Garry McGivern’s January-2023 Update

Trees by water

January-2023 update Garry McGivern’s monthly update. It’s been a frustrating month felt. After recovering from the cold I had over Christmas, I felt pretty good. And I was even considering going away for a day or two cycling. But a combination of hospital appointments and the weather put paid to that idea.

The weather’s certainly not been very conducive to cycling. It was very wet and windy at the start of the month. In fact, we’ve had so much rain that three out of the five roads out of Bognor have been closed because of flooding. Even now, at the end of the month, they’re still not all open.

Road signs
One of the many roads closed around Bognor

Then once the rain had stopped, it turned bitterly cold, turning many of the roads into ice rinks. And being the fragile old boy that I am these days, I didn’t want to take any chances of falling off my bike. The last thing I need is to fracture my hip or break something else. I didn’t even go out walking. I’m even more unsteady on my feet.

Health

I’ve had a lot of physio over the past month, with sessions on my hip and neck. Yes, I now have something else wrong with me! I have a permanent headache, which they think is caused by the vertebrae in my neck. I hadn’t realised what little movement I had in my neck until Calum, my physio, had prodded and poked about. Although I have a lot more movement, I still have a headache. And I think they are going to send me for a scan.

I’ve been pretty lucky with my physio, as I have the same physiotherapist (Calum) looking at my hip and neck, so he’s got to know me pretty well. And says that I’m a rather complex case (haha, he’s not the first person to say that!) but says he’s up to the challenge. Let’s hope so. All these ailments are getting rather boring.

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On This Day 27th-January-2012

Boats on river

This week’s on this day post comes from the 27th-January-2012, and I’m in Laos. And I’m back on the bike after having to take the previous day off due to an upset stomach. Which I think was the first upset stomach I’d had since leaving home three months ago. And that’s despite eating in some rather questionable places when it came to hygiene.

Buildings around a courtyard
My guesthouse
Friday 27th January 2012 – Kasi to Phonkong 89 miles

I felt much better last night, so I ventured out to a concert I could hear going on. Although when I arrived, they were between bands. But there was still a small funfair, prize stands and various traders selling everything from pots and pans to clothes. It had a good feeling about it if you could get over everybody staring! Have they never seen a white man?

I needn’t have bothered going to the concert anyway. The music was so loud I could hear it as clear as day from my hotel room, which unfortunately went on till well past midnight! After eventually falling asleep, I was then woken up at 4.30 by that bloody chicken again! Obviously, they never cooked it yesterday, after all!

Huts by a river
There are small villages everywhere

It’s been a much easier ride today. The big climbs have gone, and so has the asphalt! It’s been a bumpy and dusty day. When I stopped for a break, I got speaking to an American on a motorcycle. He asked if I preferred the dust or the big climbs. I replied the dust at the moment. The climbs are still fresh in my mind. But maybe if it’s dusty again tomorrow, I might change my mind. By the end of the day, I was black, or rather red, the colour of the dirt here. At least I don’t need to bother with any sunscreen. I’m wearing factor 50 dust!

Man in sunglasses
Wearing my factor 50 dustscreen
Flat Tyres Aren’t Good

I’d gotten a puncture just before lunch today, but I couldn’t find it. So rather than phaff around anymore, I just changed the innertube. I can look for the puncture tonight when I’ve stopped. About 15km from my finish tonight, I got another puncture! But seeing as it was only a slow one, I pumped it up, hoping it would stay up enough until I stopped. Luckily, it did, just!

My shower tonight was very welcome after all the day’s dust. And before going to find something to eat, I thought I’d repair my two punctures, only to find out that my pump was broken and wouldn’t pump anything up! Luckily this happened now. It could have been a nightmare if it had happened in the countryside! Luckily I managed to find a new pump from the garage next to my hotel. The only trouble is it’s not exactly small. It’s a standing pump for motorbikes! But I don’t care; it does the job, and it only cost me four pounds.

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On This Day 20th-January-2012

River and mountains

This week’s on this day post comes from the 20th-January-2012, and I’ve finished with China, and I’m now crossing into Laos, country number thirteen, on my ride to Australia. Out of all the borders I’d crossed on this trip, this was the one that worried me the most. It was visa on entry, and the Chinese visa that had taken me so to get in Bangladesh was single entry only. So once I’d left China, that was it. There was no going back. I just had to hope that I’d got the requirements for a Laos visa right. And they’d let me in.

Friday 20th January 2012 – Mengla, China to Na Mo, Laos, 64 miles

Something seems to have gone wrong today! The mountains have disappeared! Well, they haven’t exactly disappeared. It’s just they’ve not been on my road. It’s the first time I’ve had a flat ride since arriving in China!

House on stilts
The style of house has started to change

I must admit that the past week has been the hardest cycling I’ve ever had! Most mountainous areas I’ve cycled in before haven’t been as intense! It’s been none stop up and down here. Usually, I’ll climb a mountain, come down the other side, and that would be it for a while. But here, no sooner had I come down off one climb than I’d be peddling uphill again! There was no flat cycling in between at all! Hopefully, Laos is going to be a bit kinder to me.

