|Saturday Feb 23 87ks to Paksan
Nickies sleep was disturbed with people coming and going to the hotel pete had earplugs in and was oblivious. . Outside our window a truck was left with motor running and blinker flashing for about 15 mins, there were noises in the room next door, then the truck drove off…mmm… maybe the massage service beside the restaurant was offering other services?? And this fellow’s need was so urgent he left the truck engine running!? We were glad to have stopped there, because there was very little along the next 20ks, apart from cement works and processing factories, til we stopped for a disappointing breakfast at a guesthouse restaurant. At 59ks we met Julie and Tom ( cyclists from Germany, whom we met in Luang Prabang) at a roadside restaurant . They had eaten and ready to cycle on and invited us to join them. We enjoyed riding in our 4-some taking turns to lead, our average speed was about 20k. The sun was over our right shoulders and burning fiercely. Nickie had wrapped her right forearm with crepe bandage for protection, when the pain got too much to bear. We just put on more sunblock but when we finally got to our guesthouse we were badly burned. She slept with damp towels over her right arm and leg. Little, dusty Paksan had few restaurants, and we weren’t keen to have BBQ pig at a roadside stall. A young guy eating here, told us to go to a restaurant behind the hotel. A large wedding was in full swing on the lawn of the hotel, and we couldn’t find the way out the back. After going back to check directions with our “friend”, he left his dinner and lead us to the restaurant. We saw the fancy tablecloths and the waiter in his white shirt and black pants,…. oh no we thought this place would be too expensive, we just about didn’t bother to see the menu. But surprise, the menu was in English and prices very cheap.
Sunday Feb 24 110ks to camping at a monastery. 5hr:35 ride time. Av speed 19.5
The 4 of us breakfasted on hot noodle soup at the roadside shop next to the guesthouse and Nickie ate the pork! Seems weird to be having soup at 7.30am when its 32C in the shade, but this soup has a lot of energy. The day was long and hot but with some dramatic scenery as we crossed many rivers got close to rugged hills. We briefly stopped to chat to 2 other cyclists heading the other way. Mandy was totally wrapped up except for her face and she explained that the Doxycycline tabs for malaria had made her very sun sensitive,,,aha that is probably our trouble too, cos we are really feeling the burn, especially around our knuckles and wrists. At 80ks, about 4pm we made the decision to cycle on as the temp was getting cooler and we felt we were OK for another 20ks. Our map is not so detailed, so we weren’t certain where the next villages were and we scanned the roadside for possible camp sites. About 5.30 we stopped at a small village shop and think we were told we had just passed a guesthouse 5 kms ago. Across the road was the monastery and Tom and Julie felt we would be allowed to camp there. No monks about so we set up the tents and as we started to cook one guy and 2 little girls came to sit and watch us for about 10 mins. By 7.30 we were in our tents and feeling good about our progress.
Monday Feb 25 92ks to Thakhek 4hr:45 ridetime
30 mins along the road we stopped at a very clean restaurant for noodle soup breakfast. One of the ladies pointed to us “you friends?” she asked . “We are married” we replied, she laughed and seemed happy with that. At 30ks of fast riding in 90mins we just had to stop in the first spot of shade for bananas and drink. Rollercoaster type hills were enjoyable, especially the freewheeling at 35kph down with the cooler breeze! We noticed the extreme heat about 3pm and Nickie had to bandage her left forearm as her bike shirt has only ¾ sleeves. She has been riding in long cotton pants for 2 days for sun protection. Thankfully we haven’t been burned on our faces, the sun is behind us most of the day. In some parts we nearly melted onto the road, where the vegetation was close to the roadside and there was no breeze, average temp around 32C. Nickie encouraged an icecream stop as we came into Thakhet 4pm. She likes to stop for a few minutes to calm and orientate herself to the busier environment before dealing with finding her way amongst the traffic. Julie and Tom took the lead and asked Tuk Tuk drivers the way to Thakhet travel lodge and we just followed behind. We had a comfortable bed here, large room with ensuite, on ground floor. $15NZ It was Tom’s 28th birthday today and we enjoyed a good meal at the lodge restaurant. Tom is a bicycle mechanic and Julie a Dr, great skills to have on longhaul cycling.