Ladies And Gentleman, Start My Vstrom!
Posted by TravellingStrom on January 7, 2013
Well, it has been a bit of a saga, but the good news is I am on the road again
It has been a while since I posted because I had nothing much to write about, there are only so many food and beer photos to post, and Vientiane is still a crap town. So, I needed parts and I did some mad scrambling around trying to get the prices and availability(most important) and to do this during the holiday season for most western countries. The parts had to come from overseas. I posted a help wanted post on a number of forums, to see if anyone was travelling to Laos in the near future. I also was trying to find the fastest way to ship parts in using a courier company, they were not cheap and would still take some time.
I owe at least one beer to Saab, or Guy from Brisbane and a HUGE THANK YOU. He was in the best position to help, and although he was madly scrambling to get his own shit together(he was heading to South America to follow the Dakar Rally on a bike), he managed to order the parts I needed on his account and they would arrive in Brisbane on Wednesday 2nd January. He writes some pretty funny stuff when he travels, you can check out his witty stuff here Saabs Blog
The next little effort was to get them here to Laos. Well, Saab had let his fingers do the walking and the costs for couriers were upwards of $200+ – $400+. I also needed to get the parts picked up from the shop in Brisbane and taken to a courier. I had a number of people offer to do the last bit, but then I got a message from Clive and Chris, they were flying to Kuala Lumpa on the 4th and could pick up the parts and bring them there. After doing some flight research I decided to fly down and pick them up from there. Clive and Chris also ride a Vstrom and will be riding from Kuala Lumpa to the UK over the next year or so, you can follow their travels here Brisbane2Bristol
So, the decision was made, I booked my flight for next weekend, booked a hotel room at the same hotel as Clive and Chris, all non refundable. Then later in the day, Don(the Midnight Mapper) who lives here at this hotel said I could probably have sent it via EMS courier from KL to here for about $20!!!!!!! Too late and he was not around to ask when I needed it, so never mind the parts are on their way. Don spends a lot of time here in Laos just riding the Ho Chi Min Trail. On a dirt bike with absolute minimal gear with a hammock to sling between trees, he maps all the tracks trails and creates way points and turns them into Garmin maps. I would really like to ride some of the stuff he goes through, but not on this bike. His website is here, if you come here and need a GPS map, he is the man to talk to. Laos GPS Map
Right, it is now New Years Eve and I did not want to be in this town, so I decided to nick off north again, but I could not be bothered sorting out a bus, so I took my old trusty step through
I have been renting this bike pretty much since I have been stranded. It is only $7/day and is very useful as most things here are a long way from each other and it is a shitty dusty smoky city, so walking is yuck! Anyway, I booked out of the hotel and after storing all the unwanted gear , like riding gear, boots, panniers etc, I headed north around 10am and although the trip was slow, around 60kmh it was about as fast as being on a big bike This was because of all the small villages and twists and turns through the hills, it took 3 hours on a bus last time and it took 3 hours on a bike, to cover 155km That included a quick stop for lunch and in fact as I left at 10am, I was always passing or being passed by the blue bus that I could have been on to get to Vang Vieng
Just before arriving in Vang Vieng I spotted this sign, enough said
I went back to my old place at the Mesah View but he was booked out, so I ended up at the Jardine hotel, just down near the river. This is where Kate stayed and I do recall she paid around 80,000kip but they tried to charge me 200,000!!! I started to head off, but they gave me a discount and I ended up staying, but she explained it was due to New Year holiday, prices up, fair enough, it was cheaper than where I had been staying. With hindsight I probably should have gone somewhere else, the wifi was crap and I was flat out getting email let alone internet!!!
The next thing on the agenda was to go to my new Geocache on the hill called Grab That Flag which has now been published. I was happy where it was, but I wanted to enclose it in a more waterproof cover and for that I had bought a small 5lt black waterproof bag. They sell them here real cheap, the tubers and kayakers use them for their phones and dry clothes etc.
The climb up was just as much fun as last time
So once at the top, I waited until everyone had gone and re-hid the cache in the waterproof bag and was happy it could not be seen from any direction I even stepped over to the adjoining pile to get the flag photo, the views were OK, but the smoke haze was up a bit from last time I was here.
After this job was done I could relax, so I rode down and over the bamboo bridge and said hi and had a quick beer with Loay, but did not stay long. It was NYE and all the Laos people were starting to party, Loay had hired this big PA system boom box next to him and was booming out the music, but it was not music I was interested in, electronic rap crap
I ended up having dinner at the Elephants Crossing, but as they had nothing planned for NY I went up to the Aussie bar where I bumped into some strangers and we saw the new year in. Funny thing here, most pubs were closing before midnight and there was nowhere to sit and stay for the whole evening. I saw a lot of Falang walking the streets searching for ‘something’ but most were to blind or bombed to know what was happening anyway
I spent the next few days here in Vang Vieng just chilling, I had a heap of books on my Kindle and made a bit of a dent in them, then on the 3rd I rode back to Vientiane for one night. The next morning on the 4th I tried to call my Dad, it was his birthday but although I got through the WiFi at Villa Lau is shit, so I sent an email to say I will call later. I then grabbed a TukTuk to the airport and was soon on the plane to Kuala Lumpa, Malaysia.
