Plateau, where we’re headed
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We start with a nice ride around the lake
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A representative well-off home from this area. New construction looks like this
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Through a typical smaller village. Vendors side-by-side at street level, homes above, same as everywhere really
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However money is being made now, this is the classic style of newer homes. Walls, white-panelled, open-fronted to the courtyard, decorative edging, Chinese characters and often dark blue landscape scenes painted into the empty spaces. For this whole central part of Yunnan, this style is consistent

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The traditional temples are everywhere, this one very small
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Me, Jamil, Andrew, Anita. Not a selfie because my helmet’s on
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Miles of this
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Low hills, a rare small lake
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A long stretch of this. For us these avenues are a good time to think
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Into Shaxi. This is one of the most important and protected towns in China. To quote wiki, it’s the most intact caravan town on the ancient tea route from Yunnan into Burma and Tibet. Trade started here in the 7th century
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My room in the old, wonderful hotel. This is the nicest room I’ve stayed in since, well a looong time. Here for 2 nights, great, felt like going to bed with iBooks and getting up in 48 hours, such comfyness
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Cars can’t get into the old town, so the hotel has this buggy to pick up luggage for tourists. The tires were a bit flat. Rather than help, we watched the 3 girls struggle a bit. They looked at us like we were lazy males. We laughed. It seemed funny at the time, 2 moto pros being useless, but not so funny now… oh well, you had to be there
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The fab hotel, right on the main square
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Next day, Shaxi day ride
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Getting into the country was great. Boo! to organized rides. Other than with Helge. And then, you ride your own ride and just meet at the day’s destination. Anyway, it was beautiful. Andrew with Anita, Jamil, and me. The troublemakers
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Zooming through little hamlets
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Dodging cows and goats, both here
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These
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Andrew and Anita, water crossing
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Jamil
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Barely wider than a path
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Then we got blocked by a huge number of small parked trucks. It didn’t make any sense, we couldn’t figure out why. So after checking there were no alternates on the GPS, we reversed.

China – the grind north

First private blog. Good timing because this first China post has stuff in it that we’d normally hesitate to write about.

A 23 day tour, 3023 miles / 4869 km’s.

As mentioned before, the only practical way to ride a bike here is with a China-approved operator. It’s still not an encouraged activity on a motorcycle and still in ‘test’ mode by the Chinese. I went into this assuming the management would be something like the 12 day tour I did with Helge Pedersen 3 years ago, but that wasn’t going to be the case unfortunately. Since arranging this, I’ve a favorable visa that makes entering solo easier.

China was a vivid experience and I realized afterwards how important it is on a world tour. It’s so different from anything that’s come before.

However, when the ride ended, we didn’t think we’d go back soon.

Lots of stories.

Chiang Mai to Luang Namtha
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There’ll be pictures of riders as we go. There’s R (guide, Chiang Mai, F800GS) Andrew (engineer, Singapore, GSA1200) Jamil (logistics, Bangkok GSA1200) Stephan and Bpui (photographer and wife, Thailand, CRF650) Greg and Bee (ex-Aussie motorcycle cop and girlfriend, Vstrom) and me.

We meet at 7:00 and off we go. A big day ahead, 475K through Laos to close to the China border
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No pictures until the Laos border, which is here, very nice
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There are tons of people and it immediately looks like we’ve started on the wrong day, a national holiday. We watch the queue go nowhere and think, uh oh. But the smart and resourceful Thai assistant to the guide (handing us off here) comes to the rescue and arranges a ‘payment’ and we’re through in about 90 minutes
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Thai border building on the left of the river below, Laos to the right. It’s the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong. A newish bridge. The two countries fought on opposing sides in the Vietnam War, Thailand with the U.S.

Mekong pictures later
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Google Earth of this famous crossing. Our group of bikes was escorted across by a car
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Into Laos, riding fast
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Lush, hot as hell
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A quick lunch stop. I should have taken a picture of this baked egg thing, delicious
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North, towards the rain
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Yes, that’s all of Laos for now. Much more when I come back from my own Laos ride through

Luang Namtha to Jinghong
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Through the Laos exit quickly. Building #1
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Building #2
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You had to push your bike out of Laos, lol! We never found out positively why, but probably so you can’t make a run for it. Why you’d want to make a run for China from Laos is an interesting question though. Here’s Andrew
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To the China border
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Which was the most impressive border building I’ve seen in 3 years. This is just the gate
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Inside it’s state-of-the-art
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There are movies showing elite Chinese troops in action. Pretty interesting intro
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And fairly quickly through, due to the huge amount of paperwork and official ‘permissions’ already processed before the ride. Obviously everyone is looking at us like we’re aliens. Foreign riders are a rare occurrence.

