Towards Ranong: but not quite... - Taking my life for a ride - CycleBlaze

July 18, 2015

Towards Ranong: but not quite...

I will do a hard right turn just short of Ranong, in order to take a back road to the east coast.

To Kao Lak

It's a good start to the day, the sun may not be shining, but it's not raining either! Leaving Phang Nga was easy, literally just turn right outside the hotel door. A bit down the road, I took a small side road / longcut for about 20 km that got me a bit further on the road to the coast. The whole day was simply pleasant, a good day to be out riding the bike through exotic countryside.

Everyone I saw, either greeted me warmly or looked at me in slack-jawed wonder. It was a lot of fun.

River crossing, back road on the way to Kao Lak.
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Laundry anyone? In the middle of a paddock, on a back road I find a very small onestop coin operated laundry and motorcycle gas station under a bit of tin roofing - nothing else. I think that is a "pokie" slot machine along side.
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Today it felt like I was on a 20” Bike Friday, like someone had secretly swapped out my 26" tires for 20s. so I pulled over and gave the bike a good eyeballing…. Something just had to be wrong. I discovered that my seat post was slowly slowly descending into the seat tube. Doh!!

Once I hit the main road I stopped at a convenient bus shelter to deal with the problem. I attracted a bit of a crowd. A couple of characters start talking to me in Thai and then the next thing you know I’m being offered a local herbal stimulant, a leaf of some sort, that one of them has in a plastic bag he pulls out of his pocket. They tell me it will give me energy while I’m cycling. I thank them for the gift, tell them it will be very useful, and as I put it in my shirt pocket, I’m hoping it’s legal. I then get a demonstration of how you pop it in your mouth and chaw on it like a plug of tobacco. Ok, got it. And I’m on my way with lots of smiles and I’m thinking/hoping are positive comments and well wishes.

At the local 7/11, set for any eventuality they have a range of shrines you can worship out the front of the shop.
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And when I emerge from the 7/11 I manage to catch a quick photo of a monk, communing with the god of his choice.
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When I get to my hotel room, first thing I do is wash out my riding shirt…. Oops. My herb is now drying out along with my shirt.

I’m spending the night at the Kao Lak beach resort area of Baan Niang. This entire coastal area was scrubbed clean by the Sumatran Tsunami of 2004. I take note of all the Tsunami sirens and assembly points as I ride along the coast. I’m only metres from the beach here, so there are no assembly points. If the siren goes off, you simply run for high ground.

It’s the wet and it’s the low tourist season, so there is plenty of cheap accommodation here. Half of the restaurants and businesses are closed for the season and those that remain open are hustling for what little business they get. I’m staying at a lovely spot and have the entire place to myself – at only 400 Bhat, it’s the best value of the trip so far. I even go for a swim in the pool. I'm the only guest tonight.

Summer House Beach Resort. My very own personal poolside bungalow and swimming pool. Only 400 baht, the best deal of the trip to date. I'm the only guest tonight.
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It’s been a good day. Close enough to 60 km that I won’t bother worrying about the difference.

To Khuraburi

I cleaned the bike before setting out this morning, well gave it a bit of a clean – she’s seriously dirty and the drive train is a mess from weeks of snorkelling through S Thailand wet season road muck. By the time I get some breakfast into me (my standard of fried eggs, rice and Thai cooked veges) it’s pushing 9:00 am. The sun is out (hooray?) and it’s hot already. I take a scenic long cut through back roads for about 30 km, probably adding an hour to my ride, but it is worth it as the scenery and lack of traffic make for a fine morning. Leaving Phuket and heading north, the coastal road is framed by the ocean on one side and national parks on the other. With the sun shining and moving at my snail’s pace, I get to take it all in.

My target for today is Khuraburi, about an 85 km ride through mixed terrain and with some flats and wee roller hills. Several times during the day I stop and take on liquids, mostly ice coffee and water. At one stop they have only soft drink, so it’s another orange Fanta. It’s a small roadside stall at a road intersection with a couple of tables and serves only locals. I guess they don’t stock bottled water because the clientele is not wealthy and it’s a whole lot cheaper to just drink the water out of the tap. There are some long cigar shaped charred tubes of banana leaf with something cooked inside. I’m a real sucker for any Thai banana leaf cooked surprise, so I try one out. It’s cooked sweet sticky rice, one of my favourites.

By about this time I’m pretty low on energy and I still have 35 km to go, so I reach for my newly washed and dried herbal stimulant, pop it in my mouth as demonstrated yesterday and give it a chew. I don’t know if it’s the sticky rice, the small can of jolt coffee, the Snickers bar, the Fanta or maybe the chaw tucked up under the lip, but I’m good for another 25 km. About 10 km from Khuraburi, there’s a small, but steep hill to climb. It’s hot and I’ve got no reserves left in the tank, but after the first steep rise there is a small resort with restaurant. I pull in and sit in the shade for about 30 minutes nursing a large ice coffee before tackling the remainder of the hill in the cool of the late afternoon. Hey, it’s not so bad… and the run into town is either downhill or flat with a good tailwind.

