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Monday, 16 September 2013

PREPARATION

Many people asked me, “arent u afraid of doing a solo ride?” My answer was... “Imagine if u are going to sit for an important, really important examination. If u are well prepared for the exam.....if u hv done yr revision well.....if u hv memorized the important facts.....even though u hv no idea how difficult @ simple @ moderate the questions will be, and u hv no idea what kind of question that will be asked, u will enter the examination hall with lots of confidence.....knowing that u already stored the facts and information somewhere inside yr brain, waiting for the correct time and place to trash it all out. But if u are not well prepared, if u havent done yr reading and memorizing, u will start to sweat heavily and keep on visiting the toilet due to the high level of anxiety and the lack of confidence.”
So same goes here....I’m not saying that I am not afraid to ride solo. Of course the fear is there, but it was under control because I know what I’m doing.....and should things didnt go as planned, I already hv a Plan B, or even Plan C on what to do. Why? Bcos I hv done my research and preparation well. The key to this matter is  - do not be lazy. Do your homework. The infos is just beyond your fingertips. Never expect ppl to spoon feed u with all the infos. If you think that u don’t hv the time to read or u dont hv the effort to do research, then, just go with a two wheels tour, which is expensive of course.....but worry free as everything will be taken care for u. All u need to do is to ride the bike when the time comes, under the guidance of an expert guide. It is actually your choice – do it the hard way.....or do it the easy way.....Its as simple as that. 
So, how important is preparation? Does it really essential? Ever heard of a quote, “FAIL TO PLAN IS PLANNING TO FAIL?” Well, I am the type who really hold to this quote in everything that I do in life. I am on organized person and I will make sure that everything that can be control, will be controlled properly, as to minimize the risk and trouble when the ride has actually taken place. Besides, we never know whats going to happen when we are on the road (things which we cant control), so to me, its important to make sure that we did the best for the things that we can control. We are not talking about a santai ride to Hadyai or Krabi, but we are talking about a solo ride to the STANS COUNTRIES which differed in language, alphabet, culture, food, climate, temperature, road condition, geography etc, compared to our own country. These countries are unknown to many of us before, and its not too much to say that my solo ride and my choice of countries hv opened the eyes of many Malaysian bikers out there of where these countries are located and what kind of ‘paradise’ it has to offer.
I hv involved in independent travelling since the past 12 years, but never had I make a big preparation as how I prepared for my Central Asia ride. The closest perhaps is the preparation which I did for my solo Eastern Europe backpacking trip, involving 10 countries in 2010. It took me 6 months of intensive research to plan and do everything from A to Z for this ride. When I said intensive, it meant that minus my lecturing time, meal, pray and sleeping time, I will be in front of my lappy – googling, searching, reading, emailing etc for about 16 hours per day. Enough to say how maniac I am on internet, isnt it? LOL...
My preparation list can be divided into several categories:
ROUTE AND ITINERARY
Doesn’t matter what type of transportation u choose when travelling, no other preparation can be done if u r unsure of where to go, when to go, what to see and how to get there. Everything should start from this very important info which will lead to yr future preparation & arrangements. I did my research and posted in several travel forums to ask for infos on best places to go and which scenic road to take. After gathering enough infos, I made up my mind, plotted my route and drafted my itinerary. Believe me, when on the road, no itinerary is really final. I make lots of changes here and there before I finally come out with a ‘TENTATIVE ITINERARY’. Still, when on the go, I hv to make ammendments and adjustments when I failed to keep track with the itinerary due to the bad road condition and miscalculation of riding time.
CARGO
This is the most important thing in my check list as this will cost the most out of my budget. Since my riding duration is only about 1 month, I hv to start riding from the most convenient starting point. For that, I hv to check which airlines fly to my origin destination, and I need to know if the airlines provide cargo services. Once I hv the infos, I started to make calls (lots of them) to check on the freight charges and the procedure to fly my bike there. I also hv to check if I need to hire an agent to help with the bike’s clearance at the customs and to help with sending the bike for shipment once I am done with my ride.
VISA
Out of 5 countries that I am visiting, only one (Kyrgyzstan) does not require a Malaysian passport holder to get a visa beforehand. I hv to call the respective embassies to ask them about the visa requirement and fees. I hv to travel few times from Ipoh to KL to get all 4 visas sorted out. The most difficult to get is Uzbekistan visa. I only get it 3 days prior to my ride and if its not for the help from MFA, Malaysian Embassy in Tashkent and Palani from Uzbek Airways, I doubt if I am getting the visa after all. Many thanks to those who hv helped me. As for permit to enter specific region in the Pamir, I first asked the Msian Embassy in Tashkent to help me, but unfortunately they cant due to some restrictions.....I managed to get it myself at Tajik Embassy in Almaty though.


SUPPORT LETTERS
Since I am doing a solo ride, and since I am born a woman, safety is my top priority. For this, I engaged a bond with the highest officer in charge of the Central Asia countries at the MFA, and with the Malaysian Embassy in Tashkent, and I acknowledged them about my itinerary and my route. I also get advises from them on the do’s and dont’s and the MFA supplied me with support letters for me to show to the respective embassies in order to get their support letters. This is not an easy task. Lots of calls and visits hv to be made and I finally hv to make do with support letters fr Afghan, Kyrgyz and Kazakh embassies only. As for Uzbek, I get a support letter fr our embassy in Tashkent. None from Tajik embassy though as they said that they never practised this. It was proven that during my ride, the support letters hv helped me in many situations and I am so glad that I took the trouble to get them. I also reported to the Malaysian Embassy in Tashkent upon my arrival, and I let them know about my riding progress and my where about during my ride. This is very important for them to track me should I go missing by any chance. 
 

FLIGHT TICKET
I must say that I am an expert when it comes to finding cheap flights. I master this skill by doing lots of reading and trying out purchasing the ticket myself during my previous backpacking trips. As for this ride, I purchased the ticket few months in advance after comparing prices via several different online agents.
MAPS, GUIDE BOOK & GPS
I bought a non-laminated Central Asia map (later I laminate it myself) and Central Asia Lonely Planet book at Kino book shop. I also printed out maps from the internet. As for the digital map, I hv it installed in my GPS from the place which I bought the device.

 
OTHER DEVICES
I bought a multi-functional watch which reads not just the time, but temperature, baromatic pressure, altitude, weather forecast and compass. I also bought a plastic inner which to be wore inside my sleeping bag and acted as sauna to add and preserve heat. As for cameras, I bought a Hero 3 Silver Gopro camera, and I used another two which are Canon digital and the camera from my Samsung Note II mobile phone. I also carry with me a netbook and a light weight mini tripod to help with the self timer pics and videos.


LANGUAGE AND ALPHABET
Planning to go to countries where English is not spoken and the alphabet is not the Roman type that we are used to, making it very essential for one to master the basic phrases and to learn the alphabet. I get my Russian friend to suggest me the best and easiest way to learn and it took me about 1 week to memorize the funny alphabet.
CAMPING GEARS
I get my stuff from an outdoor shop in KL. I brought along a single occupant light weight tent, a sleeping mat, Deuter sleeping bag, a solar lamp, a small portable stove, simple cutleries, small pots, a mini thermos, cooking wax (which I used most as I cant find gas canister in the respective countries which can fit my stove) and a small packet of sulphur. I brought two elastic strings with hooks to strap my camping gears (which I stored in a waterproof sack) on the pillion seat. I also brought some canned food, instant noodles and instant beverages from Malaysia.
PROPER ATTIRE
Riding on an altitude above 3500m is not something which we can take for granted. As weather can change dramatically, it is very important to make sure that I am kept dry and warm at all times. My sifu, Hadi Hussein is very concerned about this. He helped to buy a four seasons riding jacket and gloves for me. He also lent me his chest wind protector and a winter buff. As for my riding pants, I wore the one that I got from Givi. I also brought along another pair of Givi gloves as spare. I wore my used Daytona Goretex riding boots and brought along 3 pieces of T-shirt from dry-fit material. Long wool socks is also very important to keep my feet warm especially when in the mountains.


MEDICINES & VACCINATIONS
Speaking about medicines, as my ride will undergo 13 mountain passes ranging from 2200m – 4655m, I must be prepared with AMS tablet as AMS is very common to happen on high altitudes. I also brought with me fever & flu tablets, oral rehydration salts, a small bottle of ‘minyak cap kapak’, and heat & cold rashes cream. 2 weeks prior to departure, I took a flu and Hep A & B combi vaccines.
SPONSORSHIP PAPER WORK
As I am new to this, preparing sponsorship paper work is something which I find quite difficult and challenging. Being a perfectionist, I want my paper work to be the best and convincing. I asked for help and samples from some senior friends, but unfortunately they are not willing to share theirs. Never mind. God gv me brain,  so, I figured it out myself. By checking the net, I finally came out with my paper work and I send it to about 25 companies and ministries. I followed up regularly and in the end, only 3 agreed to sponsor me. They are Givi (riding gears), Yamaha Hong Leong (spare parts for my bike) and Yayasan Perak (some cash money). The rest either didn't bother to reply or replied with apologies for not being able to contribute. I understand that apart from financial issues, people are sceptical and not confident with my ability, as I am not only a newbie, but also a woman. I wished to proof them wrong. I also get sponsorship for my offcial T-Shirt from a biker friend, Nuri, and my mechanic refused to accept the payment for his work on the bike. I want to thank all my sponsors for all the support and for believing in me.
 

Sponsored items from Givi.....thanks :)
Some of the spare parts sponsored by
Yamaha Hong Leong.....thanks :)

INSURANCE

The most reliable for me for such a trip is Chartis. I got myself covered for all the countries that I’m riding to, and for the duration that I will be away.
TOOLS & SPARES
I brought along my basic tool box, with additional electric air pump, an air pressure indicator, clutch and brake levers, a bulb, bearing, a bottle of engine oil, an oil filter and a chain spray. I didnt bring too many spares as my ride will only cover 6000+kms, and since I hv made a thorough checking and changing some parts before the ride. Besides, I must also be careful on how much weight that I am carrying. I also carry with me a fuel canister to accommodate with the lack of petrol station in the Pamir.


BIKE PREP
This is the thing which I hv to delay until the very last minute. Why? Bcos of the Uzbek visa which was at hold until almost to the day that I am leaving. Bike prep costs me quite some money, so there is no point to work on the bike if I can’t proceed with my ride due to failure in getting the visa. Once Uzbek Embassy said that my visa is through, my mechanic Faiesal, had to rush to get all the things needed and starts working on my bike. Among the work that he did was:
Ported and polished head
Valve clearance intake 0.10 exhaust 0.16
Clutch: 5 pcs with hard spring
Sproket: 15/44
Ream: Front 2.50 x 17; Rear 3.50 x 17
Tyre: Front 80/90 tubeless Dunlop TT100; Rear 120/70 tubeless Pirelli MT60  
Dunlop TT100 tyre is a tubeless tyre, but since the size is smaller than the front ream and it can't be fitted without using a tube, so my mechanic decided to use swallow trye tube. To prevent leak, he injected slime liquid into both tyres.
Engine oil: Motul 5100
Accessory: Fixing bottle holder; a two 6 mm holes to attach a flag holder at the rear box
A minor repair has also been done to the wiring system.
 
