Monday, 12 October 2009

Battling the monsoon

Justene and I went up to Dalat for a couple days following a weekend’s work. The bus ride was miserable enough as we made repeated stops to pick up people and the driver listened to some bizarre radio broadcast we conjectured to be a Vietnamese soap opera.
We arrived at the bus station at 2:45 a.m. and took the first room offered to us in a modest hotel above the station. Both already fighting illness and the rough ride, we slept ’til late morning. The sky promised nothing but gray. We managed a 30 kilometer ride, deterred by our colds and the remnants of the nearby typhoon.

A fusillade of wind and rain pummeled our hotel windows throughout the night. The ceaseless barrage seemed to be getting closer. We were convinced World War III had reached Dalat.Nevertheless, we set out for battle against the treacherous weather and hills late morning.Our plan of attack: a 60 kilometer (about 35 miles) ride to Liem Nghia of which the first 30k were almost entirely downhill. So we knew exactly what we had to look forward to coming back. The first 8k were straight downhill. The roads were slick so we were especially cautious. All the braking made my hands cramp up, convincing me of the inevitability of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during the trip.It was quite literally refreshing to breath the highland air, away from the noxious exhaust-filled stank of Saigon. The new, lush and verdant surroundings helped pass the time and provided a welcome break from the roadside monotony of our typical Saigon training ride. We stopped for a couple shots of coffee and tea at a cafe before turning around. Below is the feathered hodgepodge congregating around the cafe. Probably the night’s dinner. The final 8k ascent was murderous. It started raining harder, the wind was directly in my face and there was no break from climbing. Several times, I had to summon my reserve energy to keep pedaling. It wasn’t enough as I was forced to walk my bike for a couple minutes to give my rubber legs a break. The closest physical comparison I can conjure is hiking Mt. Whitney. Of course, the scale and duration of Whitney was more strenuous, but the short-term intensity of the cycle ascent was more difficult. My knees agreed.Despite the extreme adversity, or because of, I was rather encouraged by the ride. If I can survive 60k, eight of which are straight uphill without rest, in miserable conditions without being too sore the next day, surely I can survive 2,100 kilometers (1,200-plus miles), right??? I’ll find out soon enough. Departure is just three short weeks away.

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