Head for the hills…

As I set off from Nha Trang, I think about the next few days and what I am faced with. I have been told to ride to Phan Rang and taking a bus up to Dalat, I have been given mixed information about the road and have struggled to find any information about the road conditions. I have been told I won’t be able to do it, it’s too hard. Well I certainly know there is a lot of uphill. I would like to be able to break the ride up into shorter, manageable distances, but I am not even sure if there is accommodation. It feels like I am on the homeward run to Ho Chi Minh city, so close but yet so far with this 1200 metre climb before me.

Well the ride from Nha Trang to Phan Rang was a decent ride, wind behind me I banged out 99km with out too much trouble. I was helped along by a bunch of school kids all riding electric bicycles, they are kind of creepy because they don’t make any noise and they just sneak right on up behind me, I then I just hear “hello” which scares the living bejesus out of me. The rattling old push bikes I can hear, they almost always have a squeak of some description. The motorbikes go with out saying, they are beeping and carrying on.

They sat with me for ages, there must have been at least 20 of them, they would drop back behind me and there would be lots of chatter, I think they are working out what to say and who will say it. So then one person rides up beside me, they are delegated to speak to me, slowly the whole group also moves up so they are in earshot. The questions are asked and as I respond, that obviously means the English was right, the group erupts with laughter. And so it goes, this can go on for 10 kilometres or more. It makes the time go by quickly and the kids are lovely.

Once I arrived in Phan Rang I set about getting supplies ready for the next day, and by supplies I mean Snickers Bars and water. I was going to do this and it was going to be a big day, I wasn’t sure if I could get anything to eat or drink going up the pass. I was carrying 4 litres of water, surely that would be plenty. I planned to get away by 5.00am to beat the heat, I checked with the girl at reception that I would be able to get my bike that early in the morning because they lock it away. She assured me they would be there. I walked down stairs to reception about 10 to 5 and sure enough, they all sleep in the lobby. This has been consistent everywhere I have stayed. If you have a job it’s your entire life, how lucky we are.

I set off through the town, already springing to life with the street vendors setting up their carts ready for the breakfast crowd, I am sure those same carts that were set up the night before till late. People were already seated on the little roadside stools eating their Banh Mi and Pho. 

The road got better, then worse and better again, this was the pattern all the way to Tan Son. One of the things that has happened a few times since I have been in Vietnam is to have some one just sit behind me on their motorbike for ages, speeding up and coming up next to me, saying something in Vietnamese then dropping back again, I am not all together what its about. This particularly persistent man did it for quite some time today. I have learn’t how to say “khong” which means “no” which I did in the end and waved him on. He got the picture and rode off.

I stopped for coffee and a Banh Mi in Tan Son, then I set off up that bloody huge hill, it made Hai Van Pass feel easy (it’s actually twice as high as Hai Van Pass). So glad I left early, parts of it were so steep I felt like I was barely moving, I was in granny gear and I couldn’t go any lower, it was tough going. I just kept chipping away at it, stopping and having a rest plenty, but not for too long because the day was getting hotter. The longer I stopped the more my legs seized up and the harder it was to get going. Three quarters the way up I was onto my last litre of water, I wasn’t really too sure how much further I had to go so I was just taking small sips. Thankfully as I climbed higher it got cooler and as I rounded the bend before the last 3 km, there was a cafe, hallelujah!! That was the most amazing thing to see, not as amazing as when I reached the top, but pretty amazing all the same. I stopped for a coffee and replenished my water supply, happy days.   It was just enough of a rest stop to get me too the top, I stopped for a photo, but a busload of people showed up, they weren’t taking photo’s, of course it was a wee stop. So here I was after riding nearly 20km uphill, on the top of this pass, basking in the glory of having made it and I am surrounded by at least 10 men having a wee!

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Well I made it! But not all the way to Da Lat, I just didn’t have another climb left in me, I rode for 97 km in total, I found a guest house, it’s pretty basic, in fact it’s rubbish, but at this point in time I don’t care as long as I have a bed and I don’t have to peddle up anything. Tomorrow is another day. I am about 25km out of Da Lat with a climb ahead of me, but I don’t think the climb is as steep as the first one I did today. 

So I am taking a few rest days in DaLat, my legs will thank me, I have put them through hell and they have come through, my back side will also be thankful for the rest!


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