Oct 1 2000, Cairns Australia
After arriving on our flight to Townsville, instead of riding
the next 5 days on a circuitous route to Cairns, we spent a quiet
day on Magnetic Island. There are supposed to be wild Koalas
there but we didn't manage to find any even though some other
hikers told us where they spotted one just a minute up the road.
I did however see a large flying fox (bat) electrocuted hanging
from the power lines. It was hanging from one wire and had spread
one of its wings and touched the adjacent wire. That was the
end of that bat!
The owner of the accommodation where we stayed, feeds the
rainbow lorakeets every morning with a mixture of baby food,
honey and protein powder. They start gathering in the trees when
they hear him mixing their breakfast. They are extremely colorful
Then we hopped a bus to Cairns so we could take a 3 day dive
trip on the Great Barrier Reef. The trip was not as enjoyable
for Dan since he was sea sick off and on the first two days and
upchucked at least 4 meals. But we still managed to snorkel and
dive, but preferred not to do the full 4 dives a day (3 of which
come right after a meal). Just waiting around in Cairns now until
the group "officially" arrives (at least 1/2 the people
are already here). Two more days
before we fly to Japan.
Oct 2 2000 - Cairns Australia
Today we fly in the morning to Japan. After 8 or 9 days there
we go to Hong Kong, Southern China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia,
Singapore, New Zealand,
Hawaii and then San Diego and Home. Don't know when the next
web update opportunity will come. We'll be concentrating on just
coming out of Asia
Oct 3, 2000 - Cairns Australia
We are still in Australia. We were supposed to leave this
morning, but found out last night after dinner we won't go today,
maybe tomorrow. The problem is Japanese authorities have not
granted landing rights yet to our Malaysian Air charter 747.
Our agents were originally negotiating to go with JAL but they
insisted the bicycles had to be loaded in bulk on pallets, and
our agents know for sure they won't fit this way (they tried).
So we switched to a Malaysian Air charter. The plane is sitting
here waiting while the red tape gets worked
out. If all goes well we will leave tomorrow which means we will
skip a rest day when we start biking in Japan which will make
it 6 days straight biking. If it doesn't get worked out today,
it becomes doubtful if we will go to Japan.
has had two English charter booking agents arraigning the air
flights ever since Argentina (the first place where the flights actually
started working). They have been doing a great job. They
show up at the airports whenever we have a scheduled flight,
have things pretty well taken care of and even fly with us. One
said last night that this was only the second time in his career
that this sort of thing had happened, the other being in Russia.
Oct 12 2000 - Japan
We made it to Japan, but
the bikes didn't!
The problem was TKA didn't want to go with JAL because their
charter bid was 1/3+ higher than Malaysia, and after this decision
was made, there was not enough time left to complete the bureaucratic
landing rights for another charter. So we all flew from Australia
to Kuala Lumper Malaysia , then split up onto two regular air
flights to Osaka Japan, then
rode a bus for about 3 hours to Kyoto. The next day
we had 1 off day in Kyoto, during which we took an interesting guided walking tour.
View walking around the imperial palace in Kyoto.
Next day was an 8 hour bus ride to Amanohashidate
to a campground that looked more
like a junkyard.
Yummy looking plastic food is displayed in front of most restaurants:
The main attraction in Amanohashidate seems to be hiking up this hill
for an upside down look at the land bridge across the water, which is supposed
to look like a bridge from heaven or something like that when viewed upside down.
Only facilities were some squat style porta potties and some
sinks. One off day there, then the rest of the time was basically
wasted by riding
buses for 3 consecutive days ...
The charter buses in Japan did come equiped with cute attendants whose main function
seemed to be walking behind the bus and blowing a whistle when it backed up as a kind
of backup alarm. They were however the nicest buses we rode anywhere in the world. Actually if we
understood Japanese I think they give some tour commentary, and also counted heads after the stops
to make sure nobody got left behind.
...followed by riding airplanes for
two days to get to Hong Kong.
On the last night we took a ferry a mile or two to an island campground.
The island and the town by the ferry terminal were inhabited by hungry (starving) deer,
one of which ate the DRG (Daily Route Guide) out of Monika's hand. Some one in the
campground also had one eat their shorts off the clothes line.
This was either dinner or breakfast at the campground, not sure which, but think I took
picture to record the skimpy portions. We got a whole 2 french fries along with our hard boiled
egg! (Actually these are the proportions we should really be eating most of the time.)
Ground Zero at Hiroshima:
All of the people we met in Japan were incredibly helpful
and polite. We could easily go back there again, except
everything is very expensive. Japan was the most expensive
place in the world we have visited so far.
October 15, 2000 - Wuzhou China
Loading the bikes on the ferry in Hong Kong
Took a 4+ hour ferry ride from Hong Kong up a river into China
with the bikes. Got off and cleared customs rather smoothly in
about 2 hours, and boarded buses for a "4" hour ride
to Wuzhou. This turned out to be only 3 hours to our surprise
since we expected it to be more like 5 or 6. Carried my bags
up to the 15th floor since the elevators were so slow and busy.
Oct 16 2000 - Hong Kong
Our Malaysia Air charter brought us to Hong Kong yesterday,
with all of the bikes. After a couple hours wait at the airport
to get bused, plus another couple of hours at the hotel to get
our rooms assigned, we settled in. An off day today
to take the subway from Kowloon where our hotel is to the Hong
Kong island and walk around to explore the streets. You can find
goods from everywhere available here, even found a shop with
promax body building supplements here, would have picked up some
promax bars, but the cost was about three times
what we are used to paying at home. Instead settled for a can
of powdered milk to take with us. We did split up gear here and
send camp stuff and some extra
things ahead to New Zealand so we would not have to pack it through
Asia where we are staying in hotels every night. (Some of them
cost about $10 or less, so it is less than we paid for a campground
October 16, 2000 - Xindu China
The road between Wuzhou and Xindu
Our first day riding in China turned out to be dry
and overcast along a rough road that was being reconstructed with a lot of
stretches, but still passable. It was made fun by the reception
we got from the local kids who all ran to the edge of the road
to see us and shout "hello", the only English word
most of them know. We are traveling through mostly poor rural
farm areas where they seldom see a foreigner. Xindu is a town
that never gets tourists so we attracted a lot of curious onlookers.
There was some delay getting into hotels because the hotel managers
had to check with the police
to get permission to rent us the rooms since they are not tourist
hotels, and they didn't know if it was permitted. All finally
Typical load carried on bike by local
October 17, 2000 - Zhongshan China
Riding to Zhongshan was mostly a repeat of yesterday's experience.
Got western style rooms in two different hotels with a rock hard
bed. On the way to dinner at
the other hotel, every one from our group got mobbed by kids
wanting our autograph.
October 18, 2000 - Yangshuo China
116Km of mostly good road with a shoulder still haven't been
rained on. Not too much auto traffic on the roads. Mostly "iron
cows" a contraption that looks like a large rototiller pulling
a very small pickup truck type trailer, only about half the size
of a small Toyota pickup. Most of these have two wheels on the
front, but there are some of the single wheel variety also. Many
bicycles hand carts, buses
of all sizes, trucks and water buffalo also.
The street below our hotel in Yangshuo.
Kids in school
The kids above are all lined up along the windows of their school
to wave a shout to us as we ride by. Our presence was a very
unusual event for them.
A brief stop on the route, to buy some bottled water.
Oct 19 2000 - China
Things have been running smoother than expected here so far,
do mostly to the fact that there are a couple of Chinese travel
agents working with TKA to make arrangements and act as translators.
Started by taking a 4 hour ferry ride from Hong Kong to some
city I forget the name of then a 3 hour bus ride
to Wuzhou. The bus ride was a pleasant surprise since the we
were told it was about a 4 hour ride, so we were ready for 5
or 6, since they have always turned out to be longer than billed.
Three days riding through Xindan, another place I forget the
name of and then to Yougshuo. The first two days are through
towns than normally don't get foreign tourists, so we caused
an incredible amount of interest. It was like being in tour-de-france,
because the road was often lined with kids in every village,
smiling and shouting "hello", (often the only English
word they know) as we pass. We go by schools where every kid
is on the balcony or looking out the windows waving and shouting
hello as we pass. Things have settled down in Yongshou since
this is a common tourist stop and they are used to seeing foreigners
here. Found internet access here in and English school that is
looking for volunteer
teachers in China (www.volunteer.com.cn or www.bucklandgroup.net),
you could show up here and get free room and board for being
a volunteer teacher
for a week, or for a longer contact, they would fly you here
and throw in some pocket money to boot, and arrange your visa.
Today it is pouring down rain, we were lucky the last three days,
because this is a very rainy month, likely to rain tomorrow,
but we only have a short 70K ride to Guilin.
If we stop at a market to get some fruit, it is hard to get change
for anything over a 10 yuan note (which is about $1.20 USD),
hard to believe.
There were lots of those high limestone carst? (hills) along
the route yesterday. The first day's ride the road was torn up,
mostly being expanded by hand with dirt/mud stretches. Fortunately
it was not raining so it was packed tight enough in the tire
tracks to get through. Several people did fall though and got
in mud. We made it through without falling. The rest of the highways
have been much better than expected, even some good stretches
of cement pavement with a shoulder. The traffic is not too heavy
since not so many people have
cars yet. There are however a lot of small motorcycles of about
70-100cc often carrying a whole family. You also see many of the
"iron cows" which are basically a front end that looks
like a big rototiller without the tiller part, attached to a
small truck trailer. There are even some with only one wheel
in the front, which I call a half-cow.
I won't be able to add photos until I get to New Zealand,
since I shipped some of the bits necessary for that along with
our camp gear. Will add some of the best photos then.
October 19, 2000 - Yangshuo China layover day
Raining today. A good day not to be riding. Yanshou is fun.
Its not too big, lots of street vendors, small restaurants, hair
dressers, etc. There seem to be a huge number of hair dresser
shops in China. You can see many of them on almost any street.
There is a "Hard Rock Cafe" which I'm sure is unfranchised,
also a "Hard Seat Cafe" and a "Planet Yongshuo".
Too bad it is raining, there are many nice excursions to take
from here, like a 8K trip to "moon hill" where they
say President Nixon came and planted a tree on his early trip
to China. You can also
visit a local farm family and have them prepare lunch for you
or take a river trip up among the limestone karsts in the area.
October 20, 2000 - Guilin China
Raining today. We rode the 67 kilometers in the rain to Guilin.
I wearing my $200 Gortex jacket, and Monika wearing the $1.50
poncho that the locals use she bought yesterday. The $1.50 poncho
does a better job in these conditions. No wind, the rain comes
straight down. The poncho is long in front to hang over the handle
bars of the bike, keeping your arms hands and everything down
about your knees dry.
October 21, 2000 - Guilin China layover day
Some rain today. Walked about a mile up the road to a limestone
karst, (a very steep hill shaped about like a giant haystack).
This one had stairs up to the top with a small temple halfway
up and a viewing platform. Climbed
up for a view. On the way back there was a cave with a building
built into the front made into a tourist attraction by being
filled with a lot of recent plaster
statuary painted over with gold paint. The main attraction being
a 43 meter long reclining Buddha. But also 100's of other similar
Meeting after dinner tonight. TKA announced they will be out
of money after Singapore, so people will have to pay another
$3000 each to finish the trip as planned or they will give us
a ticket to LA from Singapore. Rider committee formed to discuss
options. (We will not give him another cent, rather
we will spend some time on our own before returning).
October 22, 2000 - Longseng China
Rain today so we chipped in 6$ (US) a day for the next 5 days
with about 50 other riders to get two small buses and a truck
for bikes to be available between here and Nanning, so we can
ride or not as we chose. "Kristal" was the one arranging
this, so here after it will be referred to as the "Kristal
Bus". Today we bused rather than ride the 130+ kilometers
in the rain. Roads are very rough and there is still construction,
so the bus is not much quicker than biking, but at least you
get out of the rain. Also the last 12K is mud construction, so
TKA is arranging a bus over this part anyway. As nearly always,
there are a few who chose to ride all the way through the mud
October 23, 2000 - Longseng China layover day
Rain stopped today and started to clear again. Longseng is a
dump, the only thing to recommend it is the Long Ji rice terrace
is about 30+ K from here. We took Kristals bus (since we had
already paid for it anyway). Its still about a 2 hour ride since
you go back through 12K of mud construction and then 17K up another
road that winds up the mountain and is mostly one lane, no guard
rail, with steep drop offs. It is under construction being widened
and paved by hand. Mostly it is mud and gravel. They jackhammer
rock from the hillside by the road and put it a rock at a time
into a small portable crusher to make gravel. Then haul it up
the road in these mini iron cow dump trucks to make little piles,
(often on the inside of the road which forces the bus to the
outside near the cliff edge). Fortunately we have a very cautions
driver. The gravel gets raked or shoveled into flat hand baskets
and then thrown by hand over the mud to distribute it.
