20/1/15: Phou Khoun to Nong Tang (90km, data accidentally deleted when downhilling in the dark, but time on bikes at least 7hrs!)
Next morning it’s misty and cold and there are limited food options. A child has a baguette but when I ask where you get them, no one will tell! At least the market is good for stocking up on fruit, snacks, etc. We set off at 9.20am, aiming to do around 60km. Unfortunately, the small village of Namchat has other ideas.
We’ve read on a couple of blogs that you can stay at a small restaurant here. Rob, who is doing the same journey as us today, is confident there will be accommodation too. All we get from Namchat is incredulous looks and several “no’s” when we ask. We even show them a picture of one of the bedrooms from a blog! We get offered whiskey, but no accommodation.
Even though it’s 4.30pm, we have no choice but to carry on. There’s another 30km to the next accommodation – 13km up, 17km down. We manage to do the up before dusk, and add our lights and day-glo jackets, then start the down. At first it’s just a bit tricky, but before long it’s proper dark and getting cold. Seeing the road is just possible, but seeing potholes isn’t. It takes all our concentration just to stay on the road, never mind the barking dogs and speeding traffic coming the other way. It’s also suddenly very cold. At one point I think I’ve got a puncture (that would have been a huge problem) but thankfully, the tyres hold out.
When we get to the lodge in Nong Tang it’s a huge relief, and we get a nice welcome from Rob and two more cyclists. We then eat like horses as we sup what we think is a (finally!) well-deserved beer.
The cute little cabins cost 60,000 kip, and although there’s no hot water the setting is idylic and we don’t care. After dinner we have a very enjoyable beer round the fire with Rob, plus Bruno from Belgium and a veggie Italian girl whose name escapes me.
A long, tough day overall but we’re pleased we did it and didn’t die, and we’ve learnt a lesson in planning, not believing everything we read, and trying to avoid cycling down hills at night AT ALL COST!