Tuesday, February 25, 2014

19. The Honeymooners

Guillaume and Laure from Paris

We used the Adventure Rider Forum and message board (advrider.com) to send messages for a while and some three weeks ago, Guillaume sent me a note saying that they are some 300 kilometers behind me when I was on my way down from Laos to Cambodia. I had hoped to meet them in Phnom Penh, but that didn't work out. Now in Kampot, we passed each other on the Bokor Mountain serpentine road, me without noticing them! 

But big motorcycles like ours are rare in this part of the world, so it was only a matter of time that we would meet in person.

In the background Koh Thonsay, the blue waters of the bay of Kep, the mountains are already in Vietnam.

They left Paris in July of 2013, crossed Europe, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, China (in a small guided tour of motorcyclists, using Guillaume's trip planning; individual riders are not allowed in China), India before heading to Myanmar. While I was turned around by the friendly Myanmar border personnel in Mae Sot, Thailand, the two Parisians were the first Western motorcycle in the last 15 years (during the British colonial rule Burma was a top motorcycle destination in Asia) to cross Burma/Myanmar. Prior to their departure from France, Guillaume managed to obtain an endorsement letter and permit by no other than the President, Thein Sein, a former military commander. With the letter -and a military escort, no less- they crossed the "forbidden" country. 

The last part of their trip was pretty much similar to mine, crossing Thailand "the long way round", Laos, and now Cambodia.

Cat painted by somebody in Central Asia on the fairing of the HONDA Africa Twin 700.

The two used for previous, shorter trips in and around Europe (Northern Africa, Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Norway) a BMW GS Adventure motorcycle, similar to the one I have but with a smaller engine, yet decided to buy a HONDA Africa Twin 700cc for this "long haul". The HONDA is simply easier to repair and spare parts are more readily available. On this trip they broke already the aluminum frame of the HONDA, and it was relatively straightforward to find somebody to weld it back together.

Now they are here in Kampot. We explored on the motorcycles the area and the former French, and probably meant to be upscale "suburbs" of Kep, albeit never finished. In the evening we had drinks together and chatted about our trips, the evening was long. 

When we met, Laure looks like she just stepped out of an Air France flight directly from Paris, while in the case of Guillaume one can see the demand of a tour like that on the rider. He said that he also lost a lot of weight, and we made him order a second lunch.

I tried to talk them into staying a little longer here, but they are "on a schedule", not self-imposed but as a result of climate. They will leave from here tomorrow morning, cross the border to Thailand in Koh Kong, ride up to Bangkok and back down south to Port Klang, Selangur, Malaysia. From there the bike and riders are flown to Santiago de Chile, South America. 

If they want to cross the Atacama Desert and go all the way down to Patagonia, then crossing the Andes to Argentina, they better hurry, since winter in the other hemisphere is just around the corner.

We exchanged many stories, some great and not so great experiences we both gathered along our route and I hate to see them leave so early. They are a nice couple. This is one honeymoon trip they both will never forget.

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