Two Aussie blokes riding their BMW R1150GSs from Australia to Europe

Author: James Ashton (Page 2 of 3)

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

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

Melbourne to Sydney – 1351kms

Well, it was an eventful start to the trip – I took a phone call from a police officer on the way to bike up my bike from the bar we’d had drinks the night before

“Mr. Ashton?”

“Yes”

“This is constable Stevens, are you the owner of a black BMW motorcycle?”

I don’t think my heart has ever sunk so fast so quickly, but it turned out to be a complaint from the cafe owner that I’d parked the bike where they wanted to setup their tables and chairs, and that was easily fixed!

It was a properly miserable day when we left – there were no long goodbyes of photo shoots as everybody was getting too wet. But the weather changed as we headed over the Yarra Ranges and it was set to stay like that for the rest of our trip to Sydney.

We’ll be in Sydney until Friday, spending some quality time with our wives, and doing a little more tinkering with the bikes before we head up to Brisbane where the bikes will be crated to fly!

A test pack and ride – less than a week to go!

It seems pretty surreal – there’s less than a week before we hit the road! And after doing some serious mechanical work to the bikes last weekend we thought we’d better jump on the bikes and test the waters whilst there’s still time to make changes; firstly to see how all the gear we intend to carry packs onto the bikes, and secondly (and probably more importantly) to see how the bikes run after all the work that’s been done to them.

2016-01-17 at 11-38-05

We were both surprised to learn that we each had more room left in our panniers – of course there were a few things that we didn’t pack today, but I’d guestimate that we were each carrying about 85% of our final luggage. It’s lucky that we did get out on the road too, as Drew found a large crack appearing in the outer of one of the screws on my bike’s drive shaft – thankfully there’s still a week to get it fixed!

The Youtube video is from the new headset we bought that has a camera built in, a Sena 10C – not only can you see what we’re looking at, but also hear the meaningless banter that we waffle as we ride. Enjoy!

Drew, the nicest mechanic in Melbourne agreed to replace the clutch in my bike when I learned that my local BMW workshop was taking an extended Christmas break and wouldn’t reopen in time our departure date. Although not the most stimulating viewing, it’s pretty cool to see the bike come apart before being put back together again. Makes me realise that I also need to invest in a second battery for the camera!

The Blokes have been sponsored!

Logos Combined

We’re really excited to announce that we’ve been sponsored by Remedia Farmaceutica and the Five Plus Art Gallery. We’re eternally grateful to Valentin Tarus and the teams from both organisations for helping to make our dream a reality. We can’t wait for our arrival in Europe when we can drop in and say a heartfelt “G’day” to those involved.

Remedia is an integrated pharmaceutical business in Romania, operating with over 100 pharmacies across the country. Remedia also wholesale pharmaceuticals with marketing and logistic services.

The Five Plus Art Gallery is based in Vienna Austria and specialises in exhibiting art works of various disciplines by Romanian artists. It defines itself as a platform for emerging creators, and as an open space for dialogue with the local and international art community for collaborations with art institutions, galleries and museums.

Burma is Booked!

The old girl, looking pretty for the processing of Burmese entry permits

The old girl, looking pretty for the processing of Burmese entry permits

Yep, last night we put a deposit down on the mandatory tour we must take in order cross through Burma, and for this we employed Burma Senses, recommended by several overland motorcyclist’s who’ve gone before us.

This is a ceremonious occasion, as after all the talk, phone calls, emails  and planning, this is the first thing we’ve actually confirmed for the journey.  Feels great to officially get the ball rolling!

We’ve also sent our passports off for the first of many visa’s – hopefully they come back in a hurry because they’ve got to visit a few consulates before we hit the road.

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