Monday, February 13, 2012

Fish Cave

Temple on the lake in Mae Hong Son

The next morning we got up and continued north for Mae Hong Son. This stretch of the journey continued on mostly smooth roads that rose and fell, twisted and turned, around mountains and through teak forest. It was beautiful. If I thought yesterday's ride was the best ride of the trip, I was wrong. Today's ride was even better. The roads today were a beautiful, green roller coaster ride through the mountains. There were some bad stretches of pavement, but the vast majority of the ride was on smooth tarmac. Between the cool air and the brown leaves on the trees, it reminded me of late fall rides on the Blue Ridge Parkway if the BRP had banana and teak trees.

another scenic view
My clutch didn't slip at all today, even with the frequent trips down through the gears. We did have some engine troubles, though. We refueled at the Shell Station just before we left Mae Sariang, and that's when our troubles began (although I didn't realize it soon enough). My bike seemed to be low on power and took a lot of cranking at wide open throttle in order to start. Re was having similar hard starting issues, and her bike would lurch when climbing hills at low revs. 

Since Colin is the mechanically inclined one, we swapped bikes so he could see exactly what I meant when I said my bike was acting “funny” and lurching. It felt really strange to ride his bike- even though they are the same make, model, year, color, they feel slightly different. I think it's largely down to the seating- when we installed our topcases, Colin set his farther back to give himself more room to move about. It also seems that my footpegs are higher than his (probably bent in my numerous incidents) and my seat foam has settled more than his. Just an odd aside.

After riding my bike for several miles, Colin knew what I meant by acting funny. Before we traded bikes again, he changed my sparkplug. The plug I removed was sooty and black, showing that the bike had indeed been running rich? Lack of fuel flow should create a lean condition and a much lighter colored sparkplug. This stretch of road is fairly remote, and I did not see any bike shops in which to get a new fuel filter or sparkplug, so we fired up the bikes to continue northward. Both of our bikes were nearly impossible to start, however, and this is when I made the connection between both of our bikes running poorly. While we had different symptoms, the common denominator seemed to be the fuel we bought that morning. Since our last visit to Thailand they have started selling gasohol in both 91 and 95 octane varieties, but I have been sticking with the real, unadulterated bensin (as they call it here). I am 97% positive that the fuel I bought this morning came from a red pump (real gasoline) and not a green one (the gasohol is always green), but the fuel was now my chief suspect.

Fish in the cave
We made it to Mae Hong Son by about 2:00, found a place to sleep for the night and a quick lunch, and then headed out to see the fish cave. Tham Pla National Forest is a manicured park with a stream running through it that begins at a small cave in the rocks. Apparently, the fish try to swim up the stream and come out of the crevice in the rocks. The local tribespeople believe the fish are protected by the mountain spirit and never catch them, actually protecting and feeding them instead. They believe the fish are vegetarian, being holy, so they sell bags of salad to feed them. Near where Colin and I grew up, there was a lake called Pymatuning, where a school of carp on steroids resided. You could buy loaves of stale bread to feed them. When you'd toss a piece of bread into the water, some of the carp would launch themselves on top of the other ones in order to get the bread. There were so many fish, the water looked like it was a roiling pot with insufficient water. It was kinda creepy. Watching the fish eat their salad at Tham Pla reminded me of visiting Pymatuning as a child. Kinda creepy.

If there's a chance to get wet, I'll take it (Tham Pla)
Oh, we did determine that is was a bad load of fuel. We stopped to refuel on the way to Tham Pla, and both bikes fired right up. Colin's ran just fine from the start (he ran his until he ran out of gas) but mine still had some bad fuel in the line, so it took a few more miles to “straighten up and fly right,” as my mother says. 

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