Cluster Bombs in Casing

Cluster Bombs in Casing
76 milion of these individual Bombies remain unexploded in Laos. This is a mother pod that failed to spring open and cast it's deadly cargo.

Project Pineapple

Remember, go to Archives for full story at bottom of picture column

National Senate Call-In Day to Ban Cluster Bombs MAR 30
but keep up the pressure after this date

ALSO for those who wish to make donations to Handicap International, a co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, and now widely recognized as a key international lobbyist on weapons of war, please got to:

Be sure to contact your political representative too wherever you are.


Laos was carpet bombed along the Vietnam border to wipe out the VietCong's supply lines, the multiple trails known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Now, the issue is still being swept under a diplomatic carpet.

The Iraq war opened on 19th March, 2003, with Cluster Bombs being dropped. I was in Laos walking through remote villages on a water well project when I got the news on my short wave radio. Those same villages were carpet bombed 35 years earlier and still living under the threat of 76 million unexploded Cluster Bombs.

Billions of dollars continue to be spent on Iraq but a mere 500 thousand dollars annually on clearing unexploded Cluster Bombs in Laos.

The Vietnam War ended on 30th April 1975 when the last ten marines were choppered out.

I used the Belarusian 125cc Minsk motorcyle to ride from Hanoi, Vietnam, through Laos and Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City between 19th March and 30th April representing respectively the start of Cluster Bombs being dropped on Iraq and the final withdrawal of US marines from Saigon.

Visits were made to various relevant projects and programs both for clearing unexploded bombs and supporting the victims.

Should you be in any of these countries it is worth
finding out what you can about this 'forgotten' problem. Rural children and adults are still dying and being maimed every day.

Please email any comments to :

Remember to go to Blog Archives at bottom of Picture column for the full story.

See you around


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Inside the shape of a BLU26 Cluster Bomb is the result it can cause.

One Reason for the Name Project Pineapple

One Reason for the Name Project Pineapple
America versus China

Thursday, April 30, 2009

30th April 1975, Independence Day?

Minsk made the front page today of the English language paper, Viet Nam News. So it was about trade agreements with Minsk, capital of Belarus, but the same Minsk which gave name to my motorbike.

30th April, Independence Day, somewhat subdued in Sai Gon, Ho Chi Minh city, no air of celebration here. After all the restrictive influence of Han Oi has percolated down to penetrate the more relaxed lifestyle previously used to, the 'good living' the French introduced.

Walking back from the City Opera House near the Hotel Continental Saigon whch had been my 'home' for a month 18 years ago when working here, I saw an old lady hawker selling rice snacks in banana leaf from a woven tray, breaking from the clutches of motor cycle police searching for illegal traders, losing several packages as she dashed off, maybe assisted by the raising of my camera too late to capture the event. Independence Day indeed.

A war vet looked with thoughtful interest at his history on the Independence Day display on the central reservation of Le Loi Avenue wondering where the good times had gone, and his leg.

Yes, there were flags and banners around but in an organised manner rather than the fierce abandon of up north where their pride of being Vietnamese is abundantly clear. There is a parallel somewhere there, is it the 18th?

One guy confided his father had emmigrated to America before 30th April 1975.

But this day, 30th April, represents Peace for Project Pineapple. After the Americans left in 1975 no more Cluster Bombs were dropped in Indochina.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Obama Suppports Ban on Cluster Bombs

A copyright piece by UPI dated 12th March is worth a look at the following URL{C69C0597-8E17-4FF7-8B61-41B02E55148A}

in which Obama says he will take a further look at the Cluster Bomb issue.

At the moment that 'look' seems only to ban the use where there may be civilians. Huh. Usually civilians get out of a war zone if possible to return later. Also a USA general was interviewed saying Cluster Bombs are a 'good' weapon. The political and military argument continues. But not for Project Pineapple. Cluster Bombs should be banned outright as stipulated in the Oslo Treaty.

Please view also the following URL

in which 'Humanitarian, Faith, Medical and Veterans Groups Urge Obama to Review Landmine and Cluster Bomb Ban'.

