As mentioned elsewhere, this is not an absolute schedule. The only absolute dates will be TBD. The rest will be adjusted to suit our exploration and severity of our Monkey Butts. We can spend more or less time in each place along the way as long as we make Pakse in time to make our departures.
Day 1: VTE to Long San – TBD – The first day out will be about 90 miles. This is a mountain ride with about 50% dirt This will give us a chance to shake off the rust and have an easy ride.
Day 2: Long San to Phonsavon – Our 130 mile route will take us about to explore LS20A (AKA “Alternate” or Long Cheng) and to the Plane of Jars (PDJ). If they are still there, we may see some old MIGs parked at the airport in Phonsavan. This will be about 30% dirt.
Day 3: Phonsavon to Muang Mok – This day we can explore more of the PDJ area before riding about 85 miles to Muang Mok. About 30% dirt.
Day 4: Muang Mok to Ban Thalang – This will be our longest ride so far. Even though it’s only about 150 miles, it’s through the mountains with about 40% dirt, so we’ll be taking it easy. Expect to be in the saddle five or six hours this day.
Day 5: Ban Thalang to Langkhang – It’s about 70 miles to Lankhang… 40% dirt. Route 12 leades from the Mu Gia Pass to Langkhang. The pass itself is about 16 miles away. Since it is a short ride to Langkhang we can take a ride to the pass if the Beer Lao can wait.
Day 6: Langkhang to Muang Bouarapha. Our ride to Bouarapha is only a short 30 miles away… about an hour if going direct. So before leaving the Langkhang area there’s more to see. Just south of Langkhang is Ban Phanop, the area of the Boxer 22 SAR. There are also caves where the Laotians lived while the bombs were falling. We’ll explore crater villages and areas where evidence of the war is still there. We’ll be riding the HCMT Route 911 and its alternates/bypasses.
Day 7: Bourapha to Vilabouri – On day 7 we’ll ride about an two hours to get to the Ban Karai Pass area. There’s plenty of time, so the places we will go include Guillette & Harley’s Valley, the Ban Laboy Ford and the Dog’s Head. This area is said to be the most bombed place on earth. Depending on how far off the beaten path we go, we’ll ride a total of from 85 to 100 miles. On our ride to Vilabouri, we’ll ride through Choke Points Alpha, Bravo, & Charle… the area of the junction of Routes 911 from the Mu Gia pass and Rout 912 from Ban Karai Pass.
Day 8: Vilabouri to Xepon: It’s only about 30 miles to Xepon (Tchepone) but there’s lots to see. Xepon was the trans-shipment center of NVA soldiers and supplies going to South Vietnam. The road from Vilabouri to Xepon was bombed day and night as was the whole area. The region from Xepon and eastward along Route 9 is the area of the South Vietnamese Army’s failed attempt to block the HCMT during Operation Lam Som 719
Day 9: Xepon to Mouang Nong – We’ll finish our time in Xepon and head out Route 9 toward Vietnam. Vietnam is only about 45 miles of paved road from Xepon. But our planned route will only go about half way and we’ll turn South on one of the HCMT alternate routes… Route 909. Mouang Nong is the area of the longest bamboo bridge in Laos. It’s amazing that every year after the rainy season they rebuild this bridge after the swolen Xe Lanong river washes it away. I hope it’s still there when we get there.
Day 10: Mouang Nong to Ta Oy – This will be largely riding more of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The village of Ta Oy is where Rebecca Rusch went to find her father’s (Capt. Stephen Rusch, KIA) crash site in the film “Blood Road.” This day’s ride is about 35 miles so that leaves lots of time for exploring the HCMT and meeting with the villagers of Ta Oy.
Day 11: Ta Oy toi Dak Cheung – This ride will take us through Bamboo jungles with plenty of war remnants to be seen. We will go though another mountainous area on mostly dirt roads. Total distance will be about 110 miles.
Day 12: Dak Cheung to Attepeu – This will be about 90 miles of the HCMT. Along the way there are more evidence of the war including a Sam Missile and a tank. This is the southernmost end of the HCMT and is only about 20 miles from Cambodia. Attepeu is as close to Cambodia as we will likely get. (The HCMT is called the Sihanouk Trail after it enters Cambodia.)
Day 13: Attepeu to Paksong – Paksong is in the Bolavean Plateau. The altitude of the plateau is about 4,000 feet. Toward the end of the war, the plateau and surrounding area were the sites of fierce battles between the Royal Laotian forces and the North Vietnamese. During the war, this area was heavily damaged. However, it has been mostly rebuilt and today has become something of a tourist attraction. The area is known for the most fantastic waterfalls in Laos. It is also a coffee producing region. The ride to Paksong is about 75 miles so there will be plenty of time for sight-seeing.
Day 14: Paksong to Pakse – The last leg of the HCMT Ride is a short one… about 40 miles. The road is paved all the way to Pakse so unless we want to find some more off-road trails, we’ll be there in plenty of time for Beer Lao.
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Brilliant description Bob, I am getting geared up and excited, polishing and tweaking those cycles!
Thanks Don, I’m like a kid at Christmas time waiting for Santa Claus… except this is better than Santa.