03/08/2014 – 247 days/22472 miles

Today had to be my most physically exhausting day so far.
It involved good asphalt, crap asphalt, gravel covered asphalt, hard packed dirt, loose gravel, looser gravel, washboards, rocks, ruts, sketchy bridges, steep hills, sand, silt, river crossings, and falling.
I loved it.I love the fact that I did it, and that I am now drinking beer instead of riding.
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I could’ve made a direct trip south from Pakse to 4000 Islands on a fast, good quality, paved road. Surely, I would’ve covered the 140km in an hour and half. But, wanting a little more excitement than the flat and straight road, I decided to head east first, making a big loop through the Bolaven Plateau, before making my way back to the main road that would bring me to 4000 Islands.
The route east was great, type 1 fun.
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While the road was in relatively good condition, the bridges sometimes left something to be desired…
…like guard rails…
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…or a smoother surface…
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…or maybe a few less holes…
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This one’s not so bad, although riding across a sheet of metal doesn’t really provide the best traction
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Thank God I’m on a motorcycle and not some heavy truck…I don’t know how much weight these things can handle, and I’m guessing they aren’t up to date on safety inspections.
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The route back west was definitely fun of the type 2 variety.
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The road turned into more of a path, but surprisingly, there was still a fair amount of traffic on it…mostly scooters and tractors, and the occasional pickup truck.
This is probably the only nice stretch of that road.
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Shortly after dropping the bike, I happened upon my first river crossing. I’d just passed a tractor and scooter, and they caught up while I was walking the river to see how deep it was. Perfect! I’ll let them cross first, so I can see which path they take.
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This tractor caught up to me again at the next river crossing and saved my ass
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This first crossing wasn’t too bad…not too deep or fast, and the riverbed was smooth gravel.

The second one was a bit more rough. Much deeper, longer, and filled with boulders.
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I (wisely) decided to take my drybag off the bike for the crossing, to make it a bit less top-heavy. And halfway across, I nearly dropped the bike. If I’d had the extra weight, surely it would’ve gone down. Not long after almost dropping it, I got hung up on a huge rock. Luckily, that tractor from the previous crossing was just arriving, so two guys ran down to help lift the back end up and over the boulder. A few minutes later, with my bike on the other side, I had to run back to the same spot and help them lift their trailer up and over the same rock.

River number three…not a problem…short and shallow
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Number four…you’ve gotta be kidding me…
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Once I got to the other side of this one, I stopped for a snack (there just happened to be a tiny shop out in the middle of nowhere). At the point I was at, Google Maps showed that a road existed again (the last ~40 miles I’d covered were not shown online), so I figured that the road quality must improve from here on out, and more important than that, the river crossings must also end.
Meanwhile, three kids were admiring my bike, so I tried asking them if there were more crossings. One of them confirmed my hopes and said that this was the last one…Thank God! That means I can just continue on what’s bound to be an improving road on my way to the highway!

REALLY?! Another one?! At least this one is relatively short, shallow, and slow moving…must be the last one, too.
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Son of a bitch! By far the longest one yet, and filled with slippery rocks. But at least this really was the last one, with only a short distance until I made it back to the sweet sweet sealed road.
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Once I was back on pavement, it was a quick trip down to Si Phan Don (4000 Islands), where I am staying on Don Khong…at least crossing the water out to that island was done with a ferry (and will be possible via bridge before long)
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Yesterday, I’d mentioned that “The Loop” in Laos wasn’t quite what I’d expected, and that the Mae Hong Son loop in Northern Thailand was much better. I’ll expand on that statement…if you want wonderful riding on purely paved roads, stick to the Mae Hong Son loop. If you’re interested in more offroad type riding, or dirt roads, spend a few days touring around the Bolaven Plateau, and consider checking out #18, which goes between Attapeu and Highway 13.

That’s enough for one day…time for some more Beerlao

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