With introductions gotten out of the way last night, accompanied as always by large quantities of beer, it was an early start today, followed by what will become a customary long drive. It was 300kms or so to Phuket, where I needed to be hiding up a hill before lunchtime.
My task was to operate a Secret Check along the route of the Road To Mandalay Rally, on a piece of road that I must admit, it would have been tempting to bypass. To be honest, I didn’t know such roads existed in Phuket. It was a very narrow uphill twisty piece of road, in places not wide enough for two vehicles, and bordered by rubber tree plantations. A very peaceful place. A far cry from the roudiness of Patong Beach. And if you’re not from these parts, no, rubber is not made in factories, it grows on trees. Well, the raw latex does, which is used to makes tires, gloves, condoms, and a whole lot more. It’s big business.
So, I was all setup, sign boards in place, Bert parked at the end of a 100 meter long straight where you couldn’t miss him, and a rally car appears, screeching to a halt and showering me in stones. Then the second car does the same thing. Both crews complained that “We couldn’t see you.” What? Bert is bright red, I’m wearing a bright orange Marshal’s shirt, and you can’t see me? Anyhoo, after that, I stood in the middle of the road, clipboard in hand, where crews were either going to see me, or turn me into road kill du jour. No more problems. Except that after 14 minutes I’d only seen those two cars. I was starting think everyone was bypassing the sneeky bit of twisty stuff, when about ten cars arrived together. Talk about London buses.
In the end, all of the 54 cars still running managed to find me.
Actually, it was after 53 cars that the organizers told me I could pack up because there would be no more. So they’d collected my time clock and sheet, and I’d taken down the control boards, when the 54th arrived. No matter. It was only a checkpoint, and they knew I’d seen them. As it happened the all lady crew might have seen more than they’d wanted to if I’d decided sooner whether to pee now, or pee later. I pee’d later.
Then it was another 150kms north to the hotel… The Pullman in Khao Lak. What can I say about the place? It’s not often you find a five-star hotel you can’t wait to get out of, but I just did. To say it’s sprawling doesn’t even begin to describe the size of the place. I think the architect must have been a frustrated city designer. The place has more roads and roundabouts than Milton Keynes. Nominally the hotel is on the beach, which is true in that the land borders the beach, but it’s a fifteen minute walk from anywhere. Just finding my room felt like I’d walked back to Phuket. The hotel has a Fitness Center but I can’t imagine why. You’d be pooped by the time you got there.
I was tempted to miss the communal rally dinner when I discovered where the restaurant was hiding, but a golf buggy driver took pity on me and took me there. But that didn’t help me get back. I’d been walking for a good ten minutes when I met a guy who’d been at the same table, coming in the opposite direction. We were as lost as each other, and in the next ten minutes, as we searched and eventually found the main building, we’d compiled quite a list of things we’d like to tell the Manager.
No problem for me, but the rally crews have two days to wonder why it’s harder to find breakfast than to navigate round Southeast Asia. I have the briefest of stays. I arrived just before sunset, and will be gone just after sunrise. Tomorrow it’s a 550km hike up to Majestic Creek, if I ever manager to find Bert. He’s out there somewhere. There’ll be planning meetings, final decisions, and stage security to discuss over the next couple of days. I have photos from today, but I’ll add them when I have more time. For now, it’s goodnight from The Pullman.