The smooth black road swoops and soars through a landscape of exotic jungle and primitive agriculture. We glide past an ancient motorcycle and sidecar slowly chugging its way to the fields, the first moving vehicle we have seen in over ten kilometres. The group has broken up. Some have raced ahead, carried away by the perfect cycling conditions. Others are going more slowly, taking in the beauty around them. All of us are full of joy, glad to be alive and feeling privileged to be able to ride in such a cyclist’s paradise.
The Southern Hills is the name coined by me to describe an area beginning approximately 45 kilometres south of Chiang Mai and running either side of the border between Lamphun and Lampang provinces as far south as Li. There is a network of well-surfaced, rolling roads criss-crossing the hills on the Lamphun side of the border which offer awesome, virtually traffic-free cycling through stunning scenery and yet remains relatively unexplored by cyclists.
One reason for this is probably the distance. Rides in the Southern Hills tend to be longer. Although it is possible to get a taste of the hills on a shortish 120 kilometre ride, you really need to be riding 150 kilometres to get the most out of the ride there and the best rides are 200 kilometres long. These kind of distances are not for everyone at the best of times and even those of us who enjoy a long ride have been avoiding them during the recent hot season. However, now that the rainy season has brought milder temperatures I will be venturing into the hills again and blogging about routes such as the Erawan Loop, Wat Tak Pha, the secret climb and beyond.