100 km, a Hilly Ride, and a Rainy Pre-Dawn Adventure: Three Days of Firsts
I have never been a huge cyclist, I don’t have padded shorts and I’ve never ridden clipped into my pedals. I like riding bikes with friends, or for exploring beautiful countryside, or as a means to avoid the subway, and, until this week, the longest ride I’d ever done was around 40 miles (the NYC Five Borough Bike Tour – which I highly recommend).
But on Wednesday we rode exactly 100 km (63 miles), and I felt like I easily could have kept riding. My legs weren’t even sore the next day. That is, I could have kept riding if it weren’t for the sun: the vicious, pounding, unrelenting sun. We’d set out about an hour before dawn and were still riding 7 hours later, as the sun was high in the sky.
No matter how many water breaks we took (and there were many – some to drink the water, and some to drench ourselves in it), I never cooled down. And our final mile (literally, the 100th kilometer) was uphill, no shade, no cross breeze.
We spent the next two nights relaxing in Bang Saphan, a sleepy little beach town on the western coast, where we waited out a rainstorm in a brightly painted bungalow surrounded by kittens and crashing waves.
After the 100 km day, we wanted to take things a little easier, so our next riding day was only (only!) 60 km, to Bo Mao Beach, an even sleepier beach town just north of Chumphon.
What I didn’t realize was that the reason I had been able to ride 100 km with no problem was that I was riding on almost entirely flat, well-paved roads.
We’d read on the excellent cycling blog Travellingtwo that this 60 km segment had “gentle hills” – which probably would have been easy (or at least easier) without the additional weight of the luggage strapped to my bike (or maybe travelingtwo are just fitter cyclists than me). But as it was, I struggled up every incline and, perversely, grew to resent descents, knowing that another ascent was sure to follow.
Leaving Bo Mao Beach, the one hazard that we had so far successfully avoided was rain. We had got of the road at 4 am (two and a half hours before sunrise) in order to catch a 6:30 train leaving from Chumphon. The first hour and a half in the dark were kind of lovely. We had the roads almost entirely to ourselves (except a few barky/ chasey dogs) and at least the sun wasn’t out. But shortly before we arrived in Chumphon, it started raining. And then it started pouring, so we stopped and put on ponchos. And then it really freaking started pouring.
We arrived at the train station damp and bedraggled, but we made it to the train with enough time to spare for an iced coffee run.
One train and one bus later, we arrived in Khao Sok Park, where we are getting in a little jungle time before we head back to the beach. Next stop: the island of Ko Lanta.