What a Ride!

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Not a nice one

Flag of Vietnam  , Bình Ðịnh,
Saturday, February 26, 2011

The day started brilliantly when we arrived at Buu's restaurant at 8, as agreed, and he was already cooking up fried eggs and sautéed potatoes for us. He served them with freshly baked baguettes, and eating overlooking the turquoise sea was magic. Buu had confirmed the night before that the coast road continued all the way to Quy Nhon and that it was very quiet and beautiful. It was great to be on the road by 9 and to set off riding side by side without the blaring horms which usually quickly wake us up. We had thought that rising at 8 might have meant a cooler start to what we knew would be at least a 60 mile day. However the sun was already blazing at 8 so we swapped our cycle helmets for caps as sunstroke seemed to be the more dangerous threat.

It really was a fantastic days riding, one of the best yet. The entire route was on quiet roads, on which we were usually alone, and the sights and sounds were fascinating and varied. Early on we crossed a large inlet and stopped to watch women wading around dredging for some kind of fish or possibly shrimps. They gossiped continually as they worked. Later we passed vast areas where crowds of workers were digging new paddy fields. They had enormous planks attached to sticks and were slapping them on the earth to flatten and harden it, presumably so that it would hold the water needed to grow the rice. At one point we passed huge pools full off water dug just above the beach. Each pool was a different shade of green/brown/brilliant blue and had waterwheels churning them. We initially thought they were fish farms, but now think maybe they were a water purification plant. Whatever they were, they looked spectacular!

There were two incredibly steep passes. Although they were marked as 10% gradient they were at least 20%. It was as if they couldn’t be bothered to meander up the mountain and just hacked the road straight up. They were pretty tough in the amazing heat and took a long time, but were SO worth it. Each time we reached the top we saw a sparkling blue bay below us. The beaches were immaculate as there were very few people living in the villages in the bays and we could easily have camped.

We had drinks stops every 10 miles, and people continued to be very friendly and happy to see us. A little boy at the first beach practised all of his English on us, reporting back to his family and little brother our answers. We took our next break at a shack outside a primary school just as they all came out to buy their snacks. They were adorable and once they had bought their icy drinks with condensed milk, very interested in staring at us and exploring the bikes.

The only slight difficulty of the day was that the route was not well signposted and at one point turned into a bumpy track for several miles. Asking directions is not easy, and often leads to lots of excited people getting involved and giving conflicting answers in Vietnamese!

We found the correct road in the end however and reached Cat Thanh where we found another gorgeous beach, this time full of locals enjoying their Sunday. The climb out of the beach was intense and we were passed by loads of motorcyclists, who’d had one too many at the beach. We met more crowds at the top, sitting around admiring a truly spectacular view. At the bottom it was absolute mayhem, with our little road full of motorcyclists. They are obviously seriously developing the area as a tourist attraction and as we left the town we found an enormous empty two lane highway heading off into what looked like a desert. A couple assured us it was the way to Quy Nhon so we headed out. In the sunset it really felt like we were riding through a desert, another addition to the day’s attractions. We were actually on a spit of land and had to cross a mile long bridge to reach the city. A very strong wind blew us across the sea and past some pretend penguins standing on the sea shore (odd) and into the town.

We took the first hotel we saw, despite the blaring karaoke, as after 75 miles and 9 hours on the bikes we were tired and keen to shower and find somewhere to eat. (No lunch again, but Buu’s breackfast and some biscuits had kept us going). Mikey chose the most expensive room they had at £7, and it was clean. The extra £1 seemed to be for  the luxury of a huge black frilly leather sofa in the room – lovely!

Finding food was easier said than done, as there were loads of great bars and coffee shops, but no restaurants. Eventually we found a bar where a sweet girl conformed they were serving food and even translated some of the menu for us. We ordered two spaghetti bolognaises, which when they came were scrumptious but tiny! We destroyed them in about 5 minutes and considered ordering two more. Instead we went for a wander round town and managed to find a bakery which not only had a vast selection of donuts and cakes, had some mini pizzas – jackpot.

Back at the nuts hotel, they had switched off the karaoke and we managed to sit in the reception and skype Alex and Debbie to hear the engagement story – VERY happy news. Looking back on the day we agreed it was one of the best rides we’ve done, but that it might have been better to stop after 50 miles and camp on one of the beaches. There’s not much point getting to a large town when its already dark and you are too tired to check it out.
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