Phou Khun to Kia Kou Cham
50.33km, 5:17:38, 9.5km/hr
We didn’t get the good weather we were hoping for this morning. We set the alarm for 6am but were woken up not by the ringing of the alarm, but by pounding rain on the metal roof of our guesthouse. We dragged ourselves out of bed and had a breakfast of noodle soup, strong coffee, and green tea. Luckily during breakfast, the rain stopped and after packing up our gear we were on the road by 7:30am. The day started with a short climb and then we were cycling up and down along the ridgelines of the lush mountains. The rain and clouds were so thick visibility was close to zero and I was pretty disheartened that we were missing out on the views.
We had only been riding for 6 kilometers when we had our first accident. We were on a descent and the road was wet and slick. Sarah was in front of me and all of the sudden she locked up her wheels and started to skid. She lost control of her bike and hit the deck. I was too close behind her to swerve out of the way and I flipped right over her. I landed on my back and wasn’t hurt, so I quickly got up and started dragging our bikes and gear off to the side of the road where Sarah was huddled. We got everything into the ditch and assessed the damage. Sarah was pretty shaken up and started to cry. Luckily, we were going pretty slow and there were no cars on the road around us at the time we went down. At first, we thought we had both escaped without any major injuries but then we realized that Sarah’s wrist was sore and was starting to swell up. She could still rotate it and wiggle her fingers, but we weren’t sure if it was broken or sprained. We decided our best option was to keep riding towards Luang Prabang and see how her wrist felt later in the day before deciding what to do.
We still had a lot of climbing and descending to do, which was a problem because now Sarah couldn’t use her rear brake with her right hand and she was also freaked out about falling again. We tried to go slow, but on the next 10% grade descent, Sarah locked up her front wheel again and went down sliding on the wet road again! I heard her go down behind me and tried to stop too fast and before I knew it I was sprawled out on the tarmac too! When we picked our bikes up off the road for the second time we almost fell down again immediately. The wet surface of the road was so slippery that we could barely walk on it! What was wrong with us today? It was like we had forgotten how to ride our bikes! After the second fall, we walked our bikes down the steep descents when the road was wet.
It rained off and on today and it was a strange feeling dreading the descents and looking forward to the climbs where we could feel safe that we would stay upright. When it was clear, the views were beautiful.
We arrived in the small village of Kia Kou Cham around 2pm and were both starving so we lunched on fried rice with pork, fried noodles with egg and vegetables, and stir-fried mixed vegetables. The vegetables here are grassy, leafy greens that you see growing all over the side of the road. The scenes in the Hmong villages were very interesting again today. We saw dirty children hauling giant buckets of water, two women working a giant mortar and pestle that was about three feet high, a woman chopping up a pile of ginger root that was taller than she was, a child throwing a temper tantrum by lying in the middle of the highway while her grandma looked on and chuckled, and lots of village men and women bathing nude in the center of the village.
After lunch, the restaurant owner asked us if we wanted to sleep at her guesthouse and showed us the rooms. They were simple and clean, so we took one and she gave us some hot water to use in the Thai-style bucket shower. That made it much easier to scrub the dirt out of our road rash. After getting cleaned up, we asked the woman if she knew where we could get ice. We wanted to follow the R.I.C.E. treatment for Sarah’s injured wrist. The woman didn’t have it, but said that in Laos they use hot water to treat injuries. She gave Sarah a bottle of hot water and we bought some cold water bottles to use as an ice substitute.
We plan to get up at six tomorrow and see how Sarah’s wrist feels and make a decision on what we are going to do.