Thailand, Och fort skall det gå

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Min tidplan för Thailand var allt annat än väl tilltagen, tre dagar och två nätter. Allt för att ta mig ifrån Kambodja i öster till Myanmar i väster. Så, jag kände sådär spontant inte att Thailand var värd sin egen blog utan tänkte banka ihop Thailand med Myanmar. Det är ju en fin dynamisk duo med en lång historia. Men så satt jag och gick igenom mina bilder och såg att jag hade så himla mycket på Myanmar att det skulle ju inte funka eftersom jag kände att många av dem hade varit kul att publicera. Därför blir det en liten kortis om Thailand istället.

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Thai Power Rangers in action

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Som sagt tre dagar och två nätter, inte mycket till besök egentligen. Det finns två anledningar till det;

1. Thailand är ett land jag åker till rättså ofta så jag får liksom inte gåshud av besöket även om jag gillar Thailand väldigt mycket. Alltså det är ju därför jag åker dit rättså ofta.
2. För det andra, Thailand är och har under lång tid varit ett oroligt land rent politisk. Över 50 stadskupper, ett föga smickrande världsrekord för övrigt, är väl ett tämligen bra bevis på det. Att landet ändå har fungerat, lyckats ta sig framåt till en betydligt bättre levnadsstandard än sina grannländer får kanske trots allt tillskrivas i vart fall delvis kungen. Kungen har varit älskad av folket och tveklöst utgjort en enande faktor när det politiska systemet svajat. Kungen är död, länge leve kungen. Problemet nu är att den nytillträdda kungen, den gamle kungens son kanske inte riktigt är den föreblld man skulle önska. Avsaknaden av folkets respekt har han med hård fokusering förtjänat genom ett tämligen skandalomsusat playboyliv.

 

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För att komma till saken, den nuvarande makten, militären och kungen som har andra intressen kan man tro, har genomfört många förändringar i sin syn på turism. Svenskar som faktiskt haft en god status sedan länge kan inte längre besöka Thailand lika enkelt som tidigare. Flera nya regler har trätt i kraft. En regel är att kommer man med ett svenskregistrerat fordon till Thailand efter 1 januari 2017 så måste man ha åtskilliga tillstånd som bland annat, thailändskt motortest, Ett tämligen speciellt Internationellt körkort (Thailand är mig veterligen enda land i världen som kräver just det Internationella körkortet) Dessutom skall föraren av fordonet genomgå en läkarundersökning i Thailand för att visa att man är frisk och som lök på laxen skall man ha en guide med sig dygnet runt ifrån det att man äntrar Thailändskt territorium tills dess att man lämnar. Detta kostar självklar en en hel del kosing, ca USD 750 per dygn. En stor del går förståss till diverse sk avgifter för att slippa besiktiga motorcykeln i Thailand och för att slippa läkarbesök etc. Himla fina nya regler. Ambitionen är solklar, Thailand vill ha färre svenska besökare. Hade jag kunnat ta mig runt Thailand hade jag självklart gjort det men det fanns inte mycket att välja på. Det var bara att svälja den beska medicinen, men göra det snabbt och svälja pillret helt.
Förresten, man skall också ha klart för sig att många fler länder i Asien har liknande upplägg men inget land har gått ifrån öppenhet till att stänga. Så fel det kan bli ibland……………..

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Nu kan jag ju inte skriva en blog om Thailand och bara gnälla, så vad finns att förtälja, tja, motorcykelåkningen var kanske inte så upphetsande, snabbaste vägen betyder motorväg eller liknande och det är inte sexigt någonstans egentligen (jodå, undantag finns och det skall jag berätta om sen, alltså i en annan blog då alltså). Men, Jag fick möjlighet att spendera lite tid trots allt i Ayutthaya, den gamla huvudstaden. Ja jag vet att det är Bangkok nu men det var Ayutthaya innan, ca 80 km norr om Bangkok, fast den intogs av dess dynamiska duo broder Myanmar som snabbt såg till att jämna den med marken. Ja alltså inte jämna med marken som man kan göra idag med fin modern bombingenjörskonst men så gott man kunde med de medel som stod till buds. Främst fjuttade man eld. Kvar finns lyckligtvis en hel hoper ruiner i varierande grad av förfall. Jag måste nog erkänna att jag inte är någon ruinmänniska normalt sett men se det här är väldigt intressant och väldigt vackert också för den delen. Så ta er dit för fasen. Väl värt ett besök om ni är i krokarna. Lägg en natt där om ni ändå skall till Bangkok.

