14. Mae Sot-Mae Hong Son: Mountain riding, quiet technical.
495 km; Mae Hong Son Loop, Part 1.
This morning at the hotel, Sterling, an orthopedic surgeon and BMW rider from Virginia, saw me off when I left for one of the longer, and somewhat challenging rides of this tour. Sterling will stay in Mae Sot for a couple of month at the Mae Tao clinic which provides free health care for Burmese refugees; with financial support by a grant from Princeton University Foundation he builds up a prosthetic department at this clinic. Still today, not only Cambodia but also Burma and it's population has to suffer enormously from tens of thousands of non-detonated landmines. This rural clinic is famous, was founded by a Burmese female doctor and even visited once by Barbara Bush.
Sterling told me that he will send this picture to his son in the U.S., who just bought a Harley! What a shame. Well, Harley Davidson also builds nice motorcycles, but they are not suitable for a trip like this.
The road, Highway 108, leaves Mae Sot and is unspectacular for at least the first 1.5 hours. Then the schedule of road qualities is like this:
1. Surface: Asphalt, smooth, markings, curvy, but not extreme; Traffic: Moderate, cars, trucks, scooters; Width: Two full lanes.
2. Surface: Asphalt, some potholes, very curvy; Traffic: Still moderate. Width: Two narrow lanes.
3. Surface: Rock, Compacted sand, very curvy, at times very steep; Traffic: Almost none, some pickup trucks, no cars, no trucks, Width: At times only one lane, or less.
4. Road unites with the so-called "Mae Hong Son Loop", coming from Chiang May in the east, one of the great motorcycle mountain roads in the World. The ride becomes spectacular again, smooth asphalt with only very minor road problems.
At the #3 stage of the road which is located at the center section of the 400 km, 7.5 hour ride (with breaks) route and lasts for about 50 km, finding the "perfect line" between potholes remains entirely theoretical; it is just trying to stay on the bike, riding at low enough speeds and avoiding the holes which appear to be deeper than the bike is tall.
The motorcycle took a beating today, the 'bashplate' (engine guard underneath the oil reservoir) was hitting the surface of the road pretty hard on several occasions.
I assume that this road is all but unusable during rainy season.
The Mae Hong Son loop leads into the remote mountain town of Mae Hong Son (MHS), home to several different tribes, among them the famous Karen, whose female population is not only know for their excellent weaving skills and general craftsmanship, but also for the metal rings stretching their necks in an astonishing fashion.
I will ride the dirt roads to a Karen village tomorrow.
The continuation of the MHS Loop is reserved for when I leave from here to Chiang Mai in a few days.
|Small Wat and stupa, Highway 108.|
|Remote villages tucked away in the forest.|
|I rent a small hut here in Mae Hong Son.|