If America signs the Oslo Treaty agianst Cluster Bombs then the pyramid of countries under its influence would likely follow suit.

The same would apply to Russia and China. We need to pursue this goal other wise more Indochina situations will continue to arise as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Arms and legs all over the place for generations to come. Keep an eye on it.

Tamed Terraine, Road War Rages

The next few days is merely getting down to Ho Chi Minh City for the 30th April, the day the American War ended and a goal post for Project Pineapple. A day representing Peace. A day to tell our war mongering governments to cease using Cluster Bombs and clean up the mess they have already made in other people's back yards.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail is quite well displayed graphically on the following link

I have followed it quite closely. Even this area, now fairly tame to the eye, with its rows of coffee bushes, pine trees and some pantiled houses could remind you of a French wine growing region. It's cultivation no doubt assisted by America's determined effort to assist it's clearance with the help of its special agent, Agent Orange. These rolling hills consist of the rich morraine soil deposited by the receding glaciers on these toenails of the outreaching skeletal toes of the massive Himalaya body to the north west.

But the present day's prosperity has brought another kind of war to the region, road war. The well designed roads, constructed over the old Ho Chi Minh Trail and which are once more being upgraded to major highways, are the worst I have ridden so far, in terms of inherent danger. The volume of traffic is significantly greater than further north.

Trucks and buses eat across the centre line into a third at least of your space and motor cyclists just come and go as they please seemingly without a care, pedestrians too. This has contributed to one clashing of my front fork with the others rear mudguard and exhaust as he suddenly turned across my path. Fortunaely as I hollered at him, I was able to guide the Minsk out of full entanglement. Both stopping on the laterite siding, for once I saw a sheepish look on a Vietnamese face.

Next day a young schoolboy, 6 or 7, walked out in front of me and with just decimeters to spare, avoiding action prevented a serious accident.

So these short sections of the old HCM trail from Kon Tum to Buin Ho, to Gia Ngia, to Dong Xoai and the next to Thu Dau Mot are actualy the most stressful despite the surrounding beauty.

But Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon as those in the south still call it, awaits the 30th April, the day the war ended. In all those city centres, Vietnamese flags and banners fly reminding us of the day. It must be said the national flag is much less apparent on private housing and shops of the south compared to their northern couterparts.

Some say the war was to do with a susidiary of Standard Oil making seismic survey in the Gulf of Tonkin under the protective blanket of war which simultaneously ended with the last helicopter leaving Saigon. When I was managing another oil company there, BP, having taken over various American oil companies, moved into Ho Chi Minh City lock stock and barrel for a full development HQ in 1991 spending it is estimated 70 million US$ without so much as one exploration well. Now how could they have done that without full technical knowledge? The Iraq war too is widely accepted as being a play to gain access to the three largest known undeveloped reservoirs in the world similar to 60 year producing reservoirs in Saudi Arabia

Cluster Bombs, were not only used to carpet bomb Indochina, but also were the first bomds to be dropped on Iraq on 19th March 2003. Should not the oil companies also finance the clearance of Cluster Bombs as well as their national governments?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Southern Approaches to Saigon

The multi strands of the Ho Chi Minh Trail wind down through and around the broadening lower reaches of Indochina. Having now crossed the border back into Viet Nam, I pause after my first leg in Kon Tum right on one of them. Difficult to tell these days, the road construction and city expansion that is progressing fiercely with no regard for the economic downturn in he rest of the world. See what Peace can do for your national economy?

The Rural horizons are similar. As in Thailand where over the decades the farmers have been busy transforming the forest to manicured high yielding crop lands so the Vietnamese have also done the same. 40 years of industrious activity with that focused determination shown in all that they do, the land is almost like a garden with each altitude level being cropped to that most suitable.

It is almost a joy to see. But when you talk to the locals and tell them what you are doing you don't see joy but they see you and understand you. You even get the seat of your saddle worn longpants rethreaded as a courtesy. You don't get that response on a bus journey.

Forest Fire

After an encounter with a couple of 'farangs', foreigners, one of whom kept me up till 4am with Beer Lao and stimulating conversation, it was a difficult to rise bright and early. So I didn't. This left a short ride to the Viet Nam border and time to rest for the formalities next day.

A night in the jungle. The border post of Phu Cua is but a collection of timber and bamboo dwellings with basic reastaurants. Not for long I suspect judging from the pace of development at other border crossings. I found a 'room' in such a restaurant/guest house.

It was richly enjoyable, no tv's, radios or loud music playing anywhere. The jungle was natural multichannel full surround sound, sometimes silent, you could hear the scream of the butterfly. The light show as the sun set was like a forest fire which sent the young footballers on a patch of levelled laterite for their showers.

What fires there must have been 40 years ago when USA was carpet boming with Cluster Bombs and applying their special agent, Agent Orange, to the region.

The Road To Recovery

A Viet Nam visa was required so I whizzed down to Pakse where I rested up over the weekend for the Consulate to open after the extended Lao New Year holiday. I still felt I in a state of shock not only from the extreme route I had just completed but the extreme contrast within Laos social strata. These folks along the way are so distant from attaining modern life it is a step back into another era.

Visa in hand earlier by several days than expected I took easy rides over the next days going round one mountain range just to keep on the black top to reach Attapeu. I had had enough of rough riding for a while.

These roads have been recently upgraded, some of the best I have ridden, making obvious the recovery and development of the straddling towns and villages. So too in due course will the remote regions gain their access to modern life.

This whole region is further south so the climate warmer, the terrain less rugged and access to infrastructue better. Prosperity shows through widespread land clearing, slash and burn, opening up the land to the riches of its fertile soil.

Up north, one bungalow owner who could not afford the UXO clearance payments, cut the bush and set fire to it, ducking for cover as the Cluster Bombs exploded. Who knows what still lies around his bungalows awaiting unsuspecting visitors. This is but one sample from the entire region which was carpet bombed.

Surely ALL clearance should be paid for by those who laid these atrocious weapons 40 years ago.

In Xepon, I met Tawee and his 80 strong UXO Lao clearance team, delivering more COPE's limb fitting brochures informing them of the District's Pakse office. Where they go few others approach. I saw some of their pics of 4 wheel drive vehicles up to their headlights in the rainy season, reminded me of my 4 day hazardous journey from Vientiane to Luang Prabang in 1989 before the blacktop. And what my recent ride from Nong to Saravane could have been.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

International Artist Cuts a Swathe Through Cluster Bombs

Man Winkler kindly donated one of his idiosyncratic drawings to support the project. Man, a German artist, has been living in Thailand for many years. Earlier this year he kindly gave this contribution to Project Pineapple. He now has a one man show in Bangkok. Please go to for futher details. See Graphic above.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Trial Of the Real Trail, Not On The Bus Route

Setting out with confidence of a dry day but ominously no mobile phone signal, I turned the laden Minsk on to the road to Along. I recalled it being on the other side of the river but assured it was the way to go. The track suddenly stopped high above the Nong river. A short clamber down the bank showed a timber and bamboo temporary dry season bridge which would be swept away come the monsoons. An extortionate toll on the Along village bank was finally paid after some discussion and the appearance of a machete. Better than turning back for the long way round. Finally, I was on the real remote part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Little did I know what was coming.

Initially it was fairly easy going. the undulating plateau track being rough but manageable. Three hours of this down to Taoy then right to Saravane on the laterite road which would be a whizz, right?

Huh! Out of the plateau and the surrounding hills proved to be quite rigorous, not only washed out over seasons of tropical rains but the deeply rutted river gulleys with no bridges had to be crossed. My first one, I stopped took off my backpack, left my camera, phone and wallet to be retrieved once safely across. This was such a painfully slow technique, I gradually recovered my skills, little used for 20 years, of dirt road riding.

Then there were the steep sided upslopes on the otherside and the Minsk's clumbsy gear system which if you missed the moment to first gear you were all but lost. No way could the momentum be regained. Off the bike with 120 kgs of me and backpack, kickstart and drive the bike on the clutch, steering from the side. This was strenuous work. As these situations increased the dread of the next one was forboding. What was I doing this for, one day before my 59th anniversaire, in the bloody jungle panting for breath, heaving on the handle bars, only a smattering of the dialect, phone signal-less and clouds gathering? would this damned Minsk hold out, were the recent fixes good enough to get me through these jungle roads, the original Ho Chi Minh Trail?

My respect grew for those who built this multiple system of trails. On occassions, the original hand laid cobbles would appear once more but most had been washed out long ago.

This torturous grind continued as I went deeper into the jungle further from emergency assitance. I had one number in Nong village, if the signal returned.

Occassionally, a guy on a Chinese step-through bike would appear, light weight and zipping through the rutted trail looking quite relaxed, well they know the road don't they, once in a while with a greeting but always a surprised look at this 'farang', foreigner, riding through the jungle on a strange bike.

Some of the down hill sections were a real shake up where the cobbles still were in place, not your manacured ye olde down town cobbles in central European cities. This rattled the whole bike, my orgins and my skeleton like I was on some overly designed keep fit machine or more likely a test to failure program for the Minsk. Still it was only about three hours of this to Taoy then the big laterite road.

Big laterite road indeed. It was. Must have been great when they built it so many years ago but now was in much the same condition as the last 50 kilometers. Only difference the some of the topographical undulations had been removed and and sweeping corners must have been grand when new. The deep gulleys to the streams and rivers remained the same stressful events. Finally a new laterite section and I thought I was 'out of the woods'. But of course not , just another false hope, merely an improvement for can you guess? yes, the logging road. Slowly, getting out the main mountain range, the road returns to a more level playing field, relatively speaking, and I reach the village of Han. Not sure if I have sufficient fuel due to a carburetor leak, I top up with expensive bottles of petrol. Yes, they have f-u-e-l even here, wicked, do you know what I mean? They are still celebrating the Lao New Year, music, water throwing, powder on your face, and of course beer. So thirsty, I down the two glasses quickly but steady my self for the remainder of this unrelenting trip.

Winding along the wide laterite road with deep potholes, ney excavations, still full of water from the previous days' rain, I lose concentration for a moment in what appears to be an easier environment and slide down the side of one into a pool of diluted buffalo poo. Saved from submergence by the saddlebags and support frame. My only error of the day. Apart from doing the ride.

Finally the big new road to Saravane appears, still under construction but allowing much faster progress. Many hazards remained having to get through the detours through the rivers where the culverts were still being installed. Then there came the 'completed' blacktop. Yes, I should make town before nightfall. But just when you think all is rosey again, having dried out the boots and the breeks in the warm late afternoon sun, the incomplete bridges have to be detoured so it's into the water again up to your knees in water but somehow the Minsk forges through, sometimes reluctantly, but eventually makes it.

Ah, Saravane, was I happy to see it? A room, a shower, and a cool one. Only the anticipated relaxation didn't come easily as everyone seemed to be overcharging for about everything. New money prosperity with the major road improvements.

Nine hours of continual grueling riding, the most arduous I have ever experienced, but I had made it, the Minsk too had done its job without so much as a whimper.

I was exhausted, I was amazed, I had pulled it off. Looking back I could not believe the route, the obstacles, the physical exertion, the concentration required, the reputation of the Minsk was intact. I sent a text message to Mick of PCL, Phoenix Clearance Limited, a UXO company, who had advised me of the route more than a month earlier on my way up to Luang Prabang, that I had made it.

That evening on a sports channel were highlights from the Romaniacs, one week cross country event. Must say it looked pretty easy compared to what I had just done fully laden.

I had seen one other 'farang' in a Huckleberry Finn hat out there in the lower reaches. Had a photographer actually dedicated to Project Pineapple, not transfixed with 'buses' but aware of the English language and travel sufficiently to know what 'transport' means then some amazing pictures could have been posted of this section.

Next day it rained. Had I waited one day more as requested in Nong, I would never have made it. The red clay would have turned to grease, the steep sided gullies impossible hurdles and no doubt a jungle camping event to contribute to the hardship.

I recalled the classic book of the late 60's or 70's 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'.