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Ja, hann väl inte så mycket mer egentligen annat än en tallrik grön curry så vips var det dags för bordercrossing igen. Dessa bordercrossingdagar är tjötiga värre. Tar en helsikkes tid.

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Guider är man ibland tvungen till tyvärr

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Men nu var det Myanmar, så jäkla spännande……………

Tattaaaaaaaaaaa

Cambodia – My first Milestone

 

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First, let me start with the worst. Cambodia is, along with many other countries infested with corruption and Cambodias for sure got it bad. So many payoffs to so many people for absolutely nothing. In order for me to execute my trip, enter the country with my motorcycle I have had to pay out more than USD 300 in total. For absolutely nothing. This is not only humiliating to me but also to Cambodia and its political system.
I am well aware of the fact that it is not only Cambodia, loads of countries out here in Asias got the bug. I am convinced that corruption is one of the biggest factors preventing nations from obtaining better living conditions for their people and actually, I have become a part of that system, a supporter of it, for agreeing to pay, for playing along the shit rules some people have created to give themselves benefits they are not entitled to. I would have felt so much better if I could have given 300 dollars more to the Childrens Village instead.

 

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Having said that, Cambodia is amazing. Coming back again after having been here in January the first time felt really good and assured me that my decision to help SOS in Siem Reap was a good one. First time I arrived in January I felt weird waiting in line at passport control at the airport. My knowledge about Cambodia was very limited and besides the history around the Pol Pot regime and the enormous genocide that took place, the main piece of information I had ringing in my head was that of all western pedophiles going to Cambodia to live out their sick fantasies. So when I stood their, in line, a middle aged white man, alone, I felt everyone was looking at me, thinking, there is one, one of those pedophiles. It was a very surreal and uncomfortable feeling. I know I put that on myself but I can imagine that the feeling is very similar to the feeling people get who are racially discriminated. In my case it was self inflicted, I think. But it was a healthy experience because it gave me a taste of something I am so so fortunate not having to deal with.

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This time I entered with my bike from Laos in the north. Border crossing is always extremely tedious and took 4 hours at the Cambodia border. It was however, the first big milestone on my trip. It was here my fundraiser was. Cambodia is a small country and roads are good so I had no problem going all the way to Siem Reap on my first day. I dumped mine and my sons bike at the Childrens Village and passed out in the hotel. Day after I needed to fly to China and then Hong Kong for one week of work. There was no way around it but it was ok, I had it planned for some time. I must admit it did feel a bit strange, I was just getting into this nomadic biker life and suddenly I had to put my other face on, the work face. Bonus however was that my wife and daughter joined me back to Siem Reap for a few days of holiday together. It was an amazing few days and I was very proud to bring them to the SOS Village and show them what I was fundraising for. I think also for my daughter it was a good learning experience, living a very privileged life in Hong Kong. It was good for her to bring clothes and toys and give to kids who in spite of being fortunate to be at the Village really didn’t have much.

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Cambodia is a lovely country, definitely worth a visit. Siem Reap is out of this world and if there ever was a spiritual place on the earth, Siem Reap is it. Do Cambodia together with Laos. That’s a brilliant combo. Do that instead of another Thailand trip. Yes, Thailand is nice but this is really something different and you have already seen Thailand.

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Family left and I got my gear back on. It was time to leave Cambodia and its amazing people. I really don’t want to give a message about bad people in Cambodia talking about corruption. I see that as a really bad disease. The Cambodian people I have met have been extremely friendly, extremely generous and exceptionally pleasant to be around. Frankly I am already looking forward to go back there in November or December to present the results of the Fundraiser to my new friends at SOS Village. I really hope I can bring them good news. Make them happy. They deserve it.

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Cambodia is small so only a couple of hours ride to the Thai border. A border that used to be friendly and easy to cross but Thailand is radically changing its attitude towards foreigners. Next blog on that one

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LAOS – Dom säger att skillnaden på en resenär och en turist är att resenären ser det han ser och turisten ser det han kom för att se.

 

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Laos, vem fan åker till Laos? Det är ju liksom bara ett land som finns där. Inget land man åker till. Dom har inget Mount Everest eller Pol Pot eller Thai mat eller Fredspristagare eller nåt, eller?

 

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Vad vet man om Laos annat än att dom på något sätt halkade in i Vietnamkriget och att det är en del av den gyllene triangeln ihop med Burma och och Thailand. Annars? I Laos händer ingenting, de har inga naturkatastrofer, de vinner inga OS medaljer, tar sig inte till fotbolls VM, är inte kända för något alls egentligen. Laos är liksom ett land som ligger på vägen eller i vägen om man så vill. Lite som Husqvarna på väg till Stockholm. Man liksom fräser förbi, noterar att det fortfarande ligger där och så fort man passerat Gyllene Uttern så har man glömt att man ens passerat. Så var min plan med Laos, att snabbt som ögat ta mig igenom för att det liksom låg i vägen.

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Nu har jag varit där, sett vyerna, besökt städerna och träffat människorna och jag kan bara säga att Laos förförde mig fullständigt, om nu ett land kan göra det. Jag blev smått förälskad i människorna, naturen, Luang Prabang mm mm.

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Gör nu inga illussioner, Laos är ett grymt fattigt land. Många lever i extrem fattigdom dvs skjul eller hyddor utan elektricitet eller tillgång till rent vatten. Jag kom in i Laos ifrån Norr som är ett bergigt landskap, otroligt vackert, fantastisk miljö för motorcykelkörning. Men det bergiga landskapet gör också att byarna ligger utefter huvudvägarna där marken är plan och det gör att många människor lever intill och på vägarna. Som besökare får man då en direkt, väldigt påtaglig inblick i dessa människors liv. För mig som sett mycket men ändå skyddat på nåt sätt så var det en chock. Med en käftsmäll fick jag veta att nu var Bambi ute på hal is. Samtidigt möttes jag av dessa människor, barn som vuxna, av ständiga leenden och skratt. Deras glädje, nyfikenhet och optimism kring den där dåren på motorcykel fick mig att vilja adoptera hela högen. Sedan dess har jag rest genom många väldigt fattiga områden men alltid på lite mer avstånd, inte varit så mitt i det som i Laos. Missförstå mig rätt, det finns inget romantiskt med fattigdom snarare är jag imponerad av dessa människors livlust och stolthet. Vilket inte bara gäller i Laos för övrigt.

 

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Men laos är ett vacker land. Berg i Norr och slätter i syd. Luang Prabang är en alldeles ljuvlig stad med ett tydligt franskt påbrå och en egen beach längs Mekong floden mitt i stan. Ja, Mekong floden ja, den är så mäktig, som en stor aorta som flyter rakt igenom landet och kan man bara se förbi alla Apocalypse Now vibbarna, vilket jag måste erkänna var riktigt svårt för mig, så kan man bara sitta där och titta på.

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Vacker bebyggelse, goda restauranger och några av världen största och finaste vattenfall (det visste ni inte) kompenserar mer än väl för att Laos saknar kust. Å så massvis med goa laotier också förståss. åk till laos. Åk dit, du bor på grymt fina små hotell för väldigt lite pengar. Vill du ha tips så hör av dig.

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Sedan kan man faktiskt också åka motorcykel runt Laos, finns att hyra, även organiserade turer.

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Den här damen tuggade tuggtobak och spogttade loskor som skulle få den mest förhärdade amerikanska basebollspelaren att rodna och byta karriär till nagelskulptris.

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Se bara upp för alla kringdrivande kor och inte minst getter som driver runt kring vägkanterna. De är liksom som otåliga tonårsgäng som som hela tiden letar efter något att hitta på.

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CHINA – Midnight Express

Day 1

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Having finally passed the final barrier, China customs into Shenzhen I got a chance to meet up with the guy who had been helping me out over the last year with my motorcycle plans. Bing had certainly given me a lot of grey hairs during the process but that wasn’t his fault, it is China and I know it far too well. I have never met a person with so much appetite for life, and food, as Bing. Always with a huge smile on his face giving his favourite comment to basically everything ¨I love it!¨. He is like a glass of ice cold sparkling lemon water on a hot and humid summers day. We had a lot of those days. In other words a great guy to have around. I loved it.
Task number one, have my sons motorcycle transported to the forwarding company for shipment to Laos border. We took off, me on the bike and Bing in the car. Once there we handed over the bike to some dudes on the street but it seemed OK. It is like that in China, I have gotten used to it. However, forwarding regulations stipulates that the tank must be empty from fuel and the tank was actually almost full. Only way to get it out was to hose it, meaning suck some of it out through a hose and then let it free flow. Its not very tasty actually so I tried to offer the forwarding guys that if they did it they could have the fuel. They scratched their naked bellies and concluded that they had already had lunch and figured they would get the fuel anyway which of course was right. With the words, I love it, Bing offered himself. Then the guys started building a crate, we got the transportation docs and off we went in Bings car.
Once in the car Bing revealed the big info. He was nervous (don’t think he loved that one actually), there was a problem. I am not allowed to drive the motorcycle in Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guanzhou districts. Somewhat of an issue since we needed to go through all three of them, a drive of approximately 4 hours. We went to a restaurant nearby that I often visit and ordered some lunch. I was hungry, a lot of things had happened that day. It was three o clock in the afternoon and I was starving. So a bit of energy intake and we needed to come up with a plan. After a lot of food and a lot of talks the plan was – Lets make a run for it but improve the odds of not getting caught by the police as much as possible. After some scouting online we found out that the major part of traffic police gets off the shift at 8.30 in the evening so we decided not to leave until after that. Smart huh……….

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8.45, we are about to leave from the parking lot, bike has been started up and lights on and immediately the police shows up. Bing had parked his car illegally. Quickly I kill the engine and the lights of the bike hoping they wont see me. Bing got fined and lost points on his license (he definitely didn’t love that) but they didn’t see me. That was a close call and the bike hadn’t even gotten out of the parking lot yet. Did I start sweating? Nah, a dash of perspiration maybe, well a big dash actually. Ten minutes and lots of heavy breathing in a paper bag later we took off. Even though it was quite late traffic was heavy, as it always is in this region but it went not too bad except when I was almost out of Shenzhen and I saw a couple of police cars having pulled over another motorcycle driver. They saw me too and one started to follow. I tried my best to get ahead in traffic and hide in front of bigger vehicles and Bing did his best to slow traffic down by driving slower in his lane. Eventually they got tired of the pursuit and let us go. Actually I think we reached Dongguan city limits and they were not interested in following there. The remaining part of the trip was rather uneventful and we eventually reached Foshan outer permiter where bikes are actually allowed and I could breathe like a normal person again. Somtime around 01.30 we reached our destination and it was the end of the first day.

Day 2

Goal is Guiping and it was a long beautiful ride along the river. I could finally start enjoying my time on the bike. First day was simply too much of everything. This was also the day when I started on my new eating regiment, breakfast a protein bar and lunch Oreo cookies. This became my everyday diet. Not the best but it did save a lot of time during lunch and breakfast, yeah well, Chinese hotels outside the bigger cities actually very often don’t serve breakfast and if they do its, fish. I must admit, I cant do fish for breakfast. Protein bars for the win.

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Day 3

Long ride considering the not so smooth Chinese roads. Please bare in mind that bikes are not allowed on the highways in China and I was not going to get chased by police again, I was going to be a good law abiding citizen, or so I thought. Anyhow, this day we actually stopped for lunch, I had to, Oreo cookies can only do so much and I had 460 km of bad roads to travel meaning 12 hours in the saddle. We found a small roadside restaurant and had a gigantic tray of fried rice, enough energy to get me all the way to Sweden. The restaurant was ran by a very sweet lady who I of course could not talk to but who cares, we managed anyway.