We stop for lunch in Mengla. Jamil on the left, Stephan and Bpui on the right. Check out the size of Stephan’s tank bag. It’s like a suitcase!
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To vehicle inspection. That’s me, watching Andrew ahead
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You push your bike up to rollers, a Chinese inspector jumps on and runs the bike on rollers for a minute or less. He freaks out trying to get on Lucinda and we’re through fast
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Here’s the screen telling him what the bike is doing. That’s my plate number in the back, U00238. All documented. Super-documented: on every highway we ride, flashes go off photographing and recording the movements of travellers
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Then, after an hour we get a laminated Chinese driver’s licence and a temporary vehicle registration. Plus an instruction and rules book which none of us read. Great souvenirs
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About 30 minutes down the road we get pulled into a military inspection point ad have to produce our new documents and answer questions. They’re all business, no Mr Nice Guy. Cool
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To Jinghong
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Our first night in China. Anecdotes and things later
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Jinghong to Yuanjiang
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Tunnels. We’d heard about this. Chinese tunnels on our way to the Yunnan are going to be a trial. They can be long, more than two miles, unventilated, unlit, littered with anything and worse, the drivers often don’t stay to their side. Cars and trucks have a cockpit of air to make the distance, bikes don’t, for instance
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It rains on and off for the next 3 days, sometime heavily. Which brings us to the next thing: the road surface. I’ve only once seen a road as slick. It’s the same problem as the pass to Bariloche from Chile, melted bitumen, polished smooth as glass, reflective and stupid slick. Plus I’m on the death tires, Heidenaus. Needless to say we’re cautious, despite having to make big headway for a few days.

Followers of this ride know we don’t complain. The minute we start to take difficulties too seriously, that’s the time commitment weakens. Rule #something. So if we do complain you know something’s significant enough to warn others about. So, the paved roads can be very bad. Dirt would be much easier.

However, the landscape is beautiful. But our sights are a ways ahead
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Jamil, parking lot. Just like this shot for some reason
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Frequent villages and fields, mostly rice. Details to follow
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The Red River, near Yuanjiang
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Much of this China ride is about the 2 epic rivers, Yangtze and Mekong, both of which we’ll cross and follow. They come close together in northern Yunnan. Below, the river starting near Ho Chi Minh City is the Mekong. The river starting on the right near Nanjing is the Yangtze
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Into Yuanjiang. We’ve got to pass through a few cities on our way, this is one of them. Not big, 1M people
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Another topic, photos are sequential so this has come up now. Squat loos, common worldwide, the standard here. This is a pretty clean one in a good restaurant, which is why I’m showing it. You wouldn’t want to see a normal one. You can tell it’s fancy because it has a water reservoir to flush it. Most have a barrel of water and a saucepan. But we wouldn’t bother with this topic at all if it wasn’t for the little green logo you can see on top of the reservoir
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The flush button is the Apple logo, nicely executed
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The town had some wonderful streets. More later
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Yuanjiang to Jianshui
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(the above route, in the pouring rain, is much longer than the day was supposed to be. Excuse another negative, but we’ll get them out of the way now. The guide, R, has messed up the route. He is having trouble with his GPS. Not only is his unit regularly falling off the homemade mount, which is unbelievable, but he’s ballsed up the routing, which is worse. The previous night he gets lost in the city trying to find the hotel. We don’t know the hotel either, don’t have GPS coordinates for it, but find as a POI and Lucinda guides the group to it directly. Other than us, 2 bikes are OK with this screw up, 2 are not (the more experienced travellers). So the group begins to slowly split apart from today. There are no excuses, an American ex-pat, we’ve seen his Mapsource route at his house in Chiang Mai, he’s familiar with the equipment, he’s just messed it up through laziness imo. He refused to give us the GPS track in advance, the opposite of Helge’s rides. It’s a big concern, this early. We won’t spend much time talking about it, but might as well fill in some background)