I also contemplated the hardship the Vietnamese must have endured during the American War and their determination to succeed constructing this, one of the many trails, under continual bombardment. I also contemplated the resilience of the contemporary Laoations who continue to live in the shadow of the 76 million unexploded Cluster Bombs.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sabadee Pi Mai Lao

Happy Lao New Year, belated now, as I departed Vientiane and internet facilities just before. Due to the three day festival falling mid week, the governmant adjusted working days to permit a full week off. This proved to be a significant factor in Project Pineapple's itinerary, initially causing disappointment but ultimately proving beneficial.

Heading back east to pick up the Ho Chi Minh Trail again in easy stages to Lak Xau and Mahaxai. A commercial clearance company had originally offered to let me witness demolitions but the extended holiday interferred with this too, fortunately. They do much work for the hydro electric power plants such as the vast catchment area potentially generating 1,000MW at Nalaolouang. Past Muang Phine where I had worked 6 years earlier, I sped by the 38 kilometer detour to the Xepon gold mine. Previously intending to visit there showing the contrast of commerial interest versus mere human interests, you know, legs, arms and eyes getting blown off in the remote 'uncommercial' villages. It gave me more time to head up into Nong District, the most heavily bombed area in the world to date, where I had walked those 6 years earlier on the water well project. But before that a quick spin up to the Lao Bao border with Viet Nam that I reached 2 weeks earlier. Looking through the arches of time, it was hard to guess there had been such horrors here, at least in these commercial areas. But what of the remote villages? well I'm going back there now.

No buses to Nong but where there are people always transport as any traveller would know. I rode up the improved laterite road on the Minsk past the now fenced off portion or the original cobbled Ho Chi Minh Trail that was the road 6 years earlier looking like a sad forgotten cemetry which it effectively is.

I found the new Naiban, village head, Mr Somsanit. I explaned my return visit and gave him the brochures from COPE, the limb fitting enterprise, asking them to be distributed to the mostly forgotten outlying villages so they would know to contact their centre in Savanahket. There free artificial limbs could be supplied.

This is one of the main purposes of Project Pineapple, to put these people on the political map. In these new days when the USA is seeking to talk about old issues in a new light, when emerging countries are demanding to be spoken to properly on equal terms and not in some neo colonial form with demands and conditions it is surely time for the USA to clean up the mess that it made on someone elses back yard that still kills and maims. This would be unacceptable were in in a Texas or Florida or Ohio backyard. There would be a Hue and Cry about it. So what is less about these people, what is less about their human rights, what is less about their right to farm these fertile mountain slopes without the fear of losing eye and limb or death.

Cluster Bombs here were scattered widely to carpet bomb the multiple tracks of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Nong District is the most heavily bombed area in the world ever yet most of the world does not know it. That is why I am riding down the Trail or what is left of it.

Next day, I rode, baggage free, to Phounmarkmy village where I had located 2 water wells and the Health Centre previously. Met the naiban and nurse. Caught in the start of a downpour, I napped for an hour to allow the track to dry up.

Fortunately the village is in a fairly level part of the plateau so only a few slips and slides but a warning of the dangers ahead were a motorcyclist be caught on the Trail in the serious monsoon season. In 1989. I made the trip to Luang Prabang by truck convoy, semi automatics behind each drivers seat, in October the height of the rainy season, 4 days of heavy treacherous driving on the axle deep mud 'roads', now 9 hours by bus.

The forecast was right, four days of rain then a break of which I took advantage to rough ride the old Ho Chi Minh Trail down to Saravane.

Viet Nam Support

New blog coming soon, just fresh out of the jungle and the 'real' Ho Chi Minh Trail. In the mean time have a look at my friend Dat's page in Hanoi, featuring Project Pineapple. Got a Vietnamese translator at hand? should you be lucky enough still to have a hand.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

From Russia With Love, From America Mr Ta

During my few days in Vientiane, one of the continuing coincidences took place with the arrival at my guest house of 4 freelance Russian photo journalists. With no hesitation Maria offered to translate the webpage, not this blog - too much, into Russian, so please check for that update coming soon, and Andrew fixed the wonderful sitecounter. Thomas, the Austrian, kept me alert with his continual stream of questions and comments equal to the intake of local Lao distillate.

