Friday, November 21, 2008

More climbs, more descents, more beauty

At 1500m, even with the first rays of sunlight, KKC was chilly. We exhaled "smoke" while having breakfast and managed an early start at 0830 - with our 2 new friends joining us. It was misty and cold as we started our descent.

Slicing through the mountain fresh air in complete silence, save for the sound of the rumble of fast spinning tires, was pure bike heaven. The steep mountains and valleys made for the most spectacular scenery ever and I was in holy awe. One of the great joys in riding Laos must be the ever friendly children who will run out to the road screaming "Sabai-di" with outstretched hands. Their warm smiles never fail to melt my heart.

The 20km descent ended too soon into a lush valley with a quiet small village by a bubbling stream. We stopped for some refreshments and recharging for the 8km climb ahead. It felt so unfair to be crawling when I was flying a moment ago but that is the brutal honesty of cycling. There is no free ride!
It was back to granny crawling until we reached Muang Phu Khon and we reached there with wobbling legs. A hot bowl of Pho noodle soup never tasted so good and we simply sat down speechless for a while in the restaurant, catching our breath. MPK is a junction town where 2 highways meet (to the famous Jars of Clay) and it was bustling with traffic and numerous stores filled with made in China products. Some people stay here for the night but we knew better...

Another 27km of largely downhill would bring us to a lovely simple resort by a hot spring. Thanks to the helpful sharing of previous cyclists online, that was our destination for the day. The scenery now switched to limestone mountains and with the setting sun, throwing beautiful shadows and lighting, it was a field day for the camera.

Flying down the mountains is one thing, but one's eye must be peeled on the road. There was a stretch where half of the road collapsed due to soil erosion, and it would be treacherous to be encountering that at night!

Arriving at Bor Nam Oon, I jumped straight into the hot spring only to discover it was a warm spring. But that was still very nice especially for aching muscles and I just sat there soaking in the surroundings until a Lao mom and her 2 young naked children joined me. With laundry and toothbrush in hand, they decided to carry on their daily routine and this was when I decided to leave. The Belgians rolled in about an hour later and we were glad they made it. Dinner was surprisingly delicious too. My only complain about this stop is that many truckers decide to make this their stop too and somehow, their heavy engines and the serene surroundings did not gel.

However, my rustic, wooden chalet provided the perfect toasty place to just lay down for the cool evening. With the quiet sound of a nearby gurgling stream, I was at absolute peace. I have seen God's creation today in all its finest splendor and I have been richly blessed.

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