"The West Surrey Cyclist" - October - December 1995
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The AGM approaches, it is at Pirbright Village Hall on November 5th at 2 pm. If you want to say something here's your chance. It is also a chance to find out about all the behind the scenes activity of the committee, and an opportunity to thank them. They organise many events throughout the year for our enjoyment, for which we should also thank those who have volunteered to marshal on such events.
Do we have any more technical tips? Please let Ed know, Thank you. Remember you can put personal adverts in the Magazine for free, also if you can persuade any local companies to advertise in the magazine (at very reasonable rates) please let Ed know, it all helps the club.
Thanks to Base5 Technical Graphics for the 'Athletics Page', Ed can recommend them for CV's, headed note paper etc, 01483 761197.
Just a few words re; my period as secretary of the DA. It is a job that has in part enabled me to judge what the family of cycling is all about. I'm particularly fascinated by the continuity the lifestyle gives to those I've met who started as youngsters, and is a very good recommendation for anyone about to try cycling for the first time. The committee makes as much forward movement as any I've known, and I would advise any future committee to keep carry forward issues to a minimum.
Our president is also retiring at this years A.G.M. so I ask everyone to give due thought to our replacements.
It is a great pleasure to see that our cycling numbers have increased in the time I have been associated with the DA. - are BOOM times ahead ???
Arundel Two Day Wayfarer Weekend Tour 21st and 22nd October. Contact Chris Juden for details!
Mountain Bike Rides - contact Nigel Mathias 01483 892545
19th January 1996 8.30pm
Photo's of Tatra by Chris Juden.
The mention of slide shows can be off putting to some, remembering having to sit through rolls and rolls of film, with a long interlude while the one slide box was refilled!
These are slide shows with a difference, you can see an area which you may not have been to, learn about it from the presenter. Most people enjoy watching travel shows and planning or dreaming about the next holiday. Admire the scenery and pick up tips for your next trips!
I hope you can find the space to allow me to defend my remote ancestor against the allegation of selling bicycles in un-offroadworthy condition which was implied in Father O'Strom's paper. He was an astute merchant (usually, but see below) and charged what the market would bear. Or in this case a little more, as Richard had initially attempted to pay in paper money issued by the Bank of York (no connection with the present Yorkshire Bank. Ed) which was of course shortly to become worthless. However, the machine was in good condition when sold. Unfortunately the acquisition of bike handling skills was not generally included in the education of a mediaeval monarch and Richard III was no exception to this. The bicycle fell to bits only after Richard had ridden it into the ditch.
In fact the only cycling member of Richard's family was his brother Edward, noted for leading his team to victory in an early season 25 mile time trial on the Great North Road in Barnet in 1471. The machines used in this event were not supplied by Sir Roger, for reasons which readers may find of interest.
The story starts in the last days of the Byzantine Empire where Roger (the knighthood was conferred later) was a leading cycle dealer. Father O'Strom is correct in supposing that the Romans got the idea of the bicycle from the Greeks so it is not surprising that it was developed further in the Eastern (later Byzantine) Empire and not in the Western Empire. Much of the literature on the subject of this development, and all the bicycles, were destroyed in a religious argument even more obscure than that between the Iconoclasts and Iconolaters. Apparently it was held by some that such machines should reflect the nature of God and that bicycles, having only two wheels, not three, denied the divinity of Christ. Tricycles, which presumably would have been theologically acceptable, were quite impractical on Byzantine roads, it was too difficult to dodge the potholes. The only surviving reference is to Archimedes using bicycles with disc wheels in the 3rd century BC. Unlike modern designs, the discs were concave not convex, were silver plated and used on the front wheel not the back. The concave shape gave the wheel builders enormous problems but the machines were a highly mobile and manoeuverable method of focussing the sun's rays on to the Roman ships attacking Syracuse and set fire to many of them. UCI, then under Roman domination, promptly banned disc wheels as too dangerous.
By the mid 15th century the religious dispute had died down and bicycles were tolerated, if not exactly welcomed, by the Church. They had been found extremely useful by the Byzantine army and in the 1453 siege of Constantinople Roger's entire stock was requisitioned in order to allow speedier movement of troops to those parts of the walls under heaviest attack from the Ottoman Turks. Despite this tactical innovation, the city fell and Roger found trading conditions unfavourable under the new rulers. Originally nomadic horsemen from Central Asia, the Ottomans had little interest in bicycles. This was not merely due to prejudice or ignorance, they had tried them some hundred years before in their homeland and had discovered Murad's Law. This states that in any sufficiently large and flat grassland (and the Central Asian steppe certainly qualifies) the wind blows all the time and will be against you in whatever direction you wish to cycle. That this could be true for two cyclists setting off from the same point simultaneously in opposite directions was known to Murad but its scientific explanation had to await Einstein's demonstration that there is no such thing as simultaneity.
The extra taxes levied by the Ottomans on non-Muslim merchants may also have played a part in Roger's decision to leave the city. Whatever the reason, in the next ten years he travelled west, and although the details of his journey are not known, it is likely he visited Italy. This raises the intriguing possibility that the celebrated Leonardo Da Vinci bicycle sketch was not just another of his ideas that he took no further than the sketch but an actual drawing of one of Roger's machines. Eventually Roger met a Norwegian explorer named Thor Leifsson and together they persuaded the King of Norway to finance an expedition to sail across the Atlantic and open up trade with North America. The existence of North America had of course been known to the Norwegians since the time of Thor's ancestor Leif Ericsson but climatic conditions in the succeeding centuries had made trade unprofitable. Thor believed the time was right to re-open the route. He also, and less plausibly, believed that the Ancient Egyptians had sailed from Norway to America in boats made of papyrus reeds and planned to use boats of a similar construction to prove it was possible. Whilst it is true that the Ancient Egyptians would not have found Norway's climate to their liking and would probably have sailed away in reed boats or anything else they could find, there is no evidence they ever reached Norway in the first place. Fortunately for Roger and the rest of the expedition, Thor was unable to put his theory to the test, as papyrus reeds were not to be found within a thousand miles of the fjord where the ships were being constructed. Instead, he had to use a more conventional 5 - 3 - 1 timber frame construction, that is 5 parts pine, 3 parts birch, 1 part oak.
The expedition set sail in 1468 and had called at Shetland and Iceland before being blown off course by a storm. Roger attempted to determine their longitude using the clock function of the cycle comptometers on his stock but these were insufficiently accurate for the task and also not waterproof. In its subsequent wanderings the fleet found Bermuda but failed to spot the opportunity in the disaster movie business and sailed on in search of better things. Norwegian naval regulations forbade the smoking of cigars on wooden ships so they sailed round Cuba and eventually landed in what is now Colombia. Here Roger discovered that the coffee beans he had stolen from the Turks grew better than they did in their native Arabia.
Whilst waiting for the coffee crop to ripen they journeyed south overland and encountered the Inca Empire. This is where Roger made his big mistake. He sold the Great Inca, Tupac Yupanqi, his entire stock of machines on the claim that they would speed imperial communications. They did, but usually downward, as Roger's machines were totally unsuited to being ridden across rope bridges and several imperial couriers ended up at the bottom of very deep ravines. Not unnaturally, Tupac was very displeased and Roger, Thor and the rest of the party barely escaped with their lives. The experience also left its mark on the Incas, it was the reason they were still not using wheeled transport 60 years later when the Spanish conquistadores arrived.
Fortunately the Inca Empire did not extend as far north as the Caribbean so the expedition was able to harvest the coffee and thus show a profit. On their return home, in 1474, Thor and Roger were knighted by the King of Norway, but Roger decided to move on. He eventually settled in the Midlands of England and was one of the founder members of Leicester Forest CC. Arriving in England in 1476, he was too late to equip Edward IV's time trial team but in good time to provide Richard III with a bicycle after Bosworth.
(The author wishes to point out that this article was written before press reports of Thor Heyerdahl's theory concerning Columbus's participation in a joint Danish-Portuguese expedition to Iceland in 1476)
THE FIRST LEG - after a sweltering day at work, was to my sister's house in Wooburn Green. I wasn't feeling at my fittest and was not too impressed when my sister's idea of hospitality turned out to be pointing the way to the chip shop and providing a plate.
THE SECOND LEG, on Saturday was Wooburn Green to Milton Keynes, the fabled city where roundabouts go to die. The first couple of hills had me grovelling a bit, and I felt less than optimistic about the whole idea, but a steady rhythm soon established itself, and I regained my sense of enjoyment and tranquillity. A series of delightful single track roads around Penn and Missenden added to this feeling, - they tended to have grass growing along the middle, like an untidy central parting, and were blissfully quiet. They were also not in the best of repair, but somehow even the potholes were suffused with rustic charm. Thanks to consulting the map so often that I started worrying about Repetitive Strain Injury, I spent very little time on main roads. Entering familiar territory was very satisfying, as it meant I could sail blissfully across junctions without consulting 165 - never, I suspect, has Great Brickhill been greeted with such an hysterical whoop of joy. The visual highlights of this ride were a huge ship's figurehead in the village of The Lee, which leapt out at me from behind a hedge and made me think I was hallucinating, and the amazing view from Aston Hill. It was a modest ride by most standards, but I was embarrassingly proud to have cycled up a whole Landranger and a bit.
SUNDAY was a Rest Day, although I wasn't interviewed by Phil Ligget.
THE THIRD LEG was from Milton Keynes to Leicester, and this proved the least enjoyable, thanks largely to a disastrous loss of direction around Great Billing, which plunged me into the nightmare that is the outskirts of Northampton, where huge A roads and roundabouts on top of hills deliver ranks of speeding car-drivers intent on the death of cyclists. If only I had bought some more Landrangers from some bookshop or other. I was very thankful to get back into the lanes, although I was getting extremely tired going into a nagging headwind, and I staggered with gratitude into Market Harborough to devour a sandwich, a huge piece of cake and a coffee at a very nice tea room (grid reference available on request). I stuck to the main road into Leicester from there, and managed to get to my friend's house with only one near-death incident.
INTERLUDE ********* dyspeptically large Indian meal and far too much wine.
THE FIFTH LEG, on Tuesday, was Leicester to Wootton (near Bedford). This was a lovely wind-assisted ride, threaded together by more single track roads, which were in significantly better condition than their Southern counterparts. The route was much better, and I waved a derisive hand in the vague direction of Great Billing as I sauntered through the lanes.
INTERLUDE ********* enough pints of Guinness to drown a small Irish village.
WEDNESDAY, THE SIXTH LEG, was the longest bit, from Wootton to Woking. It went well, despite some apprehension about the distance and also despite the headwind, which decided that I had been missing it dreadfully. Again, I started off wearily but soon got into my stride, stopping regularly for food and drinking Volvic water shareholders into undreamt of wealth. For route fetishists, I went via Milton Bryant, Hockliffe, Ivinghoe, Aldbury, Wiggington, Chesham and Beaconsfield, before retracing my first ride via Wooburn Green back into Woking. The hill up into Wiggington was gorgeous, a narrow climb through a dark tunnel of trees, and the long wooded descent from there into Chesham was exhilerating. The strangest thing about this last day was that it revealed to me the existence of many delightful places and roads that had lain undiscovered when I lived around Bedford. As the old Maltese proverb says, 'get the map out and be adventurous, you lazy git.'
On the whole, it was a great few days - the weather was consistently warm, although only the last day was sunny throughout, I ate enough bananas to leave me with a probably lifelong distaste for them, and I was rained on for about ten minutes (around Newport Pagnell, which seemed appropriate, somehow). It has certainly given me the appetite for some similar expeditions in the future - at the moment I tend to go for short, unambitious rides - although I don't think I'll ever attain Audax standards.
May I just end by thanking all the Woking Wayfarers for welcoming me into the group with such friendliness, and for revealing so many lovely places, many of which serve coffee and cakes.
Our tour Rep., a Geordie, welcomed us with a brief chat and a free glass of wine!
FRIDAY 16th We looked at our bikes, George gave us a long demonstration on how to mend punctures, and then helped us adjust the bikes where necessary. The bikes were Dawes Mean Streets on/off road with a single chainwheel 5-speed (low 48/28). We looked around the town in the morning and took a local spin in the afternoon with M taking a swim in the Hotel pool on return.
SAT. 17th Villereal to Tombeboeuf. A super day with a breeze. The countryside was lush with maize, tobacco and wheat fields and orchards of plum, apple, walnut, hazelnut, and strawberries and vineyards everywhere. We got into conversation with a field worker and a French lady on a bicycle (M's schoolday French returning rapidly) and after much pointing and gesticulating we set off to meet an English couple who lived near the lady. After setting her basket down at the foot of a cherry tree, which I noticed had a ladder up it, she led us down a grass track to meet Albert and Sheila. We were surprised to hear that they came from Richmond and were on the market to return to the U.K. for health reasons. They had been in France for eight years and had been trying to sell for the last year but no one was coming to look. Hopefully our chat in English cheered them up as Sheila spoke very little French.
SUNDAY 18th A warm, cloudy, skin burning day. I'm not used to "sunblock" yet - who thinks of these names? We did the odd few kilometers on this our first rest day and strolled around the village. After dinner, and with dark coming on and the sky now "full of stars" as Mr. Clarke would say, the only sounds were courting bullfrogs and the occasional passing car.
MONDAY 19th Tombeboeuf to Allemans du Dropt. It is now the afternoon and I am in the Churchgrounds at Miramont. The church stonework provides cooling for the back.
Last evening, on retiring, M insisted on opening the windows and shutters (all chambers have large folding wooden shutters) for what fresh air there was on the sultry night. You see the Lady's bloodline hails from the Yorkshire Dales where fresh air, and I mean real fresh air, is not one lifes little mysteries. Anyway, the French wildlife found me sleeping topless and uncovered and today I'm covered in mosquito bites!! (So am I---M)
TUESDAY 20th Another rest day and it's warm and cloudy again. Now using the "sunblock"!! The Hotel L'Etape Gascogne has top marks so far. We have reservations about the food but last evening had a superb buffet entre and we could watch the Boulle being played whilst we ate. It's mid day now and we are in Duras eating an apple turnover under the arches of the market place whilst watching a superb flying display by the swifts and housemartins who have their nests against the beams of the arches, almost within touching distance. From the point of view of our night time comfort these flycatchers are not working hard enough!
WEDNESDAY 21st Allemans du Dropt to Saussignac to the Hotel Le Relais de Saussignac. We stopped at Lunas at mid day at the Cafe Epicerie for coffee and a rest. The church clock struck twelve more than once. I have assumed that the first 12 wakes people up to properly hear the second 12.
We are both deep country people and are loving the space and freedom from traffic and people that this tour is providing. The terrain is undulating, nothing as severe as Coombe Bottom, but I'm pushing a lot as we have full loads. M is managing the moving on map reading while I do the rest days.
We have noticed that French country people leave their car door open and engine running whilst they shop or visit. We were off our bikes and strolling around Loubes Bernac and as we approached one such battered and unwashed Citroen its elderly lady driver stalled it on start off, and no way would it start again. As we strolled closer she sensed some assistance and began to push it up a slight slope. Neither of us could make much headway until two Frenchmen joined in and we got her to the downhill part of the village. Away she went still using the starter motor........ The dozy part of the day was near and we wondered if she found any more help!
THURSDAY 22nd Saussignac to Lalinde. Hotel La Forge. An excellent lead by M today. She chose the green route north of the Dordogne river valley (avoiding Bergerac) where there was plenty of trees and shade. We went along some very quiet lanes and passed some superb isolated properties arriving at Lalinde at 7pm. A 9 hour day but most enjoyable. La Forge is again an old hotel, in the centre of the town, with much passing traffic. There are very few non French cars on the road.
My vegetarian meal tonight was very good and we ate with the only other couple on the same tour. They had taken the river road and had arrived at 4pm. M says that we did make an unleaderlike and unintended diversion due to minus sign posts on country junctions. The usual signpost being black lettering on white painted boards two feet off the ground, indicating the direction of the next village.
M is practising her French on some of the workers but the men will not speak to her when she is on her own, up front, (which is often!) It's OK if I have hove into sight or we've stopped on a downhill run. The impression given first sight is of old world charm or discretion anyway. (No comments, please ....M)
SATURDAY 23rd Lalinde to Villereal and the Hostellerie Du Lac via Issigeac and Casstillonnes. This is now the wide open sunbaked flat land south of the river. After a long and arduous push, for me, out of the Dordogne valley I got passed by a German tourist on an old upright with a chaincase but he had a "Grandad" gear somewhere!
M bought some small gifts from a pottery in the back of beyond where the lady in charge had her sleep disturbed as she wasn't expecting any customers. These mad English dashing about in the afternoon sun!
Issigeac is an old world town and was busy with tourists so we moved on into the countryside to eventually find Castillonnes perched on a hill and a quite superb French town it is. We sat outside the cafe, in the square, and both agreed this to be the place to see more of one day.
The panniers have back pockets with a flap and ties and I have carried a Vin Rouge for three days. A gift from a "Degustation" in Loubes Bernac and destined for Les and Marion Houlton's table. I have no previous experience and just hope that it travels well!
Food. Now what can I say? Mostly light dishes with exotic sauces for unexercised people who take ample aperitif beforehand. Cycling through a land of plenty and feeding on meals almost devoid of vegetables and nuts seems strange. I had two halves of walnut the whole week but had passed acres of this years crop laden with fruit. The Hotel meals were for rich, non cycling, tourists; I'm sure Susi got a good discount!
Back at the Hostellerie Du Lac on the Saturday we met "Susi" people from other routes.
On the Sunday flight M had a wing seat on the Boeing 737/200 and I was able to watch the air brakes come out on our approach to Gatwick. After the nose wheel is down the Retro brakes drop across the engine exhausts.
It was a marvelous holiday but I feel that we shouldn't have joined the EEC until we can all speak French!
Good touring, Harry Statham June 1995
COMMENTS FROM M.
Harry had to chase me up a hill!! He said "turn left" then found his mistake!
On Tuesday morning while taking the bikes out of the garage my bungee strap fixed itself to Harry's shorts!!
Also on Tuesday we both thought that the other was holding my bike and went to get the camera and the bike fell into the ditch!.
We visited the Berticot winery where Harry had a taste. When we left we both came out on the wrong side of the road!
The French roads are superb for cycling. So traffic free and peaceful. It was the best holiday that we have ever had.
This is an article found in the boys' comic "Chums" from January 18th 1893 (price one penny). It has been reproduced, along with the original drawings, spelling and punctuation, as best as modern methods permit.
The novice or faddist who cannot find something to fulfil his ideal of what a cycle should be must be indeed hard to please. A visit to the late Stanley Show was enough to thoroughly bewilder and confuse anyone, excepting perhaps a hardened critic who had been through the fire every year since the opening venture of the Stanley Club many years ago; but I will endeavour, in the short space allowed by the editor, to sum up, to the best of my ability, the improvements and novelties I saw there, and sift out the pure metal from the dross.
||To commence with, a few words on the construction of machines will, doubtless, be admissible. It may not be known to all that a cycle is built up from short lengths of tube brazed into connecting sockets - or, as they are technically known, lugs. These lugs can be made from either steel forgings or malleable iron castings. The former are far the best, but as they are much more expensive to machine-up I regret to say that the cored castings are coming largely into use, and on some of the cheapest machines I have seen the whole front forks, crown, and centre tube cast up in one piece, foot-rests and all. This latter is a most reprehensible piece of business, and the people who use such stuff are not worthy of the name of cycle-makers. In my opinion the only place in which malleable iron is admissible is for the crank axle bracket, which from its size and numerous connections is not likely to be subjected to sufficient strain to cause a fracture. Several makers of sundries had aluminium parts on show. These were wonderfully light, but as no means are at present known of soldering this metal sufficiently strong for cycle work, they were unfortunately, like white elephants, comparatively useless. One French firm certainly showed a complete machine constructed of this metal, but the joints were screwed up with tapered nuts - an ingenious method of getting out of the difficulty, but one which I should not care personally to trust to. At present the only serviceable parts that can be constructed of it appear to be hubs, mudguards, stays, and the like, where screw connections can be used and excessive strength is not wanted. While on the subject of cycle construction I must put in a word of praise for the splendid exhibits of the Hall Manufacturing Company and Messrs. Perry and Co. These firms make a speciality of parts for the use of the trade, and if the makers who use them only showed as much skill in putting them together as is displayed in the construction, riders would not have much reason to complain. Messrs. Smith and Sons, of Saltley, also showed a splendid assortment of steel forgings, which, when compared with malleable iron castings, are as different as broad cloth and shoddy.|
|Among other sundries which go so far to make up the difference between
comfort and worry in cycling, must be mentioned "Carter's Gear-case."
This is undoubtedly the finest improvement, next to the pneumatic tire,
yet added to the rear-driver, and I consider no machine complete without
it. It reduces the wear of the chain to almost nil, saves all trouble
of oiling it, and in wet weather is worth two miles an hour more than a
naked chain. Another good thing that has been wanted since the safety
became the fashionable mount, is a dustproof pedal, and that of Messrs.
Lancaster Bros. appears perfect. The writer intends to use no other
this coming season.
Of lamps there were many varieties, all more or less on the lines of the Holophote, introduced by Messrs. Lucas. This is undoubtedly the correct plan, and the writer has a miniature Bell Rock which, although under a pound in weight, gives more light than any he has ever possessed before, many of which weigh treble as much. Messrs. Salisbury's latest on this plan is a gem.
||Tires were present in legions, and so many were excellent that to single
them out would be invidious. Perhaps if I mention that one of Messrs.
Machintosh's carried me through all last season over very bad roads without
a single puncture, it will show how little a rider has to fear in this
direction. The only secret is to keep the tire pumped up hard, and
for those to whom cash is not an object a couple of the neat little pressure
gauges sold by the Hall Manufacturing Company will be a welcome addition.
The price is 7s 6d each [37.5p].
The two-speed gear for rear-drivers, recently introduced by the Cycle Gear Company, is certainly the best one brought out, and if all are constructed with the same care as the one shown nothing better can be wished for. As a practical engineer, I can vouch for the splendid workmanship displayed on this neat appliance, which gives a rider the option of a big gear for the level with the advantage of an instantaneous change to a low one on meeting a hill or other piece of hard going. Providing this invention can be worked in conjunction with a chain-case it will fulfill a long-felt want.
|Before proceeding to deal with the machines shown, one or two startling
novelties demand attention. One of these, the "Raven" is an eye-opener.
In these days of monstrosities it is difficult to say what will and what
will not "catch on" with the public. Certainly the "Raven" is no
worse than many specimens of front-driving safeties, and may have good
points; but without a trial I feel doubtful of its success.
Our old friend the disc wheel is still among us in an improved form. Its appearance is peculiar, like unto a steam roller, or the wheels of the Roman chariots so admirably depicted in "The Doings of Julius Caesar in Britain" in "CHUMS." I much doubt if it is any improvement on a spoke wheel, and should think that it would cut a sorry figure after a collision or blow from a hard object, which in the case of a ordinary wheel would only cause the loss of a spoke or two. One real advantage it certainly has is the ease with which it can be kept clean.
||The air wheel is a decided innovation. It is nothing less than
an inflated bag of india-rubber and canvas, compressed in the middle by
two plates. Without a trial I decline to express an opinion on this
With regard to the machines shown, they may be summed up into rear-drivers and front-drivers, the latter being again subdivided into geared ordinaries and safeties. Although I have spent the best part of my cycling career on an ordinary, I regret to say that I consider the rear-driver, when fitted with a gear-case, undoubtedly the superior machine, and although the front-driving safety has proved its speed on level roads, I still prefer the Rover type for comfort and ease of travelling. However, as many will be induced to give the front-drivers a trial, and possibly prefer it to the other pattern, it must be considered. The great thing in its construction is the gear, and so far the Crypto is the oldest and the favourite. It has proved its worth, and the new-corners have yet to be tried; but from a mechanical point of view, the absence of the pinions in the gears introduced by the Hall Company, the Centric, and another - the name of which I have forgotten - seems an advantage.
Of rear-drivers all the makers had a good show, Messrs. Trigwell and Co. and the Whitworth Company having magnificent exhibits. Several makers introduced chainless safeties of this class, the "Loco," driven by a cog-wheel and connecting rods, being the most ingenious. One maker reverted to the old plan as used on the ancient "Orbi" cycle, of a bevel wheel gear, but I doubt if any of these will be able to hold its own with a chain properly protected from the mud and dust.
Chas. Farndon, of 7, Castle Street,To be able to give the prize without question to so young a reader of "CHUMS" is a great satisfaction to me; and I may say that the winner has sent me his well thumbed diary wherein day by day is written the record of his work. He will now reap the reward of a fine safety by Messrs. Marriott & Cooper, and I hope he will ride many another thousand miles on the machine which is my pleasure to send him.
In this competition I award Honourable Mention to
Mr. H. C. Sayer, of Warrington Road,He made a capital tour from Ipswich to Bangor, but the winner's record is so strong that this tour had to take second place.
West Surrey D.A.
I came across John Whatmore having lunch with a rambling group at the 'Cumberland Arms' at Henley (the Sussex one). John was DA Secretary circa 1980. He still does a little cycling, but today's traffic density puts him off.
Approaching tea-time, a car overtook me and then stopped. Out jumped Jeremy Dowling, and we chatted for quite a while. He is still doing plenty of cycling, but mainly with various Hampshire groups, as he is now living and working in Alton.
Both wished to be remembered to those DA members who remember them.
1. President George Alesbury called the meeting to order and read the notice convening the meeting. There were 29 people present.
Harold Coleman then reminded members about the DA Dinner on 26th November 1994 at the YMCA in Guildford
2. George Alesbury was proposed as Chairman for the meeting by Keith Parfitt and seconded by Roy Banks.
3. Apologies for absence were received from George Porter, David Nightingale and Marguerite Statham.
4. Minutes of the 1993 AGM were distributed to those present. These were taken as read. Proposed by Chris Jeggo and seconded by Harold Coleman.
5. Copies of the Annual Report had also been distributed.
Matters arising from the report.
Total membership numbers had been omitted. This was 853 for the
DA Badges should read Gold 7, Silver 5, Bronze 3.
Gill Norris had also won a Bronze medal.
Chris Juden will possibly take over the Mountain Bike rides.
David Nightingale was thanked by George Alesbury and congratulated by Keith Parfitt for many years good work as Editor of the West Surrey DA Magazine.
The Annual Report was then accepted. Proposed by Chris Jeggo and seconded by Chris Juden.
6. Annual Accounts. These were not available for general
distribution so it was agreed that they would be printed in the January
'95 DA Magazine.
45 people had attended the DA Dinner in '93 with a loss of £28.
It was proposed by Harold Coleman and seconded by John Widley that the accounts should be studied at the next committee meeting.
7. Election of Officers and Committee.
a) President George Alesbury was proposed by Marguerite Statham and seconded by Harry Statham and elected unopposed. George said that he was willing for one more year.
b) Hon. Secretary. Harry Statham was proposed by Chris Jeggo and seconded by Harold Coleman and elected unopposed.
c) Hon. Treasurer. Keith Parfitt was proposed by Robert Page and seconded by Colin Kent and elected unopposed.
d) Hon. Runs Secretary. Roger Philo was proposed by Heidi Powell and seconded by Gill Norris and elected unopposed.
e) Committee. Harold Coleman was proposed by Roy Banks and seconded by Keith Parfitt; Roy Banks was proposed by Joan Robinson and seconded by Harry Statham; Rory Fenner was proposed by Joan Robinson and seconded by Ken Bolingbroke; Ken Bolingbroke was proposed by Roy Banks and seconded by Chris Jeggo; David Pinkess was proposed by Roy Banks and seconded by Laurie Robinson
All the above were elected unopposed.
8. Election of other positions.
a) Vice Presidents. As now, Les Warner and Roy Richardson were proposed by Chris Jeggo and seconded by Bob Crosby and elected unopposed.
b) Hon. Auditor. Keith to ask Mike Soubry.
c) Magazine Editor. David Nightingale was proposed by Laurie Robinson and seconded by Harold Coleman and elected unopposed.
Joan Robinson, Chris Jeggo and Roger Philo to help with the typing.
d) Archivist. Keith Parfitt to continue. Roy Banks requested that a list of "what's available" should be printed, possibly in the DA Magazine.
9. Any Other Business.
a) Group Leaders for 1994/5
Hard Riders: Roger Philo. Intermediates: Bob
Wayfarers Woking: David Nightingale. Cranleigh: Keith Parfitt. Guildford and Godalming: David and Claudia Whittle and Helen and Chris Juden. Mid week: Marguerite Statham. Farnham CRN: Anne Neale. Juniors: Claire Bright. Thursday evenings: Martin Taplin from CTC; Chris Jeggo to a Pub.
b) Motion 1 The word "Southern" be eliminated from the Sunday Wayfarers and that town names be used instead. The present groups would then become the "Guildford and Godalming Wayfarers" and the "Cranleigh Wayfarers". Proposed by Marguerite Statham and seconded by David Nightingale.
It was proposed by Chris Jeggo (error in the minutes - this should be Chris Juden) and seconded by Roger Philo that Cranleigh be known as "Cranleigh Villages CTC" and Guildford and Godalming be known as "Guildford and Godalming CTC"
Motion 2. The requirement for full length mudguards on bikes for DA Benstead Cup events be dropped. Proposed by Roger Philo and seconded by Ian Parker.
The proposition was defeated.
Motion 3. a) That the Sunday Attendance Competition
be abolished. Proposed by Chris Jeggo and seconded by Joan Robinson
b) (Only to be considered if a) is defeated) That points in the Sunday Attendance Competition be awarded for participation in rides and events organised by W. Surrey DA only. Proposed by Chris Jeggo and seconded by David Pinkess.
c) (Only to be considered if a) is defeated) That points in the Sunday Attendance Competition be awarded on the following basis: 1 point for riding from the start of the run to the coffee stop, 1 point for riding from coffee to lunch, and 1 point for riding from lunch to tea. Proposed by Chris Jeggo and seconded by David Pinkess.
a) was defeated. b) was carried. c) was defeated.
Motion 4. That the finish of the 50 mile Reliability Ride be within 2 miles of the start. Proposed by Chris Jeggo and seconded by Marguerite Statham
The motion was defeated.
Motion 5. That a Trophy be awarded to the highest placed Veteran (over 50 yrs.) in the Benstead Cup Competition. Proposed by the Committee.
The motion was accepted.
Bill Squirrell said that if the DA is using CTC headed paper it should make sure that it has the up to date information on it.
Chris Jeggo proposed and Paddy Shea seconded that next years AGM be held later in the day. This was defeated. Keith Parfitt suggested 11am but this was also defeated. The Committee will consider the matter further.
Harold Coleman asked that the Group Leaders talk about road discipline in their groups. George Alesbury suggested that the Committee produce an article for the DA Magazine
Harold Coleman gave a vote of thanks to the President; Chris Jeggo gave a vote of thanks to the retiring Committee and the Ladies were thanked for doing the tea.
THE MEETING CLOSED AT 16.11
The Queensway tunnel was for cyclists only that day. Those of us who had ridden through before went gently knowing that the uphill bit was very, very long - newcomers went at it like a bull at a gate! And there was more uphill to come as we pedalled from Rock Ferry towards Higher Bebington. But the beautiful Lever Causeway gave us time to recover before we crossed Wirral through Storeton and Barnston to the abrupt dog-leg turn at Gayton roundabout.
After the maelstrom of the Clatterbridge roundabouts peace returned once again on the way to Willaston (panic in the village - should we bear left or turn right?) and then to Hooton. The A41 seemed interminable - as it always does - but the ride's half way mark, at the Countess of Chester Health Park, was soon reached.
After half an hour's rest for drinks, sandwiches and whatever, your scribe was off again at 10.30 heading for the Eureka cafe. (Isn't the A540 boring, too - but then there's no viable alternative! And how odd it was to note from now on that the excellent AA signs were still saying 'Liverpool to Chester...').
Tranquillity returned once more as we journeyed through the beautiful villages of Puddington and Burton, and on to Neston. Then cross country to the dreadful Clatterbridge again (where the refreshment van was just unloading its wares!) followed by the taxing climb back up to Higher Bebington.
What a joy to freewheel much of the way down into Birkenhead (should we have forked left or right at Prenton?) but then of course energy needed conserving for the tunnel! Very eerie it was this time too because - in contrast to the pandemonium of the outbound journey - chance ordained that your scribe rode through on the return journey with no-one else in sight for most of the time! A police car with its lights flashing blue directed us up the dock exit, and then it wasn't far to the Queens' Dock again for our certificates and freebie drinks to round off the 57 mile ride. Finally, it was back to James Street for the 12.43 train home.
About 80 riders did the return journey more quickly than this with the rest arriving back during the afternoon, but - from all of us - 'well done, and thanks, to everyone concerned for putting together a most enjoyable outing'.
Our Northern Correspondent
PETER & GILL NORRIS
PEDAL THROUGH THAILAND
Excerpts from Peter's diary about the trip.September 1991
After a rather long hold up at passport control in Bangkok Airport we eventually hit the road with our laden cycles at around 10pm. It was a 15 mile cycle to a pre booked hotel in the city. We had relatively little trouble finding the place and arrived there just after 12.30am. Needless to say we went straight to bed.
Day 2 --- This air conditioned room with tv and en-suite bathroom cost us 550 Baht (£22). Pretty good value, but we wanted something a little less posh and so loaded up the bikes and rode about the city to see what we could find. For 350 Baht we obtained a room smack in the middle of town. It had air conditioning, a bathroom and was very clean and tidy.
Cycling in the city of Bangkok could not be described as relaxing, in fact it is really rather stressful. According to statistics 800 new cars are registered in Bangkok every day. It claims to have the worst traffic congestion of any city in the world. Average traffic speed can be as low as 5kph in the centre. After 20 minutes of cycling in the city I would have a head ache and my throat would burn from the exhaust fumes. Pollution is so bad in Bangkok that police officers who direct traffic wear masks and often take breaths of oxygen from cylinders at the roadside.
After visiting a large shopping complex just across the road from our room we then caught a Tuk Tuk to the Snake Farm. A Tuk Tuk is basically a motorised trike and to be passenger in one of these is fun. They zip about the city with skilled and daring drivers. Probably the fastest means of motorised transport in the city.
The Snake Farm was interesting. We watched handlers tease deadly poisonous snakes, were educated in how snake bite insulin is produced and Gill had the dubious pleasure of a close encounter with a python (it was draped over her shoulders). All of the handlers at the Snake Farm had been bitten at least once! We walked the 2 miles back to our accommodation picking up food and water along the way. (Bottled water 11p a ltr)
Day 3 --- We packed a lot of sightseeing in today. Started with The Grand Palace, a fabulous city within a city with opulent spires, banquet halls and gateways. Royal, religious and government buildings grouped together inside a crenellated white wall over a mile long. At the Wat Pho Temple, famous for its reclining Buddha, there were many monks present draped in their orange robes.
We spent most of the afternoon on an exciting long tail boat tour. The "hang yaos" as the locals call them are narrow, shallow draft 30-footers, powered by noisy truck engines. Propellers are mounted on the end of a long swivelling drive shaft - hence the name "long tailed boats".
Our pilot steered us along the busy Chao Phya River, at times reaching frightening speed. He pulled up at the Royal Barge shed and patiently waited as we took our time admiring the ceremonial craft inside. The monarch's boats were low and long with elaborate red and gold decorations and striking prows. One of the vessels is propelled by 50 oarsmen.
Next on our "long boat" tour we cruised along quiet canals where we saw how much of the city's life still revolved around the waterways. Crowded old stilt houses stood alongside grand new homes with gardens and fountains. There were factories and shipyards, floating vegetable markets and snack bars, people bathing in muddy water and others hanging out laundry.
We rounded the day off with a visit to "The Temple Of The Dawn". Climbing the steep steps to the top of the temple gave us a vista of the city.
Day 4 --- On our bikes it took us two hours to find a route out of Bangkok. We were confused by all the one way streets and troubled by the traffic. Eventually out of the city on Highway 35 heading south west, it was like a breath of fresh air, until we hit the road works. Many sections of the highway were jammed with vehicles, the road often turning into a quagmire. For what seemed like miles we squeezed down the inside of traffic, negotiating thick mud and murky water which sometimes hid deep holes. When the road became normal again we began to relax and were able to observe the scenery as we glided along.
Arriving in Samut Sakhon after 32 miles, the first thing we did before settling into our hotel room was to take the cycles out the back of the hotel and wash all the mud off. Later on we walked the half mile into town to forage for food. Foodstuffs here were incredibly cheap compared to Bangkok. We bought pineapple, bananas, bread and jam. On the way back to the hotel the sky opened up on us with warm rain.
Day 5 --- Today we reach the end of Hgwy 35 and join Hgwy 4 heading South. We pass several shrimp farms on route and also the stomach turning spectacle of a couple of decomposing dog carcasses by the side of the road. It seems dogs are left to roam freely, some are obviously without homes and do not look very healthy or cared for.
After 60 miles we reach Phetchaburi which is labelled on our map as being an interesting town. On arrival we encountered a monkey colony playing carelessly on the road at the base of a forested hill. They were not at all perturbed by the hustle and bustle around them.
After settling into accommodation, we found a food house and had an enjoyable meal of omelete, rice and vegetables. When browsing the shops of this small town, it was hard to find food of any substance. It seemed that the trade here was based on the nearby WAT PHRA SRIRATANA MAHATHAT - a monastery and temple complex. Many traders sell elaborate morsels for use as temple offerings, such as multi-coloured icing, cakes, fruits, dried bananas etc. These morsels were designed to look attractive and were not very palatable.
We did eventually find some fresh bread rolls and bananas. We walked down to where the monkeys were and watched them being fed by a woman. As we stood on the pavement quite close to the monkeys, some were hanging on the branches above our heads. We could not help wincing as some of them in their excitement ran out onto the road and were narrowly missed by vehicles coming around the corner.
Day 6 --- 45 miles further on, we stay at Hua Hin, a tourist's delight. This resort is said to be a favourite of the Thai royal family. The long white beach is the prime attraction. Although it was a short day of cycling, it was a rather tiring one as we were cycling on a soft shoulder by the road which required extra effort. This was in order to avoid the "killer buses". Numerous buses would pass us from both directions, narrowly missing us by inches.
We spend a relaxing afternoon on the beach and in the evening dine out at one of the many food houses in the town. Our room for the night is cooled by a ceiling fan mounted above the bed.
Day 7&8 --- 65 miles to Prachuap Khiri Khan. We spend an extra day here to rest.
This town has a large market which amongst other things, trades mostly in fish. Needless to say no matter where you go in the town, you cannot escape the fishy odour. Fishing is obviously an important source of income for all coastal towns in Thailand.
While sitting on the beach, we were approached by a polite and gentle Thai man. He showed us an exercise book with references by tourists from all over the world who had met him and had used his services. He did not ask us for money and did not attempt to impose his services as a guide upon us. He let us know that should we wish for one, he was available. When he saw that we did not want a guide, he commented on the weather, shook our hands and said goodbye. Past experiences during cycle touring has caused us to be cautious and almost apprehensive when being approached by anyone in any country.
Day 9 --- Night fell upon us before we could find any proper accommodation. A result of us being perhaps a little too adventurous and endeavouring to explore a route off the main highway.
The plan was to spend the night at a small town named Ban Saphan Noi. The minor road we were on turned to dirt which slowed our progress. Then when it rained the road turned to mud which brought us down to a snail's pace. Heading West we eventually come to Ban Saphan (not Ban Saphan Noi ) and then turn South to follow a similar road to Ban Saphan Noi.
There was no accommodation in Ban Saphan Noi. The place consisted of a series of rickety shacks lined along either side of the muddy road. The scene resembled a town set in a cowboy movie on a rainy day (without the cowboys and wagons).
We were told that the nearest accommodation was 12 miles back in Ban Saphan. At least that is what we think we were told. When communicating with a phrase book things are not always understood in a black and white fashion. The idea of retracing our tyre prints 12 miles through mud did not appeal to us. Instead we pushed onward for 5 miles through mud to reach main Highway 4.
It was almost dark when we hit the highway. We donned our reflectives and battery lights but still felt very vulnerable on the scarcely lit road.
We stopped at a roadside shack and asked the occupants about the whereabouts of a hotel, hopeful that they would take pity on us and offer us shelter. Two blokes with beer on their breath waved us on to Chumphon, 50 miles further south.
We cycled on for another mile or two. At this stage we were both wet, tired and hungry so when coming upon an abandoned shack I decided to explore the possibility of spending the night in it.
Gillian held my bike while I walked over through the ankle high grass to check it out. I stopped in my tracks when spotting something long slithering just a few steps in front of me. A snake!
Somebody had recently told me that in Thailand some two and a half thousand people become victim of snake bite every year. Not wishing to be included in that statistic I promptly retraced my steps and pedaled off.
Our desire for food soon stopped us again at a roadside food shack. We bought doughnuts and drinks and sat at a table under a leaky shelter. Maybe we could sit here til dawn if we bought enough doughnuts, or at least until the rain stopped. We tried hard to look even more tired and worn out than we actually were in order to get the proprietor's sympathy. Using the phrase book, we asked the woman, can we sleep here? Do you have a room?" She shook her head, smiling. They are always smiling in Thailand. The Thai temperament seems above being sad or angry. They smile all the timg.
We resigned ourselves to hitting the road once more and got up, but the woman told us to wait and she hurried over to her neighbour's shack to ask if we could sleep there. We were allowed to sleep under the overhang of the neighbour's shack, on a wooden bench. The neighbour graciously beckoned us and brought out pillow and blankets. One of her daughters spoke a few words of English and so we talked for a while. She was a student at college in Bangkok and was home on mid term break.
The men arrived later. I am not sure what their affiliation to the family was, perhaps father and son. The senior poured me a beer and we talked briefly, not understanding a word of what we were saying to each other.
The woman and children retired into the shack and the two men sat outside eating their dinner by candlelight. They told us that there was a power cut.
Gill and I laid out on the wooden bench to sleep. Although it was hot and humid, we were clad in longs and raincoats to fend off the relentless mosquito attacks. After a while the men drove off, perhaps they were working nightshift.
The highway only a few metres from where we lay was busy all night, mostly trucks. I looked up at times to watch the head and tail lights pass by through the rain. Many trucks were adorned with red, green and yellow lights on the cabs and looked like mobile Christmas trees. Eventually night transpired into dawn, confirmed by the deafening crow of the rooster on duty.
Day 10 --- We left at 7am after conveying our thanks to our host. 50 miles of rolling highway to Chumphon.
Day 11 --- Lang Suan. The first thing we had to do before settling down into our hotel room was lock ourselves into the bathroom, armed with a thong (sandal) each and declare war on the mossie population. This took the best part of half an hour. They were cunning beggars, hiding, still and quiet on the floor or in the corners. Many were full of blood, probably from the rooms last occupiers. During a course of the mossie war we discovered a lizard. Often we have found these lizards at hotels. They are only small (3-4 inches) and seem to prefer living in the bathroom. Perhaps they enter through the drain pipes. We have named all our lizards "Les". This particular Les is the largest so far.
The cycles are in the room with us tonight. The chains and cassettes need to be replaced. We can feel the chain link slop through the pedals. Bearing in mind that the transmissions on both cycles have done over 6000 miles, I guess it is not surprising.
We have noticed the odd derailleur equipped cycle in some towns, so maybe we will be able to obtain parts for our cycles somewhere. The shops that I have tried so far have only stocked 1/8 chain.
On route today we came upon a huge buddha statue which it seems had just recently been constructed. The bamboo scaffolding was still up and one man was perched up top painting the eyes. One eye was about the size of the painters head.
Day 12 --- Lang Suan to Phunphin, 72 miles
Day 13 --- Rest day. Early this morning we caught a bus into the tourist town of Surat Thani. It was only a 10 mile journey from Phunphin. This town is a popular place of embarcation for ferries to several islands out in the Gulf Of Thailand. The island of Ko Samui being one of the most popular. We went to Surat Thani in search of a motorcycle to hire for the day. Alas we could find no motorcycle hire in the town. The buses we travelled on were run by two people. One person of course driving and the other luring customers onto the bus by shouting and waving, usually while hanging precariously from out of the rear door. This noisy person also had to collect the money. The journey into Surat Thani cost us 5 baht each.
I have been cursed with a sore throat for the last three days. Slept well last night but awoke with a wonky head. Despite our attempts at mossie eradication, there were still a few around last night. We sprayed the room twice but these elusive mossies must have been hiding behind the curtains.
Day 14 --- We knew that today's leg could turn out to be a long one - 95 miles long in fact. We had hoped that there may have been a hotel after 45 miles in Wiang Sa. On arrival there we found the place to be only a small village, so after lunch of fizzy drink and biscuits we aimed the bikes for Thung Song and set a sizzling pace. We cycled 95 miles in about 8 hours. Hardly time trialling material but not bad with fully laden tourers.
Thung Song is a substantial town and our hotel is very comfortable. Visited a cycle shop nearby where mountain bikes are catered for and was able to purchase some parts for the bikes.
Day 15 --- Thung Song to Phatthalung, 59 miles.
Day 16 --- On route from Phatthalung to Hat Yai we passed Rubber plantations and saw collecting pots hanging on the tree trunks to collect the white sap.
Hat Yai is southern Thailand's major commercial centre. It is known widely for its shopping and vivid night life. When out shopping for food, we also bought items of clothing which were very cheap. I obtained a pair of light cotton trousers for wearing out in the evenings. Trousers help keep the mossies at bay, although I was still bitten through them at times.
Another reason for getting trousers was for the purpose of modest dress. In the southern part of Thailand and throughout Malaysia the Islamic religion predominates and one must be aware of the sensitivities. In Islamic areas it is considered flagrant to show too much skin, hence shorts and singlet are not a wise option.
In Hat Yai we met a young English couple who had just recently introduced themselves to cycle touring. Peter and Sue had just entered Thailand after 2 months in Malaysia. They purchased mountain bikes in Kota Baharu (about 20 miles inside the Malaysian border) and cycled through the border into Thailand. They are entertaining the idea of cycling all the way back to England.
Day 17 --- Songkhla we found to be a tranquil town. It has a nice beach that is not over exploited for tourism. There is a golden mermaid set on the beach which is the focal point for all visitors. Not far from the shore can be seen Cat and Mouse islands sitting in the warm gulf water.
