When I woke up at half five this morning the first thing I said to Storm was 'is it cloudy?' It was a truly joyful moment when she confirmed that the grey, chilly weather from yesterday had indeed stayed with us. This was going to be one of the toughest days of the ride, but at least we wouldn't have to deal with the sweltering heat we had battled with last week. We managed to source some underwhelming banh mi for breakfast before heading out on our epic 105km journey to P'rao. The first 30km was relatively flat and uneventful, as we rode further and further away from civilisation and through some small villages along the valley.
A pit stop was made to stock up on drinks and snacks (bananas and multiple bottles of revive), as we had been warned that this was the last place to get refreshment for the next 80km. Then came the mountain! Our first big climb of the day took us waaaay up into the clouds, and it was amazing! We were surrounded by jungle-y awesomeness the whole way up, which really helped distract us from the beast of a hill we were steadily climbing. The road twisted and turned, with each corner revealing yet more mountain. Surely it couldn't go on forever?!
Finally we spotted the famous tunnel we'd heard so much about, which signalled the end of the first big hill. A few people attempted to make scary and ridiculous noises while riding through the tunnel (some more effective than others), and we emerged the other side still completely engulfed in those glorious sun-masking clouds.
The downhill which followed was absolutely heavenly! For the next few kilometres we enjoyed a well deserved decline down a relatively decent road, stopping only to take pictures and stare at goats (there are so many goats here). Once we'd reached what we thought was the bottom, we had a short rest and mentally prepared for the next big climb. However the mountain had other ideas, and treated us to another long downhill stretch, during which the sun decided to make a rather unwelcome appearance.
For the next big ascent we had to deal with the heat of the sun, but thanks to our unwavering willpower and legs of steel we made it up in one piece and with smiles on our faces (mostly). The satisfaction from reaching the top of these mountains is like nothing I've ever experienced before. Even if the ride up is a struggle, the pain and discomfort is almost instantly forgotten when you make it to the top and have the long decline to cruise down. This particular downhill went on for aaaages and it was wonderful! When we got to the bottom we were assured that the final 30km would be nice and chilled, except for one final hill which Zak assured us would be a piece of cake after the two monsters we'd just conquered. The rest of the ride was no less spectacular, weaving through a beautiful valley along one of the best road surfaces we've seen so far. Arriving in Prao was another joyful moment. One of the hardest days was over and we'd survived!
The day was long, and right now I'm having trouble moving very much, but it was absolutely amazing and definitely my favourite day of the ride so far.
Finally, a few things I learnt today:
1. The sounds which come from the jungle are loads more interesting to listen to than anything you'll find on Spotify.
2. It's completely possible for your knees to sweat, and they do, a lot.
3. What goes up (usually) comes down.
4. Previous H2H-ers were right, and I'll say it again for future riders, the most challenging days are the best ones!