Since last week we have pedaled through innumerable villages and dodged countless cows, goats, and the occasional water buffalo and scorpion. I am continually thankful I brought some masks along because there has been quite a lot of dry-season ditch burning going on. For the most part we have kept to our itinerary, except for compressing three days of riding into two to save more time at the end.
We crossed paths with another touring cyclist, firstname.lastname@example.org, (talk about a dream job) from Wisconsin riding her Surly World Troller. This is her second tour of Laos in two years and she rode the Konglor cave loop this year. That’s a fantastic collection of caves I would love to see.
The thing about touring is that many destinations and experiences you only find out about through fellow travelers. We met a Parisian couple who used to live in Saigon, a Frenchman who’s lived in Southeast Asia most of his life who had much to say, and other ex-pats making a life for themselves in places like Thaket, Savannaketh and Pakse. Today we woke up with a retired fellow from Sheridan county in the guesthouse room next door. Gary did three tours in Vietnam and loved the region so much he spends his winters here. Everyone has a story. Even the millenial hippy wannabes.
Touring by bicycle is the “slow-food” equivalent of travel. The distance covered at day’s end has a different quality to that traveled by other means of transportation. It also presents different challenges. The Chinese-made tubes I bought in Zhoukou, true to form, keep splitting seams. I’ve probably fixed 10 flats, only two due to punctures. Thai tubes are considered superior here. We’ll see about that, as I’m out of patches and Pakse “has no bike shops.” There’s an opportunity for someone. Also, my air pump has been giving me problems and under-inflated tires really get to be annoying after a while. I’ve found very few dedicated bike shops. (Bangkok had a great one) Luckily, Steve has had no trouble with his bike, and he’s noticed it’s gotten easier as the days go by. He’s noticing muscles making a re-appearance in his quads he hasn’t seen since his commuting days. It continues to be hot. Riding on into the afternoon requires stopping at every-other gas station to dunk shirts into water barrels for a few minutes of much-needed air conditioning. Tommorow it’s on to Champasek and new adventures!