Chinese shrine
Shrine by the side of the road today

I arrived at the Chinese border around midday and went into the customs office to get my exit stamp. I just hoped I was right about Laos being visa-on-entry! There was only one way to find out! And with a loud thud, that was it. The customs officer stamped my passport, and I was no longer welcome in China! I returned to my bike and rode the ten feet or so up to the checkpoint. The border guard looked at my passport and looked at me, then stepped in front of my bike and ordered me to walk the last five feet over the border!

No Going Back

Once out of China and in no man’s land, I got back on my bike. The Laos border was about 500 metres down a slight hill. As I cycled down to the Laos checkpoint, I was scouting the area for somewhere to pitch my tent, just in case they didn’t let me in! I reached the Laos border control office. A long building with several windows. People were already queueing at some of the windows, but not at the window I needed! The visa upon-entry window was free, but nobody was there. So I joined the queue that said entry stamp. I’d already filled out a visa form in Bangladesh while waiting for my flight to China.

People queueing at counter windows
The Laos customs office

Forty-five minutes I waited in that queue! But eventually, I was at the front, standing in front of the customs officer. I handed over my passport, he flicked through it backwards and forwards and eventually said, “visa?” I tried to explain to him that there wasn’t anybody at the visa upon entry window. He told me to go back and wait! After another thirty minutes, somebody turned up. He’d been off having something to eat! And a nap, judging by how long he’d been gone! And to rub salt in, he never even checked my visa application! But what do I care? I’d got my visa! It was then back to the other window where I was duly given an entry stamp, and I was then onto country number thirteen.

Yay, Country Number Thirteen

I’m staying in a guest house tonight, which most villages seem to have. It’s only costing me 50000 Lao Kip, which I think is under ten pounds. I need to work out the exchange rate! Hopefully, I’ll get to a city tomorrow and get some wifi. I don’t seem to have a phone signal either!

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On This Day 13th-January-2012

Mountains

This week’s on this day post comes from the 13th-January-2012, and I’m in China, having a hard time in the mountains. But I’m not the only cyclist. There’s also a rabbit and a nasty accident.

Friday 13th January 2012, Yuanjiang to Mojiang. 49 miles.

Well, I think today’s ride must rank among one of the hardest I’ve ever had! I spent the first 26 miles of the day going uphill!

Looking down a valley
It’s rather hilly around here

While plodding up that first 26 miles, I came across three other cyclists. (more idiots!) They were students heading home for the Chinese New Year. They had also come from Kunming but had left a few days before me. One of them even carried his pet rabbit in a cage on the back of his bike! He said there was nobody to look after it, so he brought it with him! I’d already been cycling up this hill for two hours and asked them how much further there was to go. 13km, the one with the rabbit replied. I wished them luck and went on my way. Even though I was carrying a bigger load and was cycling slowly, I was still faster than them!

Dangerous Roads

It started to rain earlier, so I stopped under a tree to put my waterproofs on. While I was there phaffing about, the student cyclists caught me up and stopped for another chat. I think, like me, they use any excuse to stop and take a break from the hills! As we all huddled under the tree, a motorbike went past us. The motorbike pulled up a hundred or so metres ahead of us to put their coat on. As the rider stood next to his bike, putting his jacket on, a lorry came round the corner. Lost the back end and careered into the motorbike and the man standing next to it! The bike went under the truck, and the man got hit, sending him flying into the trees! I couldn’t see him when he landed, nor did I wish to! He was behind a big rock! Luckily, plenty of other people were around helping, along with the Chinese cyclists.

People by oranges
Friendly faces selling some lovely oranges
I Hope Everything Was Okay

I decided that there wasn’t much I could do, so I carried on up the hill, leaving the bike under the lorry and cries of pain coming from behind the rock! Needless to say, I was very cautious going around corners. The roads had become very slippery with the rain! And if a lorry was coming in the opposite direction, I’d be ultra-cautious!

I eventually reached the top of this hill. Maybe I should start calling them mountains now! Anyway, as I was saying, I got the top after five hours of peddling! And I think that when the student told me it was 13km to the top, he may have meant 30km! The ride up was made even worse when I passed through a small village. I caught sight of some men dragging a pig out of a sty. They laid it down on the ground, with the poor thing squealing away. They then cut its throat and left it to bleed to death! Not a pleasant sight!

Finally, At The Top

Now at the top of my mountain, I was looking forward to freewheeling downhill for a while. It didn’t last long! After about two miles, the road levelled out before once again climbing!

Later on in the day, I bumped into the three students and asked after the biker. They said that he was okay and not badly hurt. I do hope so. He did go flying through the air for quite a way! It was like something you’d see in a film! I also asked them how much further it was to the next town. About 3km, they said. This time I took it with a pinch of salt, and just as well, it was more like 20km! If I bump into them tomorrow, I don’t think I’ll bother asking them how much further things are!

Youths on bikes
The Chinese students heading home for the Chinese New Year

I had a lot of trouble finding a room tonight! I’m not too sure if it’s because of the weekend or because it’s coming up to the Chinese New Year! Or maybe I just smelt a little too ripe!! I’d tried five hotels before eventually finding the one I’m in!

I’m not too sure what I had for dinner tonight! It might have been eel, pike, or maybe even snake, although I don’t think so. I can only say it was very bony, and there wasn’t much meat. It wasn’t very enjoyable! The first meal out of all my travels that I’ve not enjoyed!

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