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  1. #1
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    Satonic's epic adventure - Retracing the Elephant Trail

    Ok guys this will take me a few days to complete so I'll break it down into days.

    A while back over a few beers we decided on what trips we would take over the riding season. My friend mentioned to me about trying to ride the 'Elephant Trail'. I didn't know a lot about it but hey, it sounded interesting.

    I put a bit of research into it and it turns out the 'Elephant Trail' was one of Thailand's oldest trade routes. It was established around 1831 but was abandoned when roads were built in the 1950s and is now one of the more remote routes in Northern Thailand.

    It runs from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son through the jungles / remote hill tribe villages. About 90% off road.

    Here are the towns it runs through in case any one recognises the names, for the rest of the report unless its where we chose to stay we had no real idea of what town we were in at any time so I won't mention the place names again.

    CHIANG MAI - SAMOENG - KHUN MAE TALAA - DONG SAMUN - MAE CHAEM NOI - WAT CHAN - HUAI TONG - HUAI PU LOEI - HUAI MA DAM - NONG KHAO GLANG - HUAI HEE - NAM HU - MAE HONG SON

    Myself, and 3 friends (A, B & C for the purpose of this report) would start this adventure.

    One of the friends, 'C' lived in Chiang Mai so met us there, Myself and friends 'A' & 'B' live in BKK so we decided to put the bikes on the train from BKK to CM. 'A' & I took the train with the bikes, 'B' jumped on a plane and met us there the following morning.

    All packed up off to the station we went. They were quite strict and wanted to see our passports, original green books for the bikes and some other paper work.

    Riding through a main station on a loud dirt bike in full armour - Only in Thailand!



    Getting ready to load the bikes.



    What? No Ramp?!



    Our beds for the night.



    And off we went just after sunset. Well not for long, an hour or two into the journey the train broke down and we were stuck for a few hours waiting for them to change the locomotive. This would be the first 'event' that added to what was going to go so wrong the following day!

    Now this was no normal train. After getting bored of our seats we went for a wander to the restaurant cart. Couldn't believe what we walked into.... It was a night club! Disco lights, loud banging music, people dancing, smoking and beer flowing everywhere!



    A quick nod to my friend and we sat down, got quite 'merry' and watched the madness continue to grow...



    I have a few more pics of that evening but they are staying locked away

    DAY1

    Following morning with a banging headache breakfast was served.



    'B' had already landed in CM and 'C' had gone to pick him up. Our train was, I believe, meant to arrive at 8.55am. We planned to be on the road no later than 10.

    We arrived (I think) at about 2pm . 'B' & 'C' weren't too happy so we rushed through unloading our bikes, strapping our bags down and hit the road.



    Chiang Mai - Samoeng is a beautiful paved road (well if your not on a dirt bike with full dirt tires) so we made good time there. We would be picking up the dirt trail from Samoeng and hoped not to see tarmac / much civilisation for the next 4/5 days.

    We made a couple of quick stops for photos and to repair a mud guard that had come loose on 'B's bike. He had bought it new a few days before and only had 38km on the clock at the start of this trip.

    The road runs out and the fun begins!



    Luckily all the signs were in English and easy to follow.



    Some of the really steep bits had a bit of concrete to help the trucks in rainy season I guess.



    Now the big bike of the group was great, loving the dirt. He was however running on dual sport tires and on some parts, although we had only been on the trail a couple of hours full off road tires were already called for.



    A little help from friends



    Again confusing signs. We had a Trail Map of North Thailand which proved to be worth its weight in gold. The GPS we had along with us was little help.

    Some of the time it was just a coin toss of whether to turn left or right.



    Now things started to get really interesting. The terrain got very tricky and we found our way into some pretty heavy going stuff. Now we didn't plan on day 1 being a tricky / hard day. I think we must have taken a wrong turn some where as it just got steeper and harder around every bend.



    Still all smiles at the moment That would change pretty soon...



    A bridge? I don't remember seeing any water on the trail map today!



    We found our way into a really tricky part. Steep slippery decent, followed by a steep climb. It was equally as hard either way so 'A' rode forward to see if the path actually continued or came to a stop. He gave us a whistle in the distance so we knew we should push on.



    It was really tough and tight. One bike at a time. 'B' and I waited at the bottom for 'C' to go, after 5 minutes 'B' went, another 5 minutes I went.

    I came across 'C' down on the ground. I figured he had dropped the bike, we dropped them a few times as it was super slippery at times.



    It was a lot more serious than I thought. His clutch had given up on him and destroyed itself. No drive at all, put it into 1st gear and it just revved and revved.



    It started to get a bit worrying at this point. We were in the middle of no where, only carrying about 8 litres of water between us (We wear hydration packs that hold 3 litres each but I had only put in 2 litres earlier in the day as I thought it was only a 2 or 3 hour easy ride on the first day!) and it was starting to get dark.

    We toyed with a few ideas but there was no way we could push the bike up the steep inclines so we would have to leave it in the middle of the jungle and try and find help and come back the following morning. Now 'C' is a big guy and he was wearing road gear so was getting pretty hot by this point. 4 guys, 3 bikes.

    Taking a passenger wasn't an option as we were all fully loaded up with gear and now we had an extra few bags to split between us.



    Did I mention it was getting dark and we had no idea where we was?!

    The only way forward was for 2 bikes to ride up front, someone to hike a strech and someone on a bike to hold up the rear with the head lights on for the walker.



    We swapped roles every 10 minutes or so and hiking in full armour and heavy dirt bike boots, in the dark with little water isn't much fun!



    We were getting no where fast and seemed to just be getting deeper and deeper. On the GPS (which was quite fussy about when and if it wanted to it show us any information) we spotted a track about an hour away and we thought this would be our best option. It was pointless turning back as we were at least 2 hours in and had now been hiking for another 3.

    My water had finished and tempers were becoming short. In the dark I had dropped my bike a few times and the terrain was relentless. Just seemed to be getting harder and harder.



    We stopped for a rest and in the distance we heard the faint sound of a motorbike! I reckon it must be the same feeling as if you had been stuck on a desert island for 106 years and finally saw a boat! We are saved we thought!

    At that moment the night became quite beautiful and we noticed the fire flies that were around us and the thousands of brilliantly bright stars that lit up the sky. The sound got closer and closer and into view came a couple of hill tribe kids, steaming drunk on a old beaten up dirt bike with only a torch as a head light. Not quite the rescue team I'd hoped for!

    'B' who has quite a grasp of the Thai lingo explained the situation and the kids said they would go to seek help. They said their small hill tribe village was only 10-15 minutes away. They would bring back a small scooter for 'C' to ride out of the jungle as hiking was no longer an option. We were all drained.

    We waited about an hour (they said 20 minutes) and I had doubts as to whether they would come back at all.

    We decided that 'B' and I would go forward to the main track and look for help. 'A' and 'C' would wait just in case the kids did turn up.

    After about 30 minutes (about 10.30pm now) we made it to the track. We blocked the track with our bikes so any one driving along was forced to stop. After a while a truck came past and we weren't letting him go! We didn't know where we were, no water and our friends still stuck.

    After a long chat the guy said he would help us, he would gather a group of hill tribe kids/men to help drag the bike out the following day and put it in the back of his truck to the nearest town. I then deceided to leave 'B' with the truck, take off all my baggage and ride back in to give the good news to 'A' and 'C'. I figured I could get 'A' on the back of my bike now and 'C' could ride 'A's bike out.

    About 5 minutes along the track I heard a buzz... I saw the flickering of a flash light - It was the drunk kids! They had returned! Not only had they returned they managed some how to get an old honda wave up to 'C' to ride out! The helpfulness and the hospitality of the people we met along this trip shocked me each day. Really restored my faith in people.



    The rescue team.



    'C' jumped in the back of the truck and we followed to the nearest town. It was freezing cold by now and approaching midnight. Next problem was fuel. We were all running low and the next nearest town was still 30 minutes away. The small town we had just stopped at didn't hold fuel but offered to let us all sleep on the floor of his house overnight. We decided to push forward to the next town as the guy in the truck said we could find a home stay there and I didn't fancy a cold night on the floor after what we had just been through. At least we had water again.

    We made it to the next town and the petrol station was shut. We had no other choice then to bang on his door and wake him up.



    Now the home stay places didn't seem to exist (well if they did we couldn't see) so we thought we would check the GPS and ask for it's help.

    It quite politley told us Pai was only 18 miles away and we figured we could get there by 1 am. We spoke to the truck driver and his 2 friends and decided the best idea was we all go to Pai together, at least we knew we would find beds and food. We would put them up in a resort over night and they could head back down with 'C' in the morning to try to rescue the BMW.

    Put 500 Baht diesel in the truck and off we went. Surprise surprise the GPS was wrong. Pai was over 60km away and we were so cold and tired. Riding along sandy dirt roads and broken tarmac at 1.30 am shivering wasn't part of the plan!

    Eventually we made it, stopped to re-fuel and use the toilet and off to find a resort. It was about 2am now I think and I was so happy to finally got to Pai!

    A lot of the places were shut / full but we finally found a boutique resort that would take us. 1000b a night and a larger 1500b room for the 3 hill tribe guys to share. Must have been quite a random evening for them and I hope they enjoyed the expensive accommodation!



    A quick walk down to 7-11 for some toiletries and to pick up a burger and it was time to hit the sack. What a day.....


    To be continued
    Last edited by Satonic; 23-01-2013 at 04:39 PM.

  2. #2
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    Looks to me as if this epic adventure will now turn into an epic thread.

  3. #3
    Fuck it
    Satonic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CNF55 View Post
    Looks to me as if this epic adventure will now turn into an epic thread.
    Plenty more to come I'll try to complete it over a day or 2.
    Last edited by Satonic; 23-01-2013 at 04:53 PM.

  4. #4
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    Holy shit, you are really spinning a great yarn, thanks so much. Wow..


    The room in Pai leaves a lot to be desired, but again under the circumstances.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by aging one
    The room in Pai leaves a lot to be desired, but again under the circumstances.
    Your right. It had parking for the bikes which was a small plus but at that point AO I would have paid anything they asked

  6. #6
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    Cant green but this looks like a brilliant thread.

  7. #7
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    Got that for ya

  8. #8
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    more..More....MORE.

  9. #9
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    facinating start, green sent

  10. #10
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    Day 2.

    We woke up early, we had to ride the 60km back from Pai to the track to pick up on the trail from where we left off yesterday (At Wat Chan).

    Over a coffee it was decided 'C' would go back with the truck, they would get as many hands together and maybe a small tractor to pull the BMW out. It's a big bike! A price was arranged and the deal would include the truck driver taking the BMW and 'C' back to Chiang Mai in exchange for a number of fresh bank notes. At least that was sorted (It all went semi-ok and they made it back to Chiang Mai later that day).

    Now there were 3.

    On the way to link back up to the trails I felt bad for 'C' not being able to go any further but happy to have had a decent nights sleep, a nice breakfast and a regroup / recheck of the map. We hoped to have a trouble free day and possibly make it to Mae Hong Song.



    Found the trail we needed to be on and everything seemed to be going to plan which was a nice change!



    The fresh air, the scenery and the weather was beautiful.



    We made sure we had full hydration packs with us today, so that made for a few more pit stops.



    The terrain was great at times and we made some good time on these parts. A little dusty but great fun



    We were pretty high up and the view down to the farmer's fields was great. This guy had horses.



    Some parts were a bit tighter but we hadn't come across anything too challenging yet. Often found piles of wood like this -



    And sweet old ladies picking them up like this -



    We did offer her a ride but she refused

    The view was stunning from up there.



    We found a few little places to stop to eat an energy bar / have a drink. We were making good time and if we carried on like this would be in MHS by 3pm!



    Some parts of the trail were cement on the steep parts. Made for some interesting riding!



    The views just got better -



    And better -



    More helpful signs but we were pretty sure we knew near enough where we were.



