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In Chiang Mai, I'd come across a gearbox suitable for the FC101. Having had gearbox problems previously, and after a quick chat with Steve P at home, this treasure was dismantled and stored inside the trailer. Along with the bike on the back end, and the depleted water storage in the front, the nose load of the trailer had gone negative. Woooops.

So. Try this one at home, kids. Take one trailer. Chuck the load into its back end. Attach it to a truck and take it for a long ride over a dirt track. Notice what happens? Funny - the same thing happened to me.

It's also our friend again, Mr Metal Fatigue. Compared with the towing vehicle, trailers have a dog's life. 25,000km of roads, half of which are rutted and potholed. Despite your speed, all you see behind you is a trailer bouncing around, completely out of proportion to what you're enduring in the truck.

Almost loaded. It may look precarious, but in reality, it was an extremely safe and controlled recovery.

Ditching the trailer at the side of the road, it was a solo-run into the next town, 50-odd kilometres away.

En-route, there was a Laos army fuel dump. A dozen large fuel tanks, with, spotted in the back of their compound, a couple of trucks. One tanker, and the other, a flatbed truck.

Negotiations opened.

From "We cannot help", we ended up in a joint prayer-session to the god-of-starter-motors: the flatbed finally stoked up, we left to refind the trailer.

Sign language and pictures; the trailer was loaded. We set off for the next town, via a small village where the driver of the flatbed made the most of being away from the camp and went and bought a dead rat for their communal evening meal. I'm fine with a bit of rat-sandwich, but this one was a champion racer. There's more meat on my nail clippings. It's tough in the Laos army.

In the next town, Udomxai, we went to a workshop to sort out the repair. Now, the only claim to fame for Udomxai is that it is listed on a map. In the workshop, I was led to the material-store-cum-toilet. A completely empty room (apart from a hole in the ground), but for one small piece of 6mm steel plate. Lady Luck was throwing kisses at me today.

The next day, with the plate suitably chopped up, a welder was dragged in off the street (pulled from his mini tuk-tuk bus - his usual daytime vocation), and we made the trailer whole again.

[ Click here for a serious note on selecting a trailer for long-distance off-road use. ]

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Weeks 28 to 31 (continued)