How on earth did I get into this ridiculous situation, and more importantly, how am I going to get out of it? The answer, as for so many bizarre adventures I’ve undertaken over the past four years, is the Blazing Saddles column you are reading.
When I started writing my Blazing Saddles column in May 2013 I had no idea of the kaleidoscope of outlandish experiences that the strange alchemy between bicycle and pen would bring me. I am now delighted to present here my first Blazing Saddles column for The Phuket News.
On a lovely Boxing Day morning, I’d cycled across the Sarasin Bridge and then north for a few kilometres into Phang Nga Province. Taking the right-hand fork towards Krabi and Phang Nga along Highway 4, after six kilometres I arrived at the hamlet of Ban Khlong Khian.
If you turn right here along roadway 1004, after another kilometre you’ll encounter, bizarrely enough, a giant peacock staring at you in all his exuberant, tail-feathered glory.
You have arrived at a most extraordinary enterprise in the vertiginous shape of the Adventure Mountain Club.
Here, atop a dramatic rocky peak, this new club is presently being constructed, promising attractive resources and opportunities for local and visiting cyclists.
The idea of the Club is to provide an outdoor forum in which several hundred souls can camp, enjoy dining and recreational activities and lodge in the very heart of nature, just a small distance from the madness and congestion of Phuket.
Presently the club has a 25-metre outdoor pool, gymnasium, Muay Thai and yoga centre, hiking and cycling trails, camp grounds and a restaurant with a wonderful terrace commanding magnificent views across Phang Nga and out towards the Andaman Sea.
Poolside they have a barbecue dining corner, and on a stage by the pool they also present live music concerts and corporate gala events and weddings.
The fitness centre provides a trainer for yoga, aqua-aerobics, Zumba, Muay Thai and dance fitness, so you can complement your cycling endeavours with any of these when you feel the urge, as regular daily schedules run from dawn to dusk.
For adrenalin junkies, there’s ATV-racing and zip-lining, while for oldsters like me, serenity and peace abound on the mountain top campground, which is where I spent my lonely night of December 26.
An area of over 10,000 square metres is dedicated to activities such as hiking, trekking and zip-line.
There are plenty of good mountain-biking trails and a 120-metre bike climb from the road to the top of the peak, with a current record, held by a 14-year-old boy, of just over three minutes for this lung-bursting challenge.
The local cycling is also highly attractive. Turn left out of the club and you have a lovely 24-kilometre ride along quiet undulating roads to Khlong Khian Pier at the northern tip of Phang Nga Bay. Alternatively, cycle back along Highway 4 towards the Sarasin Bridge, then fork right along the road to the pleasant market town of Ban Khok Kloi, which gives access, five kilometres west, to the unspoilt sands of Natai Beach.
This is the ultimate place to complete an evening’s ride and have a cold drink while watching the sun slide over the horizon. Which is exactly what I did before retiring to my little tent on the club’s mountain top high above Phang Nga Bay.
A lonely spot to spend a Boxing Day night, but the sunrise views and morning mists made it all incredibly worthwhile.
‘Bicycling’ Baz Daniel fell off his first bicycle aged three... a case of love at first slight. Since then he has spent a further 65 years falling on and off bicycles all over the world, but his passion endures. When not in traction, he found time to become Senior VP of the world’s largest advertising and communications group, finally retiring to Phuket in 2006. He has been penning his Blazing Saddles column, chronicling his cycling adventures in Phuket and beyond, since 2013.