So I’m pretty sure I’ve destroyed any belief that it’s not possible for a woman to do everything; if any Thai person in the Chiang Mai and Tak Province may have seen me the past few days.
Normally I get many waves, smiles and hello’s when I’m cycling. However, the past few days all I’ve had is wide mouthed stares, and the occasion group of young guys laughing and pointing.
I’m pretty certain not many foreigners travel through this area.
And I’m pretty certain not many people ever travel by bike.
And I’m even more certain that no one would ever travel through on a packed bike in a crazy rain and horrendous conditions.
But I did.
And I have the wonderful Mapsme app to thank for sending me on a real adventure!
So I left Chiang Mai on Saturday with my packed (far too much) bike. My aero bars holding a huge bag of passionfruit I surprisingly (and excitedly) found at the Market (for only NZ$1.50!) and 3 mangos.
I stopped off at the Buddhist Temple where I stayed for 3 weeks to say goodbye and I quickly got usshed into the Songkran activities with the Nuns – mostly giving thanks to (many) people by giving the gift of food – this seems to happen a lot. I was regifted a lot of the food by the main Teacher Nun (who regards me as her Daughter now) and the amount of food the Monks receive is actually unbelievable. A lot of this food would go to waste and in a country where there are so many poor people, it’s quite hard to stomach – but this is a whole other story I’ll tell another time.
So 3 hours later I left the Temple with even more food and a very full belly.
For some very strange reason the night before it had rained. Hard.
It’s the middle of the hot season and the temperatures had been hovering 40 degrees although overnight they dropped in the 20’s. So me leaving to start my journey at 11:30am a few days prior would’ve been a mad thing to do, but now it was rather comfortable.
The trip to Hot (the city) was lovely and quiet and flat.
I had lots of smiles and thumbs up from the locals but surprisingly the kids that were lining the streets with buckets of water to throw at people (it’s Songkran festival, it’s what you do) were hesitant about getting me. Maybe it had to do with my hollering and waving my arms at them that they were frightened?
I was so eager to get some water thrown over the hot body. A few times I actually turned around so they could get me. I was keen on a sprinkle of water over my body but a dumping of a whole bucket of water over all my belongings wasn’t really that cool. I soon realised that my Yoga mat that I’d written positive affirmations all over, was written in a non permeant ink. The ink was going everywhere and the mat was also actually soaking up the water. I was hoping it would dry before I would have to sleep on it that night…..
The climb up to Doi Yao was all on a good road but there wasn’t many good places to find a camping spot. I had in my head that at the 100km spot I would find a good place. At around 96km and 98km I found a place that would’ve been acceptable but I trusted my gut and charged onto 100km where I found a motorbike track leading up the path to an area hidden by the road. The ground was rock hard and almost like gravel but it was a pleasant little spot and I was pleased. I had a few minutes to put up the tent before the sun set and I crawled into my tent and shut it up to stop the relenting bugs from getting in.
Unfortunately, my mat was wet.
The ink was also running making everything have ink on it too.
It wasn’t the best start but just as well as I had some warm (ish) clothes to put on as it was going to be a damp cool night.
Waking at 6:15am it took me 45 mins to pack everything up and be on my bike. Although that was pretty slow I knew I’d get better (and faster) at it in time.
I cycled 7km and 400m in elevation before I’d run out of steam and stopped to eat 2 mangos and sticky rice cooked in coconut milk with banana on the side of the road. It was cool and damp and was raining intermittently. It was pretty slow going on the bike carrying so much gear.
It really was just a hard slog.
The countryside was uninteresting dry trees with burnt out scrub, leaving the trees tall and bare. There was no view. I just focused on every push of the pedal.
I also was not fit, and definitely not strong. The past 4 months I’d been very limited in my training. I’d be trying to allow my damaged heel to heal and also my poor body that had taken a tough ride last year (44 days of competitions!) I was also more focused on detoxing the body through experimenting with fasting and and seeking to develop my spirituality, so fitness had taken a back burner.
I was actually rather surprised how well the body was holding up although with my bike saddle being just a little too wide, it was making sitting and grinding uphill on my nether regions rather painful. I knew that area would harden up in time, and time being having to put up with it now.
It could’ve been worse.
It can ALWAYS be worse.
Having recently downloaded the Mapsme app (as it is available offline) as I got to a crossroad I made the decision to not go the way I had planned (along the 108 to Mae Sariang) but through a back road that would lead me through small villages. I was pleasantly surprised that this app was telling me I’d cut 200m in elevation off AND also 10km, AND I would have less traffic.
