Posts Tagged ‘rain’


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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The Three Musketeers

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

We woke up to the sound of rain pattering on the tent and the wind still blowing outside, not the most inviting of  sounds for a cyclist.  However we started to get up and got the stove going to boil some water. It wasn’t long before we saw a small hand print pressing on the door of the tent. I opened up and there was a young man with his horse. It was still raining and all of our bags were piled up i the porch, so there wasn’t much room, but he managed to sit in the doorway. I made some coffee and we dug out some biscuits. he was very quiet and shy. We gave him our phrasebook which has pictures and Mongolian and English, he flicked through it but didn’t seem to know what to make of it and handed it back to us, as if he’d only looked at it to be polite. The rain eased and Chris and the guy moved outside to smoke a cigarette. Chris asked him if he was a herdsman and he said yes, we explained what we were doing and where were were going. He left shortly after and galloped off on his horse across the countryside.

We packed up and got on the road, feeling positive about the day ahead and the cool conditions…

We climbed a hill slowly, with a string side wind and then turned hoping the wind would be a tail wind now. It was, although very gusty and blowing hard. We were glad to be on the move and hoped to get at least 50km done today.

We were going along when suddenly two little puppies appeared on the other side of the road and started barking at us. As soon as they saw us moving they ran across the road to meet us. We stopped as they were in the road and there were cars coming, and we didn’t want them to chase us. As we stopped another one appeared. They were very cute and friendly, barking and running excitedly around the bikes. We cycled off slowly hoping they would stay behind, but no they were running right after us. So we carried on, surely they will get tired in a minute and give up. But no they were running alongside us now, in the road, keeping up with us. We were worried that they would get run over, so we decided to move onto the dirt road running alongside the main road. That way they could follow us without getting squashed or mashed.

We carried on a about 2km and they were still running behind us…

Hmmn what to do? Oh well they must get tired eventually. As we came to the top of a hill, 4 big dogs appeared ahead of us and started barking. We stopped. We weren’t sure if these dogs would be friendly to the three puppies and we didn’t really want a dog fight on our hands. Chris suggested we take them back to were we found them and try to get one of the gers to take them, they must belong to someone. Before that I tried leading them through a drainage tunnel that brought us out on the other side of the road. The puppies followed but I couldn’t get them to stay on that side and they just ran right after me back to where we started. So Chris unloaded his bike and left me with all his kit, then cycled off to the gers with the puppies. It was an hour later and I was still sat waiting. Then I heard a little bark. Hmmn, that sounded like one of the puppies! Then Chris appeared in the horizon with the three little ones still in tow.

None of the gers knew the dogs or wanted them. They must have been abandoned. Chris sat down for a rest and the puppies too, they were exhausted. The little brown one curled up between our legs and closed his eyes. Chris said the little black one had been yelping and crying ‘wait for me’ as he cycled back. Aw, they were only little and pretty skinny too. They all came up and cuddled up to us as we sat there, wondering what to do with them.

In the end we decided to cycle up the hill again and one of us would deal with the bigger dogs. We were both hungry and cold now so we needed to move. If the pups followed us then we would let them, but if we could find someone to take them then that would be better. As we reached the top, we saw there was a restaurant/cafe stop and the  dogs immediately ran over to the rubbish pit to start scavenging. The big dogs didn’t seem to be around. We went inside and had a really nice meal and milk tea. I scraped the left overs into a bag and gave them to the puppies before we left. There were lots of people around and they were distracted enough not to see us leaving,so we cycled off without them.

Bye bye puppies!

It was mid afternoon by now and we hadn’t got very far at all. We came to a small town called Lun and stopped to buy some more food. The shops didn’t sell very much through and we couldn’t find any vegetables or tins of met or tuna. This is the kind of town where people just ride up on their horses, tie ‘em up and go inside to do their shopping… feels a bit like the wild west!

We carried on for a bit longer, with the wind and rain in our faces. Both of us were feeling tired and Chris was really low on energy now. It seems that Chris has what I have and after every meal he has to dive in the bushes to go to the loo. I’m pretty sure whatever is making our stomachs ache is also sapping our energy. Despite the medication, I don’t seem to be getting any better. Our days seem to consist of us  talking about poo and how we are feeling (you can actually hear our stomachs making strange, gurgling noises!)  – you sure get to know each other well on a bike trip!

We turned right at the junction after the river crossing and pulled off the road to camp, amongst bushes and sand. There was a big climb ahead of us and neither of us had the energy to face it today. We stopped just in time, as the heavens opened and we rushed to get the tent up and get inside. We were asleep by 9.30pm, cosy inside the tent, as the rain continued to fall.

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First week at Tomato Village School

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

(Written Monday 9th evening)

So we’ve just completed our first week at the Tomato Village School, time flies, can’t believe it’s been a week already! When we first arrived, albeit after a long journey, we both felt a bit jet lagged and as if we had landed in a new country. It is much cooler up here and you need to wear an extra layer in the evening. The village is situated in the mountainous area, north west of Mae Hong Son, about 2000+ meters up. The windy road up here climbs swiftly and is pretty steep – be great fun to cycle down, not so sure about the journey back up!

Benjamin

Benjamin

We are living with Benjamin and his family, and the two school classrooms are built on his land, along with the volunteers accommodation. We are on a hillside, so the bigger classroom is at the top, our hut in the middle, along side Ben’s house and then the smaller classroom is at the bottom. There is a path that runs up, but it is quite muddy and slippery. I managed to slip quite badly a few days ago, despite stepping carefully like a granny.

Benjamin runs the school with is son in law Ten, who is the assistant teacher. Benjamin is originally from Burma but left the country many years ago when ‘things got too bad’.

He has many stories to tell us about Burma and we are close to the largest refugee camp where more than 25,000 Burmese refugees live (there are 5 large camps a long the border with Thailand).

We will hopefully be able to share some of these stories with you and maybe even arrange a visit to the camp, although we need to speak with the UN first.

Our accommodation is comfortable, we have our own room/building with a bed and mattress, bedding and a mosquito net. There is electricity and we have a power socket in our room. There is also a good mobile phone (and therefore internet) signal, apart from when it is raining! There is a toilet across the path and we can use the shower in the family bathroom or have a bucket wash…big trough of water with scoop, you pour water over yourselves and wash. The water is pretty cold! We have blankets on our bed as it’s cold at night. Despite the cool temperature there are still plenty of mosquitoes up here, as well as moths, spiders, little beetles, cockroaches and various other visitors. We are both enjoying the cooler climate though – it’s a nice change after many many months of heat.

Our roomBenjamin is also providing all of our meals, cooking for us at lunch and dinner time. The food has been great and it’s interesting to see what people eat on an every day basis, even is if ours is a less spicy version! Rice features heavily of course, but we have had curry, sweet and sour stir-fry with pork and fresh pineapple, spicy pork meatballs, soups, fish, sweet honey sausage, bananas, jackfruit, pineapple, sticky rice, cakes biscuits, plus copious amount of sweet black tea and fresh coffee! So we are being looked after very well and Benjamin is a great host who takes a lot of care to make sure we are happy.

Chris and Ben ‘drive the train’ together (smoking cigars from Burma) over coffee and interesting chats.

The English lesson take place in the evening 6-8pm. The children go to school during the day and then come up to Ben’s place in the evening. Many arrive early, well before 6pm to play and eat snacks, greeting us with ‘Good evening teacher!’.

Class B

The youngest children are about 6 years old and the eldest 15 years old. There are 60 students, split into 3 classes, A, B and C. Early on Chris opted to teach Class A – advanced, which suited me fine as I prefer working with younger kids, so I take B class (mon, wed, fri) and C class (tues and thurs). After a couple of evening teaching with Benjamin and Ten, we began to teach on our own. Ben could se early on that Chris is a natural teacher, with plenty of patience, oodles of enthusiasm and good crowd control.

I chose to draw on my creative skills, making flash cards and wall charts, bringing out my colouring pencils and coloured chalk to brighten things up  a little. Ten was pleased with my first lesson and said that i seemed to know what i wad doing, had a good plan and it was if i had come form teacher training college! Delighted with such positive feedback I was happy to teach alone.

My classroom is quite small and i have limited room to manoeuvre – 4 desks, 4 benches, 22 kids and a blackboard. The electricity is good and we have lighting, however the electric cuts off occasionally  and we have car batteries for back up, and candles. So far it has cut out twice but only for a short period. The kids always cheer loudly when it comes back on.

Top Classroom at break time

Top Classroom at break time

Chris teaches in the top classroom up the hill, which is more spacious. He teaches Class A – 22 kids, older and more advanced.Many of the kids have to travel form their high schools, which are further away, so they often don’t arrive until after 6pm. It’s a long old day for them and they come every night to learn English!

The kids are great, very friendly, keen to learn, well behaved and polite with a good attitude. They seem pleased to have us here. Overall we are impressed with the level of English being taught here, considering the remote location and resources.

After our first couple of evenings teaching, we were both on a high, buzzing with the energy and fun of teaching. We sit with Ben and Ten and have tea or coffee, chatting until it’s time for bed.  The rain arrives in the evening and we snuggle under our blankets, both happy to be here, feeling settled in our peaceful surroundings. We both sleep well.

