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Grace (BikeHedonia)

Ride Report: BikeHedonia rides the world (one way or another)

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Hello glorious netizens,

It has been suggested to me that you might not all be completely bored if I regaled you with tales of my misadventures. There are a lot of them, and they all involve motorcycles. I set off to ride around the world on my KTM 690 Enduro nearly 5 years ago; I thought it might take me 18 months, anyway here I am still stuck in a jungle in Thailand.

Five years ago I was five years younger and looked (and felt) 5 years older after a brief but prematurely aging career in the law. That's where it all started, and here is the very old video that goes with it:



Anyway, if you would like to hear further dispatches from the road, let me know. You can also catch my blog at www.bikehedonia.wordpress.com and my daily updates on www.facebook.com/bikehedonia should you be so inclined.

Cheers,

Grace

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I remember meeting a C-130 that just landed from a trip to Thailand in the late 1970's at Wright Pat in ohio, the stuff we unl0aded had the nicest smell, cant seem to place it, the plane  landed right at 1620 so there is that. 

 

😃

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3 minutes ago, Tym said:

I remember meeting a C-130 that just landed from a trip to Thailand in the late 1970's at Wright Pat in ohio, the stuff we unl0aded had the nicest smell, cant seem to place it, the plane  landed right at 1620 so there is that. 

 

😃

Ah ha ha interesting, a lot of the commodities being exported from Thailand were not known for being sweet smelling - the 70s would have been the last gasp of local opium rather than that simply in transit from Afghanistan and Myanmar, and that has a nasty ammonia smell...  I don't know about the ganja, I always reckon that's an acquired taste. And let's not talk about the shrimp paste haha.

But shady allusions aside, smells are so important in Thailand. The PEOPLE smell wonderful. Instead of kissing like Westerners, your Thai sweetheart is more likely to put their lips against your cheek and inhale your scent deeply. It's initially disconcerting but quite sensuous.

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4 minutes ago, Grace (BikeHedonia) said:

Thank you very much - in that case, with your permission, I shall continue to spam you with stories 😉

Sounds good to me. 😉😎

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12 minutes ago, Grace (BikeHedonia) said:

Thank you very much - in that case, with your permission, I shall continue to spam you with stories 😉

Post them all up Grace......we need more contributions from real motorcyclists!

Unlike this bunch of Casuals that I'm lumbered with.

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Please continue @Grace (BikeHedonia) most of us are losing dailight, winters setting in, nothing to do, things like snow sleet hell hail are coming up, cant forget my worldwide birthday party on new years eve whoo hoo... 😀

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Just now, Tym said:

Please continue @Grace (BikeHedonia) most of us are losing dailight, winters setting in, nothing to do, things like snow sleet hell hail are coming up, cant forget my worldwide birthday party on new years eve whoo hoo... 😀

Done, I shall continue spouting about the nice riding weather (sleet? is that what happens when the temperature drops being 20C?? sounds nasty) Also happy birthday for 31 December before everyone forgets  😉  

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So, sit down, make yourself a cup of tea: let's talk about Indonesia, my absolute favourite place to ride, ever. In Indonesia, every biker is your bro, every club is your club, everyone's mum is cooking you dinner. Now, when I say Indonesia I don't mean Bali, I mean the other bits. Flores, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Java... places where you show up and everyone asks, "yes, but WHY are you here?" because no madwoman on a KTM ever rocked up to their village before. (Maybe that's a good thing...? Anyway)

Anyway highlights - and literally, this is a highlight because the elevation is noticeable, enough to make you chilly. Tana Toraja. Up in the mountain tops of Sulawesi, one of the places with some of the world's most complex, expensive and denialist rituals for dealing with the dead.

* * *
 

High in the volcanic mountains of Sulawesi, just scraping the underside of the clouds, is a land for both the living and the dead. In the West we tend to fear our mortality and hide away the corporeal reminders, but in Tanah Toraja I found myself sitting on a cliffside ledge, watching little boys play in front of the skulls of their ancestors.

