and  the


2 Brothers
 2 Motorcycles
  7 Months
   4 Continents
    30 Countries

a travel tail




February 2011



My last update was written happily sitting in a hummock overlooking the Mekong in Laos.  My panniers were (relatively) straight and life was good.   


This one is written from an all too stylish coffee shop in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), right ankle heavily strapped to get the swelling down, Betsy parked downstairs with a hole ground through the left pannier, and an unhappy French girl with some bad gravel rash and a banged up knee in the hotel room downstairs resting…  (actually she took it with a smile) 




This little incident occurred last night, just 12km from here, having ridden from Siem Reap that day. It was late, I was tired, it was getting dark and the road was busy, bullshit excuses all of them.  I could feel my concentration waning through the day and should have stopped for a rest but with the daylight hours running out I pushed on. 


The traffic was moving slow, too slow, and too thick to overtake at a decent rate.  After some frustration I started copying the other bike riders around here and using the motorbike lane (similar to a bike lane back home) to pass slow cars and trucks.  This isn’t something I’d ever do at home, (the equivalent of passing on the left) and it turns out that it’s a bad idea over here too - a truck I was passing swerved to the right to avoid a head-on. 


I was half way past at this stage and the bike lane disappeared as the truck squeezed me wide.  At the speed I was carrying I was already committed so accelerated hard to clear the truck and veered to the right to narrowly avoid colliding with it, just as I cleared the front of the truck and started to turn back left again the road narrowed even more and the front tyre danced on the edge of the tar for a moment before slipping off about 10cm into the dirt on the verge. 


As the front wheel dropped off the tar, the centre of gravity shifted to the left of the tyres so the bike needed to turn left to stay upright, I fought it for what felt like forever, in reality probably only a second, willing the front to climb back onto the tar, turning the bars to the left, turning, turning… 


“come on, please come up, COME UP… FUCK!!” 


The bike was leaning a little to the left as the front dragged at the tar, I turned harder and harder into the edge of the road but at such a narrow angle the tyre wouldn’t bite enough to lift onto the road. 


As Betsy conceded to the laws of physics and started to fall to the left, I felt the bars hit the stop and knew this time it was going to hurt. 


We were doing about 70km/hr, I was kitted up in my riding suit but Lucie’s clothing was far from ideal.  From bottom to top: hiking boots, blue jeans, a thin Gore-Tex rain proof jacket, plastic locally bought helmet and my wet weather alpine star gloves. 


There was a 25t truck immediately behind us when we went over and started to slide down the road.  At the last moment I think the front did bite, or the rear slid, but either way it was enough to push us back left and onto the tar.  


“no no no no no…” was all that was going through my head as we went over, I was expecting to go under the wheels of the truck at any moment, and was horrified at the thought of Lucie sliding down the road on her bare skin. 


The sound of metal and plastic grinding along the tar was sickening, I tried to get my bearings and sight the truck, and Lucie as we slid and tumbled along but it was impossible.  It was still daylight but for some reason in my memory it was dark, I initially felt the bike in front of me, then it spun and it was behind, and eventually off to one side. I think I was still moving but I finally got my feet under me just as the grinding stopped.  In what felt like a heartbeat I was standing, somehow nothing had hit me and everything around us seemed to stop for that moment as the daylight penetrated my vision again.   


I can’t explain my horror at seeing Lucie caught under the bike, No no no no no… 


“Are you ok??!!!”  I yelled as I ran over “are you stuck under it??!!” 


Lucie looked scared and was shaking a little, she tried to stand but was caught by something.  I reached down and tore the remnants of the jacket out from under the pannier and sat her down next to the bike. 


Her hands and feet were all there and nothing was pointing in the wrong direction… 


“Can you move your fingers? Show me?” 

“ok can you move your toes – try all of them?” 

“yes yes I can” 

“Does anything hurt?” 

“um I don’t know, I think I’m ok, I don’t know” 


Lucie sat up and moved her arms and legs, she was really shaking now, she pulled off her helmet and looked at me with a frightened stare.  She was pale in the face but all in one piece.  


We were still on the road and the traffic was starting to move around us now, some a little too close for comfort… 


“can you stand up?” 

“um I don’t know” 

“ok lets try, I’ll lift you gently, if anything hurts let me know and we’ll stop” 



I lifter her up, Lucie put weight on her feet and took a few gingerly steps to the side of the road before sitting again.  There was a big crowd of people gathered now.  Someone came forward offering a small vial of alcohol for disinfecting. 


“o coon (thank you), no no” 


I was still trying to work out if anything was broken… 


“ok again, can you move all your fingers and toes” 


“knees, can you bend them ok” 


“elbows and shoulders – do any of the joints feel tight?” 

