First day is something of a marathon effort, involving multi-transport, border crossings, near-death experiences...brace yourself.
It is 200km East to Ubon Ratchathani from my house...we need to be there to catch a cross-border bus at 0900, so leave at 0600. Tim is driving us in his car. His wife, Khun Aay is with us...she will take charge of the car in Ubon Ratchathani, then meet with a local friend who will drive her 250km NW to their house [map reference #7] in Kalasin Province.
Despite encountering entensive road-works, we make it to the bus-station in good time, purchase tickets and climb aboard. This bus offers travel as well as "assistance" with cross-border formalities. We are surprised to discover how slowly the bus progresses, and our anticipated 90 minute journey actually takes 4 hours.
We disembark in Pakse, but this is not our destination for tonight. The "plan" is to take possession of touring bicycles and use them to make a pleasant, scenic 30km trip to The Bolaven Plateau and spend the night at Tad Fane resort [map reference #2].
Ho Ho Ho! We should have realised "Plateau" a high, flat chunk of land indicates we will be riding up hill! Indeed, the trip was entirely up! Not a single metre of down, nor even flat. I did ask Koen, a 2 metre tall Dutchman, if he would be capable of the ride when we first decided to add this bicycle adventure component to our trip..."I was born and raised in Dutchland", he proclaimed, "and all Dutch folks are experienced and capable cyclists...of course I will be fine, Old Man!" Koen did not make allowance for the fact that Dutchland is entirely devoid of hills!
After about 5km it was evident Koen was having difficulties...after 10km he realised his predicament, and stopped. New plan...hitch a lift up the hill to the resort!
By the time I realised Koen had stopped riding, and retraced my ride about 1 km looking for him, Koen had flagged down a Laos man in a fancy car and talked his way into a ride to the resort. The kindly gentleman insisted there was room for all our bicycles and bodies, so Tim decided to accompany Koen to ensure he was not kidnapped.
Ray, however, does not quit! Stupid Old Man that I am, I insist on riding all the way. I arrive in the dark, totally spent after 4 hours on the bicycle. I barely summons the energy to swallow the contents of a cold beer can before falling on to my bed in a coma... [this was 2 months before I decided that cycling was to be my sport...now I am confident I would be able to make this ride without distress.]
The accompanying picture is of one of the gorgeous waterfalls that can be found on the Plateau escarpment...I didn't actually see this one until the next day, as it was dark when I rode past it the night before.
This was a looong first day!
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