Project Pineapple was invited to the COPE centre, Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetc Enterprise, day after Bomb Awareness Day to meet Mr Ta who was being filmed for a documentary. This is the essence of the Project. This is what the month long preamble following along the Ho Chi Minh Trail was leading up to, the meat of the matter. What happened to Mr Ta is what is occurring every day in Indochina, not only the maimings but the deaths, mostly of small children, searching with primitive Chinese metal detectors for scrap war trash, often active UXO's, Unexploded Ordinances, kindly donated 40 years ago by the Americans.

Should they not in the name of Peace and Democracy clean this mess up and provide compensation to these innocent victims? Should they not stop advocating these horrific tools of war as 'good weapons'? 94 countries signed the Oslo Treaty against Cluster Munitions in December 2008. Should we who have power to speak to our elected representatives not persuade them to demand the end to at least this one kind of perennial explosive device?

Will the 'ayes' please stand up and be counted.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bomb Awareness Day, Cluster Bomb Focus

The Bomb Awareness Day in Vientiane, 7th April, was opened by the Lao Minister of Defence in the Lao National Cultural Center. An International UN day, Vientiane had decided to focus on Cluster Bombs.

When, on the Minsk, I rode up to the huge entrance, security tried to send me over to bike parking until an aware NRA official waved me into the huge entrance hall calming their aparent panic.

A space just inside had been reserved. All the NGOs, government agencies and commercial enterprises somehow involved in the Cluster Bomb issue were represented. Answering many questions, Project Pineapple became an intergral part of the day.

After much official process, various artists performed a number of sensitive traditional style songs directed at Bombies, cluster bombs. Finally a remarkable break dance group, Lao Bang Fai, including some with prostheics and blind, performed a stimulating set.

Next day, an invitation by Cope to their National Rehabilitation Center,NRC, gave me the opportunity to meet and photograph Mr Ta, one of the most photographed victims of a Cluster Bomb, armless and one eyed.

Visits were set up with a UXO clearance company and to a gold and copper mine. All was ready for my departure from Vientiane and a return to the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Cope was arranging bikers both 2 and 3 wheeled for those with disabilities to send off Project Pineapple.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

From Mordor to Happy Hobbit Land

It was an easy ride to the border posts and through them. Only startled by 6 ten-wheeled trucks in no man's land, not dogs land, each with close to 1000 live whelping dogs stuffed into cages packed high, bound for the dinner tables of Viet Nam.

Crossing the ridge the gloomy skies cleared into beautiful sunshine. Good roads and wonderful land scape I wound down to the alluvial plain of the Mekhong, that vast river, 12th longest in the world, that sustains life in these parts and hopefully will continue to do so if those dam builders will only leave nature alone.

After what was often taxing riding in them there spiralling mountain roads, the long straight stretches of the flat lands seemed quite monotonous. But I could communicate again in Lao language after nearly 3 weeks of relative isolation by lack of Vietnamese language, gesticulations and play acting usually getting the message across.

The big capital city of Vientiane loomed. The National Regulatory Authority for UXO in LAO PDR will be my host on 7th April, Bomb Awareness Day. This year, only in Vientiane, it would focus on Cluster Bombs.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mystical Mountain Mist

The early morning drizzle cleared despite the three days of rain forecast. Loading the Minsk for the penultimate leg of Northern Viet Nam, I set off satisfied with events so far despite some difficulties. Refueling at the same gas station in Trook where my clutch chain had broken for the second time a week earlier, Toan's repair shop was shut.

Continuing onwards and winding upwards into the low slung clouds cloaking the mountain peaks, it felt like like some pillow land riding in the mists of time. Down the other side, unwinding, and into the plains of fresh green paddies to Pau Chou for a final Vietnamese dream ready for Cau Treo and the crossing into Laos through the Kaew Nua Pass next day.

Spooked - Saved by Two Jokers

The day before, returning to my guest house, I found two Jokers from a pack of cards, those to be played at any time, on the road. I picked them up and kept them.

Later the following day, after visiting the cave, I took a ride to Nuoc Mooc Spring, more of a river in fact, similar to that of the cave. A few kilometers on, I turned the Minsk into the road to the spring. It was eerie. This was the road I had decided not to take just before my clutch chain broke for the second time a few days earlier. But that wasn't what spooked me. It was the resonance from those tall closely packed karst mountains, the heavy overcast sky did nothing to brighten the atmosphere. This was one section of the Ho Chi Minh Trail I didn't want to go down. But I did, for a bit any way, to get to the spring.

After a kilometer walk through the relaxing green scenary, back to the Trail to complete a round trip to the village. Again I felt spooked as I made my way down the Trail. In over 30 years of living and travelling around the world, up vast African rivers in 'pyrogues', days into the forests hunting jungle meat with only what I wore plus trust in my new friend, before guide books and internet were invented, before bus timetables, I have never been spooked like that.

Significantly, I approached the crossroads where I should turn off. To my great relief I heard the sound of a motorbike approaching from the west. It was Tien on another Minsk. Never having met him before, he stopped as a fellow Minsk rider to share stories as country folks do everywhere. He came from close to the Lao border and found only Minsks hardy enough for the terrain, they never die he said.

Within minutes the crossroads was jammed with bikes as the two Frenchmen I'd met the evening before, Ludivec and Alain, appeared on their Hondas. I thanked them all for turning up just then when I was feeling vulnerable for the first time on this ride. A cross roads indeed.

The swollen group of Project Pineapple riders joined together to weave our way down the more than undulating Trail, Tien on his Minsk ahead, us following.

Back home, I could only compare to Tolkien's Mordor, the gloomy land where dark forces reign. Had I been sensing the dark days gone by, the many troubled spirits that lay within and down that section of the Trail?

Later that evening, I again thanked those two Jokers for playing their hand at a most opportune moment.

Subterranean Blues Again, and Red and Orange..

I shared the boat with three guys from Hanoi and a bunch of language students who get to go free, a very pleasant diminutive, even by Vietnamese standards, 20 year old girl, Quyen, chatted with me. An interesting 20 minutes of rural riverside activities up the River Son brought us to the outlet of another river sourced from under the karst formations, running from deep within the cave.

Cutting the motor, the woman crew paddled, one each to bow and stern, silently into the vast opening chamber. Onwards for more than a kilometer, coloured lights have been placed to enhance the beauty of the slowly evolving inner landscape. With little idea of the depth of the cave, the American airforce had no hope of penetrating the Vietnamese base more than 8 kilometers long. Their only success was to destroy the 'teeth', stalagtites, after which it was originally named, of the cave and embed their steel missiles into the rock that now leak russet red staining from the corroding fragments down it's facade, a poignant symbol of the spilled blood on both sides defending and attacking the Trail.

As returning boats of tourists swished quietly by, powered gondola style, it felt like a surreal subteranean Venitian city with magnificent limestone abstract sculptures towering overhead, the cool still atmosphere contrasting the cave's grim history.

Another Good Reason for Name Project Pineapple

Another Good Reason for Name Project Pineapple
This cluster bomb, known as a pineapple, which is still active, is in the collection of Tourist Information at Phonsavan, Plain of Jars, Laos

Two Good Reasons for Image on Project Pineapple Logo

Two Good Reasons for Image on Project Pineapple Logo
Cope publicity staff Soksai 'plays' Project Pineapple logo

Mr Ta, No Arms One Eye, Cluster Bomb Victim

Mr Ta, No Arms One Eye, Cluster Bomb Victim
This is what the ride is about, to stop the perpetrators of these weapons

An Animated Mr Ta Gesticulates....

An Animated Mr Ta Gesticulates.... best he can during interview with COPE's Cluster Bomb display behind

'Handling' His Misfortune by Selling Maps at War Museum, Sai Gon

'Handling' His Misfortune by Selling Maps at War Museum, Sai Gon
This victim armless, one legged, one eye, is pragmantic, I shook his 'hand' with both of mine

Arms and Legs All Over The Place

Arms and Legs All Over The Place
That's COPEs limb fitting centre, not going out of business soon, unfortunately.

