Finally, after more than three weeks in Australia, I’m moving again. I’ve been in a youth hostel for the whole time.
Picture related (No. It’s not me. I’m not ginger. Also, my beard is a thousand times worse.)
I arrived here on the third of April having been told that the boat with my bike on it would be arriving in Perth, Western Australia on the fifth, and that’s when I should be in town to hand over my paperwork to the shipping unloaders so they could clear the Carnet and arrange the custom inspection.
So I do this, and it’s about another sodding week to wait between the ship arriving and the crate being present in the receiving warehouse so I can break the fucker open, extract the banana-y goodness and rebuild it to the best of my abilty.
So I pay to get the carnet stamped, pay to get the crate quarantine inspected and pay to get the crate material disposed of, get the bike out, put some petrol and oil in as because when you ship out of Indonesia you’re meant to empty the thing of all fluids in case you decide to fill it full of smack, hookers and bootleg DVDs and riiiiiiiiide off into glory.
Except I didn’t. I rode the bastard thing to the mechanic, because Asia has not been kind to the banana. At that point it was another week of waiting for my appointment, because Australia is a country with real motorbikes in it for the first time since Turkey and other people are ahead of you.
It’s also expensive as hell and I don’t have enough money to bribe myself to the front of the queue. Also the novelty of being white and confused isn’t enough to make people help me straight away.
Here’s a list of things that were wrong with the Banana
So all of the work gets done except for the steering bearing, which I’m not too bothered about as all of Australia is looooooong, straight roads that send you mad and make you go buy PVC club gear from the eighties, the swing-arm because fuck you I’m not replacing it and the rear brake because I can do it.
Then I leave the bike there for another week because I’m stuck waiting for a package with all of my credit cards to arrive as they have ALL EXPIRED OR BEEN REISSUED IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS. Seriously. I had a week left on one card and then I would have been destitute and selling handjobs for pocket change in direct competition with your mother and she’s a bit handy with a broken bottle.
I go back to get it, roll it out the back of the workshop, “OK guys, I’m just going to put my pads on and I’m out thanks for all your help byeeeee” except it doesn’t quite work like that. I thought I could change them without removing the back wheel but NOPE. So I get one of the mechanics to come help me out because it’s a ten minute job and it’s easier if someone else holds the wheel while you take it out and put it back on and we discover a weird issue: One of the pads is worn down to metal and the other is more or less OK.
OK, well sod it, I squeeze the piston back, we put the new pads in and put the wheel back on. Because the tech is there he gives it a proper look over and while he does so sees that the wheel is dragging more than it should be. I can’t take it out into the middle of nowhere like this as it’s liable to smash something in the middle of nowhere, so it’s wheeled back inside and it’s diagnosed as being a floating brake that isn’t floating any more. Hitting it with a sodding blow torch is the order of the day, which releases the pins and stop me from either boiling my brake fluid, wearing my disc out to nothing or somehow exploding in a super sweet ball of being fairly annoyed.
All of this is done, the bike is loaded up and I’m off on my way into Australia. The first order of business is to get to Adelaide, which is the nearest major city to the east. Nearest is a relative term, however, as it’s about 2,400km away.
Eh. Sod it. Onwards.
I set off at about 1300 and head… east. I’ve got no plan because plans are for knobs and don’t know where I’m going to stay. I’ve been told to make sure that I don’t ride at night because kangaroos are complete shits and are liable to screw up your day by jumping in front of you at night then pissing on your prone and shocked body before your adrenaline can pick you up enough to say “HOW IS THE BIKE OH MY GOD MY ARM IS MISSING, PLEASE SKIPPY STOP UNLEASHING TORRENTS OF YELLOW BUSH JUSTICE I AM IN SERIOUS PAIN.
I ended up sleeping in my tent on a cricket oval. Not on the green itself, as although I disdain most sport that is slow enough to not be motorised I am still English and as such not a stinking heathen. I was completely petrified that every time the tent rustled I was going to be confronted with a policeman who had an accent I couldn’t take sensibly, and then I’d get tasered.
Luckily, nothing happened and I’m off again as of this morning.
Australia is very big and very… Australian? I guess? It’s pretty much exactly what I expected it to look like. I did manage to see my first Kangaroo. It was dead and at the side of the road. As previously mentioned, apparently they’re complete shits and such I applaud such.
Tonight I am in a town called Norseman, which is pretty metal. It’s the last town before I enter the Nullarbor plain. ‘Nullarbor’ means ‘No trees’, and it’s supposed to be about a thousand plus kilometres of incredibly straight road through an unchanging landscape where if something terrible happens I will be stuck for hours, have to abandon the bike and will possibly die.
Did some emergency mechanical service earlier, which I’ll document later, but for now the Banana is getting a pre-wash before I go mental with the degreaser for Australia.
Oh yeah. I’m bailing and going to ship to Oz earlier.
It was properly grim. I’ve paid a quid and up to four lads have been scrubbing the shit (literally) out of it.
Points to you if you know where the title comes from.
Almost a month with no updates… Naughty. This is because, to be quite honest I’ve gone a bit mad. The trip was hard enough in a group and on your own it jumps up another couple of notches. For someone who’s already more than a bit cracked… well… Things like maintaining a proper train of thought and sitting still and writing something that can be read by normal people who I don’t bitch and whine over WhatsApp to tend to fall between the cracks.
I spent the best part of three weeks without the banana hanging out in a hostel in Georgetown, which was nice enough, but I kinda fucked up. I’d been led to believe that because of the massive Chinese population it was going to be a massive, cannot miss party so I didn’t go anywhere else as all the other westerners seemed to believe the same thing and the cheap hostel spaces were filling up.
Was it actually a massive party? Was. It. Fuck.
Looks like, at least on Panang, Lunar new year is when you come home and have a big meal with your family and don’t go out and get wrecked. Fuck sake. I felt jipped.
So anyway, the day afterward I took my non-hungover and just a little bit bitter arse to the airport to fly to Medan, a city in Sumatra.
I flew to Medan, got out of the airport and oh fuck, we’re back in rough and ready. I’m kind of sick of rough and ready. I’d just got used to being able to buy alcohol in corner shops again. Oh well. Onwards, I suppose. There’s probably lots of cool stuff I won’t pay any real attention to for one reason or another.
Day after I arrive it’s time to go and get the banana. Thank Christ. I love the banana, for all it’s many many faults and lack of power for a hundred kilo man with fifty kilos of luggage. The first thing to do is go to the office of the shipping agent, which I have VERY EXACT GPS co-ordinates for. It’s a good job, too as it was in a low-rise housing area in a town called Belawan and I had to randomly wander through what looks like a house’s garage to get there. Then it was back and forth between the customs office and the warehouse three or four times while people look at me like I’m from another god damned planet to stamp the carnet and look at the engine number just in case I decided to sneakily change the engine in Malaysia for reasons that I’m sure are definitely very real and not at all a pointless exercise in customs paper checking.
Customs guy was nice and everything, but dealing with customs and carnets is something I’d only wish on Piers Morgan, or possibly Julian Assange.
Anyway. I got the bike, like two weeks ago. Here’s a picture of me looking gormless next to it.
Anyway. So I was in the land of wild orangutans and massive volcanoes. Did I see either of those things or did I decide somehow to say fuck it and crashed like a twat a couple of days later? Tune in next time to find out.
The banana has been on Mr. Kim’s onion boat since Thursday. I’ve been holding on for him to send me the classic, everybody-takes-it picture of the bike sailing into the sky on a couple of webbing straps that I wouldn’t trust to hold up your mum’s knickers*, but it looks like I’m not going to get one.
It’s a strange time of year and the boat crewsc schedule is a little out of whack. What this means is that the boat arrived at mid day on Thursday, so I had to wait for close to four hours in the canteen at Butterworth port.
It was thrilling, even though I didn’t bring a book. I was allowed to smoke so it really was heaven on earth.
When we finally get dockside I tried to get a picture of the banana in front of the boat, but the crew were about to start unloading and they went completely mental at me when I tried. So this is the closest you’re going to get.
