TODAY WAS WITHOUT A DOUBT THE MOST HECTIC DAY OF MY LIFE. LIKE THE WHOLE DAY WAS A PERPETUAL NEVER ENDING ONE OF THOSE "you had to be there kind of moments."
Okay, so I got up at 5, met Sam, Griff, and Biggi outside Greenhill where a song tao driver was waiting for us. The guys had found someone who would take us to chiang dao, wait for us while we ride, then drive us home. So the ride we were planning on doing was this CRAZY 170 km loop in the Chiang Dao region which included a climb called Doi Ang Khan, aka the hardest climb like ever. It's 11 km at 10% average gradient with sections that are 30-40%.... like WTF. The entire loop had about 3000m elevation, so it's a lot of elevation in not a lot of kms eeep. The reason we song tao'd there was because it would have been a WAY longer and harder ride (and it already turned out to be the hardest ride of my LIFE) if we included the 150kms there and back from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao. Anyways, so we packed up our bikes in the back of the song tao, loaded into the car and hit the road.
To eat on the ride, I brought clif bars, clif shots, a big packet of dried bananas, and also had salted broad beans and juice on the ride. So we got to a 7/11 right outside Chiang Dao, and had the driver stop there, and after getting our bikes sorted, getting some food, and peeing, we started our ride around 6:30. It started out sunny and wonderful, we just rode along rolling hills with stunning views 2 by 2 taking turns on the front.
But after about 30 kms we hit the most intense rain that just came out of nowhere. I mean it was still sunny and pretty much clear skies ahah, but anyways, we just found this random road side store and ducked in there to hide from the rain. But while we were there we thought we might as well explore. We got some drinks there, ate some food, then found some thai electrolyte powders in the back ahah. They were actually pretty tasty, this shop was one of those shops that looked like it gets restocked once every 3 years ahah, there was dust and cobwebs over most of the stock especially the stuff in the back. Then Sam had this ingenious idea to try to make homemade fenders out of the cardboard boxes in the shop. So we asked if we could use them, and cut out rectangular chunks to put under our seats. We all got down to it, and had a bit of a competition to see who's would be the best. I then had a lightbulb moment of putting a plastic bag around the cardboard to keep the water from making the cardboard soggy. We all laughed at Biggi's since it looked all wimpy and saggy, but at the end of the ride his was the only one left standing ahha. We waited for the rain for about 40 minutes but it was just relentless, so since we had our fenders, we decided to just brave the storm and ride through it. After about 2 mins of riding in the rain, my shoes and socks were SOAKED, and they stayed soaked and cold throughout the entire ride. Also, at one of our 7/11 stops, I snagged some plastic forks and jammed them under the cardboard fenders to keep mine supported and upright, hahaa, getting creative and resourceful :P
But after we were about 60 kms in, for the first time ever, I honestly considered bailing on the ride and just turning back and riding to the song tao and waiting for the guys. I mean, I was freezing, drenched, muddy, tired, and we hadn't even gotten to the climb yet. I especially didn't want to do the climb in the wet, like I was honestly unsure if I would make it up 30-40% kickers if the road was wet and slippery. But I just kept trucking along, and what do ya know, after about 75 kms we got to the climb and it had stopped raining and the roads had dried by then. And now it was like a total 180 degree switch in temperature because the sun came out in FULL force. It was searing hot, and I instantly started sweating like crazy. But that might also have something to do with the fact that we hit a 25% wall which signalled the start of Doi Ang Khan. So the grind began... it was basically just over an hour of gruelling steep climb after climb, switch back after switch back, and it was without a doubt the toughest steepest climb I've EVER done.
BUT it was also the most incredibly scenic and beautiful climb ever, it was just looming rock mountains with trees growing off the rock faces, and clouds just dancing around the peaks.
It just looked magical and mystical. The guys took it pretty easy with me up the climb, they would go up ahead, but usually stop and take photos and let me catch up, which helped keep my spirits up and keep me motivated. Everytime a local thai person passed us on a motor bike or in a car, they would all shout out in surprise and often take photos and point and just exclaim out ahha. It was hilarious, I guess it's not everyday they see 4 foreigners riding up the steepest climb in Thailand ahah. So after climbing for about 8 kms, we had gotten so high up that we were literally riding through the clouds, and I couldn't even see 10 m in front of me, it was FUCKED. Especially since that meant I couldn't see how steep the hill I was approaching was, so I wouldn't know until I was climbing it and feeling the sizzle in my legs haha. Even with my 40 cassette I was hardcore snaking all over the road to make it up like every climb, they were just all so steep I had to pretty much snake onto the otherside of the road for most corners.
Then before I knew it, I saw the guys waiting at the top beside these two random donkeys ahha (only in Thailand), and the army stop. There were about 4 guards there with hectic machine guns, but they were all so friendly and ended up giving us water and taking a photo with us ahah.
And after eating some more, and taking a breather, we started the steepest scariest descent of my life. My brakes were maxed out, and my bum was way back behind my seat. But after about 10 minutes of descending it just started POURING. We legit rode straight into the craziest scariest thunder storm of my life. The rain droplets that were hitting me were the size of golf balls and actually HURT so much, like it was bruising my face, and blurring my vision. I had to close my eyes, because the water was hurting my eyes and just blinding me. After literally just 10 seconds, the roads were flooded, and we were riding through like 20 cm deep water so after like a minute of that, I saw the guys pull off the road so I followed suit, chucked my bike on the grass and dove right into this little bush coverage on the side of the road ahhah. I wish we'd had a TV crew with us, because the panic and how desperate we were when we jumped into the coverage was just hilarious. I felt like it was this surreal moment, and while we all huddled together hiding from this crazy tropical thunderstorm fully soaked, I just wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time ahah. But the coverage there was just doing fuck all, so after awhile we decided to try to find a better tree. But we didn't go far since Sam's brakes are just FUCKED. He would have his brakes maxed out, and still couldn't stop, so he had one foot clipped out and was stopping himself by sliding his foot against the tarmac, like I literally thought he was gonna crash and not be able to stop. So anyways after a few more corners Biggi found a bigger tree, and we all jumped under there. But we were still getting soaked, so we looked around for better options, then we literally realized that just 5m from the tree was this huge metal fence with this guy standing in front of it. It seemed like he was guarding the compound that was just behind the fence and looked sketchy AF. Sam reckons it was a drug house ahah, but anyways, there was this solid slate coverage over the fence, so we huddled there with the guard ahah. But, then we heard the craziest thunder and lightning literally not even 1 second after the thunder, which means that the lightning was less than 1 km away from us. Like if we had kept riding down we might have been by that lightning. But then we realized that we were standing right beside a METAL fence and we got so scared, like I was legit frightened for my life, so we begged the people inside to let us in, like we were all actually standing there soaked with our palms together pleading with them. And eventually they came running out and let us hide under this shack they had outside. Then one of the ladies brought out this like big pot and started putting coals in it to build us a FIRE. Like how kind?! We stayed there sitting by the fire for AGES, we were all freezing except for Biggi, ahha him and his icelandic blood apparently can handle a lot more cold than us. I honestly was so over the rain and cold, I actually asked the lady if she had a car so she could drive us down the rest of the descent. But after awhile it stopped raining so we decided to brave the cold. And after the rain stopped, we realized the guy standing outside that we thought was a guard, was actually just a motorbiker who had the same idea as us and was just using the coverage to duck from the rain lol. Anyways, we started descending and I literally have never been so cold on a ride, my teeth were like chattering the entire way down. The descent had so many rolling hills it wasn't really a descent, so we never really got a break. But we finally came across this straight stretch, that basically extended over the mountain ridge, and it was the most stunning view ever, we were basically right on the border between Myanmar and Thailand.
We had Thailand on the left, and Myanmar on the right, so we decided to stop and take a photo at the viewpoint. And I'm so glad we did because we found the cutest little bunny with these two thai locals, and we all gave it a little cuddle.
After our photo stop, we kept rolling and found this hut that was selling pink hello kitty ponchos. And it was legit the best 30 baht I've ever spent. We all put them on, including the hood, and they kept us nice and warm for the rest of the descent.
Everyone who saw us, just laughed because, lets be honest we were a sight to see. 4 of us in pink ponchos, on bikes, dirty and grotty as hell ahah. I tucked my poncho in at the back, and while descending the wind would get into the poncho and puff me up like a big snowball. When the guys turned around and saw me they just started pissing themselves laughing, and I was laughing at their laughing. Like we were all in fits laughing that it was honestly hurting my stomach so much, and it was getting dangerous riding and laughing that hard ahah. Sam kept calling me the pink marshmallow and snapchatted, which my friends back in Chiang Mai thoroughly enjoyed. Margaux died when she saw it, and made it her phone's background pic ahah.
Anyways, we were about to get next level grotty because we went through the muddiest stretch of road that sprayed the thickest mud all over my legs, face and arms. but there was so many huge rocks strewn all over the road, that it was hard to avoid them all and I eventually went over a few and got a pinch flat. So there we were, mud on our face, fixing my flat and just thinking... of course this happened ahha. Then right after mine was fixed, we rolled a few more meters then Griff got a flat ahah. It was just so demoralizing ahha but we got through it, and legit a few mins after we were gifted with the most stunning 360 degree open view. It was almost like the universes way of making up for gifting us with 2 flats ahha. My jaw just dropped, and everywhere I looked it was just the most magnificent view I'd ever seen. The clouds were all just drifting around the mountains, and they honestly looked like dry ice and snow, it was just beautiful.
We rode through so many small rural towns, and found a 7/11 so we stopped for salted broad beans and ate some more of my food. By then we had just over 50 kms to go, and man it was the longest 50 kms of my life. I was just so zonked out it was insane. It wasn't even just the physical exertion of the ride, but the mental ups and downs of being so elated and high on life, to being so demoralized and close to giving up. I was just so mentally drained and exhausted, that when I saw the 7/11 that our song tao driver was parked at I could have cried happy tears. We all gave each other congratulatory hugs and I just felt so much gratitude for those 3 guys. Like I would NOT have made it through that ride without them, they were so supportive and encouraging and I definitely am so lucky to have them in my life.
When our driver saw us he was just in shock, I mean we were a sight to see, we had mud caked all over our legs, bike and face.
We made it back at 7:30 right before the sunset, and on the drive back we called Bonny, and she said she'd make rice and get food for us from the Veg stall in Maya mall, because she's a LEGEND. I was like falling asleep on the drive back, but talking to Biggi about how amazing life is, and how incredible friendships are kept me awake ahah. We were also saying that today was just the craziest day of our lives, like I will NEVER forget today... NEVER. And when we got back, I just got in the shower with my shoes, kit and everything, like I had mud on every part of me and the floor of the shower after was just disgusting and soaked with mud. Then after a flash shower, we all headed up to Bon's room and ATEEEEE. She got us so many rice paper rolls, potato curry, veg stir fry, mushroom meat and so much rice and sauce. I just went to town and feasted while telling everyone (emma, bon, em, margaux, hannah, and tim) about our ride. And after I had 3 more bowls of cereal and a bowl of oatmeal before going to bed. I was just DEAD, and was passed out until I heard a knock on the door. Bon and Em had just come down to say goodnight and to have a chat, how cute, ahha then I literally just passed the fuck out. What a crazy fucking day, what a crazy fucking life.