* * *

The air cools and the roads narrow as you gain altitude, climbing further up the jagged spine of the island. Signs advertising beer start to appear on the roadside shops and warungs, signposting a transition from a Muslim area to one where the people profess a mix of Christianity and the old beliefs.

I have a phone number and a map location. My friend Aditya in Makassar has sent me off northward with an introduction to a friend of his, a fellow biker who lives up here in the mountains. Tony is orang Toraja, and on the hill opposite his home, the ancient village of Kete Kesu houses his ancestors in ornate tombs and ossuaries.

Since this is Indonesia, where bikers are family, I have an invitation to stay at Tony's place and my only challenge is finding it. After a few wrong turns, I have success: the rain is just starting to fall as I find Tony and park the bike in front of one of his cousin's houses. Tony's place is built further up the hill - one modern style home in a row of traditional Toraja houses - but the track is too slippery to get the bike up there in the rain.

No problem: the bike is safe here. Tony and some of his cousins help me carry my bags up the hill. He is a bachelor, but he lives surrounded by family. It's almost a family compound, with a row of ordinary houses facing a row of traditional meeting houses.

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Soon I am comfortably installed in a spare bedroom at Tony's place. My damp boots have been set out to dry and I dig into my pack to find the gift that I'm carrying for Tony from Aditya. It's a fabulous orange riding jersey commemorating a ride up the length and breadth of Sulawesi. They had stopped and visited with Tony on their way through Tana Toraja too, and the jersey is a thank you gift.

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On the back, it says 'TUA' - ostensibly an acronym for 'Together, United, Adventure' but of course 'tua' also means old. It's a cheeky stab at the age of the your average big bike adventure rider, and I love it. I look forward to aging into mine.

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* *  *

Now let's shift gears a little - enough of the living - let's talk about the dead.

 

The Toraja people are known for their elaborate funerary rites. It can take years to prepare and complete all the proper ceremonies to lay a relative to rest and release the soul from the body. Until this is done, they are described as sick, and the slowly mummifying body is cared for like a living person. After the massive and elaborate funeral – often years later – the mummified deceased are interred in carved ossuaries clinging to the cliffs and caves that tower over the village.

The people go and visit their ancestors there. Gradually the ancestors become bones, skeletons. Over the centuries, wood will disintegrate and bones will spill out. They are sometimes gathered up again, skulls placed in rows; other times, the bones are allowed to remain in place, tangled, distinctly human.

 

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Children sit on the cliff ledges, watching Youtube videos on cheap smart phones next to their skeletal ancestors. I walk up the cliff path, and sit for a while. An invited guest. Here at Kete Kesu is where Tony’s relatives lie in rest. His cousin points out the carved likenesses of people who have passed, and invites me to take photographs if I want.

 

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My western upbringing tells me that this is not proper – to photograph the bones of someone else’s relatives. But here, it seems that people feel differently.

Everything has the meaning you give it.

 

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When I go to leave, I am forcibly accosted by a Javanese visitor who seems to think that I'm far more interesting to photograph than any of the funerary relics. No worries; this is how I pay my social taxes here, I figure: they can take as many photos as they like. But before I leave, I take one more photo of my own - a photo of my darling, my sweetheart, in all her dualsport glory.

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5 minutes ago, XTreme said:

Incredible stuff Grace......the bones thing is pretty creepy though!

I was pretty stunned at first, and then the kids were just hanging out amongst the bones like it was no big thing, and I thought, hey when in Rome...

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Just now, Grace (BikeHedonia) said:

I was pretty stunned at first, and then the kids were just hanging out amongst the bones like it was no big thing, and I thought, hey when in Rome...

Different culture there I guess!

Over here if there were human bones scattered about there'd be Police swarming across the area! 

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1 hour ago, Grace (BikeHedonia) said:

I was pretty stunned at first, and then the kids were just hanging out amongst the bones like it was no big thing, and I thought, hey when in Rome...

