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.
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.
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.
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.