Posts Tagged ‘hills’

Rain, hills and oh no!

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

It was still raining when we woke up and we both knew that sooner or later we would have to get up and put on yesterday’s wet clothes. I made coffee and porridge and we slowly packed up, hoping the rain might stop. It did eventually and we were able to pack up in dryish conditions although not for long. By the time we were ready to leave, the rain clouds were poised, ready for action.

Before we left Chris took it upon himself to check my brake pads, dunno why, but we both saw that they were very worn and needed replacing, we agreed to do it that night rather than stop now to do it.

So we set off and knew that we had a climb ahead of us, about 7km, the top of the hill was covered in low cloud and mist. As we cycled, two herdsmen came passed us with a group of horses, they came over to see us and we stopped briefly to chat. They were friendly and clearly thought we were mad. They rode up the hill keeping the horses in line as they went and we followed, more slowly on our bikes. We finally reached the top an hour later and had a short rest.

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It was raining more heavily and we both had on waterproofs. As we came down the hill we realised that there was another big one to go up in the distance. The mist and rain was hiding  most of the landscape and had we been able to see, we would have realised that what lay before us was simply rows and rows of mountains, with hills to go up and down!


We continued and were pretty pleased with ourselves, after the last few days of rubbish slow cycling on our part, we were doing well today despite the rain and hills (or maybe because of them?). We climbed one last huge hill and came down the other side looking to camp. We hadn’t seen anywhere to get water, so we filled up from a small pool of water near the road.


Finally as the low sun peeked out from behind the clouds, we pulled off to camp in a grassy, lush spot, full of colourful grasshoppers. It was quite  a nice evening now that the rain had stopped and it was nice to see the sun once again. Both damp, and with lots of soggy wet kit to get dry, we set about hanging everything to dry on our bikes.


Chris was going to give the bikes a once over and change my brake pads, while I cooked dinner. As I sat down I heard ‘oh f*#%!’ and I went over to see what was wrong. While cleaning his back wheel, Chris had discovered that the rim had a huge split in it. He’d been whizzing down those hills at speed today, he could have easily come off if it had given way. Thank goodness he’d found it now.


Unfortunately it meant we couldn’t ride on, Chris tried to see if he could swap the extra wheel for the back wheel, but they are too different to be interchanged, so that plan was abandoned. Looks like we will have to get a ride to Kharkhorin or Tsetserleg and try to buy a new rim there. Shame as we just got our mojo back today and were keen to keep going.

Hey ho!

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Gobi – Day 2

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

We woke up late and had a leisurely breakfast – we had a side wind so there was no hurry, it was going to be a slow day. We set off down the hill we’d seen the trucks winding their way up and down. The wind wasn’t too bad but the terrain was hard going with loose sand in places. The road was no longer flat and we seemed to climb up for long periods with some short sharp downhills. After 8km we stopped for some food.

After about 13km the rain clouds started  to gather and the wind increased, across the horizon we could see sand been whipped up into the air forming dust clouds that obscured the land. Even the sheep in the distance were lost. After stopping to let it pass over and a  few games of I spy (including light discussion of the rules – ‘no you can’t ask additional questions for clues, it’s not animal vegetable mineral’), we carried on. There were more black clouds in the distance and more ridges to go over.

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I was struggling a bit with the wind and it was all a bit hard going, I ended up pushing my  bike for a while, then cycling, then pushing. We’d hoped to do 50km today but right now doing 20km would be great. The road turned east and for a short time we enjoyed a slight tailwind and had fun whizzing over bumps and down hills. After 22km we stopped for coffee and a snack. Probably seems that all we do is eat, but the wind saps your energy and leaves you feeling hungry. As we sat there it started to rain and we stuck on some waterproofs. I know I’ve said it before, but I really wasn’t expecting so much rain! It’s the Gobi desert for goodness sake. We’re carrying 30 litres of water because there is no water out here!!

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Finally blue sky appeared and the wind dropped enough for us to cycle. I was hopeful we might be able to get another 20km done before it got dark. Chris said ‘let’s see if we can manage 10km without stopping eh?’ yes, sounds good. We came over a ridge and flying down the other side. Chris was ahead and I saw him pulling over, “What now?”  A puncture! So we stopped yet again.

