Bor.Na.Moon’ Resort – Kiew Ka Cham (80km)

Day 20:”Bor.Na.Moon’ Resort – Kiew Ka Cham (80km) -Distance travelled so far 1,020km“Broke Back Mountain”

Waking up this morning is pretty torrid…..Our muslces are still fairly sore from yesterday hills!!!. We catch a breakfast (pancakes, french toast and Lao Coffee) which takes forever and an age for some reason….This makes our departure time more close to 9am, and with another possible hell of a day in front of us is not the best start to the day…

I also in an effort to make my gear less awkward decide to off-load our now 5 string guitar…It is an emotional time but we figure that somebody here at the resort will cherish it….

Once we get on the road…..we once again realise that these roads are not forgiving to any form of transport (us cyclists definitely included)….The mountains ascents stagger, leaving once wondering “how far more to the top”.. The only consolation is that all the other cyclists (also carrying far less gear) are also feeling the strain. It truely is Broke Back Mountain.

Today is pretty uneventful…It is bloody tough cycling which takes every last piece of effort imaginable out of us….We stop to take some pics along the way….We contemplate reducing our targets taking into the account the difficulty that the mountains pose us everyday, but at the same time we cannot believe that we are but a meer 300 plus kilometers from the Laos/China border….With this in our minds we find it in ourselves to peddle on stopping to cook noodles with our stove along the way.


The summit of a 20km climb to a 1400M mountain pass

A little bit of good news came in the form of reaching our 1000km……We summon up the energy to take some zippy little pics…..Fair play!!!!!

Cycling Down a hill


Should have been a happier moment but unfortunately
we were also looking at another 5km climb

We reach our final destination for about 6pm…Its the latest we have reached a town….We are absolutley shattered beyond belief….In our own words….

Brian “I am a broken man….’

Paul “Dear God….”

Mike “This is worst pain I have ever felt….”

We book into the only hostel left in the town….which is overrun with cyclists…..It is very difficult to eat the pile of steaming rice and pork that is served up to us for dinner…but we try valiantly…..With bandy legs, we stumble back to our one bed “dont swing felix” establishement. We pile in to bed together with a smell of B.O and flatulence that would put a grown horse to sleep….So its Shut Eye for the boys and in true cowboy fashion we hit the hay!!!!!…..

 

Vang Vieng – “Bor.Na.Moon’ Resort (80km)

Day 19: Vang Vieng – “Bor.Na.Moon’ Resort (80km) – Distance travelled so far 940km“Beauty and the Beast”

At 6:30 this morning, we realised our rest day was over….Yes it was back on the saddles again with a target of about 75/80km which would bring us into a another decent village. We are delighted that our hostel have hot water and complientary tea/coffee (a real treat for us)….We say our goodbyes to both our buddy Sue and his brother Roy…They treated us well here to be honest….After a couple of quick photos, we hit off down into Vang Vieng for a good breakfast….It may be the last “westernised meal” we may eat for at least another couple of 100km’s….

Our route today will take up us some extremely steep mountain passes so we are a little apprehensive to be fair. Away we cycle…and onwards in the direction of Luang Prabang.

About 10km in we figure out that this day is not going to be so easy…Our 20/25km per hour has now dropped down to approx 6/8km per hour. It is just mountain climb after mountain climb with no reprieve whatsoever….Anyone thinking of cycling in Laos should listen to the following…..’It will make you sweat buckets and will take every last musle in your legs help you pedal”….The beautiful scenery around us feels like a distant memory with all of us concentrating on our breathing and pedaling…..It definitely feels like a case of man versus mountain….with the roads spiralling up over a thousand feet….No going through mountains in Loas!!!!!!! Still Beautiful though

We see plenty of Tour Buses along the way…and chat to a really nice Irish couple from Co. Wicklow…They have been the first Irish people we have chatted to since leaving Bangkok over 19 days ago so it is really refreshing…Colm Reynolds and his girlfirend Sinead from Bray….whom after a quick “who you know in Bray/6 degrees of seperation” quickly transpires that we all know the same people…Yes….They know you all…Liz, “Lizzy”, PK, Caroline and Clare, Carol and Justin…..Both very funny and bizarre…ha ha….They also thought that we were mad…..and couldnt get over the fact that we had started cycling just over 3 weeks ago!!!!

