Two Aussie blokes riding their BMW R1150GSs from Australia to Europe

Month: February 2016

Myanmar: the tag along tour – 7385kms

We arrived at Mae Sot, the Thai-Myanmar border town, on Friday evening after spending time off the beaten track in a failed search for a waterfall. Mae Sot seems like a pretty happening place for a border town; busy, with a lot going on.

Sunrise over Mae Sot, the morning we were to cross into Burma

Sunrise over Mae Sot, the morning we were to cross into Burma

There were two dirt bikes in the hotel car park with Australian plates on them and we assumed we we’d see them at the border crossing the following morning to join the mandatory tour. It’s not possible to bring your own vehicle into Myanmar without a government registered tour guide and government ministry representative. In order to do this, budget conscious overlanders such as ourselves get together with other like minded travellers to keep the costs as low as possible. It turns out there were a total of 10 motorcyclists at the border that morning, 6 others travelling in our tour (including the Aussie registered dirt bikes). It just goes to show how ‘common’ what we’re doing is! After a bit of confusion crossing to the other side of the road (they drive on the right in Myanmar) we road into Myanmar on the newly built “Friendship Highway”.

Our first taste of Burmese roads on the "Friendship Highway"

Our first taste of Burmese roads on the “Friendship Highway”

The first days were spent mostly riding with a little sightseeing along the way – a real eye opener was spending a night in the nation’s new capital of Naypyitaw. This city was purpose built 11 years ago, and almost no people moved to the city when the government moved here – for over two hundred kilometres we road on a 4 lane highway with literally no traffic on it. In the city itself we rode on a 16 lane road, and ours were the only vehicles!

This highway led to a purpose built capital city with nearly no inhabitants, which meant the was nearly no traffic on the roads. A great place to practise your 'look mum no hands' riding technique

This highway led to a purpose built capital city with nearly no inhabitants, which meant the was nearly no traffic on the roads. A great place to practise your ‘look mum no hands’ riding technique

Just trying to blend in in Naypyidaw, Myanmar's new capitol

Just trying to blend in in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s new capital

It wasn’t until we reached the ancient city of Bagan that we had a full day off the bikes. Instead we had a full program of sightseeing; from sunup to sundown we zipped backwards and forwards across town with our tour guide, seeing all the stuff that all the tourists are supposed to see. After nearly a month of doing everything at our own pace we felt like we’d been thrown back to a school excursion, in the sense that we’ve been doing everything to somebody else’s agenda. Thankfully it’s a good group of people and we all seem to be getting along.

Sunrise in Bagan

Sunrise in Bagan

Purely by coincidence there was a motorcycle expo on in Bagan at the time we were there – thankfully our tour guide appreciated our interest and took us to the expo. There were a lot of old English bikes on display, probably from bygone days when the British had a lot more influence here.

Really old girls

Really old girls

Another day on the road saw us arrive in Mandalay, where we’ll have another day of sightseeing. I wonder where the tour bus will take us tomorrow…

Mandalay's wooden bridge

Mandalay’s wooden bridge

Enough rambling – pictures speak louder than words, so enjoy the photographic story as a substitute

Thailand to Burma (Myanmar) – 6119kms

We did the math before deciding a route through Thailand and decided it was better to head to Ko Lanta Island on the west coast for some R & R before heading straight up to the north of Thailand to our border crossing at Mae Sot into Burma. Ko Lanta is an island off the west coast of Thailand and based upon our research seemed to be the island to stay on not to touristy on the south end and we could get the bikes over on 2 ferries at the cost of $2 each. We were surprised at the amount of tourists but ended up happy on the south end in a great little beach side resort to enjoy our first official rest day. It was difficult to leave Ko Lanta but we were happy to be back in the saddle and once back on the main land our next leg took us through Khlong Phanom National park with perfect tight corners and limestone mountains literally leaping out in front of us, not the longest road but given our constant freeway journey since landing in South-East asia it lifted our spirits. We made it as far as Phetkasem to find a hostel within walking distance to the beach and lay our heads for the night.

