7th December 2012:
Day 6 was billed as the toughest day, and in terms of mileage and also ascent gained it lived up to its promise. And yet it was also the best day so far.
We had all got up early in the Chumphon Cabana Hotel, as Esso had told us last night that if we couldn’t make it to Ranong by 4.30, then Suwat would be forced to pick us up in the bus and transfer us the rest of the way. Whilst this threat wasn’t specifically made at us, it was there for a reason, and for everyone’s sake, including Suwat’s. After all, what would be eight and a half hours out on the road would be enough for anyone – you have to draw the line somewhere.
It was decided that we would all be on the road by 7.45, just to make sure we got a good start, and so we were. Breakfast was quickly consumed down at the beachfront bar, and the soft lapping of the sea in the Gulf of Thailand, what would be our very last view of it in fact, will stay with me for ever.
The pace was good all morning, and aided by slightly cooler air, and a desire to get to Ranong in time, spurred everyone on. We had done 40 miles or so by 11am, and were half way across the country by then. The journey took us basically due west towards Myanmar, or Burma as I (and most people I know) still prefer to call it.
Aground about this point we came to the Isthmus of Kra, the narrowest point of the peninsula where Thailand and Burma meet Malaysia. Both countries together are just 20 or so miles wide at this point, and we travelled along the river for a while within what was just a stone’s throw of Burma itself.
Having stopped briefly to take some photographs at the river we began moving again towards our lunch stop. I would have loved to have somehow found a way to say that I had stepped over the border onto Burmese soil, but sadly it wasn’t possible, and anyway lingering in this heat was stifling – the heat in this jungle area was so oppressive away from the coast where at least there was always a light breeze.
Lunch was in a great place on a pontoon on the river, as seen below:
Heading now due south again we headed up our first serious climb of the trip so far. It was only about 2km long, and at about 5% average gradient, but in this heat that was a slog which really took it out of you. I also found out afterwards that it was a Strava segment, the first we’d come across so far. If I’d known beforehand then I wouldn’t have stopped for a drink half way up 🙂
After the climb there was the pleasure of a 7km descent, which was great to at last let a bit of wind resistance get to you. We got to Ranong, our destination for the night, at about 3.30, well inside the 4.30 cut-off. We’d still been out though for not far off 8 hours, including stops, cycling for 5 and a quarter. My Garmin showed 83 miles travelled, but it failed (I think due to heat exhaustion, a bit like me) for about 5 miles, so I think we covered nearer 88 in total, and did about 2,300 feet of ascent. Good going in the still of the jungle, and had I not drunk about 10 litres of water I doubt I would have made it at all.
Our stopping place was the excellent Tinidee Hotel in Ranong, which despite some bad reviews on Tripadvisor was a really nice place, so don’t believe them! In the evening we were taken to what I can only describe as a very ‘local’ restaurant. In fact I’m not sure Westerners had been there before, as most of the dishes were either indescribable, or unpalatable, at least for my namby-pamby Western tummy. We survived unscathed however, and at least there is always rice to fall back upon!
Tomorrow we would head to Kura Buri, another 130km or so, in the midst of the jungle, and so it would be another gruelling day, but we had the satisfaction of knowing that we had the toughest day behind us, and were now over half way on our adventure. All good!
Here are the stats for the day, minus about 4 miles or so lost along the way: