Putting your motorcycle on a boat is typically a terrifying experience. Sometimes that’s because it’s a massive boat and you’re not allowed on board to supervise – like the cargo ferry from Darwin to Dili: I felt like I was sending my baby off alone for her first day of school. There was a tear in my eye and twitch in my hand as I watched the burly employee wheel her up the loading ramp.
Sometimes it’s because you are allowed on board, but the boat is so tiny that you’re not convinced that it can take both you and the motorcycle without sinking. So you teeter there, with your KTM in a glorified canoe, wondering whether you ought to jump overboard in order to save your precious bike.
Sometimes it’s just the loading that makes you nervous – after you watch the motorbike in front of your ride up the ramp and then off the opposite side of the raft into the river. (True story.)
Sometimes it’s because you’re on a speed boat and your motorbike has been barely strapped to the roof with baling twine before you hit heavy seas (also a true story).
Anyway, in summary, boats and beloved motorcycles can be a terrifying combination. But thus far, no boat has succeeded in separating me from my motorcycle for quite so long as Covid has. It’s been… horror of horrors… 20 months now. What to do?
Well, look for the silver linings. For example, if I can’t take my motorcycle anywhere, I might as well get on a boat and go somewhere fun. And that’s how I ended up on Koh Lipe.
That’s right, I finally went down south to explore the islands. When I first came to Thailand, I rode past the islands but did not stop, for reasons associated with a Gigantic Typhoon. Later, when I found myself in Thailand for months on end, I was not in the least bit tempted to ride south: all you have to do is look at the topographical map, and you’ll know that you’re going to end up with square tyres and white line fever. Central Thailand is flatter than my chest and that doesn’t sound like any fun at all.
All of this becomes irrelevant if your motorcycle is in Cambodia and you’re in Thailand not riding anywhere. So I got on a boat.
Thailand has a lot of islands, and they seem to be heavily populated by foreign visitors – at least, in ordinary times. If you go to the fashionable cafes in Chiang Mai you’ll run into this entire population of foreigners who live on islands and only come to visit Chiang Mai for the winter. It is – in a kind of 19th century London sort of way – The Season. And instead of the Fast Set we have the vegan, chakra set. Suffice to say, the vesting of my passions with the internal combustion engine has served to alienate me somewhat from this enlightened set.
But, I digress. I got on a boat and went to an island and drank beers on the beach instead of working on my chakras, and it was fabulous.
What can I say. There was a boat, there was water, there was sunshine, and I capered about not unlike the beach monkeys. They capered too, and prioritised food and drink, and who can argue with that?
I tried not to get roasted like a white girl in the sun, which is exactly what I was. But my secret weapon was the unshakeable indoctrination from my Australian childhood: the sun will kill you. And thus I stayed mostly white.
Oh, except for the bleeding. I managed to step on some coral and bleed profusely, but no sharks came to investigate. Or at least, not that I noticed; I did go snorkeling but let’s just say my eyesight’s never been too good.
You know how you can go and get massage and they use the hot rocks on you? Well this whole island was just a pile of hot black rocks. I lay down and practically melted into it like a piece of chocolate.
I was drinking beer onthe beach at sunset with my friend, and we were both looking at the hill across the bay.
I was thinking about enduro. Imagining riding up that hill, looking out across the bay; when my friend said to me suddenly, ‘I would like to ride the Gas Gas up that hill’.
See? This is why we are friends.
After a few days on the beach I headed back north, to ride motorbikes on mountains. Some things, you just can’t fight.