Colourful Collection of Cluster Bombs

Colourful Collection of Cluster Bombs
A tasty collection, you can see why kids enjoy playing with them

Togehter We Can Make It Happen

Togehter We Can Make It Happen
Bomb Awareness Day in Vientiane, is that an American flag I see before mine eyes?

Out of Nong Across to Along and The Hardest Trail

Out of Nong Across to Along and The Hardest Trail
The Along villagers build this crossing during the dry season with a hefty toll on the otherside

War Vet Wonders Where The Good Times Went, And His Leg

War Vet Wonders Where The Good Times Went, And His Leg
The restrained display opposite the City Opera House on Le Loi Avenue, Sai Gon

International Artist Supports Project Pineapple

International Artist Supports Project Pineapple
Man Winkler's contribution to the project , see blog entry, April 22

Little Remains After 40 Years of Scrap Hunters

Little Remains After 40 Years of Scrap Hunters
Too big with rusted bolts for the recycling confirms you are on the Trail

Forest Fire

Forest Fire
Sunset on Lao at the Viet Nam border. Imagine these skies on real fire 40 years ago.

Descendant of First Generation Clearance Team

Descendant of First Generation Clearance Team
Pigs, Dogs and Children were the first to clear UXOs before western conscience finally activated, see website

Jettisoned Fuel Tank Takes to the Air Again

Jettisoned Fuel Tank Takes to the Air Again
B52s dropped their supplimentary fuel tanks after their deadly Cluster Bomb missions

UXO Lao Xekong meet Project Pineapple

UXO Lao Xekong meet Project Pineapple
Mr Tawee and some of his crew receiving COPE's brouchures

Mountain Villagers Have Little But The Land They Live On

Mountain Villagers Have Little But The Land They Live On
Why should these people be suffering from the war remants so flagrantly scattered 40 years ago?

Complex Weaving Designs Take a Complex Comprehension

Complex Weaving Designs Take a  Complex Comprehension
Villagers skilled in weaving intricate designs easily capable of searching their mountainous forest floor plan

Unstoppable Road Development of the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Unstoppable Road Development of the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Parking a Minsk even for a moment can be hazardous

Minsk 125cc 2002

Minsk 125cc 2002
Your going on that? remarked Tony, the web man.

What's that Minsk doing up there?

What's that Minsk doing up there?
It's on the way to my 'local' mechanic in Luang Prabang of course.

My 'Local' Mechanic

My 'Local' Mechanic
Hey Joe, Second Gear, not Top Gear

A Jarring Ride

A Jarring Ride
Phonsavan, Pathet Lao stronghold

Hanoi, Minsk's Second Fix

Hanoi, Minsk's Second Fix
Snagging repairs after first fix

The Ride Kickstarts

The Ride Kickstarts
Project Pineapple departs from Bach Mai Hospital, Hanoi

The Big House Pitstop

The Big House Pitstop
Not reaching the start of the Ho Chi Minh Trail on the first day we make a pitstop at this fine traditional Big House.

Cam Thuy, Start of the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Cam Thuy, Start of the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Outside the restaurant, our last meal together before they head north and I south

Project Pineapple Riders

Project Pineapple Riders
Ben from Australia, with 32 biking trophies to his name, rides the Minsk in Hanoi

Ho Chi Minh's Birth Place

Ho Chi Minh's Birth Place
Not far off the Trail to which he gave it's name, Uncle Ho's house

Phong Nga Cave's now Toothless Mouth

Phong Nga Cave's now Toothless Mouth
Like Venice, Cave Gondaleers have time

Spooked at Trail Crossroads

Spooked at Trail Crossroads
Tien with Jokers Alain and Ludivec

Moody Mountains of Mordor

Moody Mountains of Mordor
The Spooky crossroads of the Trail

Friendly French

Friendly French
Missing a gear change causes a photo op returning to the caves

Chain of Events cause Delays

Chain of Events cause Delays
Tuan speedily replaces clutch and drive chain