Tag Archives: cycling

Day 19:  Monday 23 January:  Marlee’s Nature Lovers Bungalows, Chiang Dao to Fang Hot Springs:  89km and 760m of climbing

There are uncertainties when traveling anywhere by bike.  The obvious ones are punctures, mechanicals or unexpected things along the way that make life more difficult than expected.  There are extra uncertainties when traveling in a country where we cannot speak the language, do not know the terrain and where hotels, guest houses and restaurants may have moved, closed down or, despite being on google (with reviews) never existed in the first place.  

Then again, there are certainties.  Hills are one of them.  So we started today knowing it was a bigger climbing day than we had ever done on the trikes (powered or under Shanks’ pony) and that we have over 80km to cover.  Fortunately, the majority of the climbing was due to face us in the morning rather than in the heat of the day.  Nonetheless this type of certainty – added to the uncertainties can be slightly daunting.

We woke as it got light and packed up our tent.  On the way out at about 7.30, the lovely and eponoymous Marlee came to greet us with a bags of sweets she insisted we would need – and we took them with gratitude.

A wat along the way

The first part was down and then across to the main road.  It was misty in the valley, a mixture of smoke from fires and low lying cloud.  We climbed out of that through a village where we seemed to have about 15 dogs barking at us at once, and yet none approached.  Then our route took us onto the main “107” road, which we would follow for the next 75km.  It was moderately busy but had good shoulders.  It wound its way up and down, gradually gaining height and then, after about 25km, we went through the last village before starting the big climb of the day.  Luckily, this village had a cafe by a lake which did excellent coffee and omelets.  “Second breakfast” is usually the best meal of the day on a cycling trip – but we have not indulged much in this delight to date.  Today was the exception – we needed rocket fuel to get us up the hill and it was there on offer.

View from second breakfast cafe

When we left the cafe I thought Bernie was on fire – nothing I could do meant I could keep up with her.  I then discovered I had not fully taken my back brake off and so was making life harder for myself than needed! Feeling like an idiot, I got back into the rhythm of the day.  

The big climb was only about 250m and was never more than 10%.  It was tough but entirely doable and we need not have built ourselves up so much.  There were long gaps in the traffic, followed by a lorry leading a stream of 20 or 30 cars since there were very few overtaking places.  The lorries tended to see us late because of the tight bends so we pulled fully into the sides on occasions.  But it was soon over and we were steaming down the other side.

At the bottom the road became far more crowded.  We stopped for an early lunch at a roadside cafe and had chicken “soup”, complete with chicken feet in the soup!  It was delicious and great value, but we left some parts untasted. 

The afternoon passed in a fairly tedious blur.  The road was straight, dusty, busy and passed through a constant stream of towns, and was built up between the towns.  There are sections like this on any route, but they pass.  We turned off just South of Fang, to start the climb up to the famous Fang Hot Springs.  It was well worth the extra 100m climb to come into a delightful park with columns of steam coming from the boiling water emerging from the rocks.  We got sorted, found a place to camp and then went to explore the hot springs.  

Apologies for including this one!

I will forever associate the smell of “rotten eggs” with O Level chemistry classes – the smell of burning sulphur.  To say it is unpleasant is an underestimate but this is the smell of the hot water as it comes out of the ground.  We could more than put up with the smell to sit in the hot mineral waters as we rested limbs after our endeavours.  This is a favourite place both locals and visitors and the gardens have a Japanese feel to them.  It was  lovely place to end the day.

Day 18: Sunday 22 January: Day off in Marlee’s Nature Lovers Bungalows, Chang Doa

The setting for the campsite, tucked into the base of the Chiang Dao mountain, was so sublime and the variety of people here meant we decided to stay another day.  All worked well with the camping stuff and we huddled in our sleeping bags with ‘bed tea’ in the morning listening to the birdlife all around. Malee’s husband Kurt is well into his seventies.  He explained to us that he came here from Switzerland for the orchids, found both amazing plants and love (we assume) and has never left.  He wandered around in the morning watering his thousand orchids; carefully nurtured in pots hanging from tree branches all round the grounds.  He said most of the orchids were from Thailand and one of the orchids had been DNA tested and the only place found in the world was his garden! A real enthusiast whose approach brought us both back to Orchid Fever, which will mean something to Bewdley book clubbers!

We strolled up the road to Wat Tham Pha Plong where we climbed up hundreds of steps to the main temple through a beautiful forest, helped on by buddhist contemplative phrases on signs along the way.  We must be getting fitter as we hardly drew breath as we climbed the 309 steps, but it was the cool of the morning. At the top were the monks quarters and the main temple, both set in a large cleft in the cliff. We took in the views and the atmosphere then strolled back down for breakfast.

Later we did a walk along a ‘nature trail’ through the rainforest. Kurt showed us the map and gave us instructions; just as well as we would probably have failed in the first hurdle of finding the tiny path as it plunged into the verdant forest. We clambered uphill, over rocks and tree trunks surrounded by enormous trees and huge clumps of bamboo. The sun glimmered through the canopy but we stayed reasonably cool in the shade.  This is a famous place for birders and the bugalows are full of people who know their wharblers from their partridges (and multiple varieties of all species).  We had left our binoculars behind this trip – they did not make the weight cull but would have been clueless even if we had them.  The bird song was loud and varied, even if we could not seem them.

