The route: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/183380350 (60km, total 4561km)
As we watched the rain sheet down and palm trees bend in the 50mph (possibly) winds from our guesthouse, we reflected on how fortunate it was that our ride today was short. By 11am we’d drunk 3 cups of coffee each and were rapidly running out of time to make it to Vieng Phoukha before sunset, so reluctantly had to head out into the downpour and pedal uphill through a road which was becoming more like a waterfall with every passing minute. The winding and hilly route took us through a lush unforested national park and was incredibly scenic, even under these circumstances.
The rain did eventually stop – shortly after we arrived at Vieng Phoukha, a small and rather sad village which seemed to have tried to jump on the eco-tourism bandwagon, but fallen off rather rapidly and spectacularly. Everywhere we cycled there were fading signs promising trekking, but with no travellers in the village, and, judging by local people’s reaction, very few passing through at any time, their initial optimism seemed somewhat misplaced. There were 5 different guesthouse/bungalow combos in town, 2 of which were uninhabited and decrepid (but would be perfect to any aspiring director looking to make Blair Witch Project – the sequel), and 3 of which were inhabited, but by rodents and Laos families who were definitely not passing through), and pretty depressing. We picked the best of a very bad bunch and headed out in the rain to find some food at the one restaurant in town where we served by an adorable and enterprising 9 year old boy. A rather sad last night in the country and so unrepresentative of a country we have both loved travelling in.