Akha outposts high in the hills.

Steve Merchant

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Being nearby and having lots of free time David Unk passed on a couple of locations and asked if I was interested to go look. And why not. The first is a small link road between the 1130 and the 1338. It actually looks like a short cut for anyone going from Mae Salong up to Mae Fah Luang, quite a common ride in this district.
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When it was first laid it would have been a handy option but unfortunately it is very "corrupt Thai" in its construction. Dirt, gravel base with a thin layer of tar spread on the top it has been very badly damaged by heavy rains on the unsubstantial surface. With a couple of quite big Akha villages with people needing to get to Mae Salong for provisions its seen some heavy use by pick-up trucks in the wet season and the surface has almost all gone in some places. The yellow line down the center is all thats remaining in some parts, with deep ruts and pot holes that need avoiding for much of its length. The villagers here are all busy and the farms must be doing well if the parked vehicles are an indication. One of the villages had an old style Akha spirit gateway that was interesting and a coffee roasting factory was on display right next to the road.
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Unfortunately getting here on a remote route and knowing what wasn't ahead in terms of facilities my petrol gauge was telling me I needed to tackle the second route from the Thoerd Thai end so I headed off west to a town with a petrol station. Filled up it was straight out of Thoerd Thai and up the 4032 north towards Phaya Prai. Still quite early the weather was now warm but amazingly clear for this time of year. Just out of town at the start of the climb I happened upon a Lahu religious pole, probably remaining from the new year festival.
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This second trail I was out here to look at started off the right side of the 4032 at Baan Pha Jee and within a short time I found it was a narrow concrete strip with houses roadside and busy with locals on m'bikes. No fears at this point. The topography out here is very dramatic, steep sided hills, big drop offs and everywhere you look signs of hilltribe agriculture. Unfortunately the hills were dotted with dirt and concrete trails but it wasnt easy to see just which road went where, nothing went in a straight line and everything wound around the slopes, hence it was no surprise when I ended up on a dirt surface that had me turning around.
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All villages looked to be Akha and every one appeared to have a church. Sadly few people were hanging around and I assume they were all busy out there on the mostly naked slopes preparing for the next corn season. Finally after twisting, turning dropping and climbing, I could see the village I was heading for.
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My arrival was just after 12.00 so the kids at school were all out in the playground and my appearance brought quite a surprise when I tried to communicate and take some pictures. They wouldn't stand for a picture at all. Then the teachers passed by, probably just finished eating so I called out to what were nothing more than youngsters who I assume have to do a certain amount of years in the wilderness after having graduated.
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The guy was from Mae Hong Son, the two girls on my left from Phayao and Chiang Rai, the other girl ran away before I could ask. They were certainly amused at having a visitor from England out here in the high border mountains. I asked about another route out and they told of a road that ran north from here, close to the border and finally over to Doi Tung but their opinion was I should go back the way I came, the border option maybe thwarted by a military road block and anyway too long and hard. I took their advice. The return down the 4032 always being a fun road no matter how many times you do it.
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Being alone and on an unknown route I often choose the little 150cc Exciter, its comfy enough but more important I can pick it up, manoeuvre it in tight spaces and its cheap on fuel. No need to hurry, for me its all about the scenery and the people. It was a good day despite the return being on known roads. Always good to be out.
A final picture, passing through Mae Salong early enough that the pickers were out on the tea. Always hoped to get them in action.
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Steve Merchant

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This one looks like an amazing road alright.
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Is this R4032 in the distance at Pha Ji Lee Ja?

I'm a bit confused still which way you went in, from R---- to R----?
I went in and out on the same piece of road. North from Thoerd Thai on the 4032, west on the no number small lane.
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To complete the job properly I will now try to get into Baan Cha Pee from Doi Tung. I have already been over some of the 1334 as shown here.....
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Which leaves a missing section of 12 kms, a soon to come effort.
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That would make a pretty worthwhile little trip right across some rugged terrain in high hills. The picture you asked about is my first sighting of Ban Cha Pee when I was undecided on which path would get me there. At that point I was on what turned into a dirt path.
 
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