They bolted off like a couple of Tour de France riders pumped up to the gills with EPO the moment we rode past the welcome arch at the edge of town … and I was left all alone to amble along at my own pace.
So much for pre-ride agreements.
As for me, my pistons needed a longer warm-up period, but it was alright, I was enjoying the ride in the cool of the morning to care about chasing them. Traffic was sparse save for a few students scootering their way to school.
I would not see Shang until Soppong..he was that far ahead. As for Mo, I caught up to him just after he stopped to shoot some pics at the intersection that marked the start of the long climb to the peak, 20km from MHS. Without panniers, and knowing that it was really the last ride of the trip, I decided I might as well have some fun.
I overhauled Mo soon enough and after that, we never saw each other again except during a brief downhill section when he caught up to me. The next time I saw him would be at Soppong.
It seemed to me riding this section in reverse is a lot harder, as the climbs were longer. I’d also learned one very important lesson doing this climb — never switch off your climbing mode even after cresting the peak.
I did, and I paid for it.
3km of dizzying downhill later, it started to climb again, not steep but just enough to remind you of the lactic still buzzing in your tired quads. This would go on for about 2 km where it would then tease you with a teeny downhill, which added to the torture of another 2 km of steep climb.
It was not a pretty sight (and sound), as I rode and cursed and swore loudly.
In all, it took me 4 hrs and 39 min of non-stop riding to cover the hilly 64kms. Shang had already checked in to Soppong River Inn’s coffee shack by the roadside by then and was already enjoying his iced-coffee long before I arrived. Mo ambled in later, about 25 mins after I arrived.
After some food washed down with the most delicious iced-coffee ever, we rearranged all 5 bikes, including 5 pairs of panniers, helmets and handlebar bags. It was a tight squeeze but we managed to get it all in. I wondered if Robot’s bike would have made it 6 if he had been around…. probably not, and just as well. Even 5 was too many, especially with the likes of Mo and Shang. In the end, 4 luckless backseat passengers had to execute contortionist-like positions just to fit in. Shang being born with longer than normal legs, of course, claimed the front seat.
The truck’s aircon wasn’t up to it as well, even at full blast, so we had to wind down the windows a bit for some fresh air, but we made it in one piece to Chiang Mai, including revisiting the fish-restaurant in Pai for lunch.
By the time we arrived at Na Inn in Chiang Mai’s old town (with the help of my GPS), Roland had already checked in. He had started from Pai at 6am that morning and took him only 8hrs, including an hour or so goofing off at 32 Coffee Hill, and even patronising the classy toilets we were all so enamoured with. At the hotel, he even had time to walk to the bike shop nearby to collect the 6 bike boxes (in 3 installments) for us which Ms Maew from the hotel had so kindly arranged for us earlier.
We only had one extra day in Chiang Mai, so we decided to go shopping, hitting the biggest shopping mall in the city. It was nothing like Bangkok’s swanky Siam Paragon; in fact, it looked like it was a couple of decades behind time, but it made up for it in the delectable array of Thai food in the basement food court.
Well, it was the end of another ‘tour’, and not exactly a strenuous one at that, too, with only 5 days of riding and plenty of rest in between. The MHS loop is certainly good for a revisit. But I’d probably do the roadie thing if I ever come again…the 1,864 bends are just begging to be ridden on an anorexic, all-carbon bike with equally undernourished wheels. It’s all about speed, speed, speed …. and I’d definitely do the full loop of 600 plus kms instead, through Mae Sariang.
Till then … Sawadee Kap (or is it Sawadee Krap?… I can never remember 🙂