Bike tour stage 2: Ups and Downs

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January 10th 2013
Published: January 15th 2013
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“Steep Incline Ahead”“Steep Incline Ahead”“Steep Incline Ahead”

“What? .... Again?” The bottom of the hill.
Luang Prabang (Laos) to Thakek (Laos): 30th Dec 2012 - 10 Jan 2013

Distance covered so far (since 20 Dec): 1361.73 km

New Year was difficult this year. Mel was upset when she discovered that Andy had fibbed. The 'mushrooms' in her noodle soup at lunchtime weren't mushrooms - it was stomach lining, and Andy knows that he really should have been more honest with her. That evening, Andy was a little upset when Mel decided that too much money had been spent, and our celebratory New Year dinner would be at the accurately named 'Grilled Goat Restaurant', and NOT at the more promisingly named 'Properly Grilled Goat Restaurant' just next door.

Furthermore, New Year was spent doing some of the hardest hills that we have ever had to contend with. A few of the days prior to Luang Prabang was (we thought) about as punchy as cycle touring could get. We were wrong. After Luang Prabang we set off immediately into the longest slog uphill imaginable. However, the NY itself was spent in a village's hot spring pond - a well deserved soak alongside the villagers having their evening scrub!

What else? well - cycling here

The top of the hill (1000m height gain!) collapsing for a well earned rest.
is breathtaking. Whilst our route planning has been brownian motion / pin the tail on the donkey inspired, it turns out we have been quite lucky. We kept on bumping into other cycle tourers who have planned out their route in intricate detail and this appears to exactly coinicide with our random plan.

Amongst the count of fellow tourers, we have been alongside a super Kiwi called Ben (although obviously, being NZ, he calls himself 'Bin'😉 for the last week. We also had a couple of days coinciding with a Danish chap called Peter who included us in his blog (look at links below to see his detailed descriptions of our cycling North of Luang Prabang). We also met a very 'get-up-and-go' Canadian girl called Vanessa (who hadn't done cycle touring before). She had 'heard on the grape vine' that it is really nice to cycle in she bought a bike whilst over here, strapped her suitcase to the back, and set off in a southerly direction. Vanessa - we salute you!

Highlights from this stage are the Limestone Karst formations which have lined the route. This part of the world has spectacular mountain and cliff formations
Luang Prabang to ThakhekLuang Prabang to ThakhekLuang Prabang to Thakhek

Night stops in : Kiewkachem (high up in mountains!), Ban Won Keen Hot springs (20km north of Kasi), VangVieng (beautiful mountains, odd tourists), Phong Hong (dusty town), Vientianne (Capital City!), Thabok (dusty town), Pakhading, Na Hin (close to amazing Kong Lo Cave), Namthone (dusty town) and Thakek (decaying colonial town on Mekong).
in amongst the tropical forest. Very nice to look at whilst sweating it out on a bike!

Key Stats:

Distance covered in this stage: 861.36 km

Distance covered so far (since 20 Dec): 1361.73 km

Biggest one-day distance during this stage: 112.24 km

Maximum speed: 73.8 km/hr

Total Hours in saddle (since 20 Dec): 80 hrs 35 mins

Biggest daily cumulative height gain: 2000m

Mechanicals: Sheared Pannier Rack x1 (Mel), Snapped Bike Chain x2 (Andy), Puncture x2 (Andy), Hand Blisters from Sunburn x6 (Mel).

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Race to the topRace to the top
Race to the top

When it comes to a race, anything is allowed, even a shove up the hill from your little sister.
Roadside LaosRoadside Laos
Roadside Laos

The need to work keeps many kids from attending school

“Mel, for our mid morning snack, what do you think we can get round here?”
Mechanical Number 1Mechanical Number 1
Mechanical Number 1

The first puncture.
Mechanical Number 2Mechanical Number 2
Mechanical Number 2

The second chain snap of the trip (repairs whilst waiting for noodles in our roadside lunch restaurant in Paksan)
Dinner MenuDinner Menu
Dinner Menu

“Hmmm, shall it be the ‘insipid soup’ or the ‘pork rip gralic and paper’? It appears that unlike our breakfast menu, they don’t serve entrails here. Shame.”
Dried FishDried Fish
Dried Fish

If something sells, then everyone will set up shop. This is a place to sell fish. You can also see villages that specialise in bananas, or villages that sell oranges. For one 40km stretch, they only sold turnips.

“Andy, we need to find a banana. From somewhere, anywhere. Does anyone round here have bananas?”
Mel in VientianneMel in Vientianne
Mel in Vientianne

Laos’ capital city!

Amazing limestone karst is riddled with caves. We stumbled across this underground lagoon for a quick dip.

Our underwater camera managed to capture Mel’s enormous feet!

The underwater camera also discovered that Andy’s head has gone odd

Tot: 1.369s; Tpl: 0.032s; cc: 14; qc: 65; dbt: 0.0146s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb