Hairy E-bikers Travel Blog – Part 2/ Week 2
Day 8 (Danny)
Our day-off mostly consisted of lying in bed watching Netflix, but we had read last time that doing nothing was one of the worst things we could do, however tempting. So we got up in the early evening and strolled towards the river. What we saw was the whole town, maybe 100 people, in the golden, early evening sun, climbing around the rocks in the lake, searching for fish for their dinner. The view was captivating and we sat and watched for half an hour fascinated by the practice. Children of around 5 years old jumping across the slippery boulders without any signs of unease, and women in their 70s, diving into the water with the agility of someone half their age. The highlights were Tom’s attempts to join in, feebly throwing a net he had borrowed from a young enthusiastic local and tripping with every step, which brought loud laughs from everyone distracted from their work by the strange foreign man.
This village comes together to fish. Scrambling over the rocks and using their hands, they collect the nets.
As the sun set and the townspeople gradually sloped off with their dinners in handmade baskets, we walked up stream a little and found a load of boats tied up behind someone’s house. They saw us talking and gestured to us offering a boat ride. So we grabbed a few boat beers from a nearby shop and together with 3 Laotians set up stream with the sun slowly disappearing in front of us. We’d had previous experience with a boat in the Philippines and 3 locals there trying to sink us as we attempted to enjoy the last few minutes of day light with a few beers there, so we were nervy passengers, gripping on for dear life when we passed rocks and currents swung us in the water. We got to the bottom of some major rapids and we shook our heads, they were suggesting that we could make it back up! I thought they were joking, but sure enough as we argued our case to turn back, an identical boat sped down the rapids past us! Still didn’t want to risk it, so we drank our beers and headed back to the hotel.
Day 9 (Tom)
After our first rest day we were feeling reenergised and we’re up at 6 and back on the road by 7. The small town of nam neun had treated us well, but we knew what we had ahead of us, as our komoot app indicated a 15 mile incline up some 5000 feet to begin the day’s cycle. School children were on their daily commute, shop keepers opening up shop and smells of breakfast hung in the air. We set our gears as low as they go, batteries on 3/5 to conserve power, 4/5 in reserve for the really steep bits and we pushed and sweated up and up. We stopped for one or two of the jaw – dropping views, shaking our heads in disbelief and asking each other what we think we’re doing. But we mustered out strength and continued past village after village, marvelling at the obscurity and toughness of living their whole lives on these huge mountains with their shear drops. Eventually we reached the clouds. Past the steep incline point at a small village we bought sweet cakes and ate sunflower seeds, our first meal of the day, there really isn’t a lot of sustenance in these hills. In particular, fruit and vegetables are hard to come by.
After our “lunch” we journeyed on up and down, up and down and up again. Past so many nondescript villages some with old explosives outside as ornaments, some making cloths and asked for a restaurant, by gesturing for food, they would shake their heads and point down the road further. As the sun broke through the morning’s clouds and brought the heat of the day, we found this one restaurant, full to the rafters and serving one dish, noodle soup with meat in it. Danny had his meat removed, and we both devoured our meal. After we gestured for sleep and they bought us a pillow to spread out on the floor with for a short while before hitting the road in the cooler afternoon.
After days and days of serious uphills we knew that once we’d made up 60 miles today they’d be a clearing, if only for a day or two and some flat ground! After twisting and turning down the final descent of this huge mountain range we’d crossed and seeing flat land spreading out in front of us, it felt as if we’d discovered a new planet. We wanted to take pictures but nothing would show up on the displays there was, finally, nothing breaking the horizon, we were jubilant! We celebrated with a few ‘dirty’ beers which means pre-shower ones, relief and accomplishment bringing extra joy to an ice cold beer!
Day 10 (Tom)
Day 10 began with some long straight road and a view of mountains that weren’t immediately in front of us, a welcome change. But it was hot. Way hot. Hotter that in the mountains. Out of the frying pan and all that. We were heading towards the town of phonsavan, the largest since the border crossing, which meant half a day’s rest so we could get some repairs done and do some much needed laundry. We had taken to showering with our socks on, giving them a soap down, and tying them to the backs of the bikes the next day, so laundry was long overdue!
It was hot, but relatively flat, and the river running through the valley which we criss-crossed over offered some not infrequent cool breezes. On arrival, we visited the visitor centre for our charity, MAG, and felt hugely motivated to do all we can to raise money as maps showed how widespread the problem was in Laos and the pictures of the victims reminded us of villagers we’d been told about in Nam Neun with missing arms, and how hospitable the people here have been to us.
Check out our Just Giving page for much more information on our charity. Please take a look.
Day 11 (Danny)
Vang Vieng is a fantastic little town in Laos. Surrounded by gorgeous limestone mountains, waterfalls and lagoons it’s a natural beauty. However the real attraction for your average tourist is the drinking and parties. This is what drew me and Tom there 5 years ago, having met in Vientiane 2 days earlier, and we certainly had romantic ideas of reliving the fantastic time we had enjoyed there all that time before. These ideas were realised…… however this blog is about cycling and adventure so I’ll skip over the majority of the debauchery that occurred the 3 nights we spent there. There are however three things that are important to the overall story. 1. Tom managed to blag me 2 gigs in an Irish bar that went quite well and they recommended me to a bar in Vientiane who agreed to have me play two days later 2.Tom lost his debit card (and our sole access to money) while we were there. 3. We both got extremely drunk on our last night there.
These three things had the following 3 respective consequences 1. We had to get to Vientiane in two days to make the gig 2. We had no money 3. Our 2 full days ‘rest’ had been made completely redundant and we felt absolutely terrible going into two long days of cycling
Crawling out of bed that last morning in Vang Vieng we cursed our lack of discipline and started packing our belongings slowly but surely. Tom seemed worse off than me, he’d got involved in some drinking game with a group of Danish people early in the afternoon and had never really recovered. Suddenly his packing ceased and he ran to the bin in the corner of the room and a few seconds later into the bathroom. I won’t go into details but this expulsion of bodily fluids seemed to be helpful and for the rest of the day I was the one really suffering. That’s not to say he was feeling 100% but I was certainly holding us back.
We managed to convince the Irish bar we had spent quite a lot of time and money in, to change some of my remaining USD into Laos Kip and started the two day journey to Vientiane. This day seemed to go on forever, but we had to cover a certain amount of ground if we were going to realistically make the gig the next evening. I had committed to playing and the added incentive of payment meant we really couldn’t miss it. Finally we found a hotel that was deemed close enough, found some food and fell into much needed sleep.