Today was one of ‘those’ cycling days. Although only a little more climbing than yesterday, we went much further but more importantly the climb was steep – very steep – and we cycled 50km before the main climb started so only started it at midday (mad dogs and Englishmen etc…) But I have jumped ahead, back to first thing this morning.
The main difference between camping in South East Asia and Europe is the amount of light we have. Essentially we have 12 hour days here – it is dark at 6.30pm and does not start to get light until 6.30am. We had therefore cooked and eaten before 6pm and were tucked up in our sleeping bags by 8.30pm. A bit of reading before our eyes droop then sleep. We are therefore awake early but can’t really get up until 6.15pm. We dopily put on the first brew with head torches then hey presto it’s light and we can start packing up.
We were on the road about 7.30 – steam from the geysers lit up in the early morning sun. The first 10km was a gradual slide back down the hill to Fang – a town that seems to extend on for about 15km. The cycling app Kamoot had plotted a great route cross country for the first 40km. Through familiar rural countryside but with the looming hills getting closer and closer. We crossed the bridge over the Kok river and joined the main highway heading east over the hills.
We met a charming young French couple who were cycling in the opposite direction, having come from Laos. Useful intelligence but it is clear they are roughing it far more than suits us – but then they are 30 years younger! A few kms on we passed a great coffee shop that did good coffee and omelettes; to set us up for the climbing ahead. Another 10km of slightly uppy/downy road and the climb proper started.
By now it was mid day and it was hot. Yesterday’s climb was shady but here was no shade. And then the steep sections started – and I mean STEEP! We had about 300m of climbing (1000ft in old money) where the gradient was frequently over 10% and often hitting short stretches up to 18%. After that our Wahoos (our navigation devices – brilliant by the way) stopped counting and gave up saying 0% but we reckon at times it must have over 20% in places. It was tough – pushing the pedals as hard as we could, one at a time, aiming for the next corner, stopping in every small patch of shade. There were few trucks and those that did the climb were not moving much faster than we were. The scenery developed as we climbed – with hazy views of the mountains forward and back. The ground was dry but there was some cultivation right the way up.
But we were doing it, our gearing is really good and we could just about keep pedaling without having to get off and push. We were sure that if we were on our touring bikes we would have got off and walked our heavily packed bikes up the ramps. Unlike a bike you can’t use your weight to push the pedals round but with a trike you push against the back of the seat, which seems more effective when it is mega steep.
We inched our way up at sail’s pace. About three quarters of the way up, when we were having a one of our frequent rests, we were passed by a British guy on a motorbike. To say he was impressed is an under-statement. He was more than impressed!! Well we felt pretty impressed with ourselves – and felt better when we put our heads under a hosepipe that was gushing water (sorry not photos of that as our minds were not quite working logically at that point). At last we made the top and swooped down hill….only to have another (admittedly shorter) climb to do. We refueled ourselves with boiled egg and cheese sandwiches, telling ourselves that at least this one would not be so steep. Wrong! Another steep climb but only of about 100m or so of climbing and then we were into the descent proper.
This descent definitely makes it into our annals of ‘top cycling descents we have done’. The road surface was good, the scenery fantastic and the road alternated between straight bits, where we reached rather terrifying speeds (or at least I was terrified…..but I always had the option of braking harder!) and winding bends that were fun to go around. The trikes handled amazingly well. One of the other advantages of the trikes is that the braking system is so good that you don’t get the terrible hand ache that you can get on a long descent on the bike when you are having to brake almost continuously.
After the main descent the road continued down the valley – still mostly gradually down hill but now with more small undulations. Our legs were pretty spent so these undulations felt really painful, so we decided to start looking for a hotel. The first hotel did not seem to exist (or at least not where marked on googlemaps). The second hotel was clearly not really open but they could open up a rather dingy bungalow style room for us but there was no where to eat and nowhere to buy food. So we decided we would have to continue another 10km down to the end of the road where there was a town and the junction with highway1 (which we had followed in parallel earlier in our trip). Luckily the undulations stopped and it was a more or less gradual down hill most of the way.
Into the town and the first guest house we tried had locked gates and no-one around. At our 4th attempt at finding some where we hit gold with a lovely little hotel with nice rooms, hot water and even a kettle in the lobby so we could make tea. We collapsed, more tired than we had been this trip, but both pleased and slightly surprised with what we had done and with how the trikes had handled up and down.
We both independently dreamed of pizza and our second stroke of luck was a great pizza place 10 minutes walk away. We polished off 2 large pizzas and began to feel human again. Luckily only a short day planned tomorrow.
4 thoughts on “Day 20: Tuesday 24 January: Fang Hot springs to Mae Chan: 95km and 800m climbing”
Well done and excellent that you and the trikes are well up for those hills. Hope you have had a well-earned rest and are enjoying this easier day
Congratulations on that day’s ride. You know you can cope with anything now – as long as there is Pizza at the end of it! Very impressive, but I’m sure you wished for your batteries and the motors.
Wow! That’s a tough day. Well done for keeping your pedals turning on such a long, steep hill. I guess you don’t have to worry about going fast enough to balance a 2-wheeler, so that may help on the hills? Hope you have an easier day tomorrow
Well done both of you. Glad the bikes are working well. X