Friday, 20 November 2009
Like a band of gypsies (welcome to the jungle)
These are the kinds of days I expected when I signed up for this gig.
We’ve been back on the road for seven straight days and each has been challenging, to say the least, in its own way. Leaving way we past old ruins and soon found ourselves in the countryside. The much-feared and expected 10 percent grade inclines began — and didn’t stop. Food and drink became more more difficult to find. Some riders turned to religon. Some found religion. And others thought of casting their bikes off the road into the abyss, the endless green valleys below. It was already getting dark by the time we settled in A Loui, having put in nearly 80 kilometers.
We rested nervously that night, knowing that our first “bitch day” — 100-plus kilometers of moutains with little in between — awaited us in the morning. I was up by 5:45, anxious for our 7 a.m. departure. After some Vietnamese hip swivels and thrusts to ease to tension and increase our stamina and performance, we set off, back through Bo Don and into the mountains.
The first 25 kilometers were relaxed enough as we rolled up and down hills. At a junction we proceeded down the Ho Chi Minh Highway just four kilometers from the Laos border. The masochism began anew. We climbed and climbed. Behind every switchback loomed another switchback. As we ascended, the sun grew higher in the sky and the humidity more stifling. Somewhere up the first mountain, we left the forest and entered the jungle, deeper in the heart of darkness.
We pushed on, out of water and out of food as we summited and coasted down another mountain in the early afternoon heat. Since Bach and the van were a good distance behind us we thirsted on a mountain stream out of necessity. The water was as pure as it gets for Vietnam. We stopped in a town (a few shacks), praying for some kind of nourishment. The first woman we encountered, who looked to be atleast 200 years old, didn’t even speak Vietnamese, rather some local highland dialect or even Laotian, we speculated. The eggs, noodles and Bidrico, “Vietnamese Shasta,” we devoured couldn’t have tasted any better. One last steep climb and we cruised into P’rao, exhausted but accomplished.
That’s all I have time for now. Can’t tolerate the kid screaming next to me playing his shoot-em-up video game.
“On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been.
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
On the road again -
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway”