I had a decision to make. Continue on Highway 1, the main National highway, and go to some beaches, or cut into the interior of the country and head for the mountains. I’ve been getting sick of all the honking on Route 1, there’s a certain consistency of scenery along a main road, and from past solo experience, beaches get boring quickly when you’re alone. So for some variety and some challenge, I headed for the mountains.
So I climbed and climbed up the switchbacks. Nothing too scenic, unfortunately. The road was quiet though, which was nice, but up to a 13% grade in parts, which was painful.
This mountain road was really different from Route 1. On Route 1 there are services and food stalls everywhere, and hotels and guesthouses in a lot of places. On this mountain road there was nothing for long stretches. I passed mountain people carrying logs, watched water buffalo as they stared back at me, and avoided herds of goats as they crossed the road.
In the early afternoon, as I was getting up into the clouds, the mist turned into rain. I put on my rain jacket and kept pumping along. I watched on my iPhone GPS how little distance I was covering — I was moving at around 5 mph. It was all up with very little leveling off.
At 4 PM, a girl on the road asked “Where are you going?” I told her I wanted to find a hotel, and she told me the nearest one is 25 miles away. I figured she was over-estimating, and that there’d be something closer than that, no way would I be able to cover that much distance at the speed I was going.
But I saw nothing, and then I ran out of water. I found a scooter repair shop and I was able to buy some water. The guy there told me 20 miles. This was probably around 5 PM. The light was fading. So I kept going.
I have a hammock, but no rain fly, so I kept my eyes peeled for an overhang where I could suspend my hammock. I came to a small store with a barn beside it that had a suitable overhang. I approached cautiously, showed the family my hammock, and pointed to the area that I was thinking. The men seemed indifferent, but the woman shook her head vigorously. No way, no way!
I asked at a couple other places, and I was turned away. It was really uncharacteristic of my bike touring experience. I’ve become really confidant that I’ll find a place to sleep — either some good camping spot, or someone will be really generous and take you in for the night — but after being turned away those few times, I gave up on asking for help and kept trudging on.
I had to get my headlamp and rear light out so I could get through the dark. I figured I could make it those 25 miles to the hotel, although I didn’t want to, but I knew it wouldn’t kill me either. I was trying to just accept it.
But then I saw a lonely shack on the side of the road with no lights on. I approached saying Xin Chao (Hello), but no answer. I said it a few more times, and then knocked on the door. Nothing. The door was unlatched, so I opened it up. It was a one-room shack that looked like it was used by teenagers who loved to party — beer cans, sunflower seeds, and coconut-covered-milk-chocolate-pie wrappers everywhere. It looked like it had been a fun night.
I took off my wet clothes, peed through a gap in the wood wall boards, and strung up my hammock. I eased myself into the hammock, but as I lay into it, it flipped and threw me onto the ground. My second attempt was better, but as I lay there, I felt the cold come underneath me, and this was only early in the night.
So instead, I set up the hammock as a bug net on top of these disgusting, damp mats that had been left there by the teenagers. I figured these mats would give me some insulation from the ground and some padding. It worked great and I had a good night’s sleep.
I had biked 79 miles to an ascent of ~4,200 feet in 7.5 hours with an average speed of 10.7 mph. It had been a long day.