We met Thomas and Manuela for b’fast. We weren’t sure if there was going to be a boat up to Pongsaly, given these are not scheduled services. Myself and Chris had planned to bike out of town, but plans change. Thomas pointed to us a small road midway up the river, which we figured was pretty much middle of nowhere and no one ever biked that bit.
So once we found out a boat was leaving, I tried asking the guys if they could drop us at his random village with the road. Initially they had no idea where this place was and once they kind of recognized it, they wanted to charge us 90,000 each. I wasn’t going to pay that much and tried negotiating down. They weren’t cutting a bargain and we decided to cycle out anyway.
We waited for Thomas and Manuela to pack up and bid them good byes on the boat. They two if them are fantastic people and good friends and we had such good times riding in the last week or so. I am hoping to ride with them when we get to Myanmar, hopefully!
We were still hanging around at 10 am, when the ticket office closed and he boat was about to leave. The captain (snark) tried to negotiate again, given that he didn’t have to provide commission to the ticketing agent. I beat him down to 60,000 which is still way more than what the locals pay. So we hopped on the boat and rode up to a place called Likna. The only thing I know is that one of the maps shows a road leading out and I have really no way to know if there is really a way out. It might turn out that we wait for the boat tomorrow and head back to Muang Khoua.
I was watching my gps for Likna and when the boat got there, I sighted a road up the mountain (on the true right) which I thought was our way out. But the boat stopped on the true left, where the do I was. The boatie wasn’t too happy with the negotiation I reckon and we were unpacked out on the dock, with us wondering how to cross the river. We bid farewell to Thomas and Manuela and hung out at the dock for a while sorting out options. There was a road along the river which was pretty new and unmapped (of course) and that was the only option.
Another boat came downstream with an Italian couple and the guy told us there was a bridge near the dam project about 20 minutes out. So we figured we could cross there and figure our way out. Had a quick lunch at the only noodle shop in town, stocked up on ramen and we headed out, “blazing a new trail”. The next couple of days were going to be interesting to say the least.
We took the dusty mud road along the river and after and hour of riding, we sighted the dam construction and a makeshift bridge. We crossed over and asked he workers for direction, they pointed us towards Boun Tai which is a town I had on my gps. So that’s some place to go to. The road climbed up the mountain and it was confusing with many side roads for the dam construction but we finally got to a point where only one gravel road led us out.
It was slow going on he gravel and my hands were constantly vibrating and knuckles were turning white with holding the bars too tight. Most of the way I was doing 4-5 kmph for hours at a stretch and the climb went on and on. We passed thro a couple of tribal villages along the way, but the reception we had was very different from the highways. Instead of sabaidee’s and high fives, the children would stand and stare at us for the longest while. As we’d get close, they’d just scream and run and hide behind trees. I am pretty sure no other person was crazy enough to bike these parts and we must be strange looking creatures indeed. We were the bicycle bogey men!
At 5:30, with the light fading, I stopped at a village and when Chris came by we decided to pitch camp in this one. There was a small store Andrew lady let us put out tents in there. The village kids would come up to see what we were doing and wen I turned around, they scram. About 30 people were around our tents checking out what we were up to.
After pitching camp, we walked up to the village pipe to take a shower. It was dripping water and I followed George carlin’s advice (armpits, arsehole, crotch and teeth). It was dark when we finished up and. Scow walking by stoke Chris’s underpants and shirt and tried to eat the. We shooed him away, but not before he had a good chew on them.
We had the audience waiting when we returned and as I was working on my pictures, a few of them sat behind my tent curious about what I was doing. We had hung out our clothes to dry, Chris was spectacular, but I figured cows wouldn’t steal from houses. Well I was wrong.
Around midnight, I had cows walking around my tent and at 2:30, I caught the bastard sneaking with a shirt again. I gave him a chase and he dropped off and ran away. I realized my towel was missing too, and had to walk around the village looking for it. When I found it, it was pretty well chewed and spit out by some cow, I had to save it anyway, the only towel I have, dang.
Anyway, went to sleep after putting away the clothes safe.
Route: Muang Khoua to Likna to Samphan (somewhere near there)
Distance: 26 km (40 km boat ride)
Ascent: 3200 ft
Descent: 900 ft
Time in saddle: 4:00 hrs
Expenses: Sg$ 20.67
Comments: Boatman relented to negotiations and dropped us at the spot agreed. New roads all along on the true left of Nam Ou. Dam project makes the gravel road hyper dusty though.