You can see from the title above I stopped counting the days as we are not riding anymore and today is a travel-day as we start traveling home.
Yesterday we Locked away the Bakkie (but kept the bikes to ride around town and to go to dinner with last night, there is something exhilarating about riding around without your helmet in this Jungle Village together with packs of scooters.) We believe everything will be safe when we return in March next year.
We took the bikes for a wash, note the clouds over the mountains in the back-ground, (we are already worried our flight will not happen as there is only 1 flight every second day that comes in and leave later the same day and if it rains the flight gets canceled often we are told.) We have two flights today to get us to Bangkok, we then sleep over and then have a flight to Hong Kong on Wednesday from where we connect to a flight to JHB which arrives on Thursday morning. So it is 4 flights in total to get us home with the 1st flight being very dodgy and problematic.
This is the view from my hotel room, once again note the clouds and the mountain.
Last night we had dinner at a type of student restaurant\bar which worked out to less than R40-00 per person and included the drinks. See how busy the parking area of this place is with scooters.
Closing Thoughts About Leg 9, China, and I make a Big Reveal……………
The one major difference between China and Laos is the traffic, in Laos there are very little vehicles on the road, in China the roads are flooded with :
And then the most common is this electric-cycle that costs R 5 600-00 and you charge it at night and then you can travel a total of 40km the next day at a top speed of 40 km\p\hr. You don’t need a drivers license and there is no age restriction. In spite of all the drama we had to get our bikes legal in China, and to prove we have valid drivers licenses, any kid in China can jump on one of these and go and make U-Turns on the main road, and at night they switch the light off to save the battery, so they are not only silent but also invisible, lekker man, lekker.
I mentioned in a previous Posting about the copy of the Chinese wine when somone in China copied the Great Wall of China Wine and created a terrible wine, similar lable and called it the Greet Wall of China, well, the wine was a bad copy, so was the copy of the KTM.
There is definitely a Property Bubble waiting to burst.
In every new city you see rows and rows of concrete block of flats, only the shells, no inner walls or outer skins, just the raw concrete, there are a hand full that have been completed and even those are not fully sold out or fully let, yet, in spite of so many completed shells you will find the skyline dotted with cranes as more are being built? Why would the banks fund this? Do they believe the city will in future grow enough to make these investments pay off? I doubt it, there is something very wrong here and something must happen as someone is bleeding at the moment and cant continue to bleed in this way, so something has to give.
China has made me jealous as I can see how a government, (even though it is a communist government) can work for its people. They have seen the bigger picture and knows what has to be done to ensure their people move forward out of poverty, what to do to improve lives, how to create infrastructure, this government is working and not looking over their shoulder at the Opposition, or people from within the party. It is a one Party State, there are no challengers and as bad as this is for politics and democracy, and it is very bad with regards to Human Rights in the country, as well as environmental issues, but they do what they have to do, don’t need to ask no one, just go ahead and do it, and it is working and the progress is staggering.
About 5 years ago when visiting China we still ate in restaurants where you walked through cages with animals ranging from dogs to snakes to enter the restaurant, all of that is gone, laws were passed to clean up the streets, Health Laws with regards to slaughtering are being introduced and things are changing fast. It is still a gimmick in the big cities to have scorpions on sticks, or chameleons on the Bar-B-Q but in the rural areas there is nothing funny, dog meat is only eaten in one province in the South and I have had to change my view about the Chinese and their dogs, I have seen more dogs on leads lovingly walked in China than in South Africa, and along the road and in every village you see well cared for and lovingly treated dogs lying next to the road. The dogs I have seen are kept for the same reason we have dogs, so they can bark at strangers who comes too close.
Eating however remains strange as the entire animal is eaten (and not minced-up and processed like back home,) so here you see the pigs ear on the braai, or the sheep legs roasting away, organs are a delicacy and all the organs from all the animals, even pigs are eaten, nothing is wasted.
China is catching-up with the West on every possible level and they are a proud nation and I admire the bold steps their government had taken in the past with regards to the One Child Policy as that has helped them to catch-up and lift their people out of poverty. Something like this could help many poor African countries. In China if you wanted more children you could have but then you had to pay tax. Tony comes out of a home where they were three children, his father had to pay 10% tax for him and later when a sister was born another 10% tax was added.
I am only giving you the positive things about China as I feel it would be wrong of me to say negative things about a country after traveling through it. I am not blind to the problems, but they are being addressed, very fast and “The Sleeping Dragon” is awake and alive and a force to be reckoned with.
Epilogue (here comes the deep stuff now)
This Leg has by far been the most difficult Leg up to now. We have done just on 5000km for this leg and we might even have clocked-over to a total traveled on all the 9 legs combined of 40 000km, ( I forgot to look, but it is either just short or just over 40 000km.)
