(Bernie) What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I was fed up with bikes, fed up with mountains, fed up with being cold and wet, fed up….well you get the gist. Today…well it was one of my favourite days so far. The scenery was fantastic – we will hopefully let the photos tell the story.
After a good meal at the hotel the previous evening as the sun went down (7.50pm and even the staff who had been fasting sat down to eat then, which was nice) and a good breakfast we were ready to go after our unschedule half day stop yesterday. Cloud soon broke up to a sunny day as we took the road out of town beside the Curah river, which we will be following for the next 3 or 4 days downstream. The river turned a sharp right eastwards and into a beautiful green valley. Again hardly a car on the road as we gently cycled through pretty villages.
The river then plunged into a gorge and the road had to divert going up and down very steeply but affording magnificent views. We stopped and brewed up coffee by an idyllic mountain stream before battling up two more steep hills – the last so steep at the bottom we had to get off and push for the first time this holiday.
The road then plunged back to meet the river and this time, as it entered another gorge, the road stayed alongside, still with some short sharp ups and downs. Just as I was saying my legs were feeling empty and in need of lunch there appeared, as if a mirage, a little picnic place by the road complete with table, benches with cushions and even a shed with a toilet, if you were brave enough to open the door, which we were not. Even a light sprinkle of rain did not deter from the lovely spot.
After our picnic, the skies cleared to a beautiful afternoon, the valley widened out so the terrain was easier, although still beautiful. We joined a more major road. On the corner was what would have been a very timely cafe, It was full of men who gave us a good stare, but being Ramadan no one was drinking or eating anything. So although we very briefly toyed with asking if they had tea, we decided it would not be appropriate to sit there drinking, even if we were offered some. Next we came across an incredible road widening project. The road alternated between amazing new tarmac and bumpy churned up mud but it was almost all gently downhill following the river so we did the last 15km to Ispir in good time.
At Ispir we left the more main road again, still following the river. We stocked up on provisions and headed out of town to find a camping spot. The road and river immediately entered a steep sided ravine with towering walls. The river was more of a lake so there was clearly a dam somewhere and certainly not a flat spot to camp on in site. After a few km the dam came into view and after a tunnel (the first on this trip) the river trickled back to a normal size river. The ravine walls were still huge but after another couple of km we passed a perfect camping spot, a small track down to a grassy expanse with easy access to the water.
We pitched the tent while watching the last rays of sun light up the cliff walls which still surrounded us. A stunning setting to end a stunning day.