Friday, 22 October 2010
Four of us ventured to the highlands of Dalat earlier this week for some practice in the mountains. I'd been scare mongering about the difficulty of the hills so everybody was a bit apprehensive but excited about riding outside Saigon for some much needed new scenery and fresh air.
After a miserable, cramped bus ride in the middle of the night we arrived in Dalat at 5:30 am, promptly found a hotel and passed out again. By 11 am we were on the road making our way outside of the city.
Until this point the only ascents the riders had experienced in Vietnam were the little bumps in the road a.k.a. the bridges we pedