Laos Series No. 5: Almighty Cardio

“Let’s all meet up tomorrow and bike to a waterfall that’s pretty close to here, what do you think?” asked Luc, a fellow traveller who I met just a day ago here, in Luang Prabang, and with whom we had a great time celebrating his birthday that evening.

Nothing less but a great idea it was, certainly, and all of us,  a group of what, maybe 12 people, decided to meet the next morning at 8 a.m., rent mountain bikes, and have an actual biking trip together.

I had my doubts. Not about the details of the plan itself but about the statistical possibility of all of us waking up that early after an evening/night of enjoying cheap Lao beer (called, interestingly, BeerLao). The fact that we had all waken up early that day to see a special (to us only, it happens every morning) monk ceremony did not add optimism to my reasoning.

To my surprise, all of us were at the meeting point on time the next morning, and after a perhaps too strong breakfast we started our journey – almost a quest, if you will – to one of the waterfalls. The other one, we all agreed, was too far away. However, the one we chose wasn’t that easy to reach either.

Actually, the way to the waterfall wasn’t supposed to be that terribly challenging. As Luc and his friend Anouk told us, the way to the place will be quite difficult, but doable, yet the way back, if we want to take a different one, will involve “a killer mountain of about 3 km but then it will be all nicely downhill from that point.” I looked at both of them carefully when they were saying this: a sentence like that coming from two fit people made me wonder how really doable the way to the waterfall would be and then whether I will not die on the way back.

Well, what can I say, the road to the place made me start thinking one specific thought that didn’t leave till the very end of that day:

All the time I was slowly biking up with my face turning purple I was thanking myself for all the cardio workouts I have done in my life, giving special thanks to the very recent ones.

Jump squats, squat runs, all the kick box kicks and jabs – if I had to throw in some religious stuff here, I’d say that if everything happens for a reason then these definitely happened for a good one. That reason being me not getting a heart attack and being able to (almost) keep up with my friends.

We reached the place from which we had to take a boat to the waterfall, we enjoyed the waterfall itself, and after all that joy a scary realisation crossed all of our minds:

We still need to get back to Luang Prabang.

“Shit” would be the lighter version of what I was repeating in my head. And aloud.

How much of a killer was the promised “killer mountain”?

I’ll just say that my friends didn’t lie to me. And even if they had lied, what could have I done then: catching up with them and punching them? Physically impossible that was.

What was possible was to bike up as slowly as one can imagine. Though…no, no-one can imagine that speed, which was, I’m pretty sure, close to 30cm/second. At one point another girl and I stopped and started walking with our bikes by our side, which proved to be faster than that incredible speed we were biking at. So yes, we cheated, but only for 20 metres or so and – another excuse – we saved some time for our friends who we agreed to meet at the top of that relatively flat but extremely tiring hill. Our killer mountain.

After that, just like my Dutch friends had assured, it was all going downhill (I mean this literally instead of referring to some decrease in our moral values or something). All we needed to do is to brake occasionally and try not to go too much into the opposite lane during sharper turns. This was light speed in comparison to how “fast” we were moving before.

After we reached Luang Prabang I had my last drink with all of the bikers, we exchanged contacts, and I left for my hostel from which I had to later reach the bus station and finally go to Vientiane. No more cardio, just sitting in a bus for twelve hours, snacking, and reflecting on all the fun stuff that I said “Yes” to during my time in Laos. All the fun stuff and all the amazing people with whom, as you might have understood, it was the journey itself and not the destination that truly mattered.

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