Today was the big day, the Inaugural Tour De Don Kong by Team Roberts. If any of you remember the Inaugural Tour D’ Isle of Arran, where Guy convinced me via Google maps that there was only a teeny hill on the Scottish isle and I would be fine and it turned out both he and Google maps were very wrong, you will understand why cycling on holiday around islands has never been mentioned again……….until now.
However, he convinced me Don Khong was flat (as indeed it was) and not be too arduous…..
We woke to blue skies and blazing heat, similar temperatures to what Chris Froome and his mates deal with on Tour D’Espana every September.
We had a caffeine shot, lao coffee each, Guy added about half a can of sweetened milk to his, it was delicous and caramelly (just dont read the ingredients!). We shared a egg and tomatoes with bagette for breakfast, not exactly what Froomey et al would have, but we are not pro’s.
The bikes were tested, ie they had brakes that vaguely worked, tyres that weren’t flat, baskets and bells (of variable effectiveness). Guy was disappointed there were no carbon frames available.
Suncream applied and we were off, it was 10.30 am. Bouncing down the potholed sandy road wondering just how long can it take one amateur and one semi – professional (recently retired) to do 30 kms in this weather and these conditions?
We were enthusiastically greeted by kids at the roadside shouting ‘Sabaidee’, unfortunately this tended to coincide with well worn roads, meaning huge pot holes and craters, so along with shouting and waving ‘Sabidee’ back we also had to navigate treacherous road conditions, it wasn’t made any easier when the kids also decided they wanted to high five us as well!
Stupidly we went off with no water, thinking we could buy some on the way. The only water bottles we saw were ones full of diesel, for ages we were gasping and not understanding why no one sold water, we eventually got some sugary iced teas from someones house to see us through until water finally appeared a few kilometres later,
Water buffalo were a consistent feature on this Tour, they wandered through the fields, over the roads and in the afternoon heat could be seen taking a dip in the Mekong. Other ‘road furniture’ we needed to avoid was dusty doe-eyed cows with their low sonorous bells donging around their necks, chickens and their obediant chicks, and waggling ducks. Apart from that and the occasional bike, scooter and truck we had the road to ourselves!
Some people had directed us to the northern tip of the island, citing a conference centre and also beach to view. They weren’t wrong, there was indeed a (very out of place and closed) conference centre and stunning beach with loads of cows and thier ringing bells and water buffalo grunting happily in the waters edge. The sounds were as wonderful as the view.
Still, we were about 1/3 of the way round and it was 11.45. We were cycling through rice paddy fields, watching men and woman do the back breaking, hot work of planting and tending to the rice harvest.
The island is very rural, very few restaurants or even shops for the locals, it it seems they are either self sufficient, use the mobile shop or go to the main town for provisions.
I was starving so was chuffed to see a sign ‘Noodle Soup’, alas the restaurant was no more, so we peddled onwards in the 31 degree sunshine wondering just when our fuel stop would be.
It was in the main town, which we reached at 2pm, so we had done 22 km in an unimpressive 3.5 hours.
The restaurant did a good trade in noodle soups, which was just as well as the menu was slightly odd. This was the fuel Team Roberts was needing. Tasty liquid and loads of noodles ensured it was difficult to get back on the bike, especially as I was particularly saddle sore, the saddles were not Brookes! Ouch!
After a long refueling stop we entered the home straight at 4 pm, stopping for a shandy, or two to celebrate.
The result was a dead heat. We were both dead from the heat. BOOM!
We ate at our place, after a few more celebratory Nam Khong’s which resulted in Guy taking sepia photos of the sunset! Hic….