“no, yes, yes, um, it’s ok… I feel sick, I see things in my eyes, my vision is not good” 

“Am I pale?” 

“No you look normal” I lie… 


I thinking concussion. 


I run to check her helmet for an impact, it’s just a cheap Chinese made thing so I’m worried it might be smashed.  There’s a big grind taken out of the front on the right (we’re lucky to have gotten a full face helmet), but it’s otherwise sound, it did its job. 


I notice that Betsy is still on her side and cars are driving around her, so make quick work of getting her back on her feet and off the road.  Usually this is a really hard thing to do, but with all the adrenalin it felt like a 250 scrambler…  this makes me wonder how much I’m going to hurt once it wears off, but no time for that now. 


I go back to Lucie and make sure she’s comfortable before fetching my med kit from the pannier.  There’s still a big crowd of people around us, uncomfortably close in the tropical heat of Cambodia.  An old lady comes over and starts to fan Lucie with a Japanese style fan. 


“I’m really hot, I need to drink” 


I put a couple of energy satchels into my camel back before passing it to Lucie.  We both look back off the road where there is a workshop behind a gate, and agree that it would be better to get away from this crowd. 


“do you need an ambulance”  asked a policeman 

“I don’t know, can you wait a minute, I don’t think so” 


He disappears. 


We move to the workshop where the owners are clearing a large platform for us to use.  Lucie sits down and we look over her.  A deep graze and a cut on one knee, another bigger but less deep on the other, grazes on an elbow and one shoulder, and another graze and cut on the lower back. 


Lucie banged Up


“We need to get these jeans off and clean this up with antiseptic.  I’ll get my shorts you can wear them while we get this done.” 


I grab my shorts and come back to see the owners have set up a pedestal fan to keep Lucie cool.  As we start to remove her jeans one of the sons starts to say something and runs off to get a sheet for Lucie to change behind.  The Cambodians are very modest people and any level of nudity is avoided by them. 


This is no time for niceties though so I get on with it and almost have the shorts on Lucie by the time the boy returns, he ends up holding the sheet in front of himself so he can’t see what we’re doing… it’s kinda funny and we both smile. 


“I need to go to the toilet” 

“to vomit?” I ask thinking about concussion again 

“no not vomit, just toilet” Lucie cracks a smile and some of the tension fades 


While the wife of the owner takes Lucie to the toilet I go back out to get Betsy off the road, and wheel her closer to where we’re sitting. 


Lucie comes back and sits down again. 


“This is going to hurt, but we need to do it properly, I’m going to scrub the scratches with antiseptic” 


I cut open and unroll a new bandage, then cut some off to use as a sponge to clean the wounds.  I wet it with betadine and start to scrub the wounds to get out the gravel, tar and dirt.  It must be hell because Lucie is shaking and eventually I see tears running down her cheeks as she curses in French. 


Graze on Lucies Back


We stop for a moment and regroup, before starting on another scrape.  Eventually we have them all clean and dressed. 


While all this has been happening I can feel my right ankle starting to tighten in the boot, a little at first and then it starts to burn and eventually I’m having trouble walking.  Fuck it, this again, I’m thinking. 


I’m pretty shaken up by the whole thing, not entirely sure I want to ride again that night, but there are no guesthouses until Phnom Penh so there isn’t much choice.  We thank the owners of the place repeatedly, redress and start the ride into the city to find somewhere to rest. 



It’s just 12km to Phnom Penh, we crawl there in bumper to bumper traffic and check into a hotel, making sure to get a room on the ground floor.  Some of the bandages have moved and some are already full of blood so we start again, this time starting with saline solution made from salt and bottled water, then betadine and redressing with gel again, non stick dressings, ice on the twisted joints and a few beers to settle the nerves. 


It’s been a shit day but we count our blessings.  We’re still alive.  We’re not in hospital all smashed up.  The cuts and bruises will heal.  We have cold beer. We are just so lucky. 





I really like Cambodia, once you get over the small scale corruption at the border or the tuk tuk mafia at Angkor Wat, it’s a great place to travel.  Cheap, friendly, most people speak some English, and more importantly those who don’t are willing to try to communicate by any available means, I love charades J 


We crossed the border after a short canoe trip and half hour ride from Don Det (4000 Islands).   


Leaving Don Det


At the Customs office leaving Laos… 


“import paper?” 

I offer my Aussie registration 

“not, import paper?” 

I give my passport 

“no…” they hand me a copy of an import paper 

“I do not have… I paid for one, but do not have”  I lie… 


“import paper?” they keep asking 

“I do not have” I repeat 4 times 

“ok, ocoon, I go now…” I take my passport and hastily get back on the bike before someone changes their mind 


Dave looks at me with a mixture of relief and disdain – he paid about $20 for the temporary import, and it took 3 hours at the border… Ha Ha! 


We process immigration at Laos where they want $2 each for “weekend tax”, Dave wants a receipt but they don’t have one 


“Ok no receipt no money”  he says
“no problem, no stamp for you… NEXT!”  

Dave hands over $2. 


On the Cambodian side we are charged $1 for a doctor to take our temperature, then $26 for a visa, and then $6 to get the passport stamped.  I think it’s all a scam. 


We stop 50m past the gate and sit in the shade enjoying an Angkor beer for the first time, comparing GPS routes, paper maps and wondering what the jerky drying in the sun is made of, before pulling off with a monster wheelie to start the Cambodian leg of the SE Asia tour. 


Cambodia is immediately different to Laos, in that it looks more organized agriculturally.  The plots are bigger and the crop lines are straighter, I was expecting it to be poorer, but immediately I get the feeling that it’s doing better. 


We ride 70km down the highway before striking east on another road, marked as secondary on the map.  We have 135km to do on this road, which in Laos would take a few hours, instead over here I can maintain 100km/hr on the good quality piste. 


The dust is pretty bad though so Dave waits back for it to clear.  I push on for about 80km before stopping for some food and a break.  I’m trying to figure out how much a bag of fried bananas will cost, I offer a dollar and the family looks happy and says yes yes!! 


Then they start to shovel the entire pile into a big white 50kg rice bag as Dave flies past without noticing the ENORMOUS ORANGE BIKE parked on the edge of the road… 


I hastily renegotiate 1000 riel (25c) for a small bag and head off in pursuit of Dave.  Eventually I arrive in Ban Lung a little confused at not having caught up with Dave yet, but eventually work out that he had the same idea 10 mins after me and seeing me belt past at very high speed had decided to just work it out when we got here. 


Just outside Bad Lung (as I have renamed it) there was a volcanic crater filled with water creating a beautiful lake to swim in, I found Lucie and Mylene sitting on the shore, nice way to finish the dusty day!   


It was really hot the next day so Dave decided to play netball instead of riding, Lucie and I went out to see the local mines where they find lots of precious stones, Rubies, Zircon and lots of others I have forgotten.  We missed the turn for the mine but got to hang out with some friendly villagers and eat some sausage and veg from a local shop. 


The next morning Lucie took a 6:30am bus to Kampong Cham while Dave (freshly rested from his time in Wing Defence) and I went due south on a 200km sandy track.  The first 30km was good piste but ended at a big river (we took a canoe across) where the road degenerated into sections of deep rutted sand interdispersed with single track riding. 


David falls in Deep Sand


Some of it was really challenging, that feeling of “It’s only a matter of time before I fall over in this” but I stayed focused, kept on the pegs and churned out the miles one at a time.  After about 3 hours of this we were out of the sand and back on good piste, where we stopped in a little village for 5 mins to rest up. 


The last 90km was all good going (except for a few lost bolts on Dave’s bike, (renamed to Princess Suzie) so by 2pm we were in Saen Monorum eating what turned out to be Dog for lunch.  I tried to work out what it was, and was told...   


“not cow, only dack” 

“oh duck, great!” I say and then hastily do a duck mime complete with quack quack noises 

“yes yes, dack” 

“2 please” 


Dave eating Dog Artery


It was full of spices so we couldn’t really taste the meat, and it had lots of big arteries and bones in it that had us thinking it must be goat or something similar, it was only that night when we were asked if we had tried “Dack” yet by a local Cambodian girl, that we worked out that Dack is the way they pronounce Dog.  Rough.  


There wasn’t much to see or do there so after lunch we decided to push on and see how close to Kampong Cham we could get by dark.  Princess Suzie wasn’t happy though.  On the highway the ordinarily spirited 400 would barley do 100km/hr so we stopped to investigate and quickly found the air cleaner totally blocked by the fine red dust from Laos and Cambodia. 

Cleaning blocked air filter


Solution?  Find a plastic bag on the road, fill it with fuel from the tank, rinse the filter and throw it all back together.  By now it was a little after 3 and we weren’t going to get to Kampong Cham that night so decided to turn back to Saen Monurum, where I could check Betsy’s filter and make some carby adjustments that are a little over due.  (lift the needle and adjust idle screws) 


We ended the night talking to a Roger (‘Roger’ = old fat expat with local girl at least 2 generations younger than him) which was insightful (regarding “Dack”) if nothing else. 