True love...

True love…

Koh Lanta's National Park. Could be worse

Koh Lanta’s National Park. Could be worse

Up bright and early for a swim we made good time the following morning taking us through to the east coast, the distance surprising us as the land is so narrow only a small 70klm’ls from west to east. With a quick consult of the map we realised Bangkok was unachievable but a small town on the east coast that Jimmy and Monica had stayed last year would work and we ended up staying in the exact room they had shared months earlier. Next stop Bangkok for a much-needed battery charger for Jimmy’s camera, given our little interest in city traffic we exited as soon as possible to meet with Bangkok Police on a motorway only for cars and trucks and we were instructed to turn around and ride against oncoming traffic to get off!

Stuck in traffic on the outskirts of Bangkok

Stuck in traffic on the outskirts of Bangkok

Our breakfast restaurant in Kamphaeng Phet

Our breakfast restaurant in Kamphaeng Phet

Our chef at our breakfast restaurant in Kamphaeng Phet

Our chef at our breakfast restaurant in Kamphaeng Phet

Our breakfast in Kamphaeng Phet

Our breakfast in Kamphaeng Phet

Matt who we met over a few beers had recommended a road south of Mae Sot that weaves its way to the largest waterfall in Thailand high in the mountains in Umphung a 170klm journey taking us up about 2000 m with stunning scenery and views through to a much-anticipated Burma. Jimmy and I had a huge amount of fun on the way up over 1000 bends leading us into Umphung to a much deserved beer and given our lack of private space we decided to splash out at $8 a night on a room each.

Lunch off the beaten track enroute to Umphang

Lunch off the beaten track enroute to Umphang

The road to Umphang

The road to Umphang

We left Umphung in search of the waterfall, we had heard that one could only make it with a local tour company but given we ride adventure bikes that wasn’t going to stop us! We made our way out to the national park and proceeded to buy tickets to get in but to our disappointment they wouldn’t less us in on our bikes. We consulted the map to locate a smaller waterfall 30 klm down the road and decided to try our luck, the paved road came and went and we ended up along way off the beaten track onto 15 klm’s of dirt, mud and ruts that eventually broke the forces of gravity with us both dropping our bikes at low-speed. We dusted off our pride and headed back in disappointed to not have showered in a Thai waterfall.

Getting dirty whilst trying to find a waterfall

Getting dirty whilst trying to find a waterfall

 

 

Off the beaten track

Off the beaten track

Blokes Off Spokes #blokesonspokes #adventuremotorcycling #thailand #bmwgs

A photo posted by Blokes On Spokes (@blokesonspokes) on

With all the dirt riding in the morning the concentration needed for the journey home wore us down, the road was awesome but not consistent in condition and you had to stay alert to avoid any mishaps. A short stop at the halfway point found some other big bikes, BMW’s and a few Harley’s why you would take a Harley along this path astounded us but we soon learned the Harley rider owned Bangkok Harley Davidson so I guess he didn’t have a choice! Great to meet other riders on the road, always up for a chat about our journey.

Mae Sot was surprisingly big and initially I was keen to check it out but soon learned that it was a typical border town and mostly consisted of retail trade with Burma. A good night sleep with an early start to cross the border into Burma the following day and meet up with our tour.

Malaysia into Thailand – 4039kms

Chinese New Year. A time when one of the planet’s largest communities celebrates with their families and friends. A time for reflection, fireworks, food and good times. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting…

What we didn’t realise (and what the freight agent we’d employed in Kuala Lumpur who promised to have our bikes out of customs within 24 hours failed to tell us) was that we’d arrived right smack bang in the middle of the Chinese New Year celebrations. We arrived on a Sunday and booked a hotel right near the airport so that we could get straight down to business on the Monday. Our hearts sank however when Old Mate at the hotel reception told us that because of Chinese New Year, all of Malaysia had a holiday on the Monday. And the Tuesday. Come Monday we took a punt and went to the freight office anyway, but to no avail. Calls went unanswered, and emails sat undelivered on servers.

KL's Chinatown by night

KL’s Chinatown by night

So two days were spent in KL and we ticked most of Tripadvisor’s top 10 attractions off our list. It was bitter sweet however, as all we really wanted was our bikes. We finally got in touch with somebody on Wednesday morning who told us the bikes would be ready by the afternoon; so we packed our bags immediately and headed back to the airport cargo area. Once we got to the freight forwarders holding area, we meet some very enthusiastic staff who just couldn’t get enough of our bikes! We constantly had an audience of 5-10 blokes who watched and helped us put the bikes back together – we’ve since discovered that our bikes are real head turners here in South East Asia, where small motorbikes and scooters are so common.

KL's Petronas Towers

KL’s Petronas Towers

KL Bird Park

KL Bird Park

Behind the waterfall

Behind the waterfall

We were constantly surrounded by people as we put the bikes back together

We were constantly surrounded by people as we put the bikes back together

A happy camper, after boxing and reassembling the bikes

A happy camper, after boxing and reassembling the bikes

Very happy to see our bikes again, even in their boxes

Very happy to see our bikes again, even in their boxes

Very happy to see our bikes again, even in their boxes

Very happy to see our bikes again, even in their boxes

It was five o’clock by the time the bikes were reassembled, but we were determined to get as far away from the city as possible. We decided the Cameron Highlands would make some good sightseeing and motorcycling, so we punched the details into the GPS and headed off. We were amazed at just how far we made it too – Malaysia’s road infrastructure is incredible. The speed limit was 110kms/hour the whole way, and nearly all of the traffic sat 10-20kms/hour above this. We made excellent time and were really happy to be on the move.

On the streets of Tapah, Malaysia

On the streets of Tapah, Malaysia

The following morning we headed up into the Highlands proper but were thwarted by bad traffic; the Chinese New Year celebrations were still in swing and it seemed that half of KL had come up to the highlands, so once back down the other side we decided to jump back on the expressway and head to Penang Island.

High in the hills of Penang

High in the hills of Penang

Riding through a small town in Penang

Riding through a small town in Penang

The view from our hotel room in Penang

The view from our hotel room in Penang

With the deadline of our tour through Burma looming on the 20th, we decided to head from Penang straight to the Thai border, which again saw us stuck on the raw side of the Chinese New Year. Literally hundreds of people were queued up to get across the border and with no signs, order or general instruction it was a very trying and time consuming process to get both us and bikes into Thailand. But we eventually made it through and made as fast as we could to our next destination; Koh Lanta.

Riding the streets of Thailand, on our way to Koh Lanta

Riding the streets of Thailand, on our way to Koh Lanta

Bikes and beach. Could be worse!

Bikes and beach. Could be worse!

And this is where we find ourselves now. It’s tough, but we figured we’ve earned it. We’ve stopped for two nights for a break from the road to recharge our batteries (and our cameras!), before we make a big push towards Mae Sot where we’ll cross the border on the 20th to begin our compulsory tour of Burma.

The beach we decided to park ourselves at for the night on Koh Lanta

The beach we decided to park ourselves at for the night on Koh Lanta

Very happy to not be wearing our riding gear right now

Very happy to not be wearing our riding gear right now

Yep, Blokes with Cocktails

Yep, Blokes with Cocktails

Sunset from Koh Lanta

Sunset from Koh Lanta

Watch as we crate our BMW R1150GSs ready for air freight to Kuala Lumpur.

After having some fresh rubber put on the bikes at Motolife BMW in Caloundra, we quickly rode them home to begin the boxing process. We didn’t know it at the time, but we happened to do all this work on the hottest day recorded this year on the Sunshine Coast – damn it was hot!