The path came out at the Chiang Dao caves. Next door was a temple (of course) with lovely surrounding grounds and pathways lined with chinese lanterns.  It was Sunday and the place was teeming with people. The caves are almost an extension of the temple complex.  We paid our 40 bhat entry fee (about £1) and walked along lit passages with formations of stalagmites and stalactites, interspersed with Buddha statues.

When we re emerged into the light it was a hot walk back up the road so it was a lovely to have a cooling dip in the little pool when we got back.

We spent the afternoon lounging in the grounds.  David has cured the ‘squeak’ on my bike (hopefully) by greasing all my seat fittings.  We could have done other things but didn’t feel inclined to….we must be relaxing!

We cooked, Bernie caught up with her family on zoom and had a close run scrabble game finished off the day (David won, I will wait my revenge!)

Palo Verde to Erhenburg, Arizona. 27 miles

Yesterday felt like we fully got back into the swing of our travels.  The day was tough but not too hot, too windy, too steep – but it felt very remote and we needed mental and physical endurance.  No time to ponder on anything else except the scenery and what we were doing. Then in the evening back into the routine of camping, which often takes us to some of the best places to stay.  The banks of the Colorado river gave us a wonderful location and magnificent sunrise and sunset.

Relaxing over a lovely driftwood fire

In this part of the world darkness comes quickly and early.  By 6.30 we were in the pitch blackand the fire David had lit in the fire pit had burned down, so we huddled into our tent.  Exhausted, we were asleep by 7.30!  This morning we were up at 6 – almost 12 hours after we settled into our sleeping bags!

We were now 6 days in and needed a rest. We therefore got up leisurely,watched a beautiful sunrise, read for a bit over coffee and then slowly packed up.  A ‘rest’ meant cycling 23 miles but the Colorado River valley was very flat and we pedalled at a very leisurely pace to Blythe.  There we found a bakery and coffee shop, and lingered over caffine and delicious apple pastries. 

Dawn over the Colarado River

Our destination was Ehrenburg, another 4 miles and just over the bridge over the Colorado River and into Arizona.  Whilst the centre of Blythe was pleasant, it’s eastern outskirts were grim and run down. We have seen lots of closed businesses and derelict buildings on our travels so far.  No wonder they want to ‘make America great’ again. 

I had envisaged Ehrenburg as a pleasant riverside town, which had a number of campsites marked on our route map.  Hmm, I was a bit wrong. The town was really only a pit stop off the Freeway I10 with a number of RV parks along the river. Now an RV park is defintely not a campsite but camping was marked on the map so we duly stopped at the ‘Arizona Oasis’ which boasted beaches on the river front; but no they did not do tent camping.  We were somewhat dismissively told that we might find some several miles back the way we had come in a county park. They did have ‘rustic cabins’. The woman looked aghast when we asked if we could see one before we decided ‘Well, people just look it up on the internet’ we were told. Our mobile reception was too poor to look it up and they did not have internet; but after briefly considering whether to scrap our rest day and push on or accept the unseen offer, we decided the swimming pool and the fact that the ‘rustic cabin’ had air conditioning meant the gamble was worth it!

Our rustic cabin!

Our cabin was pleasant.  True, apart from the air conditioning there was little else in it other than a bed and a little porch.  ‘Do you have bedding?’ we were asked.  ‘We camp’ we replied. There was a tap outside but it was only a step to the communal facilities.  The rest of the RV park was full of concrete and varying sizes of trailers from huge to huge-er.  My research on Blythe said the population trippled in the winter months as people from the north came down for the southern sunshine. Most will be in these RV parks. 

After a refreshing swim we rested in our cabin during the heat of the afternoon.  How could I still be tired after 12 hours in my sleeping bag last night! 

David went off to ‘Family Dollar’ to find some groceries. We have noticed that food is expensive here. It’s cheaper to have a fast food burger and fries and to fill up with an enormous fizzy drink than to cook a meal using bought ingredients. No wonder there is an obesity problem that dwarfs that in the UK. Family Dollar is a discount store – the women in the office didn’t quite say ‘where the poor people shop’ but they could have done (or maybe I still resent that they wouldn’t let us look at the cabin before handing over our money!).  Anyway it was not as bad as predicted and David got food for supper – but only after coming back to the campsite for cash because his credit card was refused – they refuse all foreign cards he was told.  C’est la vie.

Day 15: Mysuru (Mysore)

Although today was a day when we did not make progress on our cycle ride, it was action filled and we did 40km of cycling. So, at 6.30pm, I am exhausted!


Suresh met us at 6.30 and we left to walk up Chamundi Hill, which is 400m above the city and has the wonderful Sri Chamundeswari Temple on the top.   Suresh’s nephew, Kiranj, joined us for the walk. Continue reading Day 15: Mysuru (Mysore)

St Peter to Wahlweis, Lake Constance, Bodensee 106km

12th Cumulative total : 1436km

We woke with legs not too stiff from the previous day and free-wheeled from the campsite down to St Peter. This was a pretty town with a Benedictine Monastery and amazing baroque church. Luckily the caretaker (we presumed) had just opened the doors and we were able to see the interior – a plethora of gold, paintings, artistry. Completely different to what we had seen so far. A great start to the day.



Continue reading St Peter to Wahlweis, Lake Constance, Bodensee 106km