Long Ji Rice Terrace
The Long Ji rice terrace is a world famous place that is terrace
all the way to the top of the mountains. You have to walk the
last mile up a trail paved with stepping
stones. Everything in the village up there is carried in by hand,
including small logs for building that men carry on their shoulders.
We discovered there are some guest houses up there where you
could spend the night.
If I had of know this yesterday, I would
have come up here and stayed.
The rider poll results were in tonight. Out of about 177 riders
who returned the poll, only 23 were willing to pay another $3000
to continue. Riders suggested many options, and we are voting
to select the top six tomorrow. (A bat made it
into the meeting room and was flying around during the meeting).
October 24, 2000 - Chang'an China
Rode halfway to Chang'an then hopped the Kristal bus. The
bus point was just after a long hill in hot humid conditions,
and Monika was over tired. The TKA check point ran out of water
soon after we got there.
October 25, 2000 - Liuzhou China
Bused the whole day today as the first 53K was torn up and
just a mud road. The bus got stuck once and had to get out and
push. TKA provided busses also for the first 53K to get people
over the mud. Some rode the whole way and even beat the buses
since its easier to keep the bike moving than the bus in those
pushing the bus out of the mud
October 25, 2000 - Binyang China
Man finishing lion sculpture
180K today, not raining. We road 88K to checkpoint and then
hopped the Kristal bus. Kristal stayed behind today along with
several other riders in Lizhou since it was a very nice western
style hotel, they will catch a local bus tomorrow for a couple
of bucks to Nanning, since tonight is supposed to be the worst
hotels so far
Thrashing the rice
One of the many hoards of kids who gather round whenever we stop
in a village.
The first half of the ride was the best part through lots
of small villages where they were busy harvesting the rice crop,
so we really didn't miss much on the
second part of the ride. We got in on the bus about 2:30 PM and
had to wait a couple of hours before they had our room posted.
We were put in with another couple, 4 in a room with 4 "beds".
One had a mattress, the other 3 just a wood platform with a grass
mat and a felt pad on it. Asian style squat toilet in the bathroom,
with a shower head and a sink. Hot water, but can't shut it off
completely so the shower has a trickle running all the time. Everything
drains across the floor to the toilet. This is the best hotel
out of 3!
While we were waiting for our room, a young Chinese man (29)
started a conversation with us. We talked to him for some time.
He had been accepted by Western Michigan University to study
for a Master's degree in anthropology. He already had a BA from
China. He needed to apply to the US Embassy in another town to
get a student visa and wanted us to proof read his letter for
him which we gladly did. His English writing was very good, much
better than all of the "chinglish" we have found written
in the hotels. There were only a few slight grammatical errors.
His verbal English was not as clear since he had not had anyone
to practice with for 6 or 7 years and he was nervous about having
to apply in person at the embassy where he would have to speak
for himself in only
a 2 or 3 minute interview. His girlfriend had seen all the foreigners
coming into town and alerted him, so he came down to talk to
us. Virtually no foreigners come
to this town so we were drawing a lot of attention here.
He invited us to his house to meet his parents, so we agreed,
if he waited a few minutes so we could go to our room and shower
since our room assignment was just posted. Our bags had not been
unloaded from the trucks yet, since there
wasn't enough room in the lobby, so I didn't have a change of
clothes. I rinsed my shirt in a bucket, wrung it out, and put
it back on wet, so got my shorts damp also. Then we went with
him to his house.
