The Bond of the Muddy Road

May 15, 2013

The back roads of Laos can be a challenge, even when they are dry. But add water and you have a road surface that can be both slick as glass and sticky as tar. The rains come often to the Bolaven Plateau, where some of the most expensive coffee in the world is grown.

Kat and I were negotiating a particularly difficult stretch when we heard the sound of a scooter and laughter. The scooter was loaded down with items for sale: pots, clothing, woven mats, and snacks. This was a normal sighting. Most of the goods on these back roads are sold and delivered by men driving scooters.

But this was a woman. Neither of us could remember seeing a woman driving one of these loaded down scooters before.

She was speeding up towards an enormous muddy stretch, hoping that momentum would get her through to the other side. Her legs shot up and out as she hit the deepest part of the mud trough. She laughed the whole way, coming to a stop next to us on the road.

Her smile grew even wider when she noticed that one of the touring cyclists was a woman.

I snapped their photo. Sisters in mud.

We saw her later on in the afternoon. She passed with a wave and a beaming smile, while pointing up to the dark clouds looming. No time to stop. She needed to get home before the next wave of rains made the road impassible.

Photos by Willie Weir and Kat Marriner

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His latest book Travels with Willie: Adventure Cyclist will inspire you to hit the road and just might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at



Bill Kappel May 15, 2013, 8:22 PM

I never cease to be amazed at the exotic trips taken by cyclists featured in Adventure Cycling. Hats off to their zeal and sense of adventure. I hope to make it to such locations as ease into retirement in a couple of years.

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