Friday, November 16, 2007

The top of Thailand

Hi from Khun Yuam!

There is not much in this wee town but we are resting here for a day to recover our legs from their insult over the last two days. North Thailand is very beautiful - full of national parks, tiny villages, mountains, impressive views, and the like. From Lamphun four days ago we cycled to Doi Inthanon National Park which is halfway to the highest point in Thailand. We hired a tent for a couple of nights and on our day off it rained all day - we can now draw the pattern of the canvas in our sleep.

Following this, we braced ourselves, had a huge breakfast, and rode to the top of Thailand! (This is not a joke, we got to the actual top, there was a sign to prove it and everything). Its 2565m above sea level (and we came from there, remember?), about 40km of uphill, and took about 6 hours of cycling. To put this in perspective for the Wellingtonians, its the same height as 12 and a half Mt Vics. This was all in the mist, so for our efforts there was not a view of anything other than our rain-soaked front tires. We hit our first 1000km on this day as well!

But dont you worry, we made up for the lack of views yesterday when we had our hardest ride yet - 105km of mountain ridges in the scorching sun. We were unable to find anyone else who had ridden the road from Mae Chaem to Khun Yuam but our trusty hotel manager said it would be no problem on a bike. Maybe she thought we had the motorised variety as there were certainly some problems. After a rolling start through some beautiful farm land and forrest we were feeling pretty smug at our choice to take the road less travelled. The first 4km hill was not too bad, then the next one came, and the next one and the next one ad nauseum... They got steeper and steeper as we got further into the mountains, with a massive uphill followed by a minor downhill, and into the next climb. The sun was baking us alive, and one particular hill saw D feeling like vomiting and Claud pushing her bike and trying not to cry - not that I could have, I didnt have any spare liquid in me for things like tears.

Afetr struggling up that one we finally came across a crone selling drinks and negotiated some for ourselves. Feeling a little better, the rest of the way saw us continuing over progressivly smaller hills as we came to this side of the ranges. No idea how many we climbed but the three that had altitude markers were at 900m, 1500m, and 1200m. The last 20km down into this valley were pretty spectacular - the mountains stretched forever into Myanmar, the roads were lined with sunflowers, we had plenty of honks, waves and thumbs-up signs, and we even got to see the sunset as we rolled the last 3km into town. My god, the relief at having arrived. We are having a day off today to rehydrate before heading to Mae Hong Son tomorrow.

There have been some days of contrast along the way. From full rain jacket, pants, shoe covers and thermals at the top of Doi Inthanon, to 35degrees plus and heat rash the next; and 90bht in accommodation in the rainy tent to a 1200 baht resort with a pool and english TV channels.

Another stunning day today, and looking forward to some lesser hills tomorrow. Despite the trauma of yesterday this area is pretty amazing and well worth the effort. Apostrophes and photos to follow, when we find a slightly better computer.

Love C&D


Barbara said...

O my lord! What a story! This makes fascinating reading in the warm dry seated confines of a Venice internet station.... makes my leg muscles feel very happy not having to do what you're doing... but they're not nearly as virtuous of course.

The countryside sounds fantastic and I'm pleased the locals are recognising your feats - or madness from their point of view maybe...

I loved the image of the crone - just what every crone does is wait on the top of a hill for thirsty bikers..

Take care and keep up the amazing commentary. We are so envious of your wonderful experiences.

Lots of love - Barbara

Mike said...

congrats on the first 1,000kms, may there be many more and I'm looking forward to hearing about them. They are quite accurate with highest point on the sign - down to 0.1mm.
hope the hills flatten out a bit for you.