In the home of Lian
His parents knew no English and he informed us later they
could not read or write Chinese either. They offered us tea and
a snack while we talked. He wanted us
to stay for dinner which was an opportunity I did not want to
miss so we accepted. I found he had also taught himself to play
classical guitar as I had, and played several things I was familiar
with. His guitar top was delaminating from the body, and part
of the tuning mechanism was broken so it would not stay in tune,
but he still managed to play it quite well.
Dan listening to Lian play guitar
Monika with Lian and his finance
After we ate, his finance arrived wearing a Bart Simpson tee
shirt and jeans. He
said she was 24 years old, and we were the first westerners she
had met. After about 8PM we all walked back to our hotel, we
found 3 other riders in the lobby and introduced one to him so
he could speak to someone else for awhile and
went to our room on the fourth floor. When we got there we found
the other couples things were gone and we assumed they had probably
found a room to themselves somewhere.
Then we found a note they had left, saying in case we hadn't
heard everyone was boarding a bus a 7:30 after dinner and going
to Nanning to a 5 star hotel! They were all gone except for 8
who had stayed to bike from here in the morning!
could still stay here for the night and a bus was returning about
10AM the next day with those who wanted to ride the bikes from
here, only problem was our bikes were on the Kristal bus, so
they weren't here. Went and talked to the others for awhile, then
lit a mosquito coil in the room that I had been carrying to
drive off the mosquitos and started to move the bed to get it
centered under the mosquito net hanging from the ceiling and a
RAT JUMPED OUT! The rat jumped up on the window ledge and tried to
make it out the window but the curtain was in the way, so quickly
retreated back behind the bed. (They eat rats here so they are
running for their lives any time they are out in the open). Monika
got really upset and left the room while I grabbed the bamboo
stick in the corner which I figured had been left there just
for that purpose and attempted to oust the rat. I got him to
scamper out once and then lost track of him. I could not find
any possible place he could still be hiding so I assumed he made
it out the window, which I then closed. After a few restless
hours sleep we were ready to get out of there early the next
morning. We still did not have our baggage by the way as it went
to Nanning with everyone else.
October 27, 2000 - Nanning China
Still in Binyang at the "rat hotel" about -2 stars.
Got up to have breakfast with the other few people still here,
and just have to wait until about 10AM
when we can ride a sag van to Nanning. To bad we missed the 5
star room in Nanning last night, but I'm glad we had the chance
to go to the home of a
At breakfast an English teacher from the local high school
showed up. Someone else had agreed to go to the school with him
to speak with his English students this morning, but had to leave
on the bus last night and just left a "sorry" note
for him. He asked if someone else could go since he had already
told his students he was bringing in an American and didn't want
to go back empty handed. We had a couple of hours to wait so
I agreed to go back with him. Monika seemed a bit upset about
that since she was worried about missing the last chance ride
to Nanning, but I went anyway. He only had space to carry one
passenger on his scooter anyway.
The school experience was fantastic. I drew so much attention, it was like being a
rock star. They were having a track meet, or some kind of field
day that day and the whole school student body of over 2000 was marching
around the dirt field and assembled on the track in a rather
military or parade style. They put me up on the review platform
with all the teachers and even handed me the microphone to address
the students. After a few minutes of this we went to his class
room. He had three classes of over 70 students each and they
all crammed into the room with me at the front. I answered questions
for awhile, and all the students were thrilled to see that the
had been learning actually worked! This was the first chance
any of them had ever had to talk to an actual foreigner. As it
was getting close to the time I had to
return to the hotel, it degenerated into another autograph session
where I was signing books, scraps of paper, sweat jackets, and
even the palms of their hands if they didn't have any thing else
handy. Unfortunately I only had time to give a few autographs, I
wish I could have accommodated everyone. On the way out I paused for
a couple of photos, which everyone tried to squeeze into. (Their
mine, unfortunately I had forgot to grab our camera when I came
to the school so I will have no photo to show.)
