We were warned that this would be “one of the most challenging days” so when Colin informed us that there were roadworks that would close the road from 8 am to midday, just 40 km away it was a “no brainer” that we elected to leave at around 5 am to get through them in time. Luckily Colin could reorganise the planned breakfast and, in the coolest part of the day, without a break, we pushed through to the end of the roadworks. By now the long riding days and tight slog to get to the next location was starting to take its toll and many of us believed this tour could have been far better managed if there was a trailer & bus to take all the bikes to better start and end points.
Morning tea does wonders. Artichoke impressed everyone at the only “cycleway” bridge encountered on the trip with yet more amazing treats (Apollos). The local charlatan tried to trick attendees at a market into thinking that Robert was actually a normal person, and ED tried to sort through the cheap Chinese goods looking for some gluten free delicacy. As these sort of places are so remote from the tourist route, none of the clothing actually fits us “giants” and not a local handicraft is to be seen. Looks like we’ll have to wait until Bali for that.
We had the usual fish & rice, beautifully prepared at a restaurant over the water with the fish swimming in nets directly below. This place also featured large sea turtles which Colin went to great pains to explain that the owner is doing them a favour and letting them go when they are big and strong. Mike continued to fight off the local talent and Alex thought it better to cool off by swimming over the local coral instead. The local delicacy was glazed fruit fermented in chilli juice. The restaurateur tried to sell us prepacked takeaway versions – we were hot enough.
Most of us would have been more than happy to stay at lunch for the night, however we pushed on and found a young man giving coconut cracking demonstrations. The stack of coconuts piled around him in the shade of the palms indicated he was quite good at it, us enjoying a welcome coconut energy boost. Barry also invited himself to village pre-wedding preparations, the groom proudly announcing his new wife’s first born will be named “Barry”. Let’s hope it’s a male.
The next 20 km, in 42 degree heat, gave us time to lament the toughest climb imminently ahead. Stopping at the base for an extended afternoon tea (no one want to start) we could barely see the top of the next 8 km. Once we started there was no room on the bus so those remaining bravely pushed on in granny gear as best we could. Congrats to Louise who made a sterling effort to the meeting point just below the summit. Lots of PBs today.
A welcome 3 km plummet in strong headwinds down the other side had us now crossed over from coast to coast and we sailed into the quaint village of Salodik, complete with the most extensive fruit & vegetable markets seen. A pity neither the exotic dragon fruits, nashi pears or lush bok choy, beans, and young carrots made it to the table that night.
We stayed the night split in multiple camps. The boys cut their way through overgrown grass into a building of wall tiled floors that easily cracked under the weight of our metal clips, strewn with mattresses. A single bathroom with a 44 gallon drum for water & electrical cables hanging everywhere had some of us check out the local rubbish filled creek for bathing options. The married couples, & ladies, camped upstairs above a shop, crouching so as to avoid hitting their heads on the ceiling.
Dinner was held in a large dance hall, surround by plush furniture and a white tiled stage which would be the envy of Madonna. After dinner Alex & ED engaged a local masseur and the whole village, including kids, came out to watch. We kept the kids amused with magic tricks and origami. Secretly, we were hoping they would disappear.
Distance 111 km; Steepness – ridiculous; Temperature – Englishman & midday sun