We Were Warned About the Hills
After a quiet night in our cosy roundhouses, we were ready for breakfast promptly at 8am as agreed the night before. However, apart from some sugary cereals, there was no breakfast to be seen. We emptied the small cereal supplies and turned on the coffee. Soon some fruit arrived and then some jams. About 20 minutes later we were served some croissants and lightly toasted bread, with a second batch following some 10 minutes later. It was certainly a leisurely breakfast and in other circumstances we might have enjoyed it more. With a 72 km cycle ahead of us we were keen to get moving. It was probably not the best breakfast for a long cycle.
The ride to the highway was particularly lovely, with a low mist at the base of the surrounding mountains. The highway was a lot quieter than the previous day and we made good time, passing a number of coffee shops that were open for business.
We gathered at the turnoff to our planned back route which started with a hill. In doing our research for this route, we had been warned a number of times that it was very hilly and so it proved. In the early stages the road was mostlya gradual uphill. We met up with Jonno as planned at the 20km mark which was our first possible food option. We stopped for a drink and to use the toilets but decided it was too early for lunch. Possibly a mistake!
The route then took us through a river valley though we never caught sight of the river. The countryside was very green and full of crops including one particular tree that we assumed bore fruit but had no idea what it was. According to feedback from a member of the Facebook Chiang Mai road biking group, this road was meant to have been recently paved. But the paving only lasted two kilometres and then we were on dirt. At first the road was pretty good passing through tiny little hamlets. Then it started to deteriorate and the riding got progressively harder. Finally, we reached a point where we had to get off and push. It was tough going though the views back across the valley made it almost worth it. Then when we finally got to the top we found a perfectly good concrete road that had started behind the village that we had bypassed. We consoled ourselves that it was too steep to ride up anyway.
The dirt road continued, quite steep in parts and still in poor condition. Finally we reached a little village and the main road. We turned onto it to find another steep hill, though paved this time. Even Jonno had to walk a little of it. Simon and I had to walk a lot of it and Jonno had already arrived at our next meeting stop whilst we were close to the base of the hill. Georgia had joined Jonno and we were still pushing our bikes. Then a Ute stopped and the Thai driver offered us a lift. Not wanting to keep the kids waiting too long, we agreed with alacrity and soon we and our bikes were over the hill and heading down to the next village where the kids were waiting. Jonno had been invited to join a family for lunch whilst he was waiting but decided to wait for us to arrive. By that time lunch was over so we continued on to the next village only to find there were no food options.
Not to worry as we had planned for such an event and laid out our vast range of snacks. With potato, pumpkin and banana chips we had a few food groups covered. We also had rice cakes, sweet cheese bread (with no taste of cheese), peanuts and fresh pineapple. A veritable feast that was enough to tide us over for another 30kms.
I was pleased to learn that we had completed the two biggest hills for the day however we had to climb another big hill straight after lunch. The undulations continued for another 10 Kms or so before the road evened out and we reached civilization.
We sped along the flat, tarmacked road and enjoyed watching the locals go about their business. We then turned off onto a narrow road between rice fields for the final few kilometres to our hotel, Baan Suan Khao Norm, identifiable by two bicycles attached to the second floor and a gym. On arrival, we were asked if we would like to use the fitness room. We declined and opted for the pool, completely water slide. A great way to cool off after a long day.
Once showered we had dinner at the hotel and ordered from the photos. The minced pork and rice was the standout dish, though the noodle dishes and soup were also good. We finished dinner with Cornetto ice creams. Well earned after a massive day, climbing 1500 metres over the day. Jonno rated it as one of the best cycling days ever. Up there with the mountains of Korea. For the rest of us it was a pretty tough cycling day through scenic countryside with not another tourist to be seen