Tuesday, 3 March 2015

From dawn to dusk

The not quite fully cooked banana roti sat like stodge in our tummies as we headed off west from Phonsavan at 7am. Well, it made a change to noodle soup sloshing about in there instead. This wasn't the only difference today. It was cold (15 degrees) and a bit foggy. I guess not that surprising for what was effectively an autumn morning in the mountains.

The scenery was pretty different too. With lots of pine trees, stands of eucalyptus and red, stony soil. It felt like we were riding through a bizarre mix of the Mediterranean and Australia. The sun didn't get through the fog until
about 10am, which kept the temperature down all day. A good thing for what was in store for us later on.
We wound our way through the lovely scenery. It took the sight of a water buffalo or person wearing a pointy bamboo hat to remind us that when we  got to the next town for a break we wouldn't be having cafe au lait and a croissant or maybe a Four & Twenty pie washed down with a VB!

On we went, stopping at some point for, you guessed it, a bowl of noodle soup. How reassuring. Newton's law of gravity kept us busy until about 1pm as we sailed down at 35-40 km/h and then back up the other side in granny gear at  less than 10km/h. Then a fantastic 14km downhill (got to max speed of 53 whilst braking) brought us to our lunch stop and another firm favourite of sticky rice and omelette. 

Can you spot kate?

As we sat there in the cronky restaurant, a motorbike came past. We recognised it as the one that had been parked at our hotel. Within a few seconds it had come down the hill, across the bridge and gone up the other side. It looked so effortless. I longed for mine again but then thought "No, d'you know what, today I'm quite enjoying this cycling lark and those guys are missing out on so much by racing through these villages".
Those thoughts diminished pretty quickly as we rode on. It was a 22km climb that took us over 2 hours of solid riding. It was probably less than 10% for most of it but relentless. Luckily there was plenty of shade so the whole experience was actually reasonably bearable.

We had mixed reports whether our target town for the night had a guest house or not. Possible tent deployment? In fact when we finally got to the town it barely had anything. All we could buy was water. We'd been carrying some food with us all day so were now looking forward (?) to a dinner of soggy baguette with a tin of sardines, 2 carrots and an apple. Yummo! A guy told us there was a another town 3km down the road with a restaurant and a guesthouse. This seemed weird. The village we were in had been on the distance road markers pretty much all day, why would a town with so many more facilities not get a mention? It was 5.30 by now and we'd already done over 100km inc that massive climb. Against our better judgement (and smacking slightly of desperation) we rode on. Well knock me down with a soggy baguette, the bloke was right!

This photo makes the guesthouse & setting look pretty lovely. It should have a little note along the bottom saying "experience of visiting this establishment may vary slightly from that Shen in photo "

Reality shot

So, now full of a plate each of rice and something (probably best not to think or look too carefully) and tucked up in our sleeping bags (read 'filthy sheets') we proudly look back on a day that I think we might have actually become "real cyclists" 

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