Day 1 216 KM Houay Xai to Wet Night First instalment of my latest trip to Laos. Arranged to meet up with my friend Auke and together we would cross the new bridge at Chiang Khong, i was wearing my best smile for the day and fingers crossed. Initially the immigration guy was OK for me to cross alone and pay 1000 baht for the escort. There was squeaking on his radio and then he changed his mind and told me i would have to use the ferry, around the same time a minibus full of Thais showed up for pictures with the staff so i guess if they hadn’t shown up i would have been sorted. I then asked if i could put my bike in a pickup and he was ok with that idea. Big smiles and looks of disbelieve as myself and Auke enlisted some locals to bump the bike in the pick up, i sat with the bike for the crossing immigration and customs thought it was highly amusing. Back on the Laos side we drove into town for a coffee and baguette from the paper bagged faced owner of the Riverside GH (note to self never to stop there) and we parted company. Onto the trail, one of my favourites nice easy run along the Mekong, some evidence of the landslides that had Phil turning back at the end of the rainy season, but otherwise it was relatively unchanged from last year. Lovely views along the way. Since i was making good time i arrived at Xiangkok and intended to head to the new friendship bridge in Myanmar and get some pictures for Auke and at the same time do the trail heading East from Xiangkok and come into Long from the North. I stopped for some gas and heard the rumble of thunder so decided to hit the trail and miss the bridge out and push past the storm. If you haven’t done this trail then you should, it’s a great mix of single and dual track and was pushing along at a great pace UNTIL the trail turned into the oncoming storm and that was the end of my riding day. It rained like a bitch and hailstone too, in seconds the trial was unridable and was now resembled a flowing river not a trail. Frantically tried to find a spot under cover but was impossible, about then i was kicking myself as i had passed through a small village a few km’s back and could have had a nice night !! I walked down the hill from where i had managed to find a spot to rest the bike in search of some cover as it was getting dark, nowhere to sling a hammock just bamboo scrub, then i noticed an old farmers bamboo feeding hut, it was semi complete and most of the floor was gone but it would have to do. So imagine the scenario i am piss wet through, i hiked back up the hill (twice) to unpack my bike which had fallen over in the now mud and left the bike, i figured nobody could even get near it, let alone steal it. So now i’m trying to get a square peg in a round hole the tarp and the hammock are way too big for the bamboo hotel and i managed to rig it up in a fashion. I jumped in fully clothed boots and all (time about 18.30) it was going to be a long night. As darkness fell i was shaking like a leaf with cold so whipped my sleeping bag and in no time at all it was as wet as me, that was the longest night of my life and doubt if i got 30 minutes sleep cursing and muttering to myself as day one came to damp conclusion. To be continued ?