    We would drop all the way down to the farms we could see from above then climb up again. Wonderful riding.



    Occasionally had to ask the odd buffalo to allow us to pass.



    Some huge bamboo, can you spot me in the pic?



    Now remember I said everything was going to plan? We'll obviously that wouldn't continue all day

    First I noticed a strange noise when hitting bumps, stopped to check it out and the exhaust hanger from the sub frame had snapped. No big deal, nothing a few zip ties from the tool kit we carry couldn't fix.



    'B' had only purchased his bike a few days before the trip and was running it in still. We get about 150-160 km per tank of fuel. This stretch of the adventure was approx 140km and we were told about hafway there would be somewhere we could top up. Well we never did see that and we found out the hard way when running in 'B's bike his range would drop to 128 ish.

    We had run out of fuel. It wasn't as remote as the previous day but it had still be ages since we had seen anyone.

    Once again we heard the buzz of a scooter out in the distance and he stopped to help. He said that there was a gas stop about 10km away and he could afford to give us 2 litres of fuel. Next problem was we had no bottle / pipe to get the fuel! A couple more friends come along and one said he would pop home. 20 minutes later we had a bottle and tube!



    I will add here that every local that helped was compensated very very generously.

    Fuel crisis over and after another maybe hour of riding we had made it to Mae Hong Song!



    Found a place to stay and bumped into a couple of adventure riders on their big BMWs!

    Our trusty trail map that had guided us well today.



    Rooms were basic but at 500 b for aircon, safe bike parking and a lovely outside seating area they were fine.



    We made it at about 5.30pm if I recall correctly. A long hot shower then it was off out for some beer / food. A look back over the map and to choose our trails for the next day!

    To be continued

  11. #11
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    Realy great fantastic thanks for pics , green on its way.

  12. #12
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    Cant green you will keep trying.

  13. #13
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    Looking at the tread pattern on the BMW that guy was being optimistic!

  14. #14
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    Good on ya Satonic! I'd love to give that kind of adventure a go! Some of the best Thai related stories are based around trial over adversity . Goes to show that Thai's will lend a hand when you need it most, good on you for rewarding them for their kindness's too.

  15. #15
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    Excellent thread, really enjoyable read so far. Looking forward to the rest, green sent.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by draco888 View Post
    Looking at the tread pattern on the BMW that guy was being optimistic!

    Nah, the first day was supposed to be all dirt roads and no single track. We obviously went the wrong way. Big Dave is a talented rider and would have made it if his clutch hadn't failed. Next time we go dirt riding he'll take his KTM and leave the Beemer at home!

  17. #17
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    That looks like one heck of an adventure and I am enjoying reading about it very much. Great pictures also! Keep them coming please.

  18. #18
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    That is one hell of a bike trip. Great reading. Keep it coming.

  19. #19
    Gohills flip-flops wearer
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    Great thread.

    Real old style TD thread - well written, well presented, interesting and informative.

    Makes me almost want to get up off my fat arse and do something.

  20. #20
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    Carry on. Great narrative. I'm jealous of your youth and adventurism.

  21. #21
    Gohills flip-flops wearer
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    Quote Originally Posted by Humbert
    I'm jealous of your youth and adventurism
    Don't be.
    I'm not that young.

  22. #22
    splendid and tremendous
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    Quote Originally Posted by withnallstoke
    Real old style TD thread - well written, well presented, interesting and informative.
    Beats the buggery out of that tedious carry on in The Dog House.

    As you were, youth...

  23. #23
    Excitable Boy
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    Absolutely awesome stuff- can't wait for the next chapter.

  24. #24
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    Mega thread mate. Really enjoying it.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by TonyBKK View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by draco888 View Post
    Looking at the tread pattern on the BMW that guy was being optimistic!

    Nah, the first day was supposed to be all dirt roads and no single track. We obviously went the wrong way. Big Dave is a talented rider and would have made it if his clutch hadn't failed. Next time we go dirt riding he'll take his KTM and leave the Beemer at home!
    Nice to see you posting here Tony

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