When I was on one of the Greek islands we did a tour which included a mountaintop village where we visited the Ossuary.  Pretty creepy looking in at the bones of the people who had lived there, but it's all part of the culture.

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2 hours ago, Grace (BikeHedonia) said:

Also happy birthday for 31 December before everyone forgets  😉  

Cant forget my birthday till the morning after! 😃

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8 minutes ago, alfalfa said:

Oh, damn!!  this will be a good one!!

We needed something to give the impression that we're not a bunch of useless wankers Rick!

Aidy Bryant Snl GIF by Saturday Night Live

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1 hour ago, XTreme said:

We needed something to give the impression that we're not a bunch of useless wankers Rick!

Aidy Bryant Snl GIF by Saturday Night Live

Oh, you still are.  But, somehow you've attracted a real traveler 🤣

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2 hours ago, alfalfa said:

Oh, you still are.  But, somehow you've attracted a real traveler 🤣

It’s a pity fuck.

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Still knee deep in covid so still hanging out on my mountain in Thailand. Did 250km of the Mae Hong Son Loop yesterday on the CRF450RL. Still running the crappy factory IRC tyres but the roads were clean (for once) so I've got no chicken strips left on my knobbies. Love throwing it through those curves motard style, reliving bad habits learnt on the 690. Gets a little twitchy in the front end if you have to brake suddenly over 90kph though. 

Stopped at the army checkpoint between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son provinces and had a beer with the soldier boys and slapped a sticker on the bike (with owner's permission of course), brand of the devil! Well, a better way to leave my mark on a motorcycle than by sliding it down the road. I have dropped this one off road before (once) but otherwise we have remained resolutely upright. 

Out with my mate who I talked into buying this farkled 390 duke. Upgraded ecu and full exhaust, first gen, that little bike goes like the clappers. It's a demon. She's running Rosso IIs and is well on her way to the dark side. 

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7 hours ago, Grace (BikeHedonia) said:

Stopped at the army checkpoint between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son provinces

Do the army stop and check people then Grace?

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Great stuff @Grace (BikeHedonia) 👍

I started reading your blog, very entertaining, you're an excellent writer. Enjoying it muchly, very talented. You have a way with words and the nerdy librarian streak in me was pretty thrilled I had to look one up yesterday (eudemonia, great word) 😆  

Soz I know you don't like talking about moola (must get very repetitive) but as its a useful thing to have can I ask if there's a reason you don't have a regular subscription (donation) option on your 'support the adventure' tab? You know the sort of thing "buy me a coffee"

I tend to pay bloggers/youtubers for content I regularly read via their Patreon subscription so I don't feel the pain of taking 20 quid out of my wallet 😂

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12 hours ago, Slowlycatchymonkey said:

Great stuff @Grace (BikeHedonia) 👍

I started reading your blog, very entertaining, you're an excellent writer. Enjoying it muchly, very talented. You have a way with words and the nerdy librarian streak in me was pretty thrilled I had to look one up yesterday (eudemonia, great word) 😆  

Soz I know you don't like talking about moola (must get very repetitive) but as its a useful thing to have can I ask if there's a reason you don't have a regular subscription (donation) option on your 'support the adventure' tab? You know the sort of thing "buy me a coffee"

I tend to pay bloggers/youtubers for content I regularly read via their Patreon subscription so I don't feel the pain of taking 20 quid out of my wallet 😂

Aw thank you so much, I'm so pleased you're enjoying the writing! This makes me really, really happy! Cheers to that librarian streak. I do love the English language.

Thank you also, sincerely, for asking straight questions about $$$. I appreciate straight questions, on top of the fact that I appreciate your kind words and supportiveness. I do actually have a patreon account, I just don't promote it much because it's not where I tend to post content (so I wonder if I'm providing subscription value behind the paywall, you know? Would hate to disappoint anyone on that front.)  (...And maybe I also just feel awkward about talking about money... I should get over that.) But you make a good point about the subscription structure being super convenient, and my patreon does exist! It's www.patreon.com/bikehedonia . 