Faiesal working on DREAM at his workshop:
IRHB Motorsport, 30 Jln Meru Perdana 2, Tmn Meru Perdana, Ipoh.
016-5579904
It was proven that Faiesal had done a great job as my bike didn’t suffer any puncture or major problem through out the ride. I wished to thank him, and also my sifu, Hadi for the advises given to me to ensure the bike is in great condition.
CALENDAR MEMENTO
The first time when I plan for this ride, my objective is not merely to satisfy my hunger on adventure riding and to appreciate the beauty of mother earth only, but also to help as much as I can to promote and introduce my country to the people of Central Asia. So, I came out with the idea of a 2013 & 2014 memento calendar which hv some beautiful pics of the attractions in Malaysia. I purposely chose to write the introduction of Malaysia in Russian alphabet and language so that the people can understand, and hopefully this will attract them to visit my country. I brought along 250 pieces of these calendars and distributed it to the locals whom I met on the road.
EVACUATION PLAN
Travelling to the Central Asia countries came with risks such as political unrest and disaster, namely avalanche, landslides, earth quakes etc.  I have to prepare myself with evacuation plan should unwanted things jeopardize my ride. For this, I hv someone who hv access to critical situations support to help me should I need to evacuate as soon as possible.
OTHER INFOS
I research for infos on how to do border crossings, procedures and payment to bring my motorbike into the country, latest road condition, mountain passes, speed limit and fuel price in each country, fuel type, petrol station locator, money changers, cheap places to stay (in bigger towns), mechanics and periodical maintenance, and the list goes on and on and on.....
MONEY @ CURRENCY
 
Last but not least is money. How much money must one take? What kind of currency? Answer for question #1 depends on what kind of traveller you are. Answer for question #2 depends on the country you are going to visit. As for me, since I am a budget traveller, my expenses while on the road is not that much. This is because I stayed at cheap homestays @ guest house or I camped. I also cooked my own meals to save  the cost. For this trip, before leaving home, I checked the XE to know what is the latest currency conversion for all 5 countries that I am going to visit. They are Uzbek Som, Kazakh Tenge, Kyrgyz Som, Tajik Somani and Afghan Afghani. I hv made my research and I knew that USD is more acceptable in these countries compared to Euro. Since it is difficult (if not impossible) to find an ATM (except in major cities), I decided to bring all the money that I need for the whole trip.

Sifu said...."Split yr money into 4 different places, so that
if u lost or someone steal yr money, u wont loose them all"
These are among the preps that I did before the ride. Preparation has its own challenges. It keeps my brain working, it keeps me occupied that I never feel that my life is dull.....it taught me to be patient, to work systematically, to accept what God had decide for me and many other things which I cant list here. Most importantly, it gv me the strength and confidence to do this ride alone in the unknown land of the Stans. Apart from the Lonely Planet book which I read countless of times, I read thoroughly not less than 50 blogs and I picked 7 of them to be my major source. Youtube is also my main source to check on things.
Some ppl might think that I am over preparing myself.....but before even saying it, plz bear in mind that I am a WOMAN, I am riding SOLO, my time is LIMITED and my days are NUMBERED. Only  a well preparation can ensure a smooth and safe journey for a lone rider as me. I am proud to say that apart from the technical part, I did every single thing that I mentioned above on my own. Its a one-woman-show. I dont hv a team to help me to manage things. Its tiring.....its frustrating (at times).....its challenging.....but to me this is the most exciting part :)

8 comments:

  1. Tq for being generous in sharing info and knowledge. Keep it up !

    ReplyDelete
  2. My pleasure Billy My @ Yang Adilah :)

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  3. hanya yg mempunyai kecekalan sahaja yg mampu melakukan solo ride seperti ini, bukan sekadar duit, tenaga, kelengkapan dan kesihatan,.

    tahniah,.. hanya itu yg mampu saya katakan,..

    sebak tgk video ride tu,..

    ReplyDelete
  4. Terima kasih....saya pun sebak baca posting anda...

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  5. Thanks kak sbb kongsikn tips2 ni...mmg berguna bagi new traveler mcm sy...thanks and keep it up...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks kak sbb kongsikn tips2 ni...mmg berguna bagi new traveler mcm sy...thanks and keep it up...

    ReplyDelete
  7. tumpang tanya.. saya igt nak naik kereta dari Kl ke cambodia.. adakah prosedur melintasi sempadan sama mcm motor.. kereta kelisa .. boeh lepas ke tidak dgn kondisi jalan di cambodia?

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  8. Jaafar Abdullah, my pleasure :)
    Bijan tuya...Dalam pengetahuan saya, prosedurnya sama saja. Kondisi jalan di Cambodia kurang baik jika dibandingkan di negara kita...but u will b fine if u practise caution. Most important thing, watch out for the traffics. They are maniacs on the road...

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