The hottest day in my life

Hardly any cars on the streets but yet quite some traffic

Hardly any cars on the streets but yet quite some traffic

Country: Laos
From Savanakhet to Pakse
Lesson learned: “Sabaidee!” I even waved and shouted it in my dreams
Laughed about: minus45°C
Most wonderful miracle: Inspiring to little boys to load their bikes and travel through the living room
Food we ate: Avocado and tomato on bread
Greatest challenge: Soft melting tar and heat
Days on the bike: 3
Kilometers cycled: 257.85
Average Kilometers per day: 85.95
Total Kilometers cycled till Pakse: 10418.29
Total days travelled till Pakse: 603

Cycling in Laos (Part 4), May 2013

After five days in Savannakhet we left town with fresh visas for Thailand. After a detour through the south of Laos and Cambodia we planned to get back to Thailand and cross the country towards Malaysia.

"I love Laos". And we love shade.

“I love Laos”. And we love shade.

It was the late morning when we got on the bikes and the sun had no mercy for people who got up late. How could we still not be used to the heat? We sweated more than we could ever drink and after 35 kilometers we stopped to fill our bottles with electrolytes and our bellies with cold soft drinks. The bikes were parked in the shade but the sun moved and soon the thermometer was situated under the direct sun. It showed -45°C. I was surprised for a moment. Minus zero in late April in Laos? Soon I understood. The thermometer’s scale ended on 50°C but the needle had risen further on. It was so hot that it had risen through the part without numbers and entered in the minis scale. -45°C on the thermometer meant +75°C in reality.

Thermometer: -45°C

Can you believe that?

This was the hottest I had ever been in. I moved the bikes back into the shade and son the needle fell on the usual 42°C. Unfortunately there was no shade on the road. Since we were driving on the right side of the road again and we headed south, sun (and shade) came from the left (west) side all afternoon. The few trees on the side of the road were too small and we hardly ever got to ride in shade.

We made the best out of our situation, sat down under a tree and ate leftovers from dinner. Roberto had prepared Mexican Guacamole the day before and now we ate Avocado and Tomato on bread while we watched the dogs play with goats and pigs on the side of the street.

I would love to do the same

I would love to do the same

In the afternoon Roberto got full of motivation. “We have not done more than 100 kilometers in quite a while”, he said and I knew what that meant. He wanted it today. It was a race against the short sunlight but after an hour of real hard cycling we had made it. Sun was just setting and just a moment later it started to rain. There is nothing better that a shower from nature after a hard day’s work but first we needed to find shelter for the night before the last bit of sunlight had gone. We were in luck. A man saw us standing in the rain and waved us over to his house. Together with his family, some dogs, buffalos, chicken and pigs he lived in a two-stored house without floor. As usual in Laotian houses there was a big wooden platform in the ground level. The family slept upstairs and we thankfully accepted the offer to spend the night on the platform.

We shared the last four baguettes with avocado, tomato, chili and limes with the family and I don’t think the kids had ever eaten avocado before. When the last piece of bread was gone we put our isolation mattresses onto the platform and hung the mosquito net Roberto had bought on the market in Savannakhet. When I saw the bugs, flies and mosquitoes trying to enter I knew that the 3 € investment was of the best ones we had ever made. The family invited us to eat sticky rice with them but we were too tired and they appeared hungry enough without two additional eaters. We fell asleep before 9 pm.

In Laos people’s sleeping rhythm adapted to the sunlight and when the first roosters crowed we got up with them. We were on the road at 5.45 am. Just in time for the sunrise. Our rewards for the early start were fresh 29°C and an empty road.

At first we moved quite fast. The headwinds were not too strong today. But at 10 am we crossed the magic 40°C and our legs felt like lead. The tar on the streets was soft as chewing gum and glued to our wheels.

Why not?

Why not?

We had learned the two first Laotian words on our very first day in the country and hear them daily ever since. Sabaidee means Hello and Farang (or Falang) means foreigner or person from the west. Originally it meant Frenchman.

Usually our arrival in a village was spotted by a little child in one of the first houses. After a moment of surprise the kid waved his arm and yelled as loud as it could: “Sabaidee Farang!” Now the neighbor children came running out of their houses. They were curious who the first kid was shouting to. They also waved and cried out: “Farang! Farang!” and „Sabaidee!“. The children of the third house came running outside before we even reached them. Their system of spreading news was simple but extremely effective. We waved and shouted nonstop until we reached the last house of the village. In some villages the kids tried out what they had learned at school. “Bonjour!” and „Ça va?“ were the usual greetings in some of them, „Hello mister, I love you!” and “Good morning!” in some other villages. But once we stopped somewhere the children got confused, shy and calm and only giggled softly with their friends.

Roberto fell asleep during noon break

Roberto fell asleep during noon break

We spent noon playing backgammon in a small shop o the way and when we continued the first rain drops fell down on us. Five minutes later we found ourselves surrounded by grey clouds. At 2.30 pm it was nearly dark. It rained heavily and the headwind turned into strong tailwind. The storm grew stronger. I was completely wet in no time and it got harder to control the handlebar in the wind. Branches and buckets flew through the air, confused buffalos, goats and pigs ran over the streets and on the horizon the first lightening appeared. Temperature quickly fell on 22°C and we accelerated easily on 33 km / hour. We did not stop cycling until the thunderstorm was only 3 km away.

After a while the wind lost its strength and we had to pedal again. The search for a place to sleep was not as easy as usually. Two temples were closed, one was without any monks and in another one we were turned down in Laotian. Since it was cooler we decided to ask permission to camp in a family’s garden. We did not understand a thing of the answer. They took us to see the head of the village where our new friend called her husband Lu who spoke English. He explained that they needed her permission in order to receive guests at their place.

Future-world-cyclist

Future-world-cyclist

When we got back to the family’s house the little children had lost their shyness and wanted to play with us. The older one took our isolation mattresses, put them on his little bicycle and rode it around the living room.

We slept like the marmots and were back on the bikes by sunrise again. After 50 kilometers we reached Laos’ third biggest town Pakse where we found a guesthouse for 4 € a night. Our plan was to take a day off and go to swim in the waterfalls nearby. Since it continued to rain most of the days for some hours we spent some days working instead before we made our way to the 4000 islands near the border to Cambodia.

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