I am an Olympian...
Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
142Trip End Ongoing
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‘The Queen of the Mountains, Sapa sits regally overlooking a beautiful valley, lofty mountains towering over the town on all sides. Welcome to the destination in northwest Vietnam, gateway to another world of mysterious minority cultures and luscious landscapes. The spectacular scenery that surrounds Sapa includes cascading rice terraces that spill down the mountains like a patchwork quilt. The mountains are often shrouded in mist that rolls back and forth along the peaks, offering tantalizing glimpses of what lies in wait on a clear dayhere.
I was looking forward to another challenge on my journey and was praying for clear weather, LP said that to get there it was 38 km all uphill and that ‘unless you’ve been training for the Olympics, it’s hell on a bicycle’, and you know what… although I was exhausted, it wasn’t as bad as some of the many climbs I had already achieved in China. The weather was absolutely beautiful which always helps, the road wound round the many hairpin bends, gradually ascending up through the spectacular scenery of the fore-mentioned rice terraces. I received the usual shouts of ‘hello’ from everyone passing on their motorcycles, trucks or three wheel machines you name it, and the thumbs up wishing me good luck on my way.
I forget that I’m not in China anymore and the shops are few and far between, the only thing I really need to watch is that I’m carrying enough water. I stop for lunch at a roadside place (just as well as it was the only place I passed) and have the most amazing experience sitting with men and women from one of the local hill tribe’s
The trip to Sa Pa was as magical as I suspected it would be, seeing many different hill people on the way, in their traditional outfits which are unique to this area. Cycling through the valley nicknamed Heaven's Gate which separates the provinces and is said to be a place of enlightenment, in one photo of the road ahead the light through the clouds was, just heavenly. On reaching the village I was relieved, tired and ecstatic all at the same time, taking the title of ‘Olympian’ to heart.
I stayed for a couple of days in glorious weather visiting the market's and local villages, the church and museum, and generally people watching around the square before the weather changed and the mist and fog came in to stay
It was freezing cold and visibility was poor, despite having many layers of clothes on I was struggling with the cold and to keep on going, I even ended up putting socks on over my cycle gloves as my fingers were blue!
Why o’ why do I do this to myself I have to ask, the answer, well to explore and to rise to the challenge, to see what lies on top of the mountain or what you see down in the valley (when the fog clears) and because I have been given the strength of mind and body to keep on going even when I think I’m beat, ‘stubborn’ actually probably describes me best, oh and don’t forget 'I am, an Olympian’.