Auke Koopmans Memorial Ride 2020 - the Elephant Trail

The Bigfella

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I've long had an interest in the history of the Elephant Trail... although accurate information is scarce. I found one source stating that it was instituted in 1831, but most say it has been a trade route for 1,000 or more years.

What is clear is that Chiang Mai is situated on a crossroads of South East Asia, as reflected by the ethnic mix here. The people living in the valleys are a mixture of Mon, Lawa, Lao and Thai Lue amongst others. To the west there are Shan and Karen and tens of thousands of hilltribe people have settled in the mountains over the past century or so after fleeing troubles in Burma, Laos and China – Hmong, Akha, Lisu, Musser, Yao and the long-necked Padaung. There are also Chinese, Chin Haw Muslim traders from Yunnan and increasing numbers of farang. Given the cultural mix and the desire of traders to avoid the pirate infested Malacca Straits, I'm inclined to believe the longer term version of events. Anyone got any more definitive information?

June 18 was the second anniversary of Auke's passing. His latter years were filled with a passion for mapping and he collected - personally or via others riding trails and passing on the GPS tracks to him - massive amounts of trail and road information, with it being packaged originally for a commercial seller and later with Ride Asia. My first mapping trip away with Auke was to Mae Hong Son via the Elephant Trail. Gary (skeedary on this forum) also did the trip at the same time on his Honda Wave. He did a trip report back in 2014 across a number of threads Gary's first report on it

To commemorate the passing of Auke, two years on, we rode the Elephant Trail. Fifteen bikes, two trucks and 21 people did the ride - leaving Chiang Mai in the rain. Given the conditions, with strong rain and flash flood warnings for the district, we traveled together to Wat Chan and then split the ride, meeting again in Mae Hong Son. The road contingent included Bo on her Ducati Monster, Andrea - Vulcan 650, Paul - 500X, Ben 500X, Albert - Vulcan 900, Lachie and Ow - 500X and Justin on his Triumph (although we met him in Pai, rather than MHS). Turning left at Wat Chan, were myself (Ian)- Honda Wave, Deere - Honda Wave, Gordon - 500X, Mark - Yamaha Exciter, Grace - Lifan Cross 200, Ron - CRF, Josh - CRF, David - Honda Wave, Malcolm - Honda Wave and Matt, Kesorn Len and Dear in Matt's Hilux.

Getting ready

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Deere and I took our Waves to Wat Chan in the truck, not so much because we didn't want to ride, but more to have more recovery options, if needed.

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Geez mate, we're not even to Samoeng yet.

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ATGATT to the fore though


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It's OK... I won't tell Les what you did to his bike. Shhh. He'll never know

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Feet up please

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Early lunch and fueled up in Wat Chan. Let's go get muddy

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Why do girls always do things in pairs?

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It didn't take long to get wet and muddy

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More to come.........
 

2wheels

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I've long had an interest in the history of the Elephant Trail... although accurate information is scarce. I found one source stating that it was instituted in 1831, but most say it has been a trade route for 1,000 or more years.

What is clear is that Chiang Mai is situated on a crossroads of South East Asia, as reflected by the ethnic mix here. The people living in the valleys are a mixture of Mon, Lawa, Lao and Thai Lue amongst others. To the west there are Shan and Karen and tens of thousands of hilltribe people have settled in the mountains over the past century or so after fleeing troubles in Burma, Laos and China – Hmong, Akha, Lisu, Musser, Yao and the long-necked Padaung. There are also Chinese, Chin Haw Muslim traders from Yunnan and increasing numbers of farang. Given the cultural mix and the desire of traders to avoid the pirate infested Malacca Straits, I'm inclined to believe the longer term version of events. Anyone got any more definitive information?

June 18 was the second anniversary of Auke's passing. His latter years were filled with a passion for mapping and he collected - personally or via others riding trails and passing on the GPS tracks to him - massive amounts of trail and road information, with it being packaged originally for a commercial seller and later with Ride Asia. My first mapping trip away with Auke was to Mae Hong Son via the Elephant Trail. Gary (skeedary on this forum) also did the trip at the same time on his Honda Wave. He did a trip report back in 2014 across a number of threads Gary's first report on it

To commemorate the passing of Auke, two years on, we rode the Elephant Trail. Fifteen bikes, two trucks and 21 people did the ride - leaving Chiang Mai in the rain. Given the conditions, with strong rain and flash flood warnings for the district, we traveled together to Wat Chan and then split the ride, meeting again in Mae Hong Son. The road contingent included Bo on her Ducati Monster, Andrea - Vulcan 650, Paul - 500X, Ben 500X, Albert - Vulcan 900, Lachie and Ow - 500X and Justin on his Triumph (although we met him in Pai, rather than MHS). Turning left at Wat Chan, were myself (Ian)- Honda Wave, Deere - Honda Wave, Gordon - 500X, Mark - Yamaha Exciter, Grace - Lifan Cross 200, Ron - CRF, Josh - CRF, David - Honda Wave, Malcolm - Honda Wave and Matt, Kesorn Len and Dear in Matt's Hilux.

Getting ready

View attachment 87824

View attachment 87825

Deere and I took our Waves to Wat Chan in the truck, not so much because we didn't want to ride, but more to have more recovery options, if needed.

View attachment 87826

Geez mate, we're not even to Samoeng yet.

View attachment 87829

ATGATT to the fore though


View attachment 87827

It's OK... I won't tell Les what you did to his bike. Shhh. He'll never know

View attachment 87828

Feet up please

View attachment 87830

Early lunch and fueled up in Wat Chan. Let's go get muddy

View attachment 87831

View attachment 87832

Why do girls always do things in pairs?

View attachment 87833

It didn't take long to get wet and muddy

View attachment 87834


More to come.........
I did a bit of research after my dry ride a few years ago and, significantly, here are some comments from Auke who we rode in honour of.

A bit of info re The Elephant Trail.

Old Elephant Trail. Centuries ago the route was busy with merchants travelling between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai but with the construction of a road in the 1950s the trail was abandoned. After years of solitude, the trail is now the perfect route for adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Apparently the Elephant Trail was established in 1831.

" Don't have a lot to add but an uncle of my wife told me a long time ago (around 1987 or so) that, when he was younger, he walked often to Mae Hong Son as that was the fastest way to get there. Around 1977 or so the road from Mae Hong Son to Pai was just a dirt trail (at that time the trail was considerable further to the north) and I still remember that, once we had been trekking over there and were on our way back with an old freight truck converted for passenger use, we had to push and pull the old truck over the hills. It had been raining and the trail was slippery as hell. Don't remember any more what time we stopped pushing and pulling (quite late as it had been dark already for quite some time) and we just had to camp along the trail and we all shared the little food which we and some people had brought along."
 

2wheels

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And

"Mae Hong Son was set up to breed elephants that were walked along the trail to Chiang Mai."


(GreatHolidayCollection.com)
 

2wheels

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My bit.

I was waiting at Samoeng by 8-30 for the group to arrive, having been given permission from Tim to use his CRF.

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I had company.

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The spirit house at the police station has refreshments.

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Ominous.

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The group assembled for planning.

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And at 10-40 we were at Bo Kaeo for a break.

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Then on to Wat Chan via Yang Moen.
(pity about the litter there)

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On to Wat Chan for a snack and where the group split.

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And then the real fun commenced!

Early into the Elephant Trail, which was relatively easy going at this stage. 1-45pm.
As usual, the camera doesn't capture the reality of the ascents and descents.

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Getting interesting now. 2-30pm.

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Gordon on his 500X and I were warned that the next climb was much worse than one we has struggled up and we were both contemplating baling out. However, we watched a couple of riders struggle up this huge climb then decided to give it a go without mishap.
Huai Pu Ling at 3-00pm.
That 500X and Gordon did an excellent job in those conditions.

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By this stage most of the group, including myself had slow speed tumbles into the mud, so it was time to reduce my tyre pressures from 30psi to 15! Getting serious now.

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I had a gentle tumble off the CRF and swapped bikes with Ian.
All was going well until I slid sideways and face-planted into the mud hard enough to pop one lens from my steamed up and dirty spectacles.
Whilst sitting in the mud recovering from the heavy fall a kind lady found my lens, cleaned it and popped it back into place.
The fall had damaged my ankle so that I couldn't put weight on it and I was poured into the back of the support vehicle, much to my humility and disappointment. It turned out to be an 'out of the frying pan and into the fire' experience as that Toyota took a real hammering for the next 40kms! Talk about 'Toyota Tough'.

Then we had our first and only tyre problem; one ruined rear tube.
7-46pm at Huai Pu Ling.
With serendipity on our side the Rain Gods had provided a shelter just at the right place.

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I must say that I was very impressed with this group, especially in the way they banded together to help each other out.
The ride was very challenging, especially now in the dark and continuing rain. But they pressed on and made it into Mae Hong Son by around
10pm.
So that was a long ride. About 89 kms along the Elephant Trail in challenging conditions.
Personally I had met my match in that slippery mud. Six of the nine riders had 'offs', some multiple and I think I was the only rider to actually fall from two different bikes! Our Fearless leader Ian, mechanic Deer and David remained mounted throughout.

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Late into MHS but the Goodview managed to whip up a reasonable meal for us all.

I stayed at my usual Romthai House where a room can be had for 350 baht and the bike parking is secure and hidden from view.
I decided to remain in MHS for Friday. Tim's bike needed repairs to mirrors and hand guards.

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So I had recovered and was ready to head home on Saturday.
The owner gave me some coffee and bananas and also some pain killers and palm for the ankle.

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I rode via Khun Yuam to Mae Chaem.
The road was good but pot-holed in sections.

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Then towards Doi Inthanon (which was still closed) along the wretched 108 to home.

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Tim's top-box was on Kerry!

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So that was my Auke Memorial Ride, certainly memorable in many ways.

Miss you mate.

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Last edited:

The Bigfella

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Great photos there mate. Thanks for them. Here's Deere on the 500X, with I think you and Mark further back. That 80/20 tyre on the front of the X looks a bit ugh.

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Plenty of paddling action on the scooters. I know I did a lot of it. Mostly because the Wave wasn't getting enough power to the ground. By the end of the trip back, I was even getting transmission slippage on the steep bitumen hills in third gear. Time for a refresh.

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Very distinguished looking elder gentleman on the ride. Beaten to the oldest rider tag by a 73 year old on the tar loop

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However.... this is what the distinguished gentlemen should ride on a trail like this

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As demonstrated by this old fella

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The valley views and mountains up here are always inspiring. A couple of my favourite valleys are just into the growing season

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This hut is always a favourite stop. The coffee they serve comes from the bushes on the other side of the road. Seeing those cows in the background for the night is always a worry. Going to be late to Mae Hong Son, folks. The Lifan is now due for the KLX headlight / plastics upgrade. Note the indicator.

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Grinding the beans for our coffee. 30 baht. Top stuff

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With Grannie hard at work on the loom

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I do believe I've told this story before, but last September, Deere and I were here (with Joy), heading in the opposite direction. It was coffee time, but hey, a guy has to have a Chang on the Chang Trail....

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Deere was talking with the guy who owns the store. Turned to me and said "tigers here". Where? There... and he points at the hills behind me

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They stick to themselves.... but a month or two later, coming through in the 4x4 at night with Tum and my daughter, Kim... my daughter needed a pee break. She didn't venture far from the car in the dark.

We'd had two hypoglycemic issues to deal with in the lead up to this, and a few other issues... so we weren't going to be in town for sunset drinks. The road group were sending us messages about how good the cold beers were. I do believe I responded with two words in a text.

When Scutty pulled a flat tyre down the road a bit, still over 20km out of MHS, he didn't do it by any half measure. He blew the tube comprehensively. I'm willing to be the tube had a few years on it. I made sure all the rubber on Deere and my bikes was new - including the rim rubber.

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We'd also packed spare rubber..... and Deere did the honors

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With a dozen crashes under our belt, we got a call from Matt - he'd had a big off up ahead and was stuck in a bar with no money to pay his bill. I got stuck into it on the Wave, with Grace following my tail light at close quarters. The Wave headlight ain't good. The Lifan's is worse. The trick was to keep weaving in order to pick up the rocks and holes in the gloom ahead. Worked a treat, except when I had to roll off the throttle and the light dimmed to about one candlepower. Still, we gapped the fleet. The last mud hill was a ripper. Slippery as all hell and steep enough that the scooter brigade were off, pushing the bikes.

We didn't have Matt's location, so we were worried we might end up off on whatever had gotten him. We found out later that it was a high speed off on the last mud hill... and we found him just before joining the main highway into town.

Having a former Marines medic along for the ride, with a newly refreshed Ulysses Club medical kit was a bonus. Matt was wound-flushed and field dressed (hey, he was in shorts and tee shirt, with borrowed boots, having taken over the CRF to relieve the wounded owner, who shall remain anonymous, eh Ron?)

Riding around the Lake looking for folks, we received a welcome yell and pulled into the GoodView. Mucho beero later.... it was off to various establishments that we frequent. Sad to not be able to go to the Crossroads. The site is now a well groomed garden. It was also sad to see the stripped out Salween site. Always a favourite restaurant - she's gone.

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2wheels

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1 Deere is a real asset. And a bloody good rider.
2 Gracie is a tremendous rider.
3 Josh gave excellent medical care when needed.
4 We spoke directly from the Toyota to owner of bar where Mat was recovering and described the situation. Beer was only 50 baht for large bottle. We all should have stayed there to recover!!
5 The ride was well supported with spares and refreshments and skilled personnel.

Congrats, thanks and well done to all involved. (y)
 

The Bigfella

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Still more to come. Slight correction, it was 50 baht per large can. I'm guessing he has a low cost base. :oops:

Speaking of more to come, here's clip 2 on the trail. There's a slight overlap with clip 1, to provide context.

Some of us had lowered tyre pressures in Wat Chan and it was on this hill that we discovered who hadn't done that.

btw - I'm saving the best crashes until last, in the hope of extorting money to "lose" them

 

2wheels

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"btw - I'm saving the best crashes until last, in the hope of extorting money to "lose" them"

Can you hold off until my pension arrives? :sneaky:
 

The Bigfella

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Nice Exciter in this clip. I believe the clip has some relevance in the "which bike" debate.

 

The Bigfella

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Didn't receive any envelope... so, for our next installment, Two Go Down

 

2wheels

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We had been riding/driving for about 12 hours at this stage, in very challenging conditions.
And it was around 8pm, the camera enhances any available light.
This bend, as you can see, had already claimed victims at some other time.
It was slippery and off camber but fortunately had a guard rail in place.
Notice Josh's first response is to go the the assistance of his riding buddy, then sort himself out.
And now I know where to find a spare mirror for Tim's CRF!!
 

The Bigfella

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Yes, I'm going to insist that Josh recover that mirror.

It was well into the dark period at that stage... and the guys had been assisting a lot of other bikes all day. There's no slight intended with that video and I'd challenge anyone who wants to say anything to go do it themselves. That was a tough day. I normally do those rides sole, so it encourages you to minimise extraneous effort... like picking up dropped bikes. These guys did a brilliant job all day... never shirking the job of helping others
 

The Bigfella

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After breakfast at Son and Mom's - we were off to Pai. Thoughts of retracing our steps over the Elephant Trail disappeared with the aches of the morning. The Wave was soon swamped by the cruisers and 500Xs, but it did manage to blast past a couple of BMW cars that were sightseeing. Stops at the usual lookouts produced clear air photos, although I didn't take many

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We removed a few kilos of mud from the Wave

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I'd had one "moment" with that rear knobby into a corner.... where it tried to buck me off, but that didn't stop Deere and I having a full throttle descent from the top of the range, into Pai. All at legal speeds, of course. Making a slow bike go fast is a lot more fun than some give it credit for. I believe Matt has some video of a "high speed" ie about 90kph or maybe even nearly 91kph of me on the Wave. I was tucked down over the front for some aero and the rear end got a bit squirelly.

Josh was there too

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And Deere in his new helmet that Josh had given him as a thank you for all the assistance he provides on the weekly rides. Deere's been out to the secondhand bike gear shop since the ride and picked up a decent jacket too. Both he and I need new gloves though.

We took Andrea's recommendation for the Pai Loess Resort and it's a pearler. The centre of Pai is about 100 metres over that bamboo bridge

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My cabin was still being cleaned, so I couldn't even drop the daks and get the knee guards off.... but the hammock was good.

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I shouted Deere (and myself) a two hour mother and daughter massage at a favourite place.... and then the booze came out
 
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