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Linda on BMW: Start of the Trip in Castellar

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May Report to Thailand

Hi folks,

In keeping with the extraordinary diversity of life on the road and the amazing hospitality of the people I meet, I am writing this from the luxury of a 20 storey penthouse flat with the lights of Kuala Lumpar twinkling below. I have slept blissfully in a huge double bed with crisp clean sheets, have an en suite bathroom and, in the complex, there is an Olympic swimming pool and a sauna at my disposal. Bit of a change from the battlefield conditions of Nepal from where I last wrote. Let me explain.

Luckily for our little group of Overlanders (Ralf and Eva. Alfred and Martina and me) the Nepalese King decided to make another statement that appeased the people and the strike, now in its 19th day, was called off. This meant that we would now be able to travel to Katmandu and freight the bikes out of the country.

I spent my final day in pretty Pokhara  in a kayak, on the lake, in company with a Kiwi girl, Mala, who was also a folk singer. Paddling along we harmonised on the Mingalay boat song, she striking out proficiently with firm smooth stokes proceeding in a straight line and me, rocking from side to side and spinning round in circles. My brian refuses to catch on to what is left and what is right when manouvering canoes. However we spent a delightful 2 hours on the lake and at least I didn't capsize, though I was soaked through splashing myself with the oar strokes and not a little sea sick.

In the afternoon, borrowing a guitar from a local cafe and Mala with her Martin backpacker model, we had a jam session with Martin and Alfred joining in with the Ballard of the Overlanders.

Next morning all five of us bikers hit the road but were amazed to be stopped by a Moaist gun toting road block just 35 kms out of Pokhara. However, we were allowed to proceed after a short time and entered Katmandu early afternoon after a beautiful ride following a river valley in perfect weather conditions. The Suzuki, with new sprocket, chain and bearings was going smoothly and it was a joy to be on the road again.

I found dorm lodgings in the Happy Home guest house while the others went more up market but we all made a beeline for the cargo offices to arrange our flights out. The negotiations commenced! Ralf and Eva completed the arrangements as I was hit with diarrhoea (Katmandu is famous for it) As we were 3 bikes going to Bangkok we were trying to get all on one bill of lading to cut costs. This proved tricky but not impossible.

Having established that we would pack the bikes on Sunday I used my last day on the Suzuki to ride out to visit an orphanage which was being run by a British couple who were volunteers there for a few months. Buzz and Tasha were looking after 34 orphans and while I was there we took them on a walk to the local waterhole for a swim/bath. Just a few kilometres out of Katmandu, away from the polluted valley air, it was in a lovely setting and the kids were delightfully well behaved.

The next day we went to the airport to commence the packing procedure and battle with the customs. Getting 3 bikes on one bill took a lot of doing and Eva was a star dealing with the officials. I accompanied her for moral support while Ralf, Alfred and Martina dismantled the bikes to squeeze them into the crates which had previously been made. When weighed, though my bike was smaller, with all my luggage it weighed the same as the Teneres!!

The final day in Nepal I spent buying a camera and sightseeing around Katmandu, seeing the famous monkey temple and a monastery and wondering why I was leaving this beautiful country and the whole Indian subcontinent which has so much to offer. We knew that the weather in SE Asia was literally going to hit us with humidity and that the monsoon was fast approaching. Once over there was no turning back. Oh well, on with the show.

Finally, on Wednesday, 3rd May we took the taxi to the airport, bidding farewell to all the people in our company in Katmandu which included many other overlanders met along the way. I had finally made contact there with Claudia from Austria, also on a DR, and her companion, Mane. Also the Dutch couple, Martin and Else on an Africa twin, met in Kerala, and German, Lars who I had last seen in Portugal while on a HUB rally with my Malyasian friend Choo. His bike was in Bangkok, awaiting shipment to Nepal as he had come another way round. It was quite a party and a wrench to leave. Lars videoed me singing "The Ballard of the Overlanders" on the roof patio of the Happy Home Guest house and, hopefully it will soon be on the website.

From the moment I boarded the plane I was in culture shock. Back to the western world. "A drink, madam?" Oh yes please, gin an tonic. "Wine with the meal?" Red please! Ear phones for the music and video, Thai food, magazines, it was all too much for me and I spent the 3 hour flight in a daze.(enhanced by more alcohol)

The surreal feeling continued at the huge Bangkok International Airport where we found a taxi for a nearby hotel to enable us to get back for the battle with customs the next day. Swimming pool, waterlilies. Clean streets and traffic that kept to the rules and didn't use horns all the time.

Lars had recommended a guest house in the centre of town and Ralf used his GPS to guide us there and we settled in. I spent a day packing a parcel to send on to Oz as I had accumulated so may CDs of folk music and photos and desperately needed to cut down on the weight and, my main mission was to find some way of meeting up with Choo, last seen at my workplace in Gibraltar, who was visiting her relatives in Kuala Lumpar and who wanted me to go on a trip with her to Cambodia. Finally, I left the bike at the guest house and jumped on a bus for the 30 hour journey to KL.

Choo and her Gibaltarian partner, Brian ,met a somewhat dazed Linda at the bus station and then the whirlwind tour began. A day in KL, where Brian bought me a denim jacket for bike riding. Would you believe that my nice suede Indian jacket had been stolen at Katmandu airport somehow during the packing procedure!!!) A night singing with her brother in Law( the penthouse owning executive) who also plays guitar and then we were off to Siem Reap in Cambodia by Air Asia to view the ruins of the temples of Angkor built by the kings of the Khmer empire between  7 and 11 centuries ago. There are over 100 temples but we could only see a few of them in a day. This is now the tourist low season , I would hate to be there in the high one as the crowds made taking a decent photo difficult.

Prices here are exorbitant as everything is in $ American and they charge like wounded bulls!! I missed having the bike to get around but it was great to be in company with Choo and Brian and we had a very interesting, if hectic, time, not only visiting the temples but going out on the huge lake, Tonie Sap, which links with the Mekong river that flows down to Pnong Pen, the famous capitol.

The contrast between the many luxury hotels built for the tourists who come to see the main temple, Angkor Wat,( which is soon to be pronounced as one of the Wonders of the World), and the normal people who live in rush houses by the river, or actually on stilts in the lake, is worth noting. Apparently corruption in Cambodia is high and much of the foreign aid pumped in after the war has gone in the wrong pockets (as usual)

I took a trip out to the mine museum at which the guides are young boys who have lost a limb or two when they accidentally discovered these horrible maiming anti personal devices. The mines are still out there hidden in bush areas and it is a sobering experience to see, yet again, the inhumanity of man. I felt a bit of empathy with Lady Di as I made my donation.

At a local monastery there was also a collection of bones and skulls from a mass grave used during the Pol Pot regime. All very distressing and it's amazing how the Cambodians still have a smile on their faces. This country is definitely worth a more detailed look and I hope to return on the bike at a later date.

As Choo and Brian were continuing on to Borneo the next day we flew back to KL and had a brief social session with more of Choos friends and relatives.

I am here for a day and then catch a train back to Bangkok and the Suzy. Luckily I was able to get an ignition key for her cut here as my last one disappeared with the jacket and I was using my spare. I just hope it works.

My thanks to all the people that have helped on this leg of the trip and especially Choo and her family who have made these last few days such a treat.

Photos will follow when I locate a technician.


Lots of love


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