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

SPECIAL UPDATE FOR AMERICANS
FOR NON AMERICANS PLEASE PASS ON TO YOUR US FRIENDS AND CONTACTS
PLEASE VIEW SITE
http://www.handicap-international.us/our-fight-against-landmines-and-cluster-bombs/in-brief/
AND FIND LINK TO
National Senate Call-In Day to Ban Cluster Bombs MAR 30
but keep up the pressure after this date
MAKE SURE YOU CONTACT YOUR SENATOR

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:
http://apps.facebook.com/causes/285080?m=96aaaf39

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


PROJECT PINEAPPLE INITIATED WITH A MOTORCYCLE RIDE THROUGH INDOCHINA TO PUBLICISE THE CLUSTER BOMB ISSUE.

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 : project.pineapple@yahoo.com

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

See you around

Robert


Project Pineapple Logo

Project Pineapple Logo
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

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.

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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....
....as 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