We were warned by Damian at Crank Adventures in Chiang Mai that the route from Phrao to Wiang Pa Pao was one that was best avoided. I did not remember this until about thirty or forty minutes into the first hill of the day.
I was reminded of a conversation I have had many times about earning your downhill. I knew that for every kilometre of uphill I would be rewarded with a downhill. In the long run we all end up paying for a decent downhill ride. We pay for the chair lift, we buy our buddies a case of beer for shuttling or we work for it and pedal up. Yesterday we paid for 25 kilometres of downhill with 25 kilometres of some of the steepest mountain roads that I have ever seen.
(horrible climb up, the views and the ride down were worth it)
If I had a choice I would have taken the chair lift up or bought someone a keg of beer to get me to the top. Pulling the Xtracycle with all of our stuff up those hills was some of the hardest pedalling I have ever done.
It was not a shock that there was too much weight on my bike for me to keep pulling it up the mountain. Sooner or later I was going to burn out and someone else would have to take the load. Which I am sure they both were not looking forward to. James started riding ahead of me walking or jogging back and pushing me up the steeper hills. Shortly after Morgan joined in and it got a lot better for me after that.
Every time I turned a corner I prayed for the crest of the hill, when I saw another climb ahead I cursed under my breathe. But all it took was looking to my right or left to make the pain I was in worth it. The higher we got into the mountains the more breathe taking the scenery was.
We stopped at a small village on the top of a mountain. We stopped and spoke with the locals who all spoke Chinese. The people we spoke with told us that their parents had left China during civil unrest and settled in the hills of Northern Thailand. Many of the older Chinese people there do not have legal documents. Most of their children who are now adults were born in the mountains and have lived their whole lives there. They also told us some good news, that we had rode through the worst of it and the rest would be mostly downhill.
The downhill was pretty crazy with the extra weight on the rear of my bike. Trying to lean into corners my bike would wobble and shake. It was a pretty big adrenaline rush though, riding down steep mountain roads going as fast as I could go. If someone would drive me to the top I would ride down again in a heart beat. But I am not sure I am willing to pay for it again by riding up.
The hills flattened out and we rode into Wiang Pa Pao after a long hard day of riding. We were pretty worn out and a little bit sun burnt. Our goal was to make it to Chiang Rai that day but we could not decide whether or not to spend the night in Wiang Pa Pao. We waited on the side of the road for a bus only to miss it. We waited for another hour and got our bikes into the back of a bus.
We are going to hang out today in Chiang Rai and then we are going to head farther north. Keep riding and keep paying for your downhills in which ever way that you want. I think yesterdays payment was enough for a whole year of downhill rides.
Bye from Thailand
Rob, James and Morgan