Eric normally hammers out our routes.  I trust him, most of the time.  We both like big mountains and empty spaces.  Neither of us are big city people and we’re fairly indifferent towards most major tourist meccas.

After China, I was up for some easy cycling.  Scenic Highway 13, with all its facilities catering towards tourists, sounded perfect.  A guesthouse every night.  Restaurant meals.   A steady stream of fellow cyclists.  Some climbs, for sure, but on paved roads with reasonable grades.

“Highway 13?” screeched my husband.  “You wanna wimp out on the tourist trail?  We can save that for when we’re retired.”

“But the scenery’s great,” I countered.  “I’ve seen photos.  Everybody raves about highway 13.  It’s got to be the most popular cycling route in Southeast Asia”

“Exactly,” he sneered.  “I’ve got something much, much better planned for us.  The Akka road.  We’ll see all sorts of tribal people and there won’t be a single backpacker within a 100 kilometer radius.”

“Yeah, but I’ve had enough suffering for 2014.  Let’s just relax for once.”

“That’s what Thailand’s for,” he said with a not-so-subtle note of scorn.

“Anyway it won’t be that tough,” he explained.  “There are a few hills and 30 kilometers on a track through the jungle, but it’ll be nothing compared to what we did in China.  Come on—where’s your sense of adventure?”

After 8 years together on the road, Eric knew exactly which buttons to push. Appeals to my FOMO generally worked.  As did suggestions that I wasn’t up for a challenge.

The road was tough.  Extremely tough.  I’m not saying I regret it.  But in the future, I think I’ll take a more active role in route planning.

After crossing the border from China into Laos at Boten we headed towards Luang Namtha, on to Muang Sing and then on a tiny road towards the Mekong at the village of Xieng Kok. Here’s where the jungle track started. This was the first of a couple minor stream crossings.
The first few kilometers were a real road where vehicles could pass. Then the track got narrower and narrower till we were rubbing arms with vegetation. The track was just wide enough for a motorbike.
Definitely IMPOSSIBLE in the rainy season.
My arms were really aching the next day. Lots of trees were down and we struggled to get the heavy bikes over the rough track.
Luckily we knew we’d reach a real road (not a great one mind you–dusty and rough) after 30 kilometers. If not, I’d have seriously considered turning back.
A local guy heading out to his farm.
The whole village gathers to build a family home.
The hills didn’t relent all the way to Sanyaburi, a place famous for its elephant sanctuary.
Never could convince the kids to give us a push!
camping in Laos
We did our usual mix of temple camping, staying at schools and just pitching up in the middle of nowhere. Laos has lots of empty spaces but sadly land mines still litter much of the countryside so wild camping isn’t without its dangers.
Life is still tough in remote parts of Laos. Firewood must be gathered, water fetched and crops tended with very basic tools.
Life in the capital is far easier. Thanks to generous foreign aid and massive Chinese investment, Vientiane is booming. Trendy cafes dot the once scruffy downtown and shopping malls are springing up on the banks of the Mekong.
Evening row along the Mekong–I fear sights like this may soon be something of the past.
At least the spectacular sunsets won’t disappear–may even improve with the added pollution.
One of the last few days in Laos–easy cycling along the Mekong.

Our Laos Route:
Mohan-Boten border crossing from China
Luang Namtha, Muang Sing, Xieng Kok
from Xieng Kok it is a 30 km forest dirt track to Xieng Dao
from Xieng Dao to Huay Xai via Pha Oudom it’s a tough section were only the last 30 km are paved
from Huay to Pakbeng it’s also very tough section with only a few kms of pavement here and there.
from Pakbeng to Sainyabuli it’s all paved but with some very steep hills
Sainyabuli to Paklai on the Mekong is a relatively easy paved stretch
from there a mountain road (steep grades) took us to the Mekong again at Sanakhan
then we followed the Mekong to Vientiane (the first 30 km were unpaved and rather challenging also with ups and downs)

Where’s your sense of Adventure?
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6 thoughts on “Where’s your sense of Adventure?

  • January 13, 2015 at 12:12 PM

    Ha Ha… Eric doesn’t seem to be the screeching type…. Sneering yes… 🙂 It’s amazing watching your updates. Keep them coming.

    • January 14, 2015 at 10:38 AM

      We can swap some stories next time we pass through KL! Hope your 2015 is off to an excellent start!

  • January 13, 2015 at 10:02 PM

    Beautiful! I share your fears for the Mekong and the other rivers in the area. The dams under construction and planned will change things irrevocably.

    • January 14, 2015 at 10:37 AM

      Yes, development gone wild with the greedy few benefiting in the short term and the average Joe suffering for generations to come.


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