127km day today, and yes you’ve guessed it – it’s been another stunning riding day in Laos 🙂
We had a lazy start to the day today with Karen and I surfacing about 08:10am to be greeted by Mike preparing a pot of porridge for us all to share on the balcony overlooking the river. We didn’t have enough UHT milk for porridge and ovaltine so after we’d had breakfast and packed the bikes I led Aad and Mike back across the Nong Khiaw bridge to Delilah’s cafe for a hot chocolate which was a bit of a mistake as it took ages for our order to be taken and then even longer for our drinks to arrive.
It was 10:15am or even later when we finally rolled out of Nong Khiaw and started on our 167km ride to Vieng Thong, which would be made more interesting as Aad and Mike didn’t have sufficient fuel to ride the distance and we weren’t sure if there was any fuel along the way.
Just like yesterday we took the opportunity every now and then to stop and say ‘Sabidee’ – ‘hello’ to local children as we passed by, and snapped a few photos. In one village we passed by the primary school just as class finished for the day (it was the middle of the day) and all the kids came running out of the school yard to say hello and to see the bike – or perhaps take a closer look at the Batman Minion we’ve cable-tied to the crash-bars.
We also stopped for a drink and some just out-of-date biscuits at a little stall, staying a little longer as Mike wasn’t feeling too good. Aad and I put on a bit of dance to try and cheer Mike up but this impromptu entertainment failed to impress.
Despite not feeling 100% today Mike was loving the riding as the road surface had been ripped up in many places and we had a fair bit of unsealed crap to ride through. In one place Karen and I had to dodge between some earth-moving equipment as they worked on the road – no such thing as flag marshals or safety procedures here !!!
My GPS showed a fuel stop ahead so I pulled into that, with Mike and Aad not far behind. The girl who pumped the fuel was a bit gobsmacked when she filled the bike – and it only took on 10L of its full 30L capacity, as the little scooters here in Laos have much smaller fuel tanks that can be filled much much quicker.
A bit further down the road we saw a sign for a restaurant so we pulled in there and ordered lunch, but the chicken, sticky rice and soup that was served up didn’t appeal to either Karen, Aad or Mike, so by and large I ate my lunch whilst they just picked at theirs and they left as hungry as they had been when they arrived, and at this stage it was about 3:15pm and we had approx 70km still to ride and two hours before sunset.
I picked up my pace a bit and when Mike pulled over to take a photo we slipped into the lead position on the road and we didn’t see the other guys again until they arrived at the designated guesthouse in Vieng Thong. Karen and I had a six minute lead over Aad and Mike, but Mike explained that he’d lost a bolt from his chain guard after hitting a big pothole in the road, and he’d spent a few minutes fixing that with the help of Aad. Karen and I had hit the same pothole earlier and she had hurt her arm in the process so neither of us were too happy about that – we’d managed to weave and duck around every other pothole today, but this one was laying in wait for us – perfectly camouflaged and stretching the width of the road. We ground out our centre stand on it, and I was thankful we didn’t get a puncture.
Just after we arrived at our guesthouse a young couple – an English lady and a French guy arrived on two clapped out 100cc motorbikes they had bought in Vietnam and had ridden across the border. Karen was chatting with them at it turned out that the lady is Stephanie Rowe – a participant in ‘One World – One GS’, and Vincent – who races his GS in rallies in Europe.
We went out for dinner with Aad and Mike about 6:30pm but it was black outside and most of the shops were closing for the day. We walked back to the place next to our guesthouse where we ordered some meat and noodles, and shortly later Stephanie and Vincent joined us, unable themselves to find anywhere else to eat. We had a good chat about bikes and riding with them before retiring early to bed as tomorrow will be a long day and we’ll need an early start.