Friday, 27 February 2015

We're back....

The mountain roads have not been (so far) the nightmare we had expected. Google searches brought up stories of cyclists running out of water and having to drink from muddy streams. 
Backpackers on buses had aborted their journeys, turning back because the road conditions were that dreadful. In fact, some of it was pretty flat

Day 1 
We averaged 16km/h, with a total of 54km and a max of 49km/hr. There were a couple of cheeky inclines marked as 10% but on the inside of the tight bends they must be double that. Granny gear definitely deployed. In the heat of the sun they are pretty tough going. Getting over the crest feeling a bit dizzy is not the relief you might imagine. You can't just go for it on the downhill as each blind bend holds some kind of surprise in store - a huge gravel filled pothole, a herd of goats (or is it flock or gaggle?)

There was a nice limestone rock pillar in the paddy fields out the back from our shite hole guest house. 

Kate is getting pretty damn good at ordering food in the little roadside cafes. They seem to understand her but then don't necessarily have the ingredients to make it. Oh well, noodle soup, sticky rice & omelette it is then.... Tonight we've got Larp (finely chopped meat with chilli, lemon grass, spices etc) it's a bit 'blow your head off' hot though. 

Who says there's nothing to eat out here? Tuck in Rowland!

Town is now dark and closed up. It's 7.30. Back to our room for a game of scrabble then I guess? We've got another 'living the dream' guest house. Tonight we have deployed our thermarest camping mats on top of the mattress as it is so hard it may as well be solid wood 

As kate made the word 'gaze' with the z landing on the triple letter score I thought the evening couldn't get any worse. It was peaceful & calm. Frogs croaking, insects chirping. The geckos were running around on the ceiling, feasting on crunchy delights. Doof doof, twang twang went the stereo of a metallic pink 4wd as it roared into the driveway, skidding to a stop. A truck followed. Chinese number plates. Oh no. Bish, bosh, bash. Noisy b@stards. It wasn't helped by the acoustics of the concrete and tile hallway. What's wrong with just going to your room, having a shower and reading your book? D'you have to have a 120 decibel mothers meeting, each of you standing in your own doorway shouting at each other? Now?. We went to bed and read our books pretending everything was ok (we're so British!). I found solace in my book, Blood River about a guy travelling down the Congo river. He was having a much worse time than us! And then, it went quiet. All of a sudden we were back to just the whir of the fan and the chirping insects. Sleeeeep

Day 2
We awoke to a chorus of snotting, gobbing & throat clearing. It was almost primeval. Off we went, back to the restaurant from last night where we'd tee'd up a 7am bowl of noodle soup. 

Once on the move again route 5101 deteriorated pretty quickly. Climbing on the hills where the tarmac has long gone is the hardest. The bikes struggle for traction as we attempt to pick a path through the sand and rubble.  One such hill heralded the "get off and milk it" (push) on one particularly steep section that was rutted, sandy and strewn with loose rocks that were anything between the the size of a pebble to a football .

I know it doesn't look like much here but believe us, it was tough

More up. More down. More bump. More grind. We made the 30km through to the main road and celebrated with rice and a BBQ (pork not rat) with a tomato salad (fancy name for chopped up). It was delicious. Now back on a proper road we sped up and made our intended evening stopover point by late lunch. Time to move on. These towns offer nothing but a place to rest so there is just no point in hanging around at 2.30pm. Riding through the hottest hours is a killer but we just can't find anywhere nice to chill. We're kind of following a river (soon to be dammed and used as hydro electric power by the looks of things) but there is no shade on the banks. Any shady roadside places are strewn with rubbish, used nappies and/or other people. The appeal is small. We rode on. The climbs got bigger and longer. So did the descents. 10km is no longer "just Guys Hospital to Greenwich", the terrain totally dictates the speed, time and effort it takes. This next 10km to 'home' turned out to be smooth Tarmac pretty much all the way to the bottom. Top speed 47km/h.

Another LTD (living the dream) guesthouse was secured for £4 (all its worth to be honest). There was a bucket shower, a squatteroo toilet and a single bare lightbulb hanging on the end of a cobweb covered  flex. We weren't the only ones enjoying rural Laos's answer to the George Cinq though, 2 French blokes turned up on these. 

We may ride together tomorrow. The map shows the road as ridiculously squiggly. We guess mainly up hill as we're heading up onto a plateau known as the Plain of Jars. Time will tell. If it gets too hard we'll flag down a bus.

Check out this weapon of mass destruction. There are loads of them around here. The winch cable comes up and over from the engine and it can then be used to haul massive tree trunks into the back. Nature just doesn't stand a chance

The mornings are getting much cooler now. It was down to about 18 last night which after pounding away in 35 sunshine all day feels pretty fresh. These towns don't seem to wake up until about 7. We'd like to be riding by them to enjoy the cool but need breakfast before we head off. As we climb the towns are getting smaller and more spread out so we can't risk leaving without eating - pedalling up hills on an empty stomach is not a good idea. Therefore by we don't actually get going until about 8 ( they open at 7 and then start cooking) which is a bit frustrating.....

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