I did get the school address from the teacher, and one student
handed me a note with his address so I can write when I return
home. The whole experience made up for being in the "rat
October 28, 2000 - Nanning China
Nanning from our hotel
Nanning is a modern looking "clean" city and a stark
contrast with where we were last night. Fortunately for us, we
get another night in this great hotel before we go to Vietnam
by bus tomorrow. The delay was because the flight the courier
was taking back with our passports got canceled due to lack of
passengers, so we had to wait another day for our passports to
come back before we can leave. We don't mind a bit, but it will
take away a planned layover day in Hanoi.
October 29, 2000 - Hanoi Viet Nam
Today we got up at 0600 ate, loaded bikes on a truck, loaded
our bags on a truck, then had a 4-1/2 hour bus ride to the Vietnamese
border. It took about another 4 hours to cross the border, carry
our stuff 300 meters to the other side and load buses for another
5 hours of riding into Hanoi arriving around 2200 but with setting
the clock to local time it was around 2100. Check into room,
eat dinner, retrieve our bags and carry them up, then to bed.
30 October, 2000
Up to eat breakfast, check the illogistics set up by TKA,
which say we load our big bags in the truck by 1100 check out
around noon, keep enough stuff for the next three days with us.
Dinner at 1700, bus to train station 1930, board train for Hue
at 2150 (seats, no sleeper), ride train about 12 hours (all night)
and get to Hue about 1000 tomorrow. What do we do all afternoon
while waiting for dinner with no room to go to? That is our off
time for sight seeing.
We took a taxi to find a bank with an ATM, get some money, started
walking with lots of guys trying to sell us packs of 10 postcards
for about 60,000 dong ($4.25 approx), finally another rider tipped
us that they were available from a stand at the end of the block
for 6,000 (1/10 the rate we were being asked). Found one
of several internet cafes. Talked to several other riders in
the street that had made arrangements to fly to Nha Trang for
about $100 (US) and will find their own arrangements in the meantime,
to avoid the several days of train travel ordeal.
(We are saving our money for now until we get to Thailand
at least.) Trip is ending in Singapore except for the 20 or so
willing to pay another $3000 for TKA to finish the last month.
We will go on our own for a few weeks as are probably about 1/2
the other riders, then return to Henderson for Christmas. In
Singapore, everyone that is not paying more, gets a ticket back
to LA or the cash equivalent.
The first impression we got about Vietnam, while riding the
bus is that it is cleaner than southwest China, at least they
are not in the habit of
throwing their trash in the street for the street sweepers (ladies
with little hand
brooms and a cart) to sweep up. There does also not seem to be
as many heaps of building debris laying around.
October 31, 2000 - Hanoi Vietnam
While we were out walking around Hanoi yesterday the train plans
changed. Actually, Tim had the schedules mixed up when he posted
what we would be doing, so when we got back to the hotel for
dinner the updated info showed an 17 hour overnight train ride
on hard seats rather than the 12 originally indicated, plus the
layover in the middle had gone away so we were looking at getting
off the train
at 1400 the next afternoon, (no sleep) then one night in a hotel
then leave on another train at noon and get to Nha Trang at 0530
(no sleep) then one night in a hotel and bike the next morning.
Needless to say this plan really sucks, so about
half the people said NOT, and found another option. We split a
taxi down town with another couple, found an nice hotel in the
center of things for $22
a night with AC, Hot water, fridge,TV and HBO. Real friendly
staff, just gave them our visa exit document to hold and pay
for everything on Visa when we leave, no problems. So we are
watching movies on HBO, tomorrow we take a day trip for $12 each
, 2 hours bus, then 1.5 hours rowing up a river, then 2 hour
hike to the perfume pagoda, lunch and back again. Got tickets
near the front for the water puppet theater tomorrow night. Next
day we take a plane for $101 each to Nha Trang to skip the train
ordeal. Lot of other Odyssey people on the planes
for these 3 days.
Some folks are still timid about finding their own way, so
just suffer through the lousy planning. It is so easy to find
a better way at the last minute, just about anywhere in the world.
The only difficulty finding last minute arrangements we've had
all year was in Barcelona when we arrived during Easter weekend
and spring break, a double whammy. Any time that isn't a peak
holiday, is never a problem. We weren't going to spend any money
until we hit Thailand, but the TKA plan was just plain tourture.
I get real cranky when sleep deprived, so we decide this
would be money well spent.
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