15 December 2011
Another flat and generally uninspiring day today, though fortunately a shorter one. It takes me through 2000km, though I barely notice.
I rediscovered an old enemy or co-conspirator: the wind. While yesterday I spent most of the day thinking I was cycling into a headwind, only to discover I was going sufficiently fast to make my own headwind, today had the real thing. It seemed generally to be coming from the northeast, but it was changeable, and as the day wore on, I seemed to be riding into it.
Lunch was a passable bowl of noodles in Pakkading. I've been finding the portions small, the noodles insubstantial (they're rice noodles, which I find less meaty than wheat noodles) and the soup is often laden with MSG, which doesn't help my hydration.
Rolling into Vieng Kham, which is little more than a road junction, I almost immediately see a Chinese sign to Old Mr Ding's Guesthouse, which I was sure was the place Jesse had mentioned in his write-up. It's a bit over a kilometre down a dirt track from the junction.
When I get to Ding's, it looks like a Yunnan nongjiale with a big yard, an attempt at a garden, and single storey accommodation. Lots of yelling ensues, some of which is emerging from a guest's room. I start to think they've all lost their minds in the heat. Eventually they find a key. I establish that the old guy is Lao Ding, and explain that I've come down from China. Despite emigrating from China aged six, he speaks Mandarin, albeit with a heavy Cantonese accent. He was born in Chaozhou in Guangdong province.
I'm not long unpacked when an Israeli bike tourist arrives. We have a chat about gear and routes, the usual stuff. He says he's seen me on the road while "cheating" on transport - seems he's been doing a fair bit of that. Surprisingly, he spots I have a flat tyre on my front wheel. It was fine when I rolled in, so it must have given out at the last. It takes me ages to find the leak, but better here than by the roadside. Seems the tube is strained a bit near the valve, and a split has appeared.
A British couple show up on a motorbike - they've been doing "The Loop" - a popular four day or so excursion around some roads to the east.
Lao Ding takes dinner orders. Chinese takeaway, I guess, and when it shows up we all sit down to group dinner over our polystyrene rice boxes. The portions are way too small, I should have ordered two.
Turns out the British couple are from Norwich, and are nearly at the end of a round-the-world trip. They've ridden Norwich to Paris before and Peddar's Way (and are thus familiar with Holme) and seem to be keen to do more cycling. I promise to look them up when I get back.
We chat until it's late and then I return to my room to find my tyre fix has not held (crummy old patch) and that I forgot to hang my jersey up to dry... I can't get all of it right first time.
91km, 21.7km/h, 4hr11min, 2041km