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All the way here…

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Leaving Ranong we set off in the rain, donning waterproof trousers for the first time in months, in the hope that my cycling shorts would not get wet (therefore avoiding chafing issues!). Being so hot I decided to roll them up and make them waterproof shorts…

We cycled along, the road was very new and took us up and up a winding route, with the water pouring down the gutters and drains like small rivers as we rode. Reaching the top we then whizzed down the hill and passed a sign saying ‘Scenic Area’ – with the cloud so low and the rain and spray so dense, it was hard to see anything scenic at all, but I’m sure it was a great view! We both enjoy cycling in the rain, it’s very refreshing and quite good fun, not too different from stomping in puddles with wellies on!

We stopped along the road side for a Beng Beng and a cheese sandwich made with the little bread and cheese we had left – felt like old times, cheese sarnies by the side of the road in the pouring rain.

The road continued to go up and down but through very pretty, leafy, lush areas, before we came to Kra Buri. I zoomed ahead and then realised I had lost Chris. I waited for a while then turned the bike around and went back to see if he was ok – probably stopped to chat to someone. But no he had a puncture. After fixing the puncture it was about 4pm, so we went to get a hot meal and come up with a plan. We decided to stay in Kra buri and went to Pannika Resort, which is a small place off the highway with little ‘bungalow’ rooms, that look like gingerbread houses from the outside. The lady who runs it has lots of cycle tourers staying with her, it’s in one of the Dutch guidebooks I think, so she was used to people turning up on bikes and spoke great English, making us feel very welcome.

Chris promptly fell asleep and then later we watched Bridge over the River Kwai on the laptop – we are going to Kanchanaburi, where the bridge was built, Chris had never seen the film so we downloaded it to watch.

Acts of kindness and a disaster

Next day we had breakfast, which ended up being free and the lady gave us a bag of sugared mango strips to take on our journey to Chumpon – so kind!

The road was flat compared to yesterday and we speeded along, once again with the threat of rain. We reached the Kra of Isthmus which is where the border with Burma meets Thailand and you can see Burma across the river. We stopped briefly as it was now raining quite heavily!

The rain cleared however and we stopped to have a small rest near a house. As we were leaving the lady of the house came out and gave us a bag of mangostine fruit, with a smile and then rode off on her scooter. The fruit lasted us days and is similiar to lychees.

We were making good progress, Chris was ahead of me slightly on the fast roads and as i approached an Army checkpoint (for vehicles, drugs testing) I smiled and prepared to carry on through. One of the solider signalled to me to stop and pull over, slightly bewildered I looked around and saw that Chris was already sat with two Army guys  -  they had invited us to join them for coffee! I sat down and had a cup of tea ( not being a big coffee drinker). We chatted to them for 10-15 mins, Chris smoked a cigarette or two with them and we explained about our trip before heading off again. Chris has said how nice the coffee was and before we left, the army man gave us a big bag of coffee to take with us!  What an amzing day this was turning out to be, people everywhere were so friendly and welcoming.

As we set off I knew i needed to stop somewhere to go to the loo. Public toilets are very uncommon in Thailand, so I usually just dive into the bushes, behind a tree or something. So I said to Chris that I would pull over and go now, but that i would catch him up. After a quick wee I hopped back on the bike and pedalled to catch him up. As I came round the bend in the road I saw an accident up ahead. My first thought was that Chris was involved, and I felt the panic rise in my stomach, however as i got close I saw that it was two vehicles. I looked ahead and couldn’t see Chris ahead of the accident, he must have got further along the road. The two cars (4×4 style) were right across the road, smashed into each other, with glass and debris everywhere. I stopped my bike and got off. As I did the driver of the vehicle most badly damaged, staggered out of his car through the broken windscreen and I saw his face pouring with blood. Chris carries our main first aid kit, but i carry a small one too. I quickly opened my bags and found it, my hands shaking as i did. I wanted to help, and having done two first aid courses I knew the basics, but it’s still the first time I’ve actually had to use it. I found a large swab bandage, good for applying to a wound with pressure to stop the bleeding, but i had no gloves and little else except plasters and wipes. As i turned around i saw that there was a passenger in the car too, the driver opened the door and I saw  a young woman, conscious but she fell forward and was helped out of the car.  I could see she was badly hurt, her head and eye was badly bruised, swollen and bleeding. Several Thai people had stopped by to help and they took her to the back of a pick up truck and lay her down there, with a pillow for her head. I passed the large bandage to one of the people helping and pointed for them to help the woman. But with virtually no Thai language other than words for food and greetings, I wasn’t really able to explain much and there was so much blood – it was hard to tell where her injuries were. The injured man got in beside her, obviously in shock and his nose still pouring with blood.  They lay her on her back and so I gestured for them to turn her on her side into something of a recovery position, and mimed breathing and pointed to her mouth, they turn her on her side but I don’t know if they understood about her airway and to check she was breathing as they travelled. Then before i had chance to do anything they sped off. The nearest hospital was 30km north, same place we were heading, I could only hope they would get there and that she would be ok, hoping that it all looked worse than it was.

The man in the other vehicle was fine and I stopped to ask him if he was hurt, but he motioned that he was ok. His vehicle’s air bag had deployed but the others weren’t so lucky. I cycled away, feeling a bit wobbly myself. The roads here are very good, fast and wide but this road has many sweeping bends. They are blind bends, yet the Thai regularly overtake on a bend, at speed, and I can only think that that is what happen here. I was cautious as i continued and stayed close to  the left side of the hard shoulder, watching the traffic in my mirror constantly. I really wanted to catch up with Chris now, but with stopping to help, he was probably quite ahead of me. With my adrenaline still pumping I pedalled hard, going about 26km an hour,  and caught him up, relieved to see his relaxed, smiling face – he has stopped to wait for me. I told him what had happened and that i was worried that the girl might stop breathing and no-one would know what to do, maybe I could have done more to help, but it all happened so quickly? We stopped for some food and a drink, before continuing so that I could calm down a little.

As we got closer to Chumpon the  roads were straighter and busier and it was like entering a city. At the lights we saw a monkey on the back of a coconut truck, he didn’t look very happy.

As we continued I saw several hospitals and was glad, I knew that the injured couple would be there somewhere, being looked after.

In the hussle and bustle of Chumpon we looked for some accommodation. As we did the heavens opened and we got soaked in under a minute. It sure does rain heavy here! We found accommodation and I was relieved to stop to sleep after such an eventful day!

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Cycling in Thailand

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

After leaving the tranquility and beauty of the Sri Phanga National Park, we headed to a town called Khura Buri, which wasn’t too far away and a nice gentle ride with mountains keeping their distance to the right. The road was quiet and it was overcast so very pleasant cycling conditions.

We stayed at Alex Homestay, in Khura Buri and really enjoyed meeting Alex, who looked after us superbly – letting us use the washing machine and supplying a high speed internet cable to our room. He even invited us to join him for dinner…

Leaving Alex, with a late start, we cycled north towards Ranong and stopped to camp in a Rubber Plantation for the night, about half way. In our best broken Thai we managed to ask some passerbys if it was ok, they seemed to think so.

After a nice supper, we sat by the trees in the dark, discussing the concept of soulmates. We’ve both just read a book called Brida by Paulo Coelho (author of The Alchemist), which is about soulmates amongst other things. Very interesting read and got us both thinking…

It rained very heavily overnight, yet was still sauna like in the tent. I kept waking up intermittently to check we weren’t being flooded.

Next morning, with waves and smiles from passing scooter riders, we packed up and set off for Ranong. Ranong is predominantly a place where the backpacker buses go and a good place for visa runs, due to the proximity to the Burmese border (read this article to see why we are using the name Burma rather than Myanmar). Plus there are free hot springs, which has to be a lure for any cyclist! It rained most of the way there and was otherwise uneventful, (besides our rather exciting trip to Tesco).

In Ranong, we stayed at the Kiwi Orchid Guest House, right next to the bus station, where we were greeted and shown a choice of nice rooms with fans. There were a few backpackers staying there, who seemed to have had a rough day, with long bus journeys or were simply weary (of travelling?) – they all seemed a bit gloomy to us! Made us glad to be on the bikes and not at the mercy of buses, boats and tour operators. At the same time I can’t help wondering how people can be so grumpy when they are in such a lovely country, at the end of the day it’s their choice to be there and so many people in the world would never even have the opportunity to travel in this way.

We stayed a couple of days in the end and went to the hot springs and explored the town, enjoying the delights of the Food Market.

We can’t help noticing that there is a great appreciation of food here in Thailand, people take their time to sit and have a coffee and a bowl of noodle soup together. Watching the faces of the people cooking and preparing food, it seems that everyone is happy, content, they take pride  in their work. After all, making food for people is quite possibly one of the most important jobs you can do, we all gotta eat!

So we too take our time and sit eating Kow Pad Kai (literally: rice fried chicken) and phad thai with pork ( big soft noodles fried in a peanuty/sweet sauce). Most dishes are served with a small bowl of watery soup, wherever you go, it’s free or included in the price. My dish comes with crunchy beanspouts, spring onions and a slice of lime on the side. We learn the word for ice tea, order two and soak up the atmosphere.

It poured with rain solidly for 2 days and we found our trip to the hot springs quite comical. The sign said you could only soak your feet, so we sat on the edge in our waterproof jackets, with our toes in the water. A Thai man was in the pool completely and then others came and did the same, so we decided to ignore the sign and get in.

A one point a lady arrived on her scooter wearing long trousers and a long sleeved top. After greeting us she proceeded to climb into the hottest pool, fully clothed still wearing her scooter helmet! We both looked at it each other and said ‘Only in Asia!’.

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