So, just because it worked out okay once, doesn’t mean that I’ll make a habit of it. But I got chased down and pulled over by a girl on a push bike. I have no idea what she was trying to tell me, but she seemed to think that I should follow her home.
It was just on dusk at the end of the first frustrating and long day. I had started in Ba Be national park. My plan was to backtrack 7km North, then take QL 279 across to Sapa. 2 days ride.
Linh, my previous days tour guide said ‘The road is gone. Road works. Closed. No road.’
‘What about a boat. Can I I take a boat up past the road works?’
‘That will be very expensive. 2 boats. You go this way and around.’ He pointed to a 50km detour through hills. 2 days was now 3 days riding. At the back of my mind I was thinking that he had just charged me about $30 for a half day boat trip, overnight accommodation and a few meals. Very expensive is a relative term.
So I headed south. Took a long lunch through the heat of the day, then got back on my bike to head out of town then turn west. I never found the turnoff. I back tracked up and down a few times, asked a few people, tried a road that wasn’t right. The road that looked like it could have been right had a no trespassing sign and a guard that would tell me ‘No’ and when I asked more tell me ‘no no no’. but nothing else. I think it was a closed area.
At about 5:30 I decided to make plan C. Leg it about 35km to the next town south and take the road there west. I was 10km out of town when I passed a girl on a push bike.
Now, the Vietnamese do not ride bikes fast. If they want to go fast they will get a motorbike. So I was pretty surprised when this girl overtook me at the bottom of the next hill. She babbled something in Vietnamese as I passed her again on the uphill. At the bottom of the following hill she overtook me and stopped in front of me. Whatever she wanted, she was pretty keen to tell me about it.
She pointed backwards, motioned eating food, babbled lots. I said ‘Khack San’, hotel, and she seemed to agree. So I figured I should follow.
She took me back 2 hills, then off onto a single track dirt path into a group of 10 houses. Her extended family were about to eat dinner. Her 16 year old brother was reasonably fluent in English and got me through introductions and saved me a lot of charades.
The house was a stilt house, built of timber and bamboo with a thatched roof. The floor was split bamboo, where they cut it lengthwise and unroll it into a flat strip. The granddad spoke no English but had an awesome laugh and his eyes lit up when I recognised Ho Chi Minhs photo.
Through dinner I ended up with lots of bones in my bowl, but nobody else did. I couldn’t see a bones plate, so I asked. It turns out that with a split bamboo floor and enough farm animals around you can drop your bones through the gaps in the floor. The same goes for cigarette ash.
I ended up staying the night. I’m not entirely sure I was invited, but it seemed to good an opportunity to miss and I was well over riding for the day.
At the start of my second morning of trying to head west, I had only gone south. The same applied until about lunch time that day. I left the village and rode the 10km to the next town, where I should have turned west. I asked for directions and three people told me I wanted to go south another 30 km on a different road before turning west. I tried my best to get directions for the road on my map but they were sure I didn’t want to go that way.
So after 2 long days of riding, I am now 3 days away from Sapa, about 10km from the train line that runs there. I orginally thought it was 2 days total ride. I’m about 100km south as the crow flies from where I wanted to be.
Just as well I’m not in a hurry.