(written by Dave)
We were up early, hoping to make it a longish day. The hotel was pretty quiet with virtually no-one up even when we left at 6:45. We had brekkie in the room (I was not successful in getting coffee from the kitchen before they opened, in fact they were barely stirring). Just as we pulled the bikes out of the hotel, it started to rain, but only a few drops so we continued.
We basically had to ride Highway 3086 all day. There was a minor short-cut in the morning but otherwise it was all 3086. We had heard that there was a big hill at about 100k. In fact, a couple locals said the hill was very big and the whole ride would be hilly. I don’t think these folks ride much bicycle as the route was flat to rolling and the big climb at 100k was not very long or steep. Neither of us even needed granny gears.
We had many temples and Buddha statues today. I stopped at most of them to get a photo or two. I stopped and took so many pictures that Nancy asked me to stop and take some nature photos as well. Our route was fairly rural with lots of rice, sugar cane and distant mountains. I managed one non-Buddha photo of the fields and even one of Nancy being natural.
It was pretty hot for the first 4 hours, we stopped a number of times for water and snacks. The slight tailwind made our progress pretty good however. We fulfilled the coffee cravings in Bo Phloi, where they had a nice little dog. Nancy snapped a photo while the little tough guy barked at the stray dogs wandering three steps down on the street. As we approached the main climb it started to cloud up. You could just tell it was going to rain at some point. There was a small town before the steepest part of the climb where Nancy suggested we stop to take cover. After a quick discussion, we pushed on and sure enough, got dumped on as we rode up the climb. It actually felt good, taking the heat out of the day. At the top, the roads were dry again, then we had on and off showers the rest of the way to Dan Chang.
We were close to making it to town centre, in fact we were probably only 500 metres short when the dark cloud that was following us caught up and opened the hatch. We made an emergency pull over at some shops to let the rain pass. As we rode up on the side-walk we were enthusiastically greeted by a young man walking back to his shop. Within no time we were sitting in a window covering shop run by Bigalow and his mother. Bigalow spoke good English and was very interested in Australia and our trip and we easily waited out the rain enjoying a fun conversation with Bigalow. We told Bigalow where were planning to stay and he told us that there was a much better hotel a little further. He volunteered his mother to lead us there on his scooter, but also drew us a map.
There were no English signs to the resort so we were more than happy to have an escort. It is a nice little resort with bungalows surrounding an open field area. The only downside is that it is a ways from town and we were both very hungry – we had intended to stop for lunch in town before finding a hotel. The hotel is new and it does not appear that their restaurant is open yet (or if they even have one) and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of food shops around it. Not a problem however as part of our room negotiation included the hotel staff running up to town to grab us some takeaway lunch. I cleaned the bikes and with perfect timing, our lunch turned up just as I finished. We had a great Pad Thai and Pad Kow Po – there are no photos as by this point I was just too hungry.
So… We took on day one of our run around the floods and were successful. There was some high water evidence on the roads but only sand and gravel remained. I suspect every time they get one of those Thai downpours this happens. The rivers were high but not overly threatening looking. Tomorrow we head for either the previously mentioned homestay or perhaps the town Nong Chang. Either way it is a shorter day than today. At least now we are making progress. Hopefully today’s rain didn’t change the situation greatly.
I am off to suss out what we can have for dinner – perhaps if I wander a bit near the resort office the nice girls will offer to make another run on their scooter to the food stalls!
Editor’s update – the girls weren’t planning a run into town but convinced Dave to take the resort scooter – a manual no less! A successful run to the shops with some kind of tasty pork noodle soup ($1.50!) and even some cookies for dessert. Minor issue in that he couldn’t get it into neutral to get it started when he tried to leave the food court but a local helped him out while all the others looked on laughing.