Day 6 – Chumphon to Ranong

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.

My last view of the Gulf of Thailand as the early morning rays shone through from the beach.

My last view of the Gulf of Thailand as the early morning rays shone through from the beach.

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.

The Isthmus of Kra - Burma is the other side of the river from me. Goodness knows what the sign says!!

The Isthmus of Kra – Burma is the other side of the river from me. Goodness knows what the sign says!!

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:

Lunch on the river, which river I'm not sure, but the food was fabulous.

Lunch on the river, which river I’m not sure, but the food was fabulous.

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:

http://app.strava.com/activities/31289147

Day 5 – Ban Krut to Chumphon

6th December 2012:

Today (day four was a rest day at Ban Krut) was marked by many quite memorable things. The most prominent of which I think was the most amazing sunrise I think I have ever seen. I was awake at about 5.30am, and thought I should take a walk down to the beach (which was all of about 75 yards away) to see what the day might bring. After all, it is not too often in your life that you get to wake up with an uninterrupted view of the Gulf of Thailand is it?

The sun pushed its way through a few wispy clouds sat on the horizon at about 6.20. Sat as I was the only person for miles around I had this beautiful thing all to myself.

The sun begins to light up the eastern sky over the Gulf....

The sun begins to light up the eastern sky over the Gulf….

....and then the whole sky is awash with colour as the sun itself peers over the horizon.

….and then the whole sky is awash with colour as the sun itself peers over the horizon.

Following breakfast shortly thereafter we met up again with Esso and Suwat, and were ready just before 8 to hit the road for our toughest day so far. The ride took us on an incredible journey, through many fishing villages (including a memorable trip to the end of a pier where a multitude of Burmese workers were unloading the day’s catch and mending nets). We again followed the Gulf of Thailand for most of the way, which will be the last time we see it. It really is such a stunning and unspoilt piece of nature.

The fishermen unload their catch......

The fishermen unload their catch……

....whilst others try their luck from the jetty.

….whilst others try their luck from the jetty.

I was happy that Esso decided to push the pace a bit more today. Whether for my benefit or his I don’t know, but it gave me the chance to finally stretch my legs a bit. Dirk was unfortunately struggling with the after effects of a bad bout of food poisoning the day before, and so opted to take the back for most of the day. I felt for him, as cycling when you feel so bad, and in that heat, must have been really tough. I was happy though that I also got the chance to get a bit of a spurt on, as it gave my legs the chance to get pushed as hard as almost I could in places.

Following Esso down another really busy Thai road :)

Following Esso down another really busy Thai road 🙂

Following a break for lunch in another great ‘restaurant’ which just appeared from nowhere, we headed back down to the coast towards our last stop on the gulf, Chumphon.

Another day, another great lunch stop.

Another day, another great lunch stop.

Altogether today we covered about 72 miles, our longest so far, and got in about 500m of ascent altogether, so the roads were becoming more varied and undulating finally after being pretty much pancake flat so far.

Arriving at Chumphon Cabana, which was again right on a deserted beach, it again took about 5 minutes from arriving to get into the sea, which was again really warm, when I wanted it to be cool!!

The beautiful unspoilt beach  at Chumphon.....

The beautiful unspoilt beach at Chumphon…..

.....but the pool was much cooler thankfully!

…..but the pool was much cooler thankfully!

This was the hotel taken from the beach - Spiceroads had done us proud again.

This was the hotel taken from the beach – Spiceroads had done us proud again.

So after a very invigorating Thai massage close to the beach and then dinner, everyone was pretty much finished for the day. The stats follow below:

http://app.strava.com/activities/31157611

Tomorrow we would cross Thailand altogether, and get to within apparently 20m of the Burmese (or Myanmar as it is called these days) border. It would be 80 miles plus, and quite hilly apparently. Couldn’t wait!