After this fun encounter…we eat some fruit, rice and drink more water. We have a fair distance to travel still so delaying is not on our agendas….We saddle up again hoping that a downhill or two is only around the next bend!!!!……As we cycle we are starting to see alot more touring cyclists….We meet a pair along the way named Pam and Kerry…They are also heading in our general direction which is…..a warm springs resort somewhere at the top of a mountain about 65km away….Along the way we meet another couple…again heading in the general direction of the warm springs…….This is the most cyclist traffic we have seen so far…..and it makes us feel like we are not the only ones on tour….

The roads to the Springs are horrifying….Its climb after climb with cars and mototbikes sometimes struggling to cope….We pass a broken a broken down bus which seems to have over-heated….The highest gear on our bikes “the granny gear” seems so tough to cycle in……Sometimes there is a little hill you decend on but only to find out that you have to climb yet another mountain….Its literally a case of coming down hills to go up mountains….At the moment we have come to the stark realisation that coming down a hill generally indicates that bad news (steep mountain ascents) lay ahead of us!!!!!! Aghghhghghghghgh!!!!!!!!

Anyway onwards and upwards (pardon the pun) with us….Bottoms tender…tongues flapping like prize golden retrievers…..and with grimaces etched on our faces that would even make Mick Fleetwood blush!!!

The scenery is some of the best in the world and some of the villages up here would leave you wonder in awe at the peaceful, family orientated lives the people lead here…They have basic shelter and spend their days collecting firewood and food…… and all the while with laughter and smiles and as many “Sab a dee’s” (Hello’s) when we pass by…..

It can be difficult to keep saluting people along the way…especially when so exhausted but then some kid will put out his hand “to high-five” which once again brings a smile back to the face…..The smallest gestures make a big difference at the moment….

After lots of stops and some lost gear (Brian lost his sleeping mat and cycling hat along the way!!!) we finally reach the “hot springs”…..We can see alot of the other touring cyclists bathing and enjoying a beer….It feels good to have reached this place…and should offer a great nights rest…..The resort has got 5 shacks, which are all taken up by cyclists!!!!…..Seems like a convention or something. After getting our Love Shack for a bargin price we head straight for a refreshing beverage and of course the springs themselves…..

Ohhhhhhhhh…..thats the spot!!!!!!……The volcanic springs are lovely and warm and it feels like such a treat for out tired “jelly legs”…….Everyone seems to bath here though…People wash clothes…brush their teeth but the water feels damn good…..so we enjoy it to the maximum.

That night we enjoy a nice meal with the rest of our newly made cycling friends….We share stories and poke fun at each other….Everyone seems pretty beat and the restaurants only customers (us) leave at about 8:30pm/9pm for bed….(I know….its early but…..)….We cosy up in our honesy-moon esque shack to sleep for tomorrows treasures…..With the thoughts of further mountains in our brains, we try to get some sleep……Night folks….Zzzzz!!!!!


Cyclist convention, Sorry to Pam and Kerry for beginning cut out of the pic

Vang Vieng (Rest Day & Visa Run)

Day 18: Vang Vieng (Rest Day & Visa Run) Distance travelled so far 860km “The Visa Run”

 

The Night Before…..

Our night in Van Vieng was fine. Our hostel was pretty class, comfortable and for a great price too. For dinner…we decided that we deserved a good greasy meal after our hard day’s mountain climbing…. So thats what we did. Of course this meal was served with a couple of beerlaos (we earned them!!)….Van Vieng is really, really weird. It is literally a mini Khao San Road in the middle of nowhere…The towns that preceed it are bity little villages where trying to find accomodation and a variety of food is extremely difficult. We had wondered what “all the talk” was about when we spoke with backbackers hundreds of kilometers away from Vang Vieng and to be honest as we cycled to it, we really could not have invisiged the size of it and how commercialised it turned out to be….

Van Vieng is essentially a tourist trap where all the shops, restaurants etc are there with one purpose….to fleece you whilst you are there. Almost every bar, cafe and restaurant have either the TV programmes “Friends” or “Family Guy” to view on their 3-4 tv screens…Its nearly hard to find a place that doesnt have tv’s on…In fact, there was one Cafe on the strip that had a “No Friends” sign outside. After being so used of such a basic/simple lifestyle, this place has come as a bit of a shock to us….

After walking the streets in amoungst the trekers, backpackers we came across a very simple barbershop……It was a pity Mike got his hair chopped a while back…

The Visa Run….

We applied for our Indian visa on Tuesday….It was now Friday morning and we got great news from Misi at the Indian Embassy back in Vientiane, that we had all been granted our 6 mth (double entry) visa. We were delighted because when we applied, there was a strong possibility that the process may have taken until the following Monday and which would then have placed us approx 400km from Vientiane (a 16hr round trip to pick them up)……With this great visa news…we decided to go back to Vientiane on a shuttle bus to collect them all the while looking at the ridiculous terrain we had cycled the day before….Spirits were pretty high amoungst us all as you can clearly see….

With our Indian Visa collected, we head back to Vang Vieng taking things easy. We catch up with some email, skype and website stuff. We are all very pleased with the website. All the kind comments are brilliant to see. We once again would like to thank all the people who have donated to our Charity thus far. It is very pleasing to see such a positive response to the Charity Cycle….

We once again would like to re-iterate that we are fully self funded for this cycle and with 100% of all funds raised going directly to The Share a Dream FoundationPlease remember that all donations (no matter how big or small) give us and our Charity a great boost so please spread the good word…

Thanks once again everyone,

Paul, Brian, Mike

 

Nakam – Vang Vieng (80km)

Day 17: Nakam – Vang Vieng (80km) Distance travelled so far 860km “Up on the downside”

So what happened last night in Nakam?….Well we cooked rice with our brand spanking new Laos rice steamer. Our campfire lasted about an hour but we chatted for another few hours…learning some unusual new skills…For instance, we can now cry phonetically….Why not try it yourself….It easy!!!!!…..Ok just repeat the following phrasings in a whimpering, squekey, falsetto fashion….1,2,3…….

Be e e ee eee!!!

Ge e e ee eee!!!

Oo Oo Oo Oooooo!!!

Neeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Niff…Hiff….Mmmmm!!!!!!

Kuy kuy Huh huh….heee!!!!

We decided to call it a night after our bouts of phonetic crying and crazy laughter. The night was cold and our tent pretty tight but we huddled in together like sardines in tomato sauce. Myself and Brian’s new air-matresses worked a treat…They are very comfortable but I must admitt it was hard to watch Michael bedding down on his 1/4 inch floor matt…We still have to find a shop that sells proper air-beds….Very soon Michael…very soon!!!

The morning (6:30am) came quickly for us and boy was it cold…..My sleeping bag, a Dueter “comfortline” had demonstrated that its capacity to shield against cold weather was pretty minimal. Likewise with Mike’s sleeping bag…..It has become apparent to us that we need further protection from the cold. Brian on the other hand thought his Northface sub-zero kept him too warm…He complained, saying that he sweated too much during the night!!!! (he proceeded to rub this in our faces all morning). Check out our mornings pictures!!!

Brians Sleeping bag
Snug as a bug!!

Miserable
Miserable!!!!

Day 17: Nakam – Vang Vieng (80km) Distance travelled so far 860km “Up on the downside”

After morning breakie, we hit the road for about 8am. We cannot over emphasise enough how beautiful Laos is….It is so tropical and picturesque..Simply breathtaking. However when you try to cycle here….It is very very challenging. We found this approx 5km into our morning… The climbs are relentlessly steep but fall in our favour every once in a while. The spectacular scenery is all around us…There are jungles and mountains everywhere…

First hill of the day

It is hard to believe that mountain climbs of this nature are ahead of us all the way to China……It is not a prospect which we relish, but we feel pretty good on the bikes….we are injury free and the spirits are still very high…which is the main thing. After a soup lunch in a very strange “deliveranceesque” mountaineous location, we hit the roads to complete a very lethargic last 24km…..and again the mountains were very unsymapathetic to us…..Huffing and puffing and of course stopping for pictures/rests we finally reach Vang Vieng for about 3:30pm….

Vang Vieng is very classy….surrounded by hills and seems filled with trekers…We cycle on an old air-stip which runs through the middle of the town when a boy named Sue (I swear!!!) gives us a flyer for guesthouse in the town. He is about 10 years old and speaks good English…He guides us driving his motorbike right to the door of the guesthouse…..It costs us 80,000 Kip for the night (about 7 euro)….The room is class…Very clean and with a great hot shower….and after Vientiane and our nights camp in Nakam…We chat with some locals over some beers. Vang Vieng is a bit of a party spot so we are in a catch 22 whether to go to bed after our heavy day’s cycle or throw on our trademark Fogerty shirts and swagger down Vang Vieng’s busy steets…..Ohhhh what ever shall we do?????……3 Beerlao’s please…….hhahhahhahahha……..Absolutley great place here and with a great vibe!!!!……Stay tuned and keep spreading the good word about us and the charity…….Over and out for today folks!!!

Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng, Made it!

