Mountain bike this leg anyone?

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Flag of Vietnam  , Khánh Hòa,
Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Hi again.

Hopefully this will be a shorter than usual entry but I have been known to get pretty longwinded. If it's not I hope you don't mind.

At least this leg of the trip involved a lot of exercise and pain for someone that, if you know me well, does not usually endorse exercise as a way of life.

The bike ride Jasper, Marjorie and I undertook was from Dalat to Nha Trang, a distance of approximately 180 kms. In the end we cycled about 95km of this, with the support van taking us the rest of the way (note: pretty much the standard itinerary for this tour).

Sounds good doesn't it? Well, it was once we'd finished but it wasn't quite what we expected. Mr Tintin of Groovy Gecko Tours (Dalat) had promised that it was an easy downhill ride. Unfortunately the first 30 kilometres was mainly uphill, the next 50 was downhill and the final 10+ into Nha Trang mainly flat. Once again the salesman was a little creative with the truth, as they always are in Asia, so just warning anyone thinking of doing this expedition to maybe take the Mui Ne ride instead (is apparently all downhill).

That said, the scenery was pretty spectacular in the highlands if you had a chance to catch your breath and look around. That was possible as the bike I had was of good quality and easy to ride. Still, once we'd reached the end of our initial 30km climb uphill, we were starting to wonder if we'd ever go downhill and Jasper and Marjorie were looking a little worse for wear (fair enough as they had done a 20km hike the day before too).

Fortunately from there it was all down hill - the descent sections came finally as promised which lifted the spirits immensely. The forest seemed more dense and lush on this side of the ranges and the drizzly mist lended a heaviness of atmosphere that was quite refreshing under the circumstances.

We rolled for mile after mile (the longest section was about 20km steeply down hill) at breakneck speeds which was pretty exhilarating even if a little dangerous). Intermittent rains and mist made the roads slippery and the breaks on the bikes a little less effective so I very nearly took a serious tumble into oncoming traffic (probably another of the nine lives gone) after getting a little cocky towards the end of the steep section.

Eventually we made it to the flatlands which presented some nice photo opportunities and a different perspective on rural life that you rarely get when careening through the countryside in a speeding tourist bus. Nice. It also gave us the chance to say 'hello' to the locals about a million times but that was good too. Vietnam continues the trend of friendliness I've noticed in other Asian countries despite its recent history.

After lunch we jumped in the van and travelled along a poor short-cut of a road through some pretty depressed countryside. Apparently the road will be converted to highway soon enough so hopefully the poor mites forcefully relocated to prefabricated towns along the route might have some future here. Eventually we ended up on the coastal road into Nha Trang where the signage stated the obvious but was reassuring anyway (especially when our driver looked like he was about to fall asleep at the wheel).

I like the last photo actually, which sums up our few hours in Nha Trang - pretty dismal indeed. In high season this is a beachside paradise so I'd like to come back someday to dive and just laze about on the palm lined beach. Today it was windy and wet, but we rode the final 10k into town anyway, past navy soccer matches and a bare-knuckle fight in an illicit gambling den. Cooel.

Apart from being a little misled this was a rewarding way to travel this section and we slept well that night on the train to Hoi An. That's another story however so tune in next time.

Next entry - dressing sharp in Hoi An

Travel Affliction of the Week - pre-emptive

I've just checked the current weather for one of my upcoming destinations - Ulaan Baator in frosty Mongolia. Today's low is -37C and its high is -20C. So even though I'm feeling hunkey dorey right now, I'm in a world of pain over Christmas.

Think of me when you're BBQing some prawns by the beach... Boo.
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