16th November. 200km approx.
Sleep was a bit difficult last night, with tiny little ants walking over us in the tent and the hot night air refusing to circulate, even though I’d pulled back half the tent fly to open up the tent a bit, so when six am came around and it started getting light enough to see the trees outside it was a pleasure to wake up and greet the day.
Karen whipped up a pot full of instant oats which we flavoured with honey, cooled with UHT milk and shared with Aad and Mike, and also a plate of fried tomatoes and baked beans, whilst on Aad’s Coleman cooker we boiled the water for teas and coffees.
Bikes packed – we were the last to get ready as I’d spent 10 minutes or so getting out my 12v compressor and bringing the rear tyre pressure up to the required 42psi – we left the campground in the early morning heat. The road out didn’t look half as challenging or as impressive as it did last night when we rode in under cover of darkness, and it wasn’t too long before we stopped at the junction with the main road and waited briefly for Aad and Mike to join us, as they were a bit behind having stopped along the way to take some photos.
We turned north and followed the 105 up to Mae Sariang. Conscious that we had about 200km to ride today and had no more gear to repair any new punctures with we took it easy on the ride, trying to dodge the few potholes we saw on the road. At Mae Sariang we turned right – east – and joined the southern section of the famed ‘Mae Hong Son Loop’. The road condition was perfect for riding – beautifully cambered corners, smooth consistent surface, and a bright yellow centre line that was easily visible, and with minimal traffic we had a blast on it.
Aad had given me the route to load into my GPS, but some glitch had caused the map layer containing the road network to disappear so all I could see was a pink line that I needed to follow and the blue triangle that represented the bike’s current location. In discussion later Aad recommended unloading the Open Street Maps of Australia and India and reloading SE Asia, and that solution worked.
Despite the need to protect the rear tyre I couldn’t resist the temptation to change the ride mode to ‘dynamic’ as the twisty road just beckoned to be ridden fast, but today I tried to be a little more subtle with the throttle, and I must of at least partially succeeded as Karen didn’t pick up immediately on the change in behaviour, but gradually it became apparent to her that we were on a charge. To Mike, who was riding behind us, the up-shift to dynamic was blatantly obvious – a flick of the switch and two gear changes later and we’d disappeared from his sight. I do love our bike!!!
We stopped at a small servo to refuel – the first petrol station we’ve encountered in ages that included a little shop selling drinks and snacks, so we all enjoyed an almond Magnum ice cream and some Pringles, washed down with some Coke.
Back on the road it was twisty curvy riding again, up and down along the mountains. Aad had said at the refuelling stop that he was hanging back as he wasn’t riding at his optimum today, but when I got delayed by a cement mixer truck at some roadworks and Aad snuck ahead on the inside he just bolted away, enjoying the road that now followed the contours of the brown river flowing on our left. The road rose and fell and cambered left and right through the myriad of curves like a roller coaster, water on one side and cliff edge on the other.
Eventually our riding playground gave way to some light industrial plants, signalling the start of the commute into Chiang Mai. The traffic became denser and slower, and soon we were passing through built up commercial areas, squeezing our wide bikes through the narrow gaps near the curb reserved for scooters. Entering the city of Chiang Mai we saw quickly how the city is laid out in a square shape surrounded by a water filled moat. I pulled back so Mike could lead us to our destination – Panda House Guest House – as my GPS wasn’t showing me enough detail to navigate by.
A few twists and turns along the one-way streets that ran adjacent to the moat and before long we snuck down a side street and arrived at Panda House. I was particularly elated as we’d succeeded in making it to Chiang Mai without any further tyre problems. We unpacked the bikes, carried our gear to our second floor rooms, and enjoyed the air-conditioned coolness that welcomed us as we opened the door.
After a bit of a rest we went for a walk to the Piston Shop – they’ll be fitting the new Karoo 3 tyres to our GSA tomorrow, and Aad arranged with Nat – manager of the shop – to bring in his bikes tomorrow so they can fit the new rear Avons that have been sent from the UK to Chiang Mai in four days for them, and also so he can service the bikes. Nat was very helpful and he offered Aad every assistance he required.
From the Piston Shop Aad and Mike went straight back to the Panda House to meet their contact who had received the Avon tyres for them, whilst Karen and I stopped at a hotel we walked past and had dinner there. We did pass on a message for Aad and Mike to join us for dinner if they wished, and they did start walking to meet us but as we found out later they discovered a cheap street restaurant and ate there – 190 baht for the two of them, drinks included.
Back at the Panda House we said goodnight to Aad & Mike and retired early to bed – we hadn’t slept well the previous night in the tent and we were both quite tired. Tomorrow I need to take the bike into Barcelona Motors for the service and then Piston Shop for tyres – so another busy day ahead of us!