After somewhere over a month having not seen another cyclist I was starting to think that I was the only one in Vietnam. After riding the hills around Sa Pa I could understand why I was the only one.
To compound that, I spent the day I left Sa Pa thinking how glad I was to be riding in the direction I was going, rather than the other way. The roads were rough and included the Tram Tom Pass at somewhere around 1900m, which when you start in Sa Pa at 1200m isn’t too bad. However coming from the opposite direction and tackling its full height and regular roadworks would be viscous.
The following day saw another long downhill with rough roads that again made me glad I wasn’t riding in the opposite direction. Late that afternoon I came across the first other cycle tourists that I’d seen. They were about to head up those hills.
I had to make the most of the opportunity, so we shared a long and late lunch. Discussed perils of cycling, the roads ahead and how many times people call out ‘Hello’. They were a German couple from New Zealand that had already toured Thailand and Laos. They gave me the heads up to take a short cut past Dien Bien Phu. They described it as the hardest day they had ridden, but also the most rewarding. 98km, one hill after another, limited food and drink options but full of vistas and minority people.
At 4pm we headed our seperate ways. I then realised I had 63km to go to Moung Lay, while they had 15km. Mine also included climbing up and over a landslide from 2 weeks ago where they still hadn’t cleared the road. Another late finish ahead of me.
The road was following a river that is or has been dammed. As a part of that, all the low lying villages have been relocated. There are now strip villages along this wide river of these Dale Alcock cookie cutter houses, except they’re all traditional styled timber stilt houses. Really odd.
I think the town hall meeting about the flooding must have agreed that as compensation for flooding your homes, we’ll give you new homes and new land. No one seems to have questioned the requirements for roads. There is space where the road should be, but its just mud. Thick, sticky and gooey mud. And in Vietnamese style of building right up to the road, the house fronts run up to the mud.
In Moung Lay I found a motorcycle mechanic that was fluent in English. His reason, ‘I used to live in Korea’. It made sense to him. It cost me 50,000 VND (about $2.50), but I got him to fix my pedal. I finally have a pedal that doesn’t slop around. Saga over.
Two days after the first, I came across my second pair of cycle tourists. Two Vietnamese guys riding fancy bikes from a shop in Hanoi. I held back my dispair when I realised the guy was riding on the exact same pedals as me. Pedals that he got in Hanoi. I didn’t even bother trying locally.
People have asked me why I’m riding around SE Asia. I joke with poeple that I’m searching for enlightenment and if they don’t laugh I run away really fast. Last night I may have stumbled on a reason. I think my calling is to find where I can get this singlet, complete with its chinglish ‘I wret to ride my bicycle’.
The mission is on
I’ve written about all the wrong bits here. Im going to write a second post about the ride Moung Lay to Tuan Giao.
This post got held up waiting for some pics to go in – Sorry its a bit dated. I’ve ended up in the same hotel tonight as the first cyclists I talked about. Small world.