DAY 100 – A later than usual start for the last leg of the loop, we left the guesthouse at 6:30 and had a breakfast of noodle soup from the local market. The undulating road took us and down first 30km, but it turned out to be mostly downhill and the kilometres flew by.
We stopped for a rest and a coffee in a small village before riding through the flat rice paddy fields. The mountains in the distance came ever closer as we gradually approached, and it became evident we would soon be climbing what would be the first of two big passes during the day.
Before the first climb we had a few kilometres of relatively flat ground, during which we passed the village of Tha Bak which sits on the banks of Nam Bak river. The village had the reputation as ‘bomb village’ for the bombs they have turned into fishing boats. We saw a few in moored up on the bank of the river as we passed.
The climb took a while, but the descent that came afterwards was pure bliss as we sped down for 6km to the valley floor below. As we approached the top of the climb, Yami’s chain snapped and I had to insert a temporary link, which delayed proceedings for fifteen minutes or so, which meant that Victor and Grace were waiting patiently at the top as we arrived!
The second climb was no longer and steeper than the first, although it felt that way with our aching legs! After a tough thirty minutes we made it to the top and the Sala lookout point, where we had a break and ran into five Thai touring , decked out with expensive bikes and all the latest equipment.
The following descent took us into a large plain where we stopped for a well deserved lunch having ridden 70km in the morning. As we ate, the group of backpackers on scooters we had met in Tha Lang pulled in, having taken the 40km detour to the Konglor cave. They seemed a little surprised to see we had gotten so far!
As we sat in the restaurant, two trucks passed. Both were jam packed full of caged dogs, apparently strays, caught in Thailand and en route to the dinner plate in Vietnam. The condition of the cages and the space is about as inhumane as anything I’ve seen and from the smell of the truck I’m sure more than a few of the dogs had already died.
The final 30km to Vieng Kham turned out to be a sweaty affair, as the two big descents had returned us to the lowlands, and the inevitable heat. The road twisted and turned on an undulating path. A few short but steep climbs tested our fading legs, but we rolled into town shortly after 3pm, where having completed the loop, we drank a celebratory beer before finding a decent guesthouse and treating ourselves to an aircon room for 60,000 Kip (US$8).
The scenery along the road remained spectacular for the whole day, with mountains on either side, and although tough, the road was definitely a good road to cycle.