Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Change of mood, change of direction

We both woke up feeling a bit 'heavy' yesterday. Possibly it was the bed who's mattress closely resembled a bad section of roadworks? Possibly it was the ceiling fan that only worked on 'hurricane' setting? Possibly it was the knowledge that when the night did finally end that we'd both need to use 'that' bathroom?

After more egg and sticky rice (we got omelette today, same waitress, same restaurant) we got on and started pedalling. It all felt slow and a bit of a grind. We stopped off at a little shop for a can of cold coffee and some water. After a bit of a rest, kate perused the fine array of goods on offer. The shopkeeper was most happy with Kate's copious selection for procurement - 2 umbrellas, a sachet of washing powder and various sweets & biscuits, all for a fiver. Maybe it was the little 'chat' we had with her? Maybe it was the little "kop jai lai lai" as she held her hands in the classic 'pray' position, smiled and slightly bowed, thanking us for the business? Maybe it was just the coffee? But we left her little shop with new found energy & enthusiasm. We rode along side each other, chatting and pointing at things, suddenly just enjoying the ride.

As hard as we try to ignore the remaining distance for each day (using average speed or calorie setting on the little computer things), the road markers clearly display the remaining distance, which usually feels like "gargantuan, can we really do this?"  or less often "cool, not long to go now". Why does it feel like a chore though? This is what we came here to do. Surely we should think "great, 60 more kilometres, that's about 4 hours of fun"?

It's just down to attitude. Virtually all cyclists we have met are really laid back, make it up as you go along types. They're not counting, calculating, clock watching. Why are we? Maybe we just haven't done enough cycling yet to get into the groove? How much do you need to do, we've done about 1500km all up now. Apart from a bit of dust, our bikes still look like brochure bikes, all nice and neat, with matching panniers clipped on neatly. All of theirs look more like a shopping trolley that a homeless person drags around with them. Bits of their lives bolted or tied on in various bags, straps, dirt, cable ties - life on the road vagabonds.

Maybe we're being too hard on ourselves but everyone has their own standards and all my school reports always said "good but could try harder". 

So, we're going to try something to make us feel more like 'real cyclists'. We're going to get off this kilometre counting highway and head north into the mountains. They were coming anyway but we're going into them earlier on a non touristy back route. The kind of route the 'real cyclists' take. Not a route where we can plan where we'll stay and then pedal away the distance in a timed process until we get there. This new route has small towns and villages along the way so food & water will be in good supply. There will also be some guest houses but we've got the tent and would quite like to use it (all the 'real cyclists' have been). In the hills we cannot predict our average speed as some (probably most of it actually) is pretty damn steep and slow. We will therefore ride as far as we can/want and stop where we can/want. If it all gets too hard we can always chuck the bikes on a bus and cheat. The 'real cyclists' have also done that so we feel ok to do it as well.

From Paksan (where we are now) we'll wiggle our way north up to Phonsavan and then head west to Luang Prabang where we were heading anyway. We won't get to see the capital city of Vientiane which is a shame but we will have much more of an adventure. 

To mark this change of direction we experimented at lunch today and had something different from the usual noodle soup, and very tasty it was too. Does this bode well?

So we finished our highway K's in style with a 90km ride in 38 degree heat (that's 100 for the oldies in the audience). It was pretty damn draining. It was like riding through the hottest, most barren parts of Provence in the height of summer but with the quietness of the most grizzly winters day in Whitley Bay.  We've found a nice guest house and will stay 2 nights. 

we plan to do nothing except sit about reading and writing. Prepare yourself for Blogfest...

Which sunset photo do you prefer?

At breakfast the 'we're on holiday and everything is lovely' spell is broken. The bed last night was so nice. Sheets that not only looked clean but smelt clean. Soft pillows of normal thickness compared to the (god knows why?) foot thick rock solid ones we've had everywhere else. Putting aside the disgusting deep, guttural larynx and sinus cleaning noises of our friend next door and the roosters and those pesky kids playing outside, we actually had a good nights sleep. Our bathroom also stands the 'light on' test with flying colours. But breakfast..... Muesli? Fruit? Toast? Even eggs again? No, noodle soup.... We reckon it was a quality one as well considering the quantity of indistinguishable bits in it. Once we'd eaten the noodles and veg it became quite a challenge to hold all these 'floaters' back with our chopsticks as we attempted to spoon the tasty broth into our mouths.

A quick visit to the supermarket ( think poxy corner shop) revealed some amusing items

You're spoiling us Mr ambassador, well, sort of...

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