(little did I know that this app was absolutely useless in judging elevation and really enjoyed sending you through crazy roads #notreallyaroad.)
But it was the apps fault. It just felt right to make the decision to go down along the 1099 through Omoki.
So I obeyed.
After travelling solo many times for over 10 years I’ve learnt by my many mistakes what happens when you don’t obey your gut/ intuition /feeling.
It’s not even an option now not to obey.
(and as you’ll find out my inner spirit guide/higher self/unconscious/real me (whatever you want to call it) knew I wanted an adventure.
So that’s what I got!
Passing many small villages the people seemed less friendly, or more so I just wasn’t in their frame of reference of the World so they didn’t see me. We perceive millions of pieces of info a second so not seeing something, especially something that is extremely unusual, is very common. I’m sure they just filtered me out. A solo woman riding a loaded bike in the rain probably wasn’t a common sight!
Stopping to get fruit, the price really suprised me. A papaya that normally would cost me at most 10 baht was being sold to me for 25 and a small bunch of grapes was similar to price back in NZ.
I wondered if it was harder to get fruit being in the Mountains and down a single road that ran for 84km.
Yup that’s right.
The road was going to run out in 84km.
I didn’t know at the time I made my decision that I would then I have to ride over a Mountain range (peaks at 1400m) along questionable tracks. It looked as though it could be a crazy adventure, and possible hike a j(freaken loaded) bike up and down Mountains.
Oh did I tell you that it was still raining and the ground was getting very muddy?
I was trying not to feel nervous about what I might have to do. However I also couldn’t just take my time as I only had 3 days to get out of the country. I had already received a mark in my passport for overstaying in Thailand a day, I couldn’t do it two times in a row.
I had planned on riding 430km so just over 100km a day. Even with a unfit body, a loaded bike and mountains to climb I thought it was manageable. Now with this unexpected mission ahead, I knew it would also be manageable, but it might come at a price. I made peace with the idea of riding throughout the whole night if I needed to (I actually thought it may be walking my bike a lot of the time.) I would just treat it as an Adventure Race and just keep going until I reached the finish. I’d done it many times before. Of course I could do it again.
Having packed my bike a little better – without the yoga mat on the outside – the dumpings of water I’d received from the locals only wet my shoes and clothes. However this still wasn’t really cool as it was actually quite cold (low 20’s) and some of the water they were using was ice water. How I wished it was 39 degrees! But it still was only wet clothes. That I could easily deal with.
Riding along a baron road with jungle either side of me I made the decision to climb into the trees and set up my tent for the night.
As I snuggled into my tent and lay down on my dry mat listening to the amazing sounds of the insects and birds.
Then I started to hear rain.
The rain steadily got harder and harder and I tried not to focus on the fact that my tent wasn’t waterproof. My Macbook Air and iPhone was well protected in a dry bag, I was sure as long as I stayed away from the side of the tent I would stay fairly dry.
That was until the water started leaking down onto the floor of the tent and my Yoga mat (again) started to soak up the water.
I started to get cold.
I actually started to get scared.
I then heard wild dogs outside my tent fighting.
I heard one of them wimpering as its sound (thankfully) became more and more distant. I wondered if the dog had maybe wanted to go for me in the tent but its friend had fought him off.
It wasn’t worth thinking about. I actually had to wonder how I would survive the night being so cold and wet. Sleep wouldn’t come easily.
And then I heard a crazy noise.
It was like a tornado was coming up from the gully. The furious wind howling had me a 5 second warning before it would almost lift my tent up (I had no pegs) and fling the wet sides into my already cold (and getting damper) body. I had used anything slightly heavy I had to try and push the sides of the tent out so it wouldn’t cave in on me, that being my (now) completely wet shoes and my gear bundled in dry bags.
I silently wondered if the dry bags were actually dry. Having found out during the day that my (what I thought was) an amazing waterproof, lightweight, hot climate suited rain jacket was actually not waterproof anymore, I was just a little concerned.
Did jackets have a shelf life? Was sitting in a pack for 6 months kill off its waterproofness? Would the same thing happen with my dry bags?
I was to find out. I had no other option but to hope not everything would get wet. And even if it did, it was only just stuff. Stuff is always replaceable.
I wondered what more the night would bring.
The road I had camped beside was silent. There had been not one single car or scooter along it for hours. It was 11pm at night and every few minutes I was having to brace my arms outstretched to stop my soaking wet tent from caving in on me.
I was thinking it would be a long long night ahead.
I sure was right.
…….To be continued…..