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A few hours later it started raining heavily, I could not see a thing so I had to stop and a break was needed anyway. I found a small convenience store that sold drinks, chips, ice cream and laundry detergent. I seeked refuge in there. Once inside I found an older lady, her daughter and her grandson. The daughter was working inside the shop, doing the stitches of baseballs. Technology have come a long ways but to sow the stitches on baseballs is not doable yet, it requires manpower. I started talking to them and she said it took about 30 minutes to stitch one baseball up. For this she got paid 1 yuen per ball (there are about 8 yuen in one Euro). Dear readers, is that OK? Is that really reasonable? But then you say, well in China she can buy much more for that amount of money. Hell no, she cant buy diddely squat for that. She makes 10 balls a day and get 10 yuen. As far as I am concerned that sucks. She should get paid much more and the consumers of baseballs should appreciate the craftsmanship and be prepared to pay a reasonable amount of money. Now, lets get things straight, I am not a socialist, I am all for a market economy, but that requires two or more, somewhat equal in strength parties, engaging in a business deal. This was nowhere near that. This was all about using people for unreasonable money. When one party is really weak and have no choice, market economy doesn’t work because the stronger party will utilise the other partys weakness as much as possible.

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Sorry, I lost track there for a moment, the rain eventually stopped and I needed to get back on the road and so, late but in one piece, the goal for the day was reached, the town of Baisse. Now, for those of you who are not used to travel around with a motorcycle I can only say that the feeling you have in your body when you reach your destination is very similar to a day out sailing or hiking or 36 holes on the golf course or whatever, a kingdom for a shower, a meal, a beer (well actually the beer before the meal) and then pass out inbetween some clean sheets. I did just that.

Day 4

The goal was Yanshan. A town roughly 320 km away, should be a pretty soft day of riding compared to previous days but it didn’t really work out that way. After 40km that took me 3.5 hours on a road which was so bad that if I ever wanted to invent the worlds most useless road, I would send my research and development team to study that particular road. The road was so hard and bumpy from broken pieces of tarmac that I constantly had to swallow my kidneys and liver down. They wanted to get out of town. On top of that, once I got the info that this Olympic quality crap road is soon to be over it all came to a giant stop. The road had suddenly turned into a giant lake. Now I am not really too afraid of trying some water out with my bike but this was different. At the edge of this newly developed lake was two brothers, two Chinese guys who also were out on their adventure bikes but aiming for Lhasa in Tibet. Well, not on this road they wont. They had already tried the depth and said we need a James Bond kind of bike to cross this one. Solution, go all the way back, another 4 hours, on that thing they called a road. Well it turned out there was another solution, there was a way for a motorbike to sneak onto the highway. Brilliant idea except, yes, bikes are not allowed onto the highway and secondly we didn’t know where that place was. The locals knew, but they wanted some, lets say consultancy fee, to point us in the right direction.

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Well I decided to join forces with the Chinese guys, one whom I cant remember the name of and the other whose name I will never forget. He presented himself as, Nice to meet you, I am Superman. Yes, nice to meet you to, I am Green Lantern. Apparently his real Chinese name translated to Superman, so the guy was actually ligit. Who am I to make fun of his name huh. On our way back we bumped into a local who was willing to assist with some directions free of charge and after some really nice dirt trails around the mountain we finally hit the highway. Yes, we were free, the bikes were doing 110km, not super speed but compared to what we had been driving it was lightning fast. The three of us joined forces and things were looking up. I remember I thought we might make it to Yanshan after all. He He, suddenly I see one of these welcome to signs. Every city in the world have it nowadays from Sweden to well yes China. This particular one read, Welcome to Baisse! Ohhhh noooooooo, we had gone in the wrong direction on the highway. If Superman ever was a Superman his superpower was not sense of direction, that much is for sure. Having realised their mistake they immediately felt really bad and insisted on buying me lunch. I didn’t mind, I was hungry. Another plate of fried rice. Dessert, two Oreo cookies. What do we do now? Where I needed to go the only approved road for motorcycles was flooded. Hmmmmmmmm. We agreed that the only solution was to run through the payment checkpoint to the highway when a car passes the gates and just go. Why do I end up in these situations all the time? I was going to be a law abiding citizen. I wanted to be a law abiding citizen. But it wasn’t possible. Oh well at least I was fed so if I ended up in jail I would at least not starve for another day, so lets go for it. I positioned myself in the middle thinking that the first guy can see if it works and the last guy is the guy getting caught. We went straight through 4 paytolls like that. Now that’s adventure motorcycling! Once the highway ended we needed to stop anyway because the sky had just decided to drop all the worlds available rain reservoirs straight on our heads. We found some cover and waited. After a short while when it had cleared a bit Superman, who was the only one speaking English, declared that they were tired, they could not go any further today. I said, as far as I am concerned I have a destination, a goal and that’s where I will go. I told them they were weak and that I would text them once I reached Yanshan. Boy that was tough, I really had to push myself. But I got there. Tired, in desperate need of a shower, a beer, a meal and A bed…

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Day 5

Next stop Kaiyuen. Honestly the motorcycle riding in the Yunnan province should be on the list of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. To describe a landscape is very difficult, especially in a language I really don’t feel comfortable writing blogs in so pardon me for that but if I should in any way try to describe it it is like riding in the alps with the exception that all the mountains are completely covered in green vegetation, bamboo, palm trees etc etc. Its also 95 per cent humid and 34 degrees but sitting on the bike riding its not a problem that is until you stop. With the goal to hit the Yangshang terrace rice fields (on Unescos world heritage list) the day after I started my altitude climb up to 1.800 meters.
In the evening I went to a small Chinese BBQ place. There are plenty of those where you go and look in their fridges and pick something you can identify its origin of and have them put it on the grill on the street. Darn good I must say. I chose this particular place because the owner spoke a bit of English. He accompanied me during my dinner and at one point I asked him, since he took a lot of pictures of me if he maybe wasn’t used to foreigners in town. He responded that sure he was, three years ago there was two guys from Africa visiting.

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Day 6

Finally at the rice fields and was it worth the trip. Was that worth the trip??? Holymoly, it was an absolutely fantastic experience. This was so important to me for many reasons but maybe foremost since my wife and daughter are Chinese (well my daughters half but you can figure that out) and I have travelled the big cities and the industrial areas in south China for many years now and I don’t like it. It is ugly and bad. I think I needed something really beautiful from China that I could relate to my wife and daughter and I got it, plentyfull to be honest. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the Yunnan province and motorcycles roads that would all fit on the top ten list.
The evening I spent getting a footmassage with cupping. I have had a lot of foot massages but never with cupping before. Im not going to tell you what is so if you don’t know, look it up. It was really cool!

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Day 7

Mongla is the goal now. Not far from the Laos border. This is where I will pick my other bike up from the forwarding company, if that has worked out…… and I will also get a riding buddy driving the other bike to Luang Prabang in Laos. It’s a smooth ride to Mongla, not too far and good roads. I arrive around 13.00 and go straight to the forwarders warehouse. Sometimes the Gods are with you because my other bike arrived 30 minutes earlier and so did my riding buddy. Piew, was the word. It seemed to work out. We got the bike out the crate and it looked whole and healthy. I started it up and my riding buddy gave it a test ride. He didn’t speak any English at all, well except he could say BMW 1200 GS. I guess that qualified him for the mission. Well, me and Lee, we managed to communicate somehow and found an hotel and a meal. Through google translate I found out that this was the first time he was outside of China. This was huge for him. Ride bikes he could but travel, maybe not. Oh well, I thought he was a cool dude and figured things would be allright. Actually they almost weren’t.

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Day 8

Only 50 km to the Laos border. Plan was to pass quickly and get ourselves to Luang Prabang that very same day. I had my eyes set on a nice hotel and some western food. That is except bloody Oreo cookies.
Getting out of China was actually quite smooth and having heard that Laos border is very easy I thought this was going to be a piece of cake. No it wasn’t.

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Tattaaaaaaa