Today was a challenge. I woke up early wanting to get an early start crossing Hai Van Pass. The first challenge was to wake up the owner of the guesthouse I was staying in. Even though I told him I am leaving early, he said he is always up at 5:30am, except today it seems. So the problem is, in Vietnam they retain your passport at the hotel, I believe it’s the law and the Police can check. I am used to it now, although it makes me very uncomfortable. So I wanted it back, plus my bike is locked in a shed for safe keeping, I want that back too. And they want to get paid, so it should be a win, win for everyone, but please can you hurry up, it’s not raining and the mountain beckons! This isn’t the first time it’s happened, it usually involves some one going on a scooter somewhere else and coming back with a key that unlocks a door, where there is another key that unlocks a second door, argh!!! That is exactly what happened. Anyway, sorted in 30 minutes, I need to get back on to Vietnam time.
I set off, legs feeling a little tired until I warm up, I had about 2km before it started to go up! And up I went, it wasn’t too bad, the road signs said 8%, which is ok, some places I am sure it was more like 10%, which is not so okay. Granny gear it was, I managed 5km before I stopped, the view was spectacular! Then after that there were a few switch backs, it was steep. The never ending encouragement of motorcyclists riding down was terrific. The trucks, which are few and far between because of the tunnel, usually had the passenger hanging out the window giving me a hurry up! Funny guys.
Anyway, I reached the top, it took me 1 hour and 42 minutes and was about 12km. I was immediately approached by the overly zealous vendors at the top, selling all manner of things, from souvenirs to food. I didn’t really stop because of them, they were full on and I was the only western tourist in sight. It is obviously a place of some significance to the locals, a women, resplendent in her wedding dress, it was obviously her wedding day, it was starting to drizzle and the wind was blowing her dress and her hair, a quick photo, complete with the peace sign and back in the car.
I headed down the other side, a little nervous about getting too much speed up, I have heard of cyclists getting speeds of up to 50km per hour, not sure I want to test my brakes out that badly. So I cruised down at a respectable 23km per hour, using my brakes on and off for fear they would fail me, and it gave me time to enjoy the view. Now it’s a serious mountain when you can coast at 23km per hour, not having to pedal once for 10km. When I did need to pedal, I found that my legs had seized and took a few kilometres to recover.
I still had another 20 odd kilometres to get to Da Nang, I had googled “best breakfast in Da Nang” and it came up with a place called “Bread of Life”. I rode around in circles for a bit until I found it, it’s actually run by foreigners and I believe a religious organisation. I walked in they asked me if I was there for “church”, which I responded with “I am here to eat actually, but if I need to go to church in order to eat, I’ll go to church”. Well that wasn’t necessary, but the breakfast was so divine that I felt like I was having some kind of religious experience! Bacon, eggs, tomato and toast, a latte, and yes it was a good one, backed up with my favourite Vietnamese coffee, delicious!
With my belly full, and 27km still to go before arriving in Hoi An, I set off, thank goodness it was flat. I am staying at the most adorable homestay in Hoi An, I have 3 nights here, 2 full days rest and I am so pleased to be here, so are my legs. And no Mr. Hahn I do not want to do the bicycle tour!