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Half an hour later, back on the road and it was almost 6pm. The road was nice and quite flat. As we rounded the corner the storm we thought was to the west now appeared to be right ahead of us. Flashes of lightning appeared and the sky was rumbling with thunder. We were high up, we think – everywhere looks like the top of  a fell or moor here – and we felt pretty exposed. Not the best place to be in a thunderstorm. We headed over to the telegraph poles – they would get hit before us, then dumped the bikes and got down into the side of a shallow dried up river bed for shelter.

We sat watching the storm. It seemed very high up but the fork lightning was all across the sky. I felt very small and at the mercy of the elements right then.


As the storm passed right over us, hail began to pelt us, big hailstones the size of marbles came raining down. So much of it, so fast; the ground was covered in seconds. I could feel the ice soaking my socks and running down into my shoes. Chris put our rucksack on my head for extra shelter and I tucked my head into my chest.

After a few minutes it passed and the wind eased up. As I looked up to ask Chris if he was ok, to my right I saw a wave of water coming towards us. ‘”Quick” I yelled pointing to the water, “move!” We both jumped up and got out of the way. The dry river bed was now flooding with water. We stood and watched before realising that we needed to cross to get back to our bikes. We ran 200m ahead of the wave and in front of it to get back to our bikes. By the time we got back and looked at where we had been sat, it was under a foot of water, flooding through at a quick speed.

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But the sun was now shining and the rain and hail had stopped so we couldn’t help but smile. All around us the grass was covered in puddles of water. We were wet and mud splattered, but otherwise fine.

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Realising that we weren’t going to make any progress now, we decided to find a place to camp. With the tarp up and dinner on the go, I changed into some warm clothes and peered out to see that our tent and tarp combo looked like Harry Potter’s tent, with roll mats, stoves, plats cups and all sorts of activity going on. With some hot food inside us we’d be fine and ready for a good night’s sleep.

The forecast for tomorrow is 50kmph wind, so we may stay here for the day, but we’ll wait and see.

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Lijiang to Shangri-la via the tiger leaping gorge Day 3 & 4

Monday, January 31st, 2011

The next morning, I woke up I looked at my watch and it was nearly 10 o’clock, I must have relaxed and happy because I am usually keen to get up and away in the mornings to avoid confrontation with any disgruntled land owners.  But here I suppose I felt that no one cared and there was no rush, the view was good and the sun was warm.  We had leisurely breakfast packed up and set off.  We now had to get back up the rocky path we had come down, I was under no illusions about cycling it but thought the first bit would be worth  a go.  I came off straight away so pushed the bike and got the camera out to film Ben and Margo as they attempted the ascent.  Margo did really well, got past the bend and half way up but came off just before the top.  Ben – whose bikes skills are quite impressive, his ability to put a fully loaded touring bike exactly where he want it is amazing – he got past the first bend easily and came off, he started again and made it all the way to the top, impressive. I packed up the camera and panted as I pushed my heavy bike up the slope.

Picture cyclist going up steep hill

We were rewarded with a short descent and then started climbing again.  It was a lovely day, still and warm but not to hot, perfect cycling conditions.  After only 10km we came across a couple of guys at the side of the road.  They had lots of wood, and beside them a hole in the side wall next to the road, with a big fire in it.  After some good signing we discovered they were making bricks.  We chatted for a bit longer, and it seemed were being invited for tea so we sat down on the road and watched while one guy was working and the other was preparing food.  We were given some small bits of what I think were black pudding, so tasty.  Then we were offered rice, more meat vegetables and some beans.  The food kept coming and attempts of saying ‘no more, I am full’ were useless our bowls just kept being refilled, Ben ate the most followed by Margo and then me, some of you may be surprised at this as I am know for eating lots, it just goes to show that I am not the only human dustbin – any cycle tourer you meet will happily match me for food eating ability.  Anyway I was getting really full by the 4th bowl of rice and stopped any more going in by putting my hand over the top of the bowl, this seemed to convey the message I was trying to give!