China is a hard country to do on a bike, (never mind riding it on Route 108,) from every angle the odds are stacked against you, that is why so few people have every driven\ridden their own vehicle through China, it is a logistical nightmare with many hoops to jump through and hundreds of e-mails before you even arrive, it has taken a lot of effort from me to arrange and plan this leg and I am actually so glad it is over and that it has gone “well” in spite of the odds we faced.
I never wanted to ride through China but we had no other option, to have continued through the rest of Russia would have been so boring as we had already spent so much time in Russia, we needed to get to a port to ship from, cutting through one of the countries ending in the word “….stan” (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan etc.) with two bikes registered in USA was not an option, so we had no choice, we had to ride through China.
Apart from all the hard work that went into the planning and the execution and apart from China being what it was, and apart from the tough road conditions and the admin nightmare, there was one more thing I had to deal with to make this trip even more difficult.
I have now ridden over 140 000km on Adventure Motorbikes and have done some very exciting off-road trips through Lesotho and around Southern Africa, up the coast of Mozambique, all the way to Malawi, I have done the Desert Run to Namibia 4 times, but I have never had a proper fall. Yes I have fallen over in a hairpin at the top of Sani Pass, and I have fallen in the mud numerous times, I have slid on the ice at night on a pass in the Eastern Cape, skidded off the road in Turkey on a loose gravel road, once in Bulgaria I rode into a Gypsy Camp when my front wheel slid on the melting tar, I have fallen several times in the soft sand on the road between Ponta Du Oro and Ponta Malongane, but wearing full protective gear has always protected me from getting any injury, “not a scratch” as they say. I am very cautious and do not take any chances, I never race or ride reckless.
But on day 4 of this Leg, heading out of the desert camp in Mongolia I had my 1st proper hard fall, in the soft sand, I was doing about 80km and the gravel 2 spoor road was good and I was loving it, but in the last 7 km before we got back onto the tar road I took my eyes off the road for a split second to press my Helmet Camera Go-Pro’s remote that is attached onto my handlebars and when I looked up there was a very deep patch of soft sand approaching fast, not a problem, have had several of those on this trip before, but instead of choosing the correct line, opening the throttle and putting my weight towards the back wheel I thought I had enough time and I could reduce speed just a little, drop a gear and then get back onto the gas, but the sand I was on was already too soft and as I closed the throttle my front wheel went into the sand and I lost it with a major “tank-slapper.”
I fell very hard and also ended-up under the bike. I knew I was winded and my chest was on fire. I knew I had broken some ribs but once again due to the protective gear and my panniers giving me the space for my bottom leg I could eventually stand up. Greg had by now arrived and within minutes Tex and Rocky had turned back when they did not see my lights following them. They hitched poor old Snowflake behind the Land Cruiser and we duck-taped the bike’s screen which had broken off back into position, the one Pannier was re-attached and strapped onto the bracket securely and I got into the bakkie with Greg. My back muscles went into spasm and my shoulder seized-up, I took some Voltaren and some painkillers and was soon starting to feel better.
But that night I hardly slept, and have not had a proper night’s sleep since the fall. The next day I rode again and during the day the pain was OK, but at night I almost died. I started getting worried that some organs have been damaged or some bones in my shoulder broken, so when we picked-up the delay while waiting for the Customs Deposit to be sorted out on day 2 in China, Tony and I went to the local Hospital for X-Rays and some Sonar Scans. I dreaded this but the facility, the equipment, the service and the doctors were first-world, (apart from the doctor walking to the dustbin in the corner of his office half-way through the consultation to snort back through his nose and then clean his throat and spit into the dustbin, very upsetting to us but a normal and acceptable thing to do in China.) I had to pay R600-00 for everything, (the X-rays and the sonar scans, the consultation with the doctor and the painkillers they gave me.) During the 45 minutes all of this took I only saw one other patient being brought in which was a lady that had gone into labour. The damage was only two broken ribs and no other damage. Tony said that it was not a private facility and all hospitals are that well equipped and staffed.
So not sleeping during the night and having a lot of pain made this trip tough. I had to concentrate extra hard during the day and could not take any painkillers during the day as that would make me even more drowsy than I already was from the lack of sleep, but I fought back with the help of a few Red-Bulls every few hours. But having a fall like this was a big Wake-Up-Call and I have a new respect for the riding we do and now I am even more cautious.
And then I got a Head Cold on top of everything else, so now I also had to cough a few times everyday which is a very painful exercise with broken ribs, and riding with your nose inside a full-face-helmet with a runny nose is a messy business.
Then we also had extra problems with regards to relationships which were aggravated by the Navigational issues. Taking all the above into account – Leg 9 will go down in my book as being the toughest so far. And then we discovered that the GPS’s and the new maps are even worse in Laos than in China, so I will now have to investigate the maps of Tom-Tom or just find proper old Paper Road Maps, which will just have to be laminated as the rain never stops here.
This is my last Posting and I might make a few posts before Leg 10 just to keep you up-dated on the planning and possible route we will be riding in March 2016.
We might miss our flight later today and then I might have to let you know about the drama that went with it.
From Fleisch it over and out for now.