March 18, 2013
Distance: 50.1 miles Climbing: 3553.1 feet Descending: 3054.5 feet
We had no problem waking up early after a few days rest and were eager to be off when we saw cloudy skies. We stopped in at an open bakery where Chandler ordered the set breakfast of eggs, fruit, bacon and bread, while I had my standard bread and an omelet.
The road immediately started up hill and I could tell what kind of day it would be, a tough one. The sun burned the clouds away and we were quickly baking in the heat. We passed through dense jungle and small villages. We both had an incredibly hard time finding a rhythm. We would descend down short steep hills only to have to immediately shift gears and sweat our way back up another hill. These hills always seemed to occur in villages where people would wave and ask question. It is quite difficult to interact with the locals while trying to huff and puff up a hill.
At one point, we passed through a high valley where the locals were practicing some slash and burn agriculture. We have become used to ash snowing down on us or smoke clouds billowing into the sky, but this area was different. We felt like we had entered some post apocalyptic war zone.
The heat became unbearable around 1230pm, when we decided to duck into a small restaurant to get out of the heat. Chandler was able to get some soup which came with the pile of greens that he added to the soup and would eat bits of periodically, mirroring the actions of the locals. I was able to convey that I’m a vegetarian, so the owner fixed me up some eggs. The eggs tasted a little funny, but I was hungry so I ate them anyways.
Around 300pm, we still had a ways to go to get to Beng and got back on the road. About half an hour into the ride my stomach started to rumble. The road mellowed out and we didn’t have to go up and down so many hills. By the time we got to Beng, I was crying and in serious need of a bathroom. Chandler got us the first guesthouse we came to and carried all of our panniers up the stairs while I was sick. It was a pretty basic place, with clean sheets, but it had a shared bathroom with big barrels of water hauled from the creek and a squat toilet. Squat toilets are not ideal when emptying one’s stomach.
After spending some time getting to know the lovely shared bathroom, I was able to lie down and snooze while Chandler went out to find something to eat. He went the wrong way the first time, and walked about a mile to the other end of town without seeing anything that resembled a restaurant. He did see a group of young kids rooting around in piles of burned trash along the roadside picking up pieces of melted metal. The whole town was actually covered in a dark haze from burning trash somewhere on the hill beside the town. While the people were friendly this was a particularly dirty spot and the first place we’d seen people scavenging so desperately. He came back to the guesthouse and asked the owners where to eat and they gestured in the other direction, where Chan found two roadhouses within 100 meters of where we were staying that he somehow missed on the ride in. He ordered the only food he knew how to say in Lao, “feh” and enjoyed his second bowl of noodle soup of the day along with a pile of leafy greens.