Going into today, I knew there was a slightly dodgy road at some point. And when I say dodgy, I had been told that they alternate the traffic direction each day. Problem was, I didn’t know exactly when it was, I didn’t know how long it was and I didn’t know how bad it was. I pretty much knew very little about it other than the fact that it was uphill. Either way, I didn’t want it to be made any more risky so I can’t say that I was overly thrilled to find it raining when I set off this morning. I was also paranoid that the wet weather would bring back my foot pain. The good thing about it was that it kept the temperature in the low 20’s.
The rain stopped after a few hours but the clouds remained, meaning the temperature stayed fairly pleasant for the rest of the day. The first half of the ride passed fairly easily. The road wasn’t great and occasionally the wind was in my face so it wasn’t fast but otherwise it was fine.
Not long after the half way point, I was set to hit my first big climb in almost a month (which was also the infamous road). Upon arriving at the base of it, I found a queue of about 5 cars and a barrier across the road. At the time it looked as if they alternated traffic every few hours, so I carried on without stopping. It would take me a long time to get over the climb anyway so I figured there was no point waiting. Once going uphill, I felt great. With very flat riding the last few weeks I wasn’t sure how I’d handle it; but as it turns out, there was nothing to worry about. The road was a bit crap, and it was narrow but I was the only one on it and I was loving it.
I spent the first 30 minutes half expecting a big wave of trucks to come down in the opposite direction. Instead, the opposite happened and I caught an extremely long and very stationery looking queue. Skipping the line generally wasn’t too much of an issue, although uphill and through gravel wasn’t all that easy. I also came a bit close to slipping off a rather steep drop whilst going round a truck but other than that it was just slow. After a while I reached the front end of the line and I discovered the source of the hold up. Basically any time a truck reached a hairpin bend (there were a lot of trucks and a lot of hairpins) it took minutes to get round. How this has ended up as the only route to one of the main border crossings between Thailand and Burma is beyond me.
Once in front of the slower moving vehicles I pretty much had the road to myself again (it had got worse though). Every so often, a truck would come past, followed by a few cars but then there would be another big gap until the next lot. Having seen the road and the traffic, it makes sense that they alternate the traffic daily so I guess it was a bit lucky that I caught it on the right day. Having said that I probably would’ve gone up anyway, although it may have led to a few stains in my cycling shorts.
Once down the other side, the last few Burmese kilometres passed quickly and without incident although crossing the border was not that straightforward. Getting out of Burma was fine and only took a few minutes. The road then went over a bridge where you had to swap from the right lane to the left lane but thankfully there was nothing coming the other way when I came to it. Getting into Thailand was a different matter and it took about 15 minutes before I found where to go. It was a long queue. Apparently the desk I would normally go to wasn’t open so I had to use the same one as the locals. It wasn’t all bad though. It was genuinely the first time in my life that I’ve ever stood in a crowd and felt tall. It was brilliant and I’m now even more envious of the majority of Britain. After a couple of minutes an official took me out of the queue made my follow him for a few minutes. Then after ending up back where we started, he handed me a form and told me to fill it in. Once I’d done that, he told me I could jump the queue because I was a foreigner and walked off. I took his advice and made my way to the front where I discovered I wasn’t the only one pushing in. It was not civilised in any way and there was no subtlety to it either. Using my new found size, I soon forced my way to the front and was through the border in what was probably quite good time.
Thailand has been great for the few hours I’ve been here. I’ve had my first tuk-tuk ride, eaten a very big meal and so far it seems a lot more western than anywhere I’ve been in what feels like a long time. Today has been a pretty eventful day and I could go on; but I need my sleep and it’s probably getting boring so I’ll end it there. I’m actually looking forward to a couple more climbs tomorrow…
Distance: 98.1miles / 157.8km
Riding Time: 7:46:54
Av. Speed: 12.6mph / 20.2kph