Ok, have fully recovered from the China trip, and have more or less caught up on everything on the home front. Time to roll baby ! This time I wanted to head over to Laos, and make one final attempt to get to the top of Lima 85. Then head to south Laos, into Cambodia,then end up in Pattaya. The big loop as we call it. My riding companion is Joe, also on an Africa Twin. We have ridden many times together. Our riding styles are pretty close, although he does seem to get up a bit earlier in the morning than me...... Decided to take my 2001 red white and blue Africa Twin. I have never taken it on a long trip before so was a bit leery of its reliability. Also this is what the bike looked like three years ago when my office flooded with 4 feet deep with silty river water for three days. Notice the high water marks on the bikes . Did take it for a quick one day shake down ride the day before I left. I noticed it was not charging with the lights on. Back to the shop for some quick diagnosis. Found a bad connector plug from the stator to the rectifier. Think this is ongoing damage from being submerged. The wheel bearings and fuel pump were causalities last year as well. Cut out the plug, and did a direct connection. Next day we are off !. Bike seems to be charging fine. Smooth fast trip to Chang Khong on the Mekong River where we cross over to Laos. Here is sunrise from our guest house just before we cross over. Crossing over to the Laos side on the ferry. Cost is about 14 dollars per bike. On the Laos side do some customs paper work, and then off. The road is about 160 kilometers to the first main town of Luang Nam Tha. Used to be all dirt. Unthinkable in wet season, and problematical in dry season. It was an all day trip to get to Luang Nam Tha. Now it is all paved with endless twisties. Big fun ! As we seem to be blasting along, we decided that it would be possible to go from the Chang Kong border to Luang Prabang in one day. No one had done that before. Possibly because bikers before us were smarter....Ended up riding the last three hours in the dark. Sorry not many pictures as we were moving right along. When night time arrived during the ride I noticed that the bike was not charging properly again. Shit !! So took it to a local shop in Luang Prabang the next day for some more diagnosis work. Never did find anything wrong. Relaxed a couple of days in Luang Prabang. Did not take any pictures as I have been there many many times. A pretty nice place, with just a touch of French colonialism. Becoming more touristy by the year however, with boutique hotels replacing small guest houses. So visit soon ! Early start the next day, headed over the mountains to Sam Neua. This is the jumping off spot for Lima 85. As we are motoring along a dirt road along the ridge of the mountains, there are schools full of curious kids. They were bit in awe at first, but lost their fear when I started waving and saying hello in Laos. Close.... Closer...... Oh.. my.. god.., I.. can't.. stop.. them !!!! Finally reach Sam Neua at the end of a long day. There is not really a place to stay in the middle of the ride, so you pretty much are forced to make it all the way. Found a nice guest house in the city, with parking inside the restaurant at night. The Lima 85 site is a fascinating aspect of the Vietnam war. Basically it was a part of the secret CIA war in Laos. The CIA decided that putting a radar targeting site at the top of a mountain only about 120 miles from Hanoi was a great idea. So they airlifted all the equipment by helicopter to the top of a very steep mountain named Phu Pa Thi. Almost impregnable from three sides, and defended on the back side by Thai troops and local Mhong villagers . A lot of the bombing runs on Hanoi were directed from this site. The Vietnamese found out about it , and attacked it from one of the impregnable sides. They succeeded , killing some of the US engineers operating the site and capturing some of the others. Once the site was captured, the US made bombing runs on the site for a week to stop any technology from being taken. More information is here...http://limasite85.us/the_destruction_of_lima_site_85.htm Here is a placement map showing where the site was located. Military photo from that time period showing the long ridge line. I believe the shot where Joe is pointing to the top is a angle from the right side, and from the back. The actual site while it was in operation in 1967 Good photo showing the steepness of the sides. You can see why the US military thought an attack would be very difficult !! Here is a topo map of the area we were in. Houay Ma is at the bottom of the map, and the triangle marked with 1687 meters is the highest point along the ridge of the mountain. Here is the Google earth view of the track up. Here is a closer view. Here is a very close view in Google earth of the Lima 85 area. Here you can see a sort of long rectangle on the map that has been clearly altered. What should be a VERY distinctive ridge, comes out looking like a valley. Hmmmm. Altered mapping, and a large camp of soldiers to protect access to the ridge. The mind wanders....New radar site to keep an eye on China??? I had read the book " The Ravens", and was fascinated by the story of the CIA war in Laos , and Lima 85 in particular. So I decided a couple of years ago it would be a cool thing to be the first civilian to simply drive there, and then hike up the last couple of kilometers to the top. First trip there was with Joe a couple of years ago . Got there too late to be able to hike up the mountain and had to turn back before it got dark. Next year was by myself. Got an early start, but had very heavy fog and had to turn back half way up. So figured this year had to be the year !! O6:00 departure in the morning, and we are off up the mountain to Houy Ma, which is the village next to the mountain top. Distance to the village is about 70 kilometers. Very pleasant ride up, with the road being much improved since the last time we were there. Proof of our early start, and a bit of a reward, a stunning sunrise. On the way.... Joe is pointing to the top of Phu Pa Thi where the radar site was located. There is a very distinctive almost round rock formation sticking up at the end of the ridge along the top of the mountain. This would be looking at the southern end of the ridge. Looking at my GPS we are standing about 5 kilometers as the crow flies to the top of the mountain where the site was located. One last tricky water crossing a few kilometers from the village. Some young boys hanging out at the same stream crossing. Nearby a woman carrying wood back. When I got that smile from her, gave her a big thumbs up which made here smile bigger. Just as we get outside of Houay Ma, we notice there is a new road forking off to the right, exactly in the direction we want. I have the GPS coordinates for the ladder that is the access point for the back of the mountain. Am thinking this is great, will save us a lot of hiking. We get a couple of hundred meters, and run smack into a large military camp. About maybe 40 guys in uniform, with most carrying AK 47s. They first stare at us in astonishment, and then run up telling us to stop. We try to play dumb ,realizing that things have turned bad. We keep pointing up to the top of the mountain, indicating we simply want to hike up.......Never ever said the words Lima 85, just tried to act out the wayward tourist. Papers were demanded which we provided. They then demanded we get off the bikes and go into one of the buildings for more questioning. I ignored that, and simply kept repeating we needed to turn back so we could get off the mountain before it turned dark. They seemed to understand that , so we smiled , and turned back down to the Y intersection outside the village. Now there was a soldier waiting there holding an AK 47 indicating we should head into the village of Houay Ma a hundred meters away. Sure! Always tend to do what guys holding guns tell me to do. Now we are on the edge of the village eating some of the snack food we brought. Suddenly about 8 guys in uniforms with guns come running up indicating we are to follow them into the village itself. One of the guys jumps on the back of my bike to make sure we do not do a runner. So up to a small wooden building where we park the bikes. We are then brought inside a small room with a dirt floor and wooden benches in it. A few guys with guns, an interpretor that spoke a bit of English, and what appeared to be the political officer in a tailored military uniform. Yes, we have now entered the detention phase of our trip. The interrogation now begins !!!