Thanks again for asking the question. 🙂

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16 hours ago, XTreme said:

Do the army stop and check people then Grace?

Yes, the checkpoint is on the mountain road between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai Provinces, and although checkpoints proliferate all through the provinces, this is the only one where I always see the army actively manning it and searching people, apart from at the ones near national borders. (Most checkpoints here are nothing more than a traffic hazard... presumably the soldiers are all out the back make tiktoks.)

Primarily they're looking for drugs and other contraband. They just wave you through if you're on a big bike and clearly just out riding (except for when the province is totally closed, which happened last year during the first covid lockdown). They will question people in vehicles, most get waved through but the people who tend to get stopped are the hiluxes loaded with cabbages or hill tribe people on beat up scooters. Mostly they're chill but I have seen a few people taken away to the toilet block to be strip searched, which is kind of chilling when you see three male soldiers taking one scared woman into the bathroom...

Moments like that, I'm so conscious of my privilege as a white skinned foreigner who - because I am riding a big bike - is assumed to be relatively rich (and thus possibly important). I might get blamed for a motor vehicle accident I didn't cause, or I might get pulled over by the traffic police hoping to make some tea money by finding I have international licence, but I am extremely unlikely to randomly strip searched in a toilet block on top of a mountain. 

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11 hours ago, Grace (BikeHedonia) said:

Aw thank you so much, I'm so pleased you're enjoying the writing! This makes me really, really happy! Cheers to that librarian streak. I do love the English language.

Thank you also, sincerely, for asking straight questions about $$$. I appreciate straight questions, on top of the fact that I appreciate your kind words and supportiveness. I do actually have a patreon account, I just don't promote it much because it's not where I tend to post content (so I wonder if I'm providing subscription value behind the paywall, you know? Would hate to disappoint anyone on that front.)  (...And maybe I also just feel awkward about talking about money... I should get over that.) But you make a good point about the subscription structure being super convenient, and my patreon does exist! It's www.patreon.com/bikehedonia . 

Thanks again for asking the question. 🙂

See even your posts are well written 😂

Just reread what I’m about to post and I’m sorry its too long and it is about money but I’ve wasted too much time tapping my phone sooo.. here it is 😂

Last thing about money though, promise, you’re right it is a truly boring subject 😂

I thought it was purely a British thing to feel uncomfortable talking about the filthy lucre in relation to yourself but it’s an Australian thing too? 
Yer might be helpful to get over that awkwardness for the sake of your coffers 😄

I was brought up to have a slightly disdainful attitude towards money (due to the human problems it causes) and I dunno if that’s a good way or not but viewing it as “only money” means I have no qualms talking about it, negotiating with it, saving it or wasting it and not chasing after it like one of those freaks that’ worships at the alter of the money gods, it’s an attitude that’s strangely payed dividends. 
Maybe “it’s only money” might work for you too. Might help get the Patreon link where it’s needed- YouTube, websites etc etc?

No-one feels obligated to click those links, they do it because they want to, because they like the content and want to fund it (or you) to continue so I don’t see that you need to be shy. 
One last tiny suggestion and then I swear I’m done on the subject.
Maybe a lower subscription level or a ‘choose your own level of subscription’ on your Patreon account might be useful for the folk who want to contribute but aren’t quite in that lower tier league.

Just cos-
My sister in law had a student job ringing people and getting them to agree to monthly payments for whatever charity was using their services at the time.
She was told in no uncertain terms they must push for a £5 minimum monthly subscription, less wasn’t acceptable. Being a broke student she thought this was too much and pushing people to contribute above where they were comfortable just made them hang up so she would agree sums for as little as £1

Unsurprisingly every month she was the top saleswoman there by a country mile. Every single month for the year she worked there she got the bonus vouchers. She rightly reckoned people are mainly sympathetic and do like to help but most couldn’t justify the monthly budget the charities were asking. 

Dumb ass company still stuck with its policy of pushing for a minimum £5 contribution though didn’t they 🙄 😂
 

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