Monday, March 1, 2010

The Roadless Travelled

What makes cycling through Laos so enjoyable is the scenery, the lack of traffic and fairly decent roads. We're on the main road through the northern half of the country and there's hardly anything on the road. Including tarmac. Hang on, where's it all gone??? We shudder and shake northwards. After a climb we have a nice long descent, except the road is a mess of stone, gravel, pot holes - nothing but vibrations all the way down, and none of them good ones. There are road workers everywhere and finally we reach some brand new super-smooth tarmac, courtesy of the Chinese. We glide into a village called Namo, find a guesthouse and call it quits. It goes without saying that in the middle of nowhere, i.e. Namo, we meet another cyclist, John from Denmark. John is travelling south and has had two punctures and a broken spoke today. The spectre of a broken spoke haunts me. I had to confess that although we carry spare spokes we lack the tools and knowledge necessary to make a repair. We both wonder how John will survive tomorrow riding over the awful road we've travelled today.

We're excited when we wake the next day - we're only about 40km from the border with China and we're fed up with foe - Lao noodle soup. Today we'll be eating Chinese. Even better, the last 20km to the border is on a brand new road. On the Laos side is a Chinese town - we know this because it's a construction site. After getting stamped out of Laos at a portakabin we cycle down to the fancy Chinese border post - all spic and span. A security guard greets us and offers to watch over our bikes whilst we're inside. It's big and clean and empty inside. We do the immigration and health formalities (Have you any of the following symptons: cough, fever, diaorrhea, headache, flu, muscle fatigue, sore backside, tingly sensation in the fingers? If yes, have you been cycling through Laos? ) and go back for our bikes. "Have a nice holiday!" the guard shouts after us as we pedal off.

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