Stung Treng to Kratie 144km
Nice meeting and chatting last evening. So I decided to go for it today, and get this bit of reportedly ugly road done. Here are some tips if you decide to follow me tomorrow.
144km. 7.5 hours of cycling. It's very dusty. I really advice you to get some sort of face mask. I used my CanTeen all purpose bandana, and it ended the day very dirty.
The first 20km seem hard. At first I thought that I hadn't recovered enough, or eaten enough, after my bout of D's n V's, but it's actually slightly uphill.
The roadworks and dust begin at 27km, and last for just over 30km. There are three bridges that give you some respite from dust at approx 10km, 20km and 30 km. Take the opportuity, because there are no other spots to get away from it. I dont know how the locals living along this road cope, but their life seems to just continue as normal. They really do not have any choice. When you get to the last bridge, you're almost done the worst of it.
Mostly I rode on the far right, often on what would be hard shoulder, (where there wasn't sweet potato drying in the sun), but watch out for the occasional deep runoff channels. At times this is very much like single track riding. I'm not sure how comfortable you'll be with that, especially with your panniers, but I love the challenge, as long as Fiona doesn't throw a fit, and decide her tyres are too slick for the sand.
At one point early on, everything, the whole road, but the far left hard shoulder, was rutted for about 400m, so I went against the traffic on the far left. Seemed the sensible thing to do, rather than be battered to pieces.
After 30km, you have a respite for perhaps 10km, with rough tarseal. Then there are patches of roadworks and dust for the next 50km, never more than 4km long, many only about 400m long. These don't seem nearly as bad as the first 30km, perhaps because you can often see the end in sight.
There are food stops in a couple of villages. I went to the local market as I was leaving and bought baggettes and muffins.(we can thank the French for their influence there) There are plenty of drink stops.
Beware of the Kids calling out all day. I'm sure its a plot. They are hidden in the dust, trees, dark windows, shadows, and doorways. Don't look for them...because you need to be watching the road ...constantly. Several times I forgot and almost ending off my bike in a dusty pothole.
This ride is definitely not boring, Simon. The Mini bus drivers are flipping idjets. They don't care, they go way way too fast, and with their aggressive tooting are the most obvious hazard, especially in the zero visibility dust. I got a little angry at one stage. Reminded we of an encounter in Tibet where a group of friends and I threatened to throw a Chinese Driver and his Landcruiser keys down a bank.
I couldn't find my planned turning point, must have been a real goat track, so continued to 100km and took the signed route to Kratie. Immediately the dust and traffic ceased. Lovely. I wish I wasn't so tired at that stage, because the last 35km would have been a delight.....the locals very engaging.
Keep an eye out for the freshwater dolphins. If you cross a Bailey bridge with newly thatched buildings below on the right, you've gone 100m too far. I'm at a $5 hotel near the market. I'm going to stay here two nights. I'm knackered.
Happy, safe, (and dusty) riding.