Day 18 --- Songkhla to Pattani, 71 miles.
After following the 408 road for a bit then branching off onto what the road signs said was Highway 43 (our map did not always agree with the signs), we found this road a lot narrower than the main road but just as busy. The scenery compensated for that though with delightful views of the misty gulf through palm trees. The road in some parts ran to within a few metres of the sea which we could see lapping upon deserted stretches of white sandy beach. We passed very few dwellings along the way.
In this area it seems that the Mecedes Benz reigns supreme. Dozens of them passed by us today.
The Islamic influence is very prevalent now. We passed one man facing North West and praying by the roadside. In Pattani we asked a policeman for directions to a "Rohng Raem" (hotel). He responded by jumping on his motorcycle and escorting us to one close by.
Today's leg was one of the most interesting. The countryside opened up to wide plains. We saw more cattle than we have ever seen so far in Thailand grazing on the flats, also many goats tethered close to the road and even some sheep. Pattani has a history of being famous for manufacturing cannons. Nowadays this town is important to the muslims in the South because it boasts the biggest mosque in Thailand.
Day 19 --- Pattani to Narathiwat, 61 miles.
After 35 miles of busy highway, we branched off onto road 4136 and then onto 4167. This quiet route took us past native dwellings of wood and flax. It was so quiet we could hear a plentiful variety of bird song.
The sarong almost dominates the way of dress for the locals here.
We stopped by some water buffaloes and watched them munch on rich green grass. They were all on long tethers and looked to be very content with their lot. Not only was the grass rich and plentiful but the field was covered in inches of water, so they could wade in between meals. We were passed while watching the buffaloes, by an old man on a bicycle. He said something and smiled, revealing gaps in his front teeth. He wore a white cap and a dirty white tee shirt with a sarong. As he zig zagged away from us we noticed on the back of his shirt was inscribed "NGK Spark Plugs".
We moved on nearing Narathiwat airport. A troop carrier plane landed as we cycled past the end of the runway. From the airport to the town policemen were based every kilometre or so. At one point we were passed by an escorted convoy of military personnel.
During our stay in Narathiwat, we discovered the fruit Rhambutan. Its taste is similar to grapes. A strange fruit in appearance, round and spikey like a sea urchin and red with green spikes. When breaking the fruit open you expose a large stone. The pale flesh surrounding the stone is rather delicious.
While out exploring the town we saw a muslim woman being accused of shop lifting and another woman roaming around wearing two pairs of sunglasses at the same time. She was gabbling away, making incoherent noises. I don't think anyone understood her.
As we found many people in this town to be dressed in shorts and tee shirt, we dressed in similar fashion but received many peculiar looks from the locals.
Day 20 --- This morning we rode for 5 miles south of the town with intentions of visiting the Taksin Palace. We stopped at a sign indicating the palace to be off to the left down a narrow road. There was a heavy police presence and the palace was closed to the public. Perhaps the king is in residence today. Could it have been the monarchs who had caused all the fuss at the airport yesterday? We headed back towards Narathiwat, keeping a look out for signs to the seated buddha. We had read in a rather vague guide book that the seated buddha was positioned on the summit of Kong Mountain. Our maps did not show any mountain by that name. We stopped at a side road that led from the main highway up a thick forested hill. There were signs at the junction to this road in Thai script. Perhaps this was the road to Kong Mountain. With nothing to lose we headed up this road, eventually having to dismount and walk the cycles due to the very steep gradient. It began to rain on the way up.
At the top the road split two ways - onwards and downwards to the left or into dense jungle on the right. In the middle of the fork was a fence which ran adjacent to the two roads. A gate was open, judging by the lock on this gate it seemed that it must become locked on occasions. Inside was a path leading over a stream by way of a weak rotting footbridge. From where we stood we could see that the path led from the bridge into the cover of bush and trees. This place was eerie.
Curiosity was mounting. I wanted to know where this path led. Maybe the Reclining Buddha is nearby.
"Wait here Gill. I've got to have a look," I said and left her standing with the bikes as I ventured off.
"Don't go too far," she yelled as I crossed the creaking footbridge and disappeared into the bush.
There was a stepping stone path which curved its way up a rise for about 2 minutes and led to a large bungalow in a clearing partly hidden by trees. The tops of the trees almost blocked out the sky. The bungalow was wooden with flaxed walls. It did not have doors, only door ways. Steps led up to a raised floor. The steps were clean and swept as was the floor. This place had a lived-in atmosphere but it was deserted. Around about the clearing were outcrops of limestone which were inscribed with Thai script. Perhaps this place is or was a monastery.
There were more enticing paths to explore but I did not want to leave Gill on her own for too long. Besides, this place was beginning to feel spooky.
On the way back into town we saw a sign pointing straight on to the Reclining Buddha. We looked for it, but still the Buddha eluded us. We gave up, went to the market, bought a newspaper (with English script) and went back to the hotel. We found two newspapers in Thailand with English script; The Bangkok Post and The Nation.
The International Monetary Fund Conference dominates the front pages of both papers at present. Bangkok hosts the IMF delegates from around the world.
Tomorrow it is only 40 miles to Sungai Kolok, our last stop in Thailand.
Day 21 --- Thailand has a great public transport system in rural areas. We are often passed on the road by "utes" or "pick ups" that are laden with people. Buses are nearly always full. I must say though that the standard of driving in this country leaves a lot to be desired.
There are many motorcycle taxis all along the highways. They usually pick up customers at bus stops and road junctions. They are very handy for the locals to get around on. Some use them to get to a bus stop where they can then continue the journey by bus.
The small motorcycle is a very popular means of transport in Thailand. Being cheap to purchase and run, many families seem to have at least one. The Hondas, Suzukis, Yamahas and Kawasakis are between 50 and 125cc. Rarely are larger motorcycles seen.
Because this is our last full day in Thailand, we have been extra observant and aware of what goes on around us as we cycle. We wave and greet everyone that yells "hello you" from the roadside (and believe me there have been hundreds) and responded to those who greeted us as they passed in vehicles.
Riding along road 4084, we glided by acres of coconut palms with cows and goats grazing amidst them. Then the landscape changed again to paddy fields with water buffalo. We saw what we thought were albino water buffalo, pale pink in colour.
Coconuts are so abundant in this area and it was common to see stockpiles of coconuts for the villagers to help themselves to.
Just before the town of Tak Bai we turn inland onto road 4057 which takes us between rubber plantations to Sungai Kolok. As we crossed a river bridge, we noticed off to the left coconuts falling from a tree. A man was standing at the foot of the tree holding onto a line and looking up into the fronds. Up top was a monkey picking coconuts and dropping them to his master to load onto a wooden cart. Fascinating to watch and a great way to end our tour of Thailand.
The next leg of our journey takes us into Malaysia.
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