Next day we’re in for a treat, Jianshui. The town
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We travel about 5K out-of-town on our first rest day to Shuanglong Bridge, also known as the Double Dragon Bridge. In the pond beside it is a man in a suit fishing with a traditional net
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The  seventeen-arch bridge, Ming dynasty
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Another view
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Another. There are three reasons for the upturned comers: 1, the construction is traditionally timber and this eliminates visual (over time) sag. 2, More light. 3, moves rainwater to runoffs
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Another. Very nice dimensions to the corridor
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On our way back, out comes the net
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Here we have interesting characins on their sides and a cool striped cichlid below
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Lovely, about 4 inches long
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We went to a small village
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A temple under restoration
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(more on this in a later post)
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50’s additions
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Why do you think this figure has multiple arms? Because in a further (Buddhist) reincarnated life, physical time moves very quickly. We see the arm movement as they would appear to us in our current time
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Wrapping is something the Asians know about. They wrap fabric, a great thing
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Then a walk along a canal to a semi-modern railway station, just for a walk
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Fisherman in the pond opposite
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Disused despite the pomp
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Inside, on the wall, this photograph/painting, with the bridge we saw in the background. Trashy or important? Don’t know yet
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Need someone to take a guess at what this says, which would help
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pla hang nok yung

That’s Thai for guppy. Written, it looks like this
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Translation: fish that eats mosquitos, only, not an adjective in sight. It skips a descriptive, like brown bear or checkered tortoise.

This is probably due to the guppy being not from here, but from NE South America, imported for utility, and the trade-name stuck.

Everywhere in the city streets here you’ll find them in bowls, dishes, barrels, anything with more than a few gallons of water and a lily in it. Sometimes they’re side by side, like below, sometimes a block apart, a few to hundreds in each, air, motorcycles, people, walls, whatever, in betweenP1030996

A male, from the above higher dish
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And so

anniversary in Chiang Mai

Our first anniversary was in Mancora, Peru, our second in Darwin (the first time through) and now the third in Chiang Mai
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We found ourselves parked in too many places in the last 12 months, too much thinking, not enough riding. People who I correspond with know I was disappointed to have left Latin America. We’d learned (and loved) far more than we anticipated. It suited us. Arriving into beautiful NZ and Australia was a huge change. The drug I’d become addicted to was missing. The Australian north was as beautiful as anything we’d seen, our heart was getting some of what it needed, but most of the big-picture inputs had come to a halt. Old thoughts and considerations came back.

The bottom line is that the year was safe, a safety net 99% the time. In South America there were quite a few weeks where that wasn’t true. So perhaps it was the lack of ‘adventure’ riding that muted the last 12 months. But on the flip, we probably learned more this year digesting it all. What Australia had done was move us further along, without adding anything except time and distance. To use an abused word there were a couple of epiphanies, the type that are the reason for doing this ride in the first place. They crept up on me unexpectedly. I remember an Irish rtw rider who said in a movie you can’t go solo around the world for years and come back unchanged. I thought bullshit, there are no heavies, the only things that change are your travelling and riding skills become decent if they weren’t before, you become a seriously serious bore and people will avoid you, if they didn’t before, plus you’re way older. He turned out to be right. But all of those things, lol

On top of that I was slightly nervous about what followed, standard rider ‘what’s-ahead-looks-totally-weird’ thoughts. Asia’s densely populated, which isn’t our thing. Dili-to-Medan is notoriously difficult on a motorcycle. No open spaces for a long time. So we slowed down in Australia and hung out whenever an interesting place came up. It had become slow travel, which by some coincidence seems to getting praised as a concept right now.

But we need to speed up because by our rough mileage calculations we’re about 45% through our ride, but we’ve said that more than once before, but it really doesn’t matter, it’ll be what it’ll be.

Lucinda’s been what she is: badass and beautiful, a rare and thoroughbred super-enduro completely at home out here. No matter what new things she’s faced with, she goes head-down into it like this ride is her realization too.

In a few days we’re entering China with a guided group, not my first choice but they appear to be great guys and I’m sure we’ll have fun. From a purity p.o.v. I’m ok with it because it doesn’t spoil the ‘adventure’ track, as we enter and exit at the same place. After arranging this (previously the only practical way) we somehow scored a more favorable visa and it’s very possible we’ll re-enter solo later, after doing a clockwise ride through Laos and Cambodia. But all kinds of things come up and anything here could happen. Despite that, the big picture starting in India is fairly clear, we think 😉

One really large entry into my memory from the last year will be the extraordinary Australian outback. The colour, the clarity, the heat, the birds and animals, and the vastness. The other big entry would be the Indonesian people. Generous, smiling, beautiful.

We’ve been off-season for the entire 12 months. The only moderate weather was in Tasmania. The Australian summer and the SE Asian wet season. But when you think about it, that’s the only way to do it, travelling through the extremes. The downside was we’ve seen few riders. Only 4 long-distance riders, all rtw: Steph Jeavons, Shane Smith, Dylan and Lawson Reid. Friends for life.

Best day: somewhere in the outback
Worst day: the 15/16 hour night ferry from Kupang to Larantuka, Indonesia