Udon Thani – Nong Khai, “The Friendship Bridge and Vientiane (Laos) (110km)

Day 13: Udon Thani – Nong Khai, “The Friendship Bridge and Vientiane (Laos) (110km) Distance travelled so far 707km “Boys to Men”

Our night in Udon Thani was pretty good and relaxing . We had food at Steve’s Bar (an English themed joint). The big bonus was that it had anl English food menu which was a welcomed release to the baffling Thai food menus and the culunary mish-mash that lurked within them…So burgers, chips, bacon and eggs it was….which were easily devoured….and with the a well overdue beer or two..

Friendship Bridge  here we come

The morning came quickly for us. We knew that we would have a hefty cycle ahead of us so we were on the road for approx 8am. We took as many back roads as we could as to avoid the main road to Nong Khai (Thailands bordering side just before Laos) and soon we were greeted with our first clay road.

Clay road

The roads to be honest were 3rd rate with many dirt tracks and craters strewn along them putting our biking skills firmly to the test. We spent the rest of the cycle enjoying the rest of Thailand, stopping for “meats on sticks” at one point….The weather today was great (Id say mid 20′s) making the cycle fairly handy.

Friendship Bridge

With Nong Khai and Laos pretty much in our sights at this point and our cycle to the famous “friendship bridge” connecting both countries looking more ominous, we head to sort our visa for Laos. On over the Meekong River we go so…stopping in the middle of it…that splits both countries.

Thailand Laos

We pay 25.4€ for a 30 day visa and head a further 22km (now cycling on the right-hand-side of the road!!!) to Laos’s capital city Vientiane to bed our weary rear ends down for the night. At this point we have clocked up a distance of 100km (another milestone for us)….We reach Vientiane just before dusk passing some interesting monuments along the way….We are very proud of oursleves today for three reasons. 1) We have reached a new country, 2) We feel fit and injury free. 3) We are very confident in our cycling abilities)

100K

We check into a reasonable hotel with three beds for once…..and decide to celebrate by having a good meal, some beers and a Premiership game (Chelsea vrs Manchester United…showing at 11pm tonight)….Our currency has also changed…We are now dealing in Laos Kip. Our next couple of days will be spent organising our next batch of Visa’s namely; China, India, Nepal and Pakistan etc etc…..Talk tomorrow folks and thanks for reading. Please remember to keep spreading the message about us, our website and our charity. Thanks a million everyone…..

Non Bualamphu to Udon Thani (46km)

Day 12: Non Bualamphu to Udon Thani (46km) Distance travelled so far 597km“Big hills…bigger hills and dinasour fossils”

The 3 of us were in flying form this morning.Got up at 7am and prepared for the day ahead. We checked out of our hotel, then headed into town for the days supplies. So down to the 7/11 we cycled and had a couple of coffees and porridge. Brian also picked up a bike stand in the town. Very good investment. We finally got on the road at about 9am and were all singing out aloud to songs, on our ipods, as we left Non Bua Lamphu.

Fairly soon into our journey we came across a very steep climb but with the 3 of us in good form and feeling stong, it was a breeze.. Obviously what goes up must come down, and when we reached the top we encountered a very fast decent. Alot of fun for all, Brian clocking 48km/hr on his speedometer!!!

Hill take 2

About 7 km after this we stopped at the Millon Year Old Fossil shell museum where we got to see fossilised dinosaur bones, foot prints and eggs. Found it pretty weird that a million year old exhibit was enclosed in a shabby, unsecured shed. Nice to see nevertheless.

Dino Eggs

Dino Bones

The remaining 30km were spent on the main dual carriageway to Udon Thani, with a strong head-wind. Cyclists nightmare!!!We carried on to Udon Thani (a very cramped, and busy city). We decided to make our stop for the day here to catch up on the blog, relax and enjoy what is left of Thailand for we will be in Laos tomorrow. Yeahhhh!!!!!

Phu Wiang to Non Bualamphu (75km)

Day 10: Phu Wiang to Non Bualamphu (75km) Distance travelled so far 551km”Banana fritters/dodgy tummy”

We get up and get the bikes ready as per normal and hit the streets…..We have started getting into a routine of heading to 7/11′s (convenience stores) where we know we can obtain bread and hot water for the packaged porridge/oats cereal which we purchased in bulk a while back…..They taste pretty good and with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate give us good energy for about 20 km or so….(after which we normally have another light snack). Todays cycle is fine. Cycled around a closed Dinosaur Park after about 5km in. During one of our breaks….We came across this very strange gentleman in a 4*4…… To cut a long story short……..He was not very sublte in his admiration of Michaels’ new haircut….and was caught on numerous occasions sneaking a peak at our cycling shorts….(the front side)…..Needless to say…..we decided to cut the increasingly weird conversation and awkward silences by getting back on our bikes… The rest of the journey was plain sailing…..apart from the “banana incident”……Lets just say that when you eat banana fritters on a near empty stomach….you should have a squatter fairly near by and preferably one with bog roll!!!!! End of Day 10…..Still very hot but we are getting more resiliant in that we can easily cycle 60km per day…. Rock n’ Roll!!!!
During our short morning breaks we generally like to take cover from the sun in a Thai bus shelter. They’re everywhere.

Thai Bus Shelter

Mattayum Bamkaen Wittaya School (Kaeng Khrow) – Phu Wiang (60km)

Day 9: 7th January 2009,  Mattayum Bamkaen Wittaya School (Kaeng Khrow) – Phu Wiang (60km) – Distance so far 476km “The Fab Three”

Woke at 6am. The tent worked out pretty well…Slightly damp from the build up of condensation from the night but didnt really care as there were no mosquito bites. We packed up our gear and to our delight were offered to have a full Thai/Chinese style breakfast (eggs,fruit,rice puff pastry and tea/coffee) at 7am with Phairin (Director of the School). After this, we waited for the school assembly. Then we were summoned by Phairin to the assembly hall packed with 400 kneeling school kids….Phairin spoke to the kids, introducing us in terms of why we were here and what we were doing…….Then it was formal introduction time…We spoke to the assembly, thanking our kind host/hostess and briefly explained our travel intentions. After this we rocked the house with “Twist and Shout” to a huge applause…..We then took loads of pictures with the students and staff. Very humbling morning and felt very proud to have had such an experience. Hit the road with our tails high and put down what felt like an effortless 60km to our next destination….Phu Wiang.

Wollies

Find the Wolly’s!!!!!

Lhasa

Day 40: Lhasa – Distance travelled so far 1,983km “The Potala Palace Experience


Happy Birthday Ray Mears ______. You are a constant source of inspiration to us….with your tinder and old mans beard and also your versitility with bamboo….sheer brilliance Ray….

Check out the vid and pics of our first days tour with Gyamtso…

Us outside Potala Palace. Noice!!!


A woman lighting candles inside Potala Palace


A local gentleman praying in front of Jokhang Palace…and no he hasn’t been squashed!!!


A young disabled boy being assisted up the many steep steps by his elders (Potala Palace)


Mike just about to enter another inner courtyard at Potala Palace


A young Tibetan girl checking out the views from Potala Palace


Steep steps of the Palace


The Palace in all its glory


Worshipers at the Palace (always circuling in a clockwise direction)


Brian with some local kids


Potty training Chinese/Tibet style….A hole in the pants….No nappies required!!!

Chaiyaphum – Mattayum Bamkaen Wittaya School….Kaeng Khrow (70km)

Day 8: 6th January 2009,  Chaiyaphum – Mattayum Bamkaen Wittaya School….Kaeng Khrow (70km) – Distance so far 416km “Back to School”

Checked out of our hotel. Thanked our very friendly hotel staff for their hospitality and headed for breakfast. On the road for 6:45am and really flew along for the first 20km. We came to a T-junction on the road that had a sign for Tat Ton National Park with waterfalls….so we decided to have a look at it. We went 8km out of our way to what transpired to be a dried out waterfall….

Waterfall

We put this minor disappointment behind us and headed to Kaeng Khrow where we decided to stop for lunch. We thought that we would be able for another 20km but as it was “high sun” and we were running out of water and with no more towns within easy cycling distance, we opted to camp at the nearest and best location we could find…..Bingo!!! Just 10km outside Kaeng Khrow we stumble acorss a busy school which we “chance” asking them for camping water…. What materialised was something far greater…an invitation to camp at the school for the night. The 400 students of the school go absolutely nuts, pearing out of classrooms, giggling alot and screaming aloud at any of our pigeon thai. The teachers including the Head/Director (Phairin) offer us refreshments and make us feel totally at home.

Back in School

They ask us to partake in a 3 vrs 3 game of “Dako” (Volleyball with your feet)…..We played 2 games (The Irish Cyclists vrs The School’s Regional Dako Champions)…..Fantastic game….By the by….We lost both games valiantly!!!! After this, Phairin asks us to speak at tomorrow mornings school assembly. We all agree to do this. Phairin also gives us a dinner consisting of rice, fruit and omolettes. We are bowled over by the sheer genorosity by the school as a whole. We retire for the evening in the confines and security of the school grounds. See you in the morning….