I am quite sure you will agree with me that this is HIGH QUALITY BLOGGING.
Anyway. I’m still on Penang, more or less going out of my mind with boredom. I’m here so I don’t run out an Indonesian visa while waiting for the bike to arrive and also, Chinese new year is meant to be utterly mental here, as it also functions as a kind of Chinese pride rally for the large community here in Georgetown.
I’m filling my time with books, alcohol and existential screaming. Except today I’m treating myself.
Actual laundry with actual detergent, real god damn softener and a frigging dryer. LUXURY!
My cup runneth the fuck over…
*Not really a reflection on the strength of the straps, if we’re honest. She snaps steel cables like wet, frightened spaghetti
For the last week or so I’ve been in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, trying to organise shipping the banana from Malaysia to Indonesia.
Not much to say about Thailand. It was very nice. The roads were excellent. I went diving and had a holiday, forgetting completely about blog updates.
Getting across the Wang Prachan border was just as easy the second time. Five minutes on the Thai side, ten on the Malaysian side.
Here is me sorting out some shipping.
This is the office of Mr. Lim. He’s a shipping agent who runs a service called ‘The Onion Boat’. It’s basically a vegetable transport boat that will take your bike and he sorts out your carnet for you. Costs about 800 Malaysian Ringit and doesn’t require crating, which is nice.
There’s one snag though. Loading the banana will happen tomorrow, after which the boat will be at anchor for about nine days for reasons that are as logical as they are utterly impenetrable.
This means I’m going to be about ten days bikeless. It wasn’t that long between crating in Kathmandu to riding to Kuala Lumpur, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do.
I am going to use some of the time to get an Indonesian visa. As a British citizen I don’t actually need one, but there’s a practical reason. If I land without one I can get in with a stamp. But they’re only valid 30 days and cannot be renewed.
If I get a visa, I can renew it. As I’m looking to work all the way to Timor I expect to spend more than a month in Indonesia so this is the preferred option. Otherwise I have to do a visa run with the nana parked in a field somewhere…
Other than that, nothing doing really. Dicked about with the street art a little…
Other than that… Well… Nothing doing… Tune in tomorrow to see my bike either hoisted into the sky, then a boat or thrown into the sea by a crane operator with a grudge.
Well. Wasn’t that last post a wonderful piece of vaguebooky bollocks? Honestly, I should be ashamed of myself. For many, many reasons. If you know if any specific reasons then I refer you to my legal team, currently consisting of a homeless person sitting outside a Gregg’s in Stockport and mumbling about the snakes in his beard.
Don’t worry about which drunk guy outside Stockport city centre Gregg’s it is, he knows and that’s enough.
Here are the things I have done since the last time I updated properly. It’s a whole bunch of shenanigans.
There’s a temptation to write up everything, but it’s going to take more time than my patience will allow at the moment, so I’m just going to talk about Thailand
Thailand was originally going to be the last country the guys got to, with shipping back from somewhere near Bangkok. This didn’t happen for two reasons. Firstly, no-one could get confirmation that their bikes could be shipped back to the UK (My suggestion of “fuck it, ship from Malaysia” got shut down with “yeah, but that’s another thousand miles”. Pffft).
Secondly, and more importantly, the Thai government changed its attitude toward foreign vehicles at the beginning of 2017.
The story, as I understand it, is that Chinese trucks come into the country from the north and occasionally knocked someone down and killed them. The truck would just turn around and go back to China, where the government would refuse to give up the truck driver. This went on for a bit until a minister’s daughter was knocked down and killed at which point the government said “Right. Bollocks to this. If you’re in Thailand with a foreign vehicle you need an escort”, which affects motorcycles too.
Except it was a very new law when we were planning the trip. There didn’t seem to be a network of travel guides that had sprung up, just one or two people who put themselves out as saying they did the escort. I heard third hand stories of people paying $1,000 and there being no-one there to meet them at the Myanmar border and them having to leave their bikes there, fly somewhere to sort out a new visa to get out of the country with.
Stories started emerging that if you enter from the south. No-one asks for an escort and you get in with a carnet, just like every other Asian border. More than that, people I actually know who were ahead of me started sending messages and posting pictures saying they got through.
So, I was sat in Georgetown, Penang and got another notification that someone had got through and thought. ‘Eh. Let’s go. Worst that can happen is that I’m not allowed in the Thai side and I waste a page of my carnet coming back into Makaysia.” So off I pop.
Here’s the Malaysian side
And here’s the Thai side, fifteen minutes later…
This was supposed to be the toughest border for a long while and… nothing. Five minutes to stamp out the carnet on the Malaysian side, and fifteen minutes on the Thai side to stamp me in and get the carnet done.
So… I don’t know what the deal is. I don’t know if it’s only for vehicles coming from the north, whether they’ve stopped enforcing the law or whether the police are going to stop me at some point…
But it all seems cool…
So I head up the coast and find a place to stay, which was nice.
Then it dawns on me that I’ve got into a country with no idea what I’m going as I’d not ever really though I’d be here. OK. So sod it. I’m going to motor all the way up to Bangkok and work my way back down. I only have a thirty day stamp so I don’t think I can go tramping around up in the north. Chiang Mai is probably out.
So, Bangkok is about a thousand kilometers away. Two day burn on these roads, no problem. First night is a town called Chumphon. Never heard of it, but there seem to be some touristy type hotels
This is the Retro Box Hotel. It’s a hotel made out of shipping containers and it’s pretty cool. Not much to say about it other than if you’re ever in Chumphon go stay there. I also managed to get my first Thai street food of the trip, because the night before I more or less ate a pot noodle in a cake shop. It was weird and disappointing.
Yesterday I motored the rest of the way up to Bangkok. This was the original end-point for the guys, but wasn’t ever actually going to be mine. That said, it’s still a little odd to be the only one who got here.
Hello, hello, is there anybody out there? Is there anyone reading this, because I certainly haven’t been writing it.
Since arriving in Kathmandu I sort of… Collapsed. It’s very easy to stay in the hostel, to go out and eat food and drink and be a lazy, lazy bum. Had to get the banana shipped, had to get it uncrated but that’s hard work that justifies the slack. That’s not what I’m meant to be here for. Wandering around a shopping mall buying a GoPro because I can. Eating god damn McDonald’s because it’s easy. Pffft.
I have been in Kuala Lumpur for the last ten days, for the first four I was ‘treating myself’ in a hotel, then I’ve been in a hostel for the last six, pretty much waiting for the mechanic to be done with my bike. It’s done today and I’m off to Penang. Hoping to get some mojo back.
Least it’s pretty…
Almost two weeks with no updates. My concentration span is shot so I’m not really taking pictures and I don’t have the patience to update this blog… Something I’ll have to work on. Some recaps are to come, but at the moment stringing words together is proving to be quite difficult.
In short, here’s what’s happened:
I like KL. It’s twinned with Gotham
I suppose this is the “proper” end of phase one. I’ve paid http://www.eagleexportcargo.com/ to ship the banana to Kuala Lumpur.
Stage one: Wash it. It was dirtier than the hard drive you keep in the back of the secret drawer. The one your girlfriend pretends to not know about, but inspires warm feelings in her for Dave at the office.
After this you get an escort to the cargo terminal of Kathmandu airport, where you need to crate it. The crate is made to the size of your bike by the exporter, in as close a fit as possible. This is because air shipments don’t really work on weight, they work on something called volumetric weight.
What this means, is that air freight parcels for a given size have a standard density applied to them, so for the size of my crate, the standardised weight was 391 KG, even though the actual weight of the bike and luggage was 325 KG. Annoying, because the banana is a tall, moderately wide, yet lightweight trails bike. Oh well.
Getting it into the crate requires a bit of disassembly. In my case this meant:
Then you go mental with a hammer and nails, wait half an hour for an agent to come back with your stamped carnet and you’re done.
Then you go to the pub and start freaking out about everything that can break in transit. Then four beers in you stop giving a shit.