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The itinerary

The Team Dai Challenge 2015: Around the Nam Ngum II

Dates: Saturday 7 to Tuesday 10 March, 2015

Total cycling distance over four days: 431 km (if we don't get lost)

Total elevation gain: 4,983 m (...but don't worry, we'll lose that as well at some point!)

On the map below you can see the four day routes in alternating blue/green colors. We're going clockwise around the Nam Ngum reservoir. The big gap on day 2 is where the Nam Ngum II reservoir lies, which we'll cross by boat.

Day 1 – The Appetizer

We’ll depart from Vientiane Capital and take Route 10 towards Tha Ngone, cross the bridge, pass Ban Keun and cross the Nam Ngum by ferry near Meuang Kao. From there we continue to Phonhong (Vientiane Province’s capital) where we meet Route 13 North, which we follow until Ban Thaheua, where we spend the night. The first half of the route the road will be flat, while the second half will have some rolling hills.

Day distance: 148 km
Road condition: All tarmac, in various conditions (i.e. count on potholes)
Tyre recommendation: slicks

Day 2 – The Kill

From Ban Thaheua we cycle a couple of kms to Ban Houaymor where we will turn right onto Route 5. This road starts off with some rolling hills, but just before Ban Lak 24, where route 5 disappears into Nam Ngum 2 reservoir, there is a one more serious hill to take. Once we’re over it, we transfer by boat to Ban Natou, approx. 23 km further, where route 5 resurfaces and we get back on our bicycles. From there the fun starts. A first 9km uphill (400 m altitude gain) will bring us to the first peak after which we’ll get a little reward in the form of a nice downhill (280 m altitude loss over 5 kms). However, this is then followed by the kill: a 15 km climb to the Xaisomboun plateau, in which you will gain 740 altitude meters (average slope of 5.2%). Once you’re at the top it will be another 8km to Xaisomboun’s District Capital where we will spend the night.

Day distance: 63 km (on the bike) + 23 km on the boat, crossing Nam Ngum II. The day distance may seem short, but there is plenty of climbing to make it a full day!

Road conditions: Diverse, including good tarmac, good, hard dirt roads, bad dirt road (primarily just before the ferry pier), but overall quite okay

Tyre recommendation: slicks or knobs

Day 3 – The Big Descent

The plan is to leave Xaisomboun Town in southern direction along “the road less travelled”. We will lose 900 m of elevation overall, but it is not going to be only downhill! We start the day for instance by climbing to the highest peak of the entire trip at 1712 meter. Two more peaks follow later but there is a lot of downhill to test your breaks! Make sure they are in good condition! Estimated distance for this part: 60 km.  We’ll join “the road more travelled”, and proceed over some rolling hills for around 20 kms to Hom District Capital (better known as Longxan), near the border of Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area. We'll spend the night in Longxan.

Day distance: 80 km
Road conditions: First 60 km: unknown, but likely not very good, think bad dirt roads; last 20 km good (tarmac and/or hard dirt)
Tyre recommendation:
 slicks or knobs

Day 4 – The Triumph

After breakfast, we will then have 14 km of flat road before the last mountain of the Challenge presents itself. A 12 km climb (480 m altitude gain) will bring you to the top. A well deserved and very gratifying downhill (with a few little uphills on the way) lasting for about 30 km brings you back into the Mekong valley. Thabok, on Route 13, is then only 12 km away, where we'll stop for lunch.

The final stretch is 90 km along National Highway 13. Smooth tarmac brings us back to our beloved Vientiane. However, just to avoid some busy part of Route 13 close to the city, we turn left at the Sea Games stadium, turn right onto 450 Road and then meet Route 13 again near the southern bus station, from where we continue to Phatuxay, for our triumphant arrival. 

Day distance: 140 km
Road conditions:
 First 50 km hard dirt road, then 90 all tarmac, in good condition.
Tyre recommendation:
 knobs or slicks

The proposed Team Dai 2015 Challenge