The flight was OK, not too long and I lost an hour on arrival! The worst part was no food on board. It seems you have to pre book the food when you book the ticket. You can buy on board, but I only had Kip, they would not take them only Ringitts, so I went hungry! I will remember this on the way back! I got into steamy KL and took a shuttle bus to the first train station where I was picked up by the hotel people and I was soon booked in and getting wet in the pool with a nice cold beer
And a couple of hours(and beers) later Clive and Chris arrived with a box of goodies for me
Thanks heaps guys So, we had a chat about their upcoming trip, their bike was in customs and they would start the release on Monday, then a dinner that was brought in by the hotel owner. I say hotel, but it is more like a homestay The houses over here are built huge and don’t cost a lot. This American had bought the house and rents out the rooms to guests. The houses are built this size to handle the whole extended family, so they might have 12 bedrooms with 4 dunnies and lounge rooms. It is in a gated community, so security is evident and there is a check point before getting in or out. It is OK for doing what I am doing, fly in fly out, but there is nowhere to go that is close to eat or drink. This is a Muslim place so the beer is imported and very expensive, that can was half the size but twice the price of what I have been paying up in Laos.
I had an early night, after calling my Dad on Skype to wish him a happy birthday, a very fast connection here, but I had to be up at 4.30am to get to the airport for my flight.
Just for the record, this is what my clutch basket should look like, before it gets modified by a monkey!!! You can tell which one is the new one
I got to the airport on time and after booking my luggage in I went looking for food to eat on board. Hah, I found a Dunkin Donut and bought 5 and got one free So, although I was supplied a packaged breakfast, it was spicy noodles and I can tell ya, at 5am, not my favourite dish, maybe later I had a few doughnuts for brekky then headed out for the plane. Lucky I had them doughnuts to give me energy as I had to walk 1km in the already steamy heat to get to the plane. Yet all the way I passed gate after gate inside the terminal? Why use gate 7, then park the friggin plane at terminal 93, why not use gate 93, idiots!!! So my new plane was still Air Asia, but was liveried in a British football teams design, Queens Park Rangers, go figure?
The flight was on time, my donuts were good tucker at 10,00ft or whatever we were doing and once we landed I once again had to go through the process of buying another Laos visa, how many is that now!!! I grabbed a taxi to the hotel and on the way stopped at Fuarks to confirm the work to be performed and thankfully it was all good. I had arranged last week that he would work this Saturday on my bike and get most of it done if possible then finish on Monday. I was soon booked back into the Villa Lau got changed and back at Fuarks where I handed over the parts and sat down to watch. The main thing I was interested in was what he would do with the new valves, but the mechanic grabbed some marker and some valve grinding paste and got to work seating the valves.
I could see I was in the way and was happy to leave them to it. Remember, they used no torque wrench here, it was all guess work and I did not want to know as I would just get worried and tear my hair out! But they did know what they were doing at least
But later that day, as promised they called me up to come around. The bike was together, it was running smoothly and had been for 15 minutes. So, we dropped the oil, refilled and ran it again for 15 minutes and dropped the oil again. The second time there was no evidence of any metal so I was happy. As the engine had only done a few revolutions in the damaged state, there was minimal metal in the system, or so I believe. If it had been running for ages faulty, I would have been more concerned. So, it was too late to finish the bike today, but come Monday by the time I turned up at 9am it was back together and nearly ready to go. We had to remove the tank so I could re route the breather hoses, he had strung them along the chassis, but they go straight down to near the footpeg. After a short test ride up and down the block I was happy and I paid up and was outa there
In all the time that was spent on the bike, I was only charged 1,000,000kip which is about $120, cheap as chips. But, on top of that I have been using hotel and drinking money and doing bugger all for nearly 6 weeks. It has been nearly 3 months since I entered Laos for the first time!
I headed up the road to a welder, when the bike was originally put in the back of a truck, it was on its side and broke one of the pannier mounts again, so this chap did it for me pretty quick smart That thing to his left is a long length of Rebar, the welders earth was attached to the other end and he just tacked this onto the frame
I thought about getting the bike washed but in the end I decided against it, it can wait Back at Villa Lau, Eric was there on one of his new KTMs talking with Don, now a light bike like that would be great fun, but could not do what I do, so each to their own I guess
So, the saga of the busted Vstrom is finally over, or so I hope. Tomorrow is Tuesday the 8th January 2013 and I was going to ride to Chiang Mai in Thailand. It is 1,000km by the fastest route and if I did 250km a day, and even giving the bike an easy time to start with, I could still be there by the weekend, where I was due to give a presentation at the Horizons Unlimited meeting being held at Riders Corner. My subject being:
21:30 – 22:15 “THE WANDERING MOTORBIKER I” (The Pitfalls Of China Planning, What Happens When The Whole Reason For Your Trip Goes Up In Smoke, But You Have Already Left And Are On The Road). Show by “The Universal Eyes” on the road, aka Richard Winter (Travelling Strom) from Australia.
They have me on late in case I go over time, but I am sure that would never happen
Cheers from Vientiane, still!