Day 7 – Ranong to Kuraburi

8th December 2012:

We’d been told to expect another hard day today, but not as bad as the day before (Chumpon to Ranong). If anything however, this was the toughest day. This was caused at least in part by the fact that it ended up a rather large hill (well not that large, but large by Thai standards).

Today just basically undulated and undulated. Unlike some of the flat roads on the Gulf of Thailand side, the Andaman Sea side is quite different. Most of the ride was also inland, and in fact we never saw the sea at all today.

Sunrise from the Tinidee hotel in Ranong.

Sunrise from the Tinidee hotel in Ranong.

Heading out of Ranong early in the morning, and seemingly busy for a Saturday, we were soon back out onto National route 4, which is for the most part a very quiet road and a single lane in both directions. We made great time first thing whilst the air was cooler, and notched up around 40km by our first stop. Suwat brought us our customary bananas (Dirk’s favourite!), watermelon, jelly drinks, electrolyte drinks, pineapple and the like, and it was all delicious as always.

We're on the road to somewhere....

We’re on the road to somewhere….

.....and geting closer to Phuket (our final destination) all the time - we've now done 600km already!

…..and geting closer to Phuket (our final destination) all the time – we’ve now done 600km already!

The area down in this part of Thailand is principally Muslim, and the waves and greetings from the local children were all just as friendly – we just noticed headdresses and mosques in plentiful supply.

We stopped for lunch at a little place next to a petrol station which was just fantastic food. We had soft shell crab, red snapper, chicken with cashew nuts, prawns in garlic, and a green curry. The service and hospitality were just perfect. It’s was yet another example of a place where if you had been passing you would not as a westerner even think to stop, and yet what a chance that would have been missed!

Another delicious lunch stop.

Another delicious lunch stop.

We had covered 92km by lunch, and so in theory the afternoon was a fairly easy haul, as it would be only 34km or so. This didn’t prove to be quite the case however, as first Esso, then Phillipa, then Esso again, punctured, and each stop in the blazing heat took its toll. The difference between moving with wind resistance and stopping, even in the shade, is quite severe when it is 35C out there.

It's easy to smile, even with a puncture, when you have a friendly man in a support van to come and repair it for you!

It’s easy to smile, even with a puncture, when you have a friendly man in a support van to come and repair it for you!

And then of course there was the hill at the end. Never overly steep, but at around 5% average and about 2 or 3km in length, it was hard work, exacerbated by the fact that Esso and I pushed it pretty hard. I was wiped out by the time I got to the Greenview Kuraburi resort.

I was so tired when I got there that I didn’t even have the energy to go for a swim, but instead just relaxed and sat around looking at the lovely scenery, which was amazing. The resort was on its own in the jungle, and set by a lake. The noise from the cicadas was almost deafening.

view rfom by room at the Greenview Resport, Kura Buri

View from by room at the Greenview Resport, Kura Buri

Today had wiped everyone out I think. Dirk in particular was pretty drained for most of the day as he was still recovering from his bout of food poisoning.

The pool at the resort.

The pool at the resort.

Dinner was a fairly low key affair at the hotel, but of course delicious as always. I think we saw no other westerners at this hotel at all, the last time we would be so ‘remote’. This for me was a shame, as ultimately I loved the ‘real’ Thailand much more than the commercialised areas.

The following day would be a short one, only about 45 miles, as we would be doing some sightseeing of the area hit badly by the 2004 tsunami. I think everyone will appreciate the comparative rest after about 400km being covered in the last three days alone. We are also yet to see a cloud, not that we are complaining at all, but it does take its toll in terms of sapping the energy.

And finally the stats of the day are as follows, another 80 or so miles done:

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┬áhad 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 ­čÖé

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: