Oudomxay > Luang Namtha > Huay Xai 290km

Just put one foot – or one pedal – in front of the other. That’s what I told myself. I dragged my sorry, but getting smaller, behind up another 10% grade in the heat of the day and wondered if it would end. You never know when the windy, mountain roads of Laos will offer respite. We set out at 8 am this morning from our quaint riverside bungalow in the small town of Vieng Phouka, 120km from Huay Xai, the Laos:Thailand border town set on the Mekong River. Despite our early start, or maybe because of it, the day was long and hot.

To add to the tough day, our timing chain kept coming off (I think because our pedals hit some rocks the other day which has loosened things up) which completes the short recipe for Clayton’s anger. After the third incident he screamed “Worthless dipshit bastard son of a bitch,” (my apologies to both our mothers and grandmothers reading this.) He climbed off and attempted to throw the bike to the ground but I steadied it—as I was still on it. He then kicked the front pannier and I told him to cool off. Clayton has a temper and it irritates me. He gets angry at our bike and its problems, and oh it has problems. Small problems that don’t incapacitate the bike are the worst, because they never get fixed and never go away. They are a nuisance each and every day.

I’d fix them if I knew how, Clayton will fix them eventually, but not today. But I don’t complain, I do hardly anything to maintain the bike. He’s fixed more problems than I could have imagined, so despite his temper tantrum, I let him keep cycling. However, I did ride the fully loaded tandem past him, as he fumed down the highway, telling him he could get over his anger or walk to Huay Xai. He got over it. I was glad – the long, hot, mountainous day continued and it took both of us to drag our heavy tandem over the hills.

After five hours, and too many hills, we reached our final opponent: a 12% grade for three kilometers. It was too steep. And our bodies were empty, empty of carbs to fuel our muscles. We also rode those five hours on only two water bottles and a handful of sticky rice. Each turn of the pedals was painful. We stopped. We were beat. Clayton took the bike and I walked. Even walking was hard, I’m not sure how Clayton got our stuff up that hill. Around the corner Clayton left a water bottle on the side of the road. I like mountains, but I like knowing where the top is. But this road winds and winds, tempting me with multiple false summits. When will it end? At the very next restaurant Clayton had half a dozen spoonfuls of soy sauce before his noodle soup. When you’re debilitated in the heat, its easy to drink too much water, further exacerbating low sodium levels which can cause hyponatremia (or so Clayton says.)

This past weekend we stayed with René Roesler in Luang Namtha. René is our first Warmshower host since Delhi. He did not disappoint. Crispy, thin crust pizza, sauna with the locals, muesli with yogurt and mangos at the local bakery, trekking in the jungle, swimming in the river, lunch of khao niao, pork larp, and joew bong on banana leaves, more sauna time, burgers, soft-serve ice cream in a waffle cone ($0.62), a bonfire looking over the Nam Nga, then a leisurely Sunday afternoon at a waterfall sunbathing, while I read and Clayton wrote. Heavenly. By the time this trip ends, Clayton might write as many books as he’s read: one. We planned to leave Sunday afternoon but a free bed and buy 2 get 1 free ice cream cones forced us to stay another night. René is from Germany and works for the German Development Council. He oversees micro financing for 135 surrounding villages. He lives in the perfect place for exploring on foot and bicycle. Every weekend he has the same routine: run,  hike, bike – and then go to the sauna. We might have to move here. At the very least we would recommend it to others. (Hint, hint Fullers.)

Tomorrow we cross Friendship Bridge No. 4 and will be in Thailand. Country #26. Wow. Despite enjoying the moment, it dawns on me how quickly our time is passing on this incredible adventure. Who would have thought time would pass this fast? Don’t worry. We still have a solid two months and haven’t bought any return plane tickets, so who know how this journey will end.

Laos countryside
Laos countryside
Wasn't expecting these behinds.
Wasn’t expecting these behinds.
Laos Village New House Party. Practically pulled off the bike and shoved in.  Lots of Beerlao flowing listening to "You've got the moves like Jagger."
Laos Village New House Party. Practically pulled off the bike and shoved in. Lots of Beerlao flowing listening to “You’ve got the moves like Jagger.”
Puzzling.
Puzzling.
As close as we'll get to China this trip.
As close as we’ll get to China this trip.
Shall we get one for the tandem?
Shall we get one for the tandem?
Hula-hooping.
Hula-hooping.
Rene's House
Rene’s House
Yum.
Yum.
Rubber trees. Who knew?
Rubber trees. Who knew?
Watch out.
Watch out.
Jungle walk.
Jungle walk.
Why don't we have banana leaves back home for plates?
Why don’t we have banana leaves back home for plates?
Action shot. Our first ever. Thanks Rene.
Action shot. Our first ever. Thanks Rene.
Hotter.
Hotter. The Lemongrass Sauna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Oudomxay > Luang Namtha > Huay Xai 290km”

  1. Bike issues… such a great metaphor. Quite possibly everyone has someone or something in their life that is totally exasperating. It must feel great to let loose with a string of swear words, but maybe not. If I were to give it a try I might really like it. But typically my infantile behavior only reminds me that I am an inch away from crazy.

    My “bike” challenge had me in tears and feeling quite pathetic three weeks ago. But, it is fair to say that I am doing much better with my “bike” now than I was 30 years ago. As a matter of fact I have known all along that these bumps, broken spokes, hot sweaty climbs and such were in fact my gift. I too am getting into shape and often it is wringing every last bit of “why care” right out of me. Still this hope that I project for my challenge has me feeling very small…humble and ridiculous.

    I feel for you. I get it. I love you. “Things have a way of working out.” GBH Fleeting moments I feel like a “cat on a hot tin roof.” But, I hold steady to that promise remembering all of the faith building experiences that have shaped me into me.

    Continued blessings be showered your way. xox

    1. Thanks for everything Cristie. We do appreciate it. A string of curse words can feel good, but never seems to fix the problem. Problems only resolve with time and patience. Bikes travel slowly. Problems get fixed slowly. It’s all a process, and it will all workout.

  2. Hey, looking at the photo of you guys fording across the stream, looks like your seat might be a little low Katy. Looks like your knees are coming up a bit high. You could probably get a little more power, and save yourself some knee pain by raising it a little. Just a suggestion, I could easily be wrong, as I can’t see the whole pedal stroke. If you do change the seat height, mark where you currently have it, so you can go back without guesswork should the new height not work out.

  3. Katy – I love hearing your voice in this! Sounds like Rene’s house is the place to be. I want to go there! I also laughed at Clayton’s one book comment. I was just thinking, since I met you two in 2009, I have actually only ever heard Clayton talk about one book – Mountains Beyond Mountains. Which also sounds like your life right now. KCP, you are the patron saint of all things Clayton. 🙂 And Clayton, I can only imagine how much the bike issues irk you. Sorry mannnnnneeee.

    And, definitely not trying to rush your adventure, but when you do book that ticket back, holla atcha girl. Miss you guys!

    Love,
    Anna

  4. Wow. Your time with your warm shower host sounds amazing! I chuckled many times during this post. Mostly when you said you kept riding the tandem while Clayton was throwing his tantrum. Were you on the back or in the Captain seat?

    P.S. I know about rubber trees! Thanks to my education in horticulture…I learn all sorts of things that I’ll probably never need to know more than one time in my life–life rubber trees…cool!

  5. I have to fully agree with you Katy, I do so hate false summits! It is so much nicer knowing where the top is actually located. I am always disappointed to turn the corner, thinking I am at the top, only to see a sharp climb rise in front of me. It’s not so bad if there is a bit of plateau in front of it. Katy, you definitely have the secret for handling Clayton, and I’m sure knowing that you appreciate his effort means more to him than he likely says. Can’t believe you guys got all that done in one weekend! Oh, and IMO, writing one book counts as reading a hundred (give or take a few).

  6. Katy! So glad to hear from you!! Your weekend with Rene sounds heavenly. With soft serve ice cream, it’s a wonder you only stayed one extra day! The last few days riding….. not so heavenly

  7. HAHAHA–Katy this is so funny! I don’t know how you put up with Clayton sometimes. His temper tantrums sure can be ridiculous. And pretty funny about Clayton reading one book in his life. The greater rider that doesn’t enjoy reading.

    I don’t know why I am feeling this way — but I already have anxiety for your trip to end! I’ll miss the blog posts and I am nervous that life is going to be a little dull when you return.

    Keep on pedaling for now…

  8. If you are going to continue to throw temper tantrums you should at least change it up with some foreign words.

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