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We thanked the guys profusely and dug out a bag of nuts to give them something in return.  They looked in the bag and at the nuts and then gave them back, then as fingers met thumbs and rubbed together we realised they were after some money.  Now this possibility had crossed my mind and I was now sure that, earlier when the guy was pointing to my camera before he was hoping that I might give it to him.  It was a funny situation rather than tense or awkward, they guys were trying their luck, they had sat us down and given us food, so we probably could have just shrugged a no understanding gestured, more thanks and carried on.  However we decided that we should give them something, it was a lot of food and it was useful for us as it was not like there were many restaurants around.  The guy got out a big note and we all though no chance, a quick group huddle and we decided on a reasonable amount to give them, paid up and cycled on.

Road side hospitality

I felt a little strange as we set off, partly annoyed, partly confused, did they do it on purpose, should I have paid what?  It is difficult when you are in a different country and culture but generally speaking if someone offers you food, then you don’t expect to pay for it after (without knowing the price beforehand).  However as a western traveller I am perceived as being rich and have lots of money.  I mulled the situation over in my head, but it was not till the next day that I realised I had done the right thing for me.  I would have felt worse if I had not had given any money, and vulnerable as I cycled on in case there was any comeback.

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We kept climbing after lunch and continued to do so for the rest of the day, I was mostly in my own world thinking about life, kit and the universe, as usual and admiring the butterflies by the side of the road.  We cycled though some small villages and I pondered their evolution.  A lot of the houses were built of gray brick but the brick work was perfect and beautiful with different shades of gray.  Similar style roofing slates were also in use and intricately carved wooden windows for the houses.  It seemed that it was the newer houses that were brick and the older ones wood or stone, some of the buildings had tin roofs others plastic sheets.  How long had the bricks been a lively hood for these villages and what was their life before bricks.  Seeing the architectural style change as the buildings got newer was fascinating, I could only imagine how and what and will probably never know the real history of this place.

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I caught Ben and Margo up on a flat bit and we sat down to have tea, it had been a funny day, time was irrelevant really but now suddenly it was creeping back into our reality as we realised it was nearly 5pm and we had probably only done about 30km.  Still we waited for the water to boil had our tea and watch as the villages emerged slowly from the trees behind us.  What they had been doing I don’t know, but I imagine it would have involved tending animals or plants.  They were mainly groups of young women and sometimes one man.  They would wait by the side of the road, chatting and giggling until a truck or car came a long and then climb on top to get a ride home.  Some of the vehicles were already piled high with hay but still they climbed on top, to the already seemingly wobbly truck and carried on chatting as they went down the hill to their homes.  One group of girls reminded me of home, they were wearing more western style clothing, almost oblivious to us, three in front chatting away, what about I can only imagine, but I presume it was not Topshop’s new winter collection, the other was on her mobile phone nattering away to someone somewhere.  It struck me that despite the great distance and cultural differences some things are the same.  Sure as the world gets smaller, cultures merge but for me it was a picture of how much we are alike rather than how different we are.

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With tea finished and everyone and their goats on the way home too, even the one that got stuck on a rock wall, we set off again.  We knew from speaking to one of the locals that we would go up, then come to a flat plain, then up again.  All we had to do was find some more water and then a place to camped for the night.  We climbed a short way up and the valley opened out onto a flat plain flanked by the road, going up a steep climb to our right and snow capped mountains on our left.  The plain was dry and dusty and there was not a river in site, so we pushed on and eventually found a small river at the bend where the road started to climb again.  We filled our bottles with ice cold water from the stream and pondered about what to do, go back about 1km and camp or continue up the hill.  We opted to go back, as the whole area behind us was perfect for camping. We cycled back a short way, made a small bridge from a log and pushed our bikes off the road and onto the dusty earth to a clearing behind some trees.  It was another perfect camp site.  With camp set up, we filled our bellies with more rice and drifted off into another peaceful sleep.  It had been a lovely day, perfect weather and perfect cycling, beautiful scenery and very relaxing.


The next morning we woke up to more frozen water and the sound of the vehicles in the trees behind us, most of the trees were pine and were being harvested by the locals.  We remained undisturbed by humans as we had breakfast and packed up, but a small horse wandered around our campsite, probably wondering what we were doing there, what was for breakfast and why we had so much stuff.  He was friendly and seemed to enjoy the attention we gave him, his soft coat warm from the rising sun.  We pushed the bikes back through the soft dirt and started to climb, the sun warming our bones again and reflecting majestically off the snow capped mountain behind us.

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I took some snaps with the camera that did not do justice to what my eyes saw, undeterred I committed the scene to memory and carried on up the hill.  We crested the hill and descended into another valley, the road weaving though small settlements, the villagers going about their daily life, briefly disturbed by three bicycles whizzing by.  We reached a larger settlement with a shop and stocked up on a few essentials.  Ben was already hungry so stopped for some noodles, I was keen to carry on so left Ben and Margo to have noodles and arranged to meet them later.

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I cycled out of the village, and back up the other side of the valley, on the way I had a fierce growling match with a dog that had a toothy grimace and probably thought that biting a cyclist was a good idea.  Fortunately for me, he backed down and I continued on passed the rubbish dump and up the hill.  I got to the top and freewheeled down finding a great spot for lunch.

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As I was tucking into my noodles Ben and Margo joined me and we enjoyed the midday sun and waved to the occasional truck driver as they plodded up the hill.


After lunch we descended into another valley and started climbing again.  I heard singing  from somewhere and stopped to find out where it was coming from, not just one person but a group of people, it was the school below me.  Upon closer observation there was two groups of Children singing , they were singing together, sometimes following one another and at other times competing in against each other.  It did not feel like China, more like Africa but it was magical and a part of Chinese life I had not seen before.  With a smile on my face and a warm heart I carried on up the hill, it went on and on and on and on and I felt like it was never going to stop.  We had all separated out, going at our own pace.


I would sometimes see Margo on a bend above me and wondered where Ben was and if he was ever going to stop.  I started cursing, come on it’s getting late now, I can’t do any more of this, I want to stop.  I had no choice but to carry on, I knew that Ben was probably pushing for the top to get there before dark and so really I understood, just keep pedaling.  Eventually I crested the hill and Ben and Margo were there, an old lady in traditional dress was talking with them.  It was getting cold and I did not want to stop and loose the heat I had generated going up the hill, I voted we carried on and camp at the first opportunity.  I put on some gloves and another jacket and we whizzed down the hill.  We found an empty patch of land that was exposed and rocky, but after a day of climbing it was going to be home for the night whatever.  We pitched the tents with rocks, as the ground was too hard for pegss and started to make dinner.  Ben was exhausted and passed out before dinner, he had eaten at the top of the climb, so Margo and I had some rice, finished boiling the water on the fire for the next day and went to bed.  I was knackered, but happy to have to got the top of the last hill and now be cosy in my sleeping bag.  The next day we were hoping to make it to Shangri-la.


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‘Aint no mountain high enough!’

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

As countries go, Laos certainly seems to have more mountains per square mile than any other place I’ve been. The whole country is like a giant version of Tellytubby land, covered with high roads, criss-crossing the ranges. It’s beautiful though.

After our night in the bamboo shelter, we got back on the road and having decided that I felt ok, I wanted to make it to ViengPhoukha that night, where there would be a guesthouse or two and food (of the meat variety)! It was 60km away and we had reason to believe that there were some big mountains in the way:


Map my ride elevation map of the some of the route

However, it started ok and we were on empty gravel roads, mostly heading downhill, including an area with a spectacular view of the valley and paddy fields.


We passed through a small village where there were little kids on oversized bikes by the side of the road. Chris cycled by them on the part tarmac / part gravel road.

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The road meandered for a few miles, mostly flat through more villages with waving kids. I was beginning to wonder if we would be more tired from waving and shouting ‘Sabadee’, than cycling, by the time we reached the Chinese border. In one village, huge swathes of kids above us on the hill sides waved and screamed to us, amazing, I was beginning to feel like a celebrity.

The road quality deteriorates quite badly in places and becomes a bumpy, potholed mudfest. I know that hearing cyclists moan about road surfaces is fairly dull, but with no suspension, riding on a rough surface can make for an uncomfortable, slow ride. Chris, however, would argue that it’s good training!

road quality

So we finally reach a hill, which looks ok, but steep. The road is curving around the hill, so you can’t see how far the climb is, in some ways this is better as it is less daunting – one step at a time. We agree to meet at the top and set off. At first I keep up with Chris, but it’s not long before the gradient kicks in. Our paces differ greatly on the hills, even though Chris actually cycles at a slower speed with more weight. With shorter, weaker legs, I have to pedal faster to keep the bike moving and me from falling off, so it appears that I am exerting more energy in shorter bursts, meaning I get tired out quicker. I wish I had greater stamina and strength. So I pedal, aiming for a certain tree, post or pothole up ahead. I get there and rest for 30 secs, then continue to the next point. It’s slow going but breaking it down into sections make it achievable. We round a corner and continue up. I can now tell that this is going to be a big climb and there is no obvious ‘top’.

After a while, i stop for a few minute to catch my breath properly. On the hillside I can hear voices and chatter coming form the bushes and trees. I can’t see anyone, but it sounds very close. Finally some shouts of Sabadee arrive and I see 4 young women. They climb down and come over to me. In my best Lao I explain that I am going to Laoung NamTha and say how steep it is. They agree and ask me if I am on my own (Nung?)  Meaning: just you? (Shake head, Song!) No two! I say and motion ahead of me to indicate Chris. Ah they nod and look happier. I drink from my water bladder and they are intrigued, as is everyone in Laos, about this contraption. ‘Nam’ I say (water). They are very happy about this. I ask them what they have in their bags, they show me bamboo shoots. I nod and smile, pleased for them. Bamboo shoots are used heavily in cooking.  I set off again, but it’s really steep and I keep stopping – the women must wonder what I am doing, or more to the point why I am doing this at all. How strange for them. I wonder if they think all western women ride bikes up big hills in far off lands. I also think that, at this rate, they may catch me up on foot, however I turn around and see that they have disappeared back into the trees, continuing their hunt for food.

As the climb continues I reach a patch where the tarmac has been dug up leaving a very rough surface. Ahead, I see diggers, trucks and roadworks. By the time I reach them, the road is so bad that I have got off to push. Huffing and puffing as the trucks and machines move up and down, covering everything with clouds of dust. Me included. Then one of the workmen says hello, where are you going? I say Hi but continue, am too out of breath for a chat! A minute later he reverses his machine up the hill and stops just ahead of me, getting out the cab. He’s keen to talk so I stop. His English is good and he is from Thailand. I explain what we are doing and how we spent time in Thailand. Turns out we cycled through his home town, which he is delighted about. I guess not many tourists would go there as it’s not really a big tourist destination. I turn to go now as I know Chris will be waiting. The man rushes into his cab and brings down a big bunch of bananas. He gives them to me. I suggest that I just take one or two, but he insists that I take them all. I take them, very gratefully and thank him for his kindness. I wave goodbye and cycle on up the rest of the hill.

It’s boiling hot now and I am still climbing. No sign of Chris yet so I can’t be at the top. As I go round the corner I see it continue to climb and bend, not as steep but still up. Eventually the road surface improves and it levels out. Chris must be near, so I ring my bell a few times to let him know. Finally as I reach a bamboo shelter by the road I see his bike. Turns out he’s also been meeting people. A couple popped up by the shelter, sat with him for a while chattering away and gave him some freshly picked rice to chew on. We are both amazed at how friendly the people are here, so unfazed by our presence. Sure people who speak some English in SE Asia are usually friendly and come and chat to us, but here in Laos they are happy to sit and chat even if they speak no English and we only speak 10 words of Lao. It’s lovely.

We scoff some bananas and look at the road ahead, there’s more to go yet. My ears are blocked up at the moment and when I yawn I hear them crackle. Despite the difficulty of the climb, I’m buzzing. Those endorphins must be working their magic.

liz mountain top

We get going and the hill goes up up up some more until we finally level out and cycle for a few kms along a plateau. All we can see for miles around are hills and mountains. It’s spectacular (not that photos do it justice!). I’ve been pouring with sweat for hours and the prospect of a nice long downhill is exciting.

hills everywhere for miles

Then we whiz downhill for ages, maybe 10km, finally stopping at the marked boundary for Bokeo/Luang NamTha Province. We are both starving and Chris is particularly low on sugar, I know this as he is pretty grumpy and short tempered, always a sign of hunger.  So we pull out the tarp and I order him to sit down and eat the rest of my chocolate crisp things. I set up the stove in record time and boil some water for noodles. We only have one packet left though and a tin of sardines in tomato sauce. It’ll have to do us for now. Whilst all this is happening, a bus stops full of tourists, who proceed to get out the bus, saying hello and then walk off into the bush. We’re in the middle of nowhere, we think, where can they be going, they don’t have backpacks or anything? However after the number of people we’ve met today popping up here there and everywhere i guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

The coach driver comes to talk to us, turns out they’ve just stopped for a lunch break and have gone to eat their packed lunches. He sits with us while I cook and we ask him where the next village or shop is, what the road ahead is like etc. He’s a nice guy. The tourists come back, they are Dutch but speak good English, as most Dutch people do. We chat with them for a while before they climb back aboard and wave goodbye.

We scoff some more bananas, both feeling better for food and look at the road ahead. The driver reckons there is 3km of climbing to do before we reach the real final top. Then downhill for 20+km to Vieng Phoukha. So we continue up. In one place it’s too steep and I push my bike for the best part of a kilometre. Even the trucks coming past are going really slowly. At this point I tend to daydream and no longer focus on the hill or the difficulty. Having got this far, your know your body can do the work, so your mind is free to wander elsewhere. That said, it’s rare that I achieve this, especially on hills!

At the top top, after passing through a village, we find a small shop and stock up on water, which we were very low on by now. We also buy coke, orange juice and 4 packs of biscuits. One of the men form the village asks to have a ride on my bike. I ask him to trying lifting it first just so he has an idea of how heavy it is. Then I agree he can have a go. After a wobbly start ( it’s in the two lowest gears after the hill) he gets the hang and does a small circuit before handing it back. It’s now 4.30pm and we still have about 30km to do. It’s cold up here in the mountains and rain looks possible, so we start our descent. What can I say, we literally go downhill for 20km! We wind through hills and villages, passed rivers and cows. In many ways the Laos landscape reminds me of New Zealand.

wooden huts at start  of each village

The road eventually flattens out into a valley and we are not far from our final destination. A few more ks, but the last 5 are hard, my legs are very tired now and as the sun starts to set, I just want to get there. The town is meant to be a good size, yet out here it is hard to believe that just round the corner is a big town! We cycle along, side by side, taking the mickey out of each other with daft banter, both in high spirits and attempt to race the last bit. A couple more small hills get thrown in just for good measure and as we reach the brow of the last one, we see the town below us. Hurray, high fives all round. We whizz down and stop at the very first guesthouse sign we see. It’s called Mountain View Lodge and guess what, it’s up another flippin’ hill!

We check in to a small bungalow with views over the town. There is no electricity, but the bed is nice. I take a cold shower in the dark bathroom and wash away the layer of sweat, suncream and road dirt. I’m a bit too cold to face getting my head wet, so my hair stays unwashed. After feeling ill and weak the previous day, I was surprised that I was able to do this today and come to the conclusion that I am either not as ill as I thought or am stronger than I knew! Tomorrow will tell.

We head out to get food and order far too much, but are happily full when we return to our bungalow. The generator is on when we get back so we have some electricity (ie lights). We decided to watch a movie on the laptop. A few minutes into it, the electricity cuts off and shortly after that, despite efforts to keep my eyes open,  I fall fast asleep, shattered but content after a challenging ride through the mountains. 

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Thailand – first few days cycling…

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

We have been nearly a week cycling in Thailand now and we are slowly getting back into the rhythm of things, having spent a month sailing from Penang in Malaysia to Railay, Krabi Thailand. Our legs and bums are remembering what life should be like and we are learning a new language too. We have climbed more hills in the past few days than in the whole of Malaysia, and Thai culture is beginning to become familiar.

To leave Railay beach we had to take a long tail boat as the peninsular is cut off from the main land by big mountains. It was a noisy and exciting ride in a boat that you know is designed to roll about but at any moment you think it will tip over when the next wave hits. We made it to dry land and my visions of the big red bags and bike sinking to the bottom of the sea disappeared.

Arriving at the small port in Krabi we fixed our punctures that we both had for some reason and loaded up the bikes. Our audience of locals smiled at us intrigued by what I presume were thoughts of what is all this stuff they are carrying. We managed to communicate that we were travelling to Chiang Mai, smiles broadened and we were told it was a long way. Some other tourists passed by and recommended a hotel up the road. We checked in showered and changed and hit the food market to sample the culinary delights of offer. The market was a great experience with some passionate chefs, exciting and delicious foods. The next day we stocked up on food and got some odd jobs done and generally wandered about.

Our first day from Krabi was a sensory overload, new trees, giant rock formations, different faces and expressions and smooth roads.

We slowly made our way north and stopped at the only place we found that said ‘inn’ in English. We realised that we had no idea what the Thai is for home stay or hotel as the Thai language has a different alphabet to English. We managed to get the message across that we wanted somewhere to stay for the night and we got set up in our clean and comfortable room.

The next day we set off from Ban Klang only with going North in mind. We left the main road and slowly climbed up our first hill in what seemed like ages, Ubud in Bali perhaps.

At the top there was a small temple and plenty of cars beeping. We later discovered (from what we can gather) that rather than being temples these sites are in memory of the people that have died here, accident hot spots. The beeps from the cars were the people saying hello to the spirits of the dead, and to prevent further accidents.

We freewheeled down passing more impressive outcrops of rock covered in trees. The landscape here is so green and lush and there seems to be varied species of trees compared to some of the monotony of Australian gum trees or Malaysians palm plantations. At the bottom of the hill we stopped at a small shop to by provisions, not knowing how populated the road ahead was, we wanted to be prepared. We asked if there was any accommodation nearby and were told that there was a resort about 2km away.

With our hand drawn map we set of in search of the resort, not knowing what to expect. We had turned down the offer of an escort from the shop owner, who said that it would be difficult to find. It is sometimes easier to make your own way and stop when you want to, as we found out later it would have been good to get the escort. After 2km no sign of the resort, we kept asking people and they kept saying a little further. After the third conversation we were escorted by a guy on a motorbike to the, I ♥Idin resort. It was a bit like Alice in Wonderland, arriving in the dark to a manicured resort with fairy lights in the trees, a stark contrast from the small houses and trees we had passed on the way. We felt like we were imposing, this was not a tourist resort and we were the only tourists there. But we were made welcome and shown to an institue tent that would be our home for the night. Tired we washed showered and eat before heading to sleep.

The morning sun encouraged us from our sleepy state; we took advantage of the shower again, packed and left. We had not felt right staying there somehow and were keen to move on. We cycled the 7km back to the main road for breakfast. Chicken rice and egg made us feel better, as we cycled north again our thoughts turned to our experiences of the past few days.

The bike is a wonderful place to think and you can lose hours pondering the simplest things or the meaning of life. I decided that we had had some negative experiences and were dwelling on them. Many of the Thai people we had met were reserved and somber. We were worrying if we were welcome here or if we were offending people in some unknown way. We were concentrating on these experiences rather than the smiles and help we had received. Were we reflecting this energy back onto the people we met? We decided to go in fresh and confident, smiley and happy try and speak Thai, if we get it wrong smile more and try again. We arrived at another resort and although we were hot and bothered we made the effort. We were rewarded with warm smiles and managed to convey our desire to camp in our tent. We enjoyed the evening and the thunderstorm that cooled us down immensely.

We woke a little late, the camping area was next to the restaurant area and the karaoke had kept us awake till 4am. Despite our frustration we had to remember that it was only a few people that had kept us awake and they probably had no idea that we were so close and wanted to get up early. As we left the staff were arriving, they greeted us and bade us farewell with more smiles and we set off again ready for our next experience.

We had planned to explore one of the National Parks, the guide book gave the place a good review and we were excited about tree house accommodation. Unfortunately we missed the desired turning but had arrived at junction where a side road and a different national park was 5km away. Stopping at the junction we checked the guide book, there was no mention of this place in the guide book and all we had was the sign that said waterfall and national park. Should we head north or turn right and see what happens. A few minutes later having turned right we were heading into the unknown, excited for what awaited us. Thoughts of wilderness and steep climbs into the cool mountains crossed my mind and I envisaged camping next to a river with my feet dipped into the cool water. 5km later the road ended we had arrived at the National Park.

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