Once I book into my accommodation, a run down “resort” right on the river that goes through the edge of town, before I shower and wash my riding gear, I turn the bike over and set to with some serious maintenance. The drive train has been driving me crazy for days because it needs a serious clean and oiling. The resort owner sees what I’m up to and tells me he has something that will help and goes off to fetch it. He returns with a Coke bottle full of what looks like Coke, but I think is used engine oil cut with kerosene. I have my small bottle of expensive chain oil, but that’s not going to go very far with the state the chain is in, so what the heck. We discuss our strategy (he speaks no English and the only word of Thai I know is of no use in this situation) and we begin. I spin the crank and he drips out his elixer over the moving chain, rear derailer and cassette. It makes one heck of a mess, but actually does a good job dislodging all the muck that’s stuck to everything like grinding paste. A couple of destroyed rags later and Turtle is going through the gears like a fine, if somewhat over oiled, Swiss watch. I also source and solve an annoying creak that was coming from the adjustable handlebar stem. It too was suffering from the effects of two weeks of rain and once dismantled, regreased and reassembled… problem solved.

We are ready to go for tomorrow: the goal is either Hat Praphat or Ratchakrut, depending on what the road presents and what I can respond with. At Ratchakrut I turn right and head for the east coast.

Durian Season. All day long you are either passed by pickup trucks loaded with Durian or you pass many road side stalls selling them. I was stopped checking my map for directions when this stall owner shouted out for me to come taste his fruit. I don't know if you've ever experienced Durian before but it's safe to say it's an acquired taste and if you have tried it, you won't forget it. Every hotel you enter has signs out front warning that the consumption of Durian is strictly forbidden. Nothin about prostitution or drug use, but NO DURIAN! What does it taste like.... try a seed pod of pungent raw garlic, with hints of pork, in a smooth custardy base ... with a stench that is lingering and indescribable. To everyones delight I have some. It is delicious and awful at the same time, but keeps repeating on me for the next 30 km.
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Khuraburi Resort juju shrine to the My Pony god. Some things you just record and don't try to understand.
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Coke elixir, Kuraburi resort. Worked a charm...
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To Ratchakrut

I waited out an early morning storm and after a breakfast of pork stew on rice from a local food stall, it was time to start pedalling. I had a long way to go, well for me 85 km is a long way on a bike. And I took another long cut again, at Hat Praphat, riding through magnificent scenery with a backdrop of forested jungle hillsides, free running rivers and well-tended orchards and rubber plantations. The government has had the foresight to put aside the best of this countryside as national park. At times you are surrounded by it on all sides. In was smiling the entire way.

And I saw an elephant being transported on the back of a small truck. It seemed to be enjoying the ride, or was at least happy he wasn't walking the whole way.

I’m still impressed with the friendliness of the locals. At one point a couple of local plantation workers on a beat old motor scooter that I had been leapfrogging on the back road (they were that slow) got off the bike and flagged me down concerned that I couldn’t possibly be on the right road, as everyone (locals and tourists alike) were all on the main road. We had a good laugh sorting it out and they beamed with approval when they realised that their back road was the road I sought and that I was thoroughly pleased to be there sharing it with them. Damn, I wish I knew at least a few words of Thai…

Quiet park like backroads, road to Ratchakrut.
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Jungle river bridge crossing - one of several today. I kept looking for trout.
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By about km 50 I was needing a break, the sun and the hills were having an impact. Luckily, I eventually found a very good small roadside coffee shop that also did food. One massive ice coffee, a bottle of water and plate of food later and I was…. ready for a short nap. It was past 2 pm by the time I got going again and with a bit of cloud cover and a tailwind, I made good time back on the road.

Until I hit hills. I just don’t have the legs for the steep inclines and I ended up pushing the bike up the worst hill. I started flagging just short of Ratchakrut and rolled into a cute little 24 hr Love Motel/bungalow resort around 5 pm.

85 km for the day, with a top speed of 171 kmph on one of the downhill runs. I think maybe my bike computer isn’t happy with the rain/humidity/heat it’s had to deal with recently.

Ratchakrut bungalows. Fairly new cross between a 24 hr Love Motel and a tourist resort - with it's own special charm, including mischievous pet sheep and strange juju welcome arch.
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Ratchakrut bungalows, dinner of emergency baked beans and dry 2 minute noodles. Delicious!
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Tomorrow I’m planning to ride back to the east coast, across the peninsula. It’s a smaller back road, so the scenery should be great. There will be hills… lotta hills. I need some sleep.

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