Riding from Saen Monurum to Kampong Cham was really interesting (once we repaired frayed wiring on Princess Suzie again), the scenery started out as forest, then burnt out forest (still smoldering), then cleared forest, then graded and ploughed fields, small rubber trees, medium rubber plantations, and finally established rubber plantations.  All this in the space of about 150km.  They really are more organized over here than in Laos, a real shame about the forest but you can’t tell people not to cut it down when they are just trying to make enough money to eat. 


The roads are just as chaotic as Laos though, maybe even worse as there’s more traffic, along with little tractors, lots of cows and pigs, the odd goat, children everywhere and motorbikes loaded to the hilt with everything from Pigs to Bed frames. 


Cambodian Bike Rider


We arrived in Kampong Cham, got a beer and went to meet Lucie at a guest house run by a French couple (Mekong Sunset Guest house right on the Mekong).  Late at night (11pm) the city was virtually dead, we ate some bbq pork ribs from a roadside stall ($1), wheeled the bikes into the bar of the Guesthouse and went to sleep. 


Spent the next day looking at some temples (yawn) before trying to find another helmet for Lucie after I lost the last one in Bad Lung.  Again this was quite a task, everything was too big except for one open face helmet that we weren’t keen on… almost defeated we were taken to a closed shop front and let inside where it turned out to be a store that only sold helmets! They had one single MX helmet in a small size, $35.  It was still a little too big but I put some extra foam into the cheek pads to improve the fit, not perfect but it was the best we could do. 


The ride to Siem Reap was more of the same, but this time Dave carried Lucie’s pack and she rode with me.  We found a guesthouse, went out for beer, margaritas, Mexican food, more beer, some games of 8 ball… blur.  We had planned to visit Angkor Wat the next day but the evening’s festivities resulted in a late start, Dave decided to keep practicing his Netball skills while Lucie and I went out in the afternoon heat to try to see some of the temples. 


At the ticket counter for Angkor Wat we were informed that Betsy wouldn’t be allowed into the temple area, firstly because she was too big, then because I didn’t have a license for Cambodia, and finally just BECAUSE I SAID SO. 


In Siem Reap it isn’t possible to rent a motorcycle, they do this to keep the Tuk Tuk’s in business, and at $10 for the day it’s a good business for them.  They also don’t like you bringing your own motorcycle into the temple area, which is obviously a scam as they are public roads that go to villages and other towns in the north. 


A bit pissed off we went for a ride about 15km out of the city to see some other temples where we were asked for our ticket, which we were supposed to buy in town before we got out there… sigh.  They really don’t cater for the independent traveler in Siem Reap.  Package Tour anyone?? 


So the next day we joined the army of tourists and got ourselves a tuk tuk to go see the infamous Angkor Wat temple.  Yawn.  Yawn.  Yawn.  It wasn’t so much disappointing as overrun with people, which sort of kills it.  In the afternoon we decided to try to get the bikes in there again, and already armed with a ticket for the day we just rode straight past the ticket booth and parked in front of the main temple. 


“can I see your ticket” 

“of course” 

“what you do here?” 

“well… we just want to take some pictures with the bikes and the temples” 

“and then?” 

“and then we go” 



They were obviously not happy at our being there, but once we moved away from the main ruin it was more relaxed.  We rode around the complex for a couple of hours in the fading light, and with the hordes of tourists gone the place really did seem to come alive, I enjoyed that time. 




That evening we joined another couple who were riding around the world on 2 BMW’s.  Dinner that night reminded us of some things you need to remember when you set out 2 ride the world, the main one being that if you are self obsessed twats who talk about yourselves non-stop for 5 hours, no one cares. 


Lucie and I set off for Phnom Penh the next morning, and you already know how that ended. 


Mule Out. 



26-2-11 Written from Snookerville.  Happy Birthday Sam! 


Night before last I spent on the footpath out front of the hotel in Phnom Penh fitting a second hand set of tyres to Betsy.  Since arriving in SE Asia I have burned 2 rear tyres (Pirelli MT21 4000km, Conti TKC80 4000km) and a front MT21.  I have another 3000km to get to Penang (where my new MT21’s are waiting) and wasn’t going to get there on the tyres I had.  Lucky to find a bike shop with lots of second hand tyres, and bought a set of intermediates for $40 the pair.  This is the first time in the trip that I have tried intermediate tyres, will be interested to see how they wear.  


After licking our wounds for a few days in Phnom Penh, Lucie returned to Siem Reap and I made my way south here to Sihanoukville yesterday, (or Sin-ville). It’s a little seaside town overrun by backpackers, prostitution and Rogers.  The tuk tuk drivers openly sell ice, opium, dope, women, and anything else you’d like… 


Mule out.