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The End of the Road

by Tara

Today, as we pack our motorcycle one last time, ready to embark on a final day of adventuring with Pete and Natasha, I'm feeling quiet and introspective. As we ride, I'm appreciating the beautiful mountain scenery, grateful for the adventure we're having, while also feeling tired, in need of some time spent doing nothing, or at the very least, not going anywhere.

Lao Mountain View

As we zoom past all the villages and views, part of me longs for the transparency we had on bicycles, the immediacy of the experience, and the level playing field we had with the local people as we pedaled along, slowly, quietly, humbly. It feels strange at first, arriving in these tiny villages with huge helmets on, bikes roaring.

There is an awkward silence when the engine stops, all eyes are on us as we descend from our motorcycles, landing in these villages like aliens from space. Until our helmets come off, there is a moment of trepidation, where kids stop and stare, looking paralyzed. Once our smiling faces and terrible hair are revealed, we are deemed safely human.

Even so, I am thankful for these motorcycles. This week-long adventure could easily have taken a month or more on bicycles, and we would have been achingly aware of the twenty thousand meters of climbing we blew through without effort (more ascending than a sea to summit of Mt. Everest, twice).

The fact is, at this stage in our trip, we simply would not have come this way under our own power, and it would have been such a shame to miss.

As we speed up and down countless switchbacks, I'm cataloging the experience, mentally preparing for when we'll come this way again on bicycles, in just a few day's time. This easy afternoon of motorcycling will take us two days to pedal. As we ride, I keep track of little waterfalls, snack shops, and places we could camp if need be.

When we roll past a town, the only village of any size breaking up the journey between Phou Koun and Luang Prabang, I breathe a sigh of relief to see that there are a handful of guest-houses we'll be able to choose from. We stop to mark their locations on our GPS, and then we all decide to stay for a short rest break in the small village, buying some cold drinks, and sitting on some steps in the shade.

As we sit quietly, all lost in our own little worlds, I notice a wedding going on across the street. A circle of women and a ring of men are walking around each other in opposite directions, everyone slowly bouncing up and down as they step, as if the balls of their feet posses tiny springs. The music is an ultra-chill, ultra-slow reggae-type beat, and I can't help but smile. Of course, the most relaxing country we've ever been to would dance to music like this. I only wish our sound recorder wasn't broken so we could capture it!

The rest of our ride passes quickly, and soon we're back in Luang Prabang, dirty, tired, hot, and utterly thrilled about the incredible adventure we've just shared with our friends. The weather here is sweltering compared to anything we've felt this past week in the mountains; it feels good to take showers and change into more summery clothes.

When evening comes, we have a pizza dinner to celebrate the end of our time together in Laos. After a few Beer Lao, and many more engaging, enticing stories about hiking the AT from Pete, we head back to our guest-house and settle in for a few episodes of Long Way Round, and many conversations, dreaming up new adventures we could have together one day.

Pete and Natasha, thank you for sharing your motorcycling trip with us!

Long Descending Road


Sigh. I <3 Laos
Posted by Amanda on April 16th, 2011 at 1:29 AM
Don't know what happened there, but it was supposed to say I heart Laos :)
Posted by Amanda on April 16th, 2011 at 1:30 AM
Sometimes it just make sense not to be a purist and get a lift, at the right time it makes life alot more simple or beautiful in my case in Uganda probibly saved me getting squashed by a truck:).

But the best part is getting back on your bike though........
Posted by Shane on April 16th, 2011 at 9:03 AM
Amanda, I heart Laos too!

Shane - There is often so much to be gained from persevering when it would be simpler and easier to get a ride. And other times, it just makes sense, like it did for us here: http://journal.goingslowly.com/2010/01/hitching-ride/

But for me, a motorcycle trip is a completely different beast than hitching a ride. Traveling with a big helmet and a hefty bike might not have some of the intensities and subtleties that a bicycle journey has, but it definitely has its merits, and it sure is a lot of fun.
Posted by Tara on April 19th, 2011 at 5:08 AM