We’d like to thank Nick Kassis from Freightnet International in Melbourne for organising all of the logistics for us – very helpful and professional and we’d highly recommend his services to anybody else needing to freight their bikes out of Australia. We also need to thank Remedia and the Five Plus Art Gallery again, as their kind support has made flying the bikes possible. Many thanks also to Shaun Gardener for letting us use his fine tunes. Check him out on Spotify!

As this message is posted, the bikes are mid air enroute to Bangkok, before they change planes to head to KL, and we’re off at 9am tomorrow morning to meet them – shit’s about to get real!

Loading the empty crates onto the truck, with the two old girls in the foreground

Our bikes sat outside in the direct sunlight after a tyre change, and it was properly toasty to sit on!

Our bikes sat outside in the direct sunlight after a tyre change, and it was properly toasty to sit on!

This is what a bike looks like when it comes out of the crate

This is what a bike looks like when it comes out of the crate

Sydney to The Sunshine Coast – 2830kms

Sydney was a significant stop over for me as my wife Sophie is currently living in Darlinghurst on tour with ‘The Sound of Music’ and I was keen to spend some quality time with her, we are also lucky to have some good friends living up here and what better way to spend Australia Day than on Coogee Beach with a beer and JJJ hottest 100 in 28 degree sun. Dad and my brother Tim flew out to Melbourne late Australia day and I have never seen my dad so happy to be swimming in the ocean.  So that left us with both our partners and Ryan to spend the next 3 days roaming Sydney’s haunts. James and I spent a frustrating day trying to obtain final gear needed for the bikes and luggage in particular a top box for me as I had left Melbourne without one due to a lost key! I ended up organising one in Brisbane to pick-up passing through enabling me to spend the final day with Soph.

We had our worst departure yet out of Sydney, late to see Sophie off and with Ryan off at the doctors to have a sore elbow looked at we didn’t end up getting away until 2:30pm. This coincided with a massive thunder-storm to see us out of the city limits no sooner than 2 hours. Intended destination was Coffs Harbour through the ranges but we ended up with only enough time to make it to Port Macquarie straight up the Pacific Highway a good day to utilise the Sena bike to bike communication gear to keep us from the monotonous straight road and varying speed limit. A good nights sleep in the tent we were away early for a big day Destination Byron Bay and given James’ recent ‘surprise marriage’ I proposed a plan for a belated Buxx Party in the party town on the most Eastern tip of Australia and organised a motel room close to the action.  Turned out to be a massive day of riding in total 601km’s and it was a good example of why not to fall behind, we had a blast but the day wore us down. Ryan was doing exceptionally well to keep up with us given he has only had his licence for 6 months! Upon arrival in Byron it was off to town for a feed, beers and the rest needs to stay with lads – we did however find ourselves at the back of the crowd in the beach hotel acknowledging the fact that we were not quite as young as we feel.

We rose the final day nursing a slight hangover, although I think James was putting on a brave face! A couple of coffee’s and breakfast had us away with a quick stop at the Cape Byron lighthouse for some happy snaps, and a glimpse of a pod of dolphins off the shoreline – a reminder of the beauty of Australia and how lucky we are to call it home.  We left Byron for our final leg through to Minyama on the Sunshine Coast QLD to stay with a very good friend Simon, travelling the long way up and over Mount Tamborine we realised that chasing the sun around the world could be harder than first thought with temperatures rising and humidity you could swim in. A quick detour past a bike shop South of Brisbane put a smile on my dial obtaining my much needed top-box, better than the old one and with working keys! James’ Monica had already arrived from Sydney and we were welcomed to the Sunshine state with a dip in Dave and Simon’s waterside pool and a cold beer.

The following day Ryan flew to Melbourne leaving James and I to get down to business, we had ONE day to create the bikes and get them into Freight Customs and onto a plane. Next stop Malaysia!

 

 

 

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