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Catching Up

June 3, 2015 0 Comments
Brakes Troubles for the Landcruiser

Grrrr – brake troubles with the Landcruiser means 1 point for the Fazda

Catching up on the news from the 31 May – 3 June 2015

Sunday, 31 May 2015

These reports are a bit out of whack with Hendo’s blogs, because until now the rest of us haven’t been able to report due to the Chinese blocks on electronic correspondence.

So, backing up to before we entered China, we’re at a place called Chiang ria in north-west Thailand, about 180km north of the better known Chiang Mia.

We’re only 100km from the Laos-Burma (Myanmar) borders, so we’re really close to the famous drug area of the Golden Triangle.

This city is on flat ground, but we have driven in and over some beautiful ranges and valleys to get here. We were 1500m above sea level at one stage. Quite cool, and we are some 18 or 19 degrees north of the equator (think north of Rockhampton). The mountains are adjacent and today’s run to the Laos border involves popping over one of those ranges.

The countryside is cleaner and much better looked after than Indonesia and all the roads since Singapore have been a delight.

Malaysian toll roads are $2 for 100km and the secondary roads are of exceptional quality and are adequate in the countryside to cater for traffic densities, so it is easy going. The Thai and Malay drivers are more possessive about “their” road space, so they often try to stop you changing lanes – just like Sydney!

The run out of Chiang Ria went smoothly, though we got sort of lost, requiring two u-turns. Peter, (Hendo), has a saying: “You’re allowed two u-turns a day, for a successful day’s drive!”

It was a breeze through the Thai border and into Laos, which is the first country so far with cars driving on the right-hand side of the road, so extra care is needed.

We camped in a rice paddy overnight. A glorious, balmy night. Hendo spent his first night  “under the stars”, and I’m not convinced he was delighted, as he suggested we stay at a hotel for the next night! We’d bought a bottle of gin, and six cans of tonic water. I vowed I’d drink a little gin at night, and not beer. Hendo did the serving, while we four set up camp. They were big gins, and three later, despite Lynn only wanting one, tea was served.

We stayed up late playing cards and hit the sack near midnight – shows how pleasant the air was!

Before tea, Barry and I drained the fuel filter bowls to remove any crud or water. I didn’t prime my second filter enough, so next day on departure, we drove 100m and stopped. No sweat, just extra priming, then off we went. That’s the beauty of a pump and six separate fuel lines.

Monday, June 2, 2015

Found a limestone cave, paid the one dollar entry and were staggered as to how far into the hill/ mountain it went.

Barry and I went as far as we could, given our caving gear – sandals and thongs! (Thong is an Australian name for a rubber flip flop, or sandal. It seems to mean something different everywhere else). We reached water, very cold, but couldn’t get past without wetting our flip flops. The tunnel was big enough to drive one or sometimes two 4wds through and the ceiling was six metres high all the way. The stalagtites and mites were huge.

Hendo wanted to go to a hotel to try the local food, and meet the locals, so we picked a big looking town on the map 29km ahead, and Hendo navigated from Barry’s Fazda. Hendo fell asleep, so they overshot the town by 15km!

We then pulled into a little village to “meet the locals”. It was exactly like Indonesia – once we stopped, people came from everywhere. We played street games, threw rocks, juggled balls and generally mucked about. The old women smoked grass from a crude, home-made pipe, and they had cold bottled beer. Less than 2 dollars a long neck.

Onto the next town we dropped Hendo off at a guesthouse, and we four drove into a rubber plantation.

First we had a swim in a creek crossing, then up to a shady glade, to camp amongst the plantation. Gorgeous spot, 80 percent shade, light breeze and a few farmers who came to say gidday. In fact, they said they wouldn’t cultivate around us, so we would not be disturbed.

A great evening, with thousands of fire-flies floating around. Very beautiful.

Tuesday June 3, 2015

Into China today.

We got to the Laos crossing and went through, no sweat.

On the China side was a huge complex where our NAVO guide, Green, found us and swept us through customs for passport control. The girls and Hendo went through to China while Barry and I doubled back to run the cars over. And that’s where the trouble began. You could have had the headline “Cranky Aussie Blocks Trade Route Into China At Laos Border Crossing For 15 Minutes”.

I didn’t listen to Green when she said to wait until 3pm when the car paperwork would be done. Like a second row or prop forward I just got in amongst the customs guys and asked for our carnets to be stamped. But it turns out China ignores the Carnet system and have their own paperwork. So when they all ignored us, in respect to signing the Carnet, and sort of sent us to all parts of the Chinese side of the border gate, I got annoyed. So did Barry.

Anyway, I couldn’t see much happening for us, so I backed the Landcruiser up to a semi-trailer which was stopped on the weighbridge.

The weighbridge is the entry, or choke point, for goods coming into China from Laos. The semi couldn’t move forward and I just locked the car, leant against it and waited. After about six trucks were queued back and four or so of the six were blasting their horns, some uniforms arrived. I explained in my best body language that I wasn’t moving until the Carnet, which I was waving above my head, was signed by the customs guy. More horns, more uniforms, then a uniform speaking English, with a lot of stripes.

At the same instant, our Chinese car paperwork turned up, the striped uniform explained the deal to me and I apologised (on behalf of all Australian people) and moved the car. So it’s fair to say we blocked road supply to China, at this spot, for 15 or 20 minutes. All this hassle was unnecessary as NAVO had all the paperwork done.

Chinese Driving Licences and Rego

After the border crossing, we drove to Mengla, 50km north, to get our licences and car regos and Chinese number plates.

The car rego required a brake test, done by the ‘professional’ staff’. So we handed over the keys and off they went for a skid test on a covered concrete slab. Both cars passed, however despite brake lines being replaced last year, the Landcruiser’s right front line ruptured and brake fluid went everywhere. We found a workshop over the road, Green translating, up on the hoist and two new front brake lines were fitted within three hours. The mechanic got some from a different model – brand new, just a bit longer, which is perfect as the car is lifted some 50mm. $100.

NAVO had pre-booked the driving licence tests, so they printed our names in Chinese, with a photo, all laminated up. I intend to use the licence when pulled over, back in Australia. It has a “valid to” date, but in Chinese format, so I think it will work. The police welcomed us to China, then gave us a briefing, about the danger of driving in China – don’t speed, don’t drink (zero tolerance) and don’t race!

The people here don’t see too many Caucasians, so they are very curious, very polite and always keen for a photograph. They are very helpful, and honest. Like Iran, they ensure you have the correct change and will not take a tip under any circumstances.

A big drive, through some rough roads and gorgeous scenery. Mountains, rivers, you name it.

Filed in: Diary

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