Thursday, April 26, 2007

Day 17: Kiou Ka Cham - Vang Vieng


A terrible night’s sleep due to a fierce thunderstorm combining with a tin roof. It only let up at 7am, at which time I climbed out of bed, ordered a boiled egg (and got an oily omelette) and was on the road by 7.30am. I was about 15 minutes behind the couple I’d met the night before, and caught them on the first climb of the day where we swapped cameras for a photo shoot.

The scenery today was absolutely spectacular, with cloud hovering at about 1400m where we started the day. Down a steep descent we soon hit the largest climb of the day (17kms) where the Belgian guy and I went man on man up the climb. After about 6kms I eventually broke him, and I continued up the climb and that was the last I saw of them.

Today was a pretty nervous one, as the stretch of road between Kiou Ka Cham and Kasi is where most of the guerrilla problems have occurred. On the road there were clusters of guys with guns – maybe a dozen separate groups – which was a bit unnerving. I had a lump in the throat each time I passed one.

The day was completed in three sections:
- Incredibly mountainous first 50kms
- Spectacular descent in the second 50km
- A well earned and beautiful gradual drop into a karst limestone valley

Each section was extremely different, but collectively was among the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. The only comparable scenery was that of Norway, the Faroe Islands and Canada. Unfortunately halfway through the ride the camera developed a memory card error, so the scenery was captured in my imagination only.

Enjoyed lunch at a great little spot nestled in the side of a mountain, and headed through Kasi to a great ovation from a group of schoolkids standing on the side of the road with their hands out for high fives. Apart from one climb with 40kms to go, the road was either flat or downhill all the way to Vang Vieng. I cycled into town at 4.30pm having spent over 7 hours in the saddle. Found a great guesthouse out of town, run by a friendly family and with a great garden setting.

Had Indian for dinner and a Lao massage – not the best I’ve had but not the worst – and feel better for it. The massage and room cost the same – US$4. All in all it was the best day of the trip from a riding perspective and I will remember these views for a long time. I am also secretly relieved to get through shotgun alley without succumbing to the guerrillas. At one stage a group of guys on motorbikes passed me carrying shovels and I convinced myself they were up ahead digging a grave for me. Amazing how a travel warning gets the paranoia activated.

1 comment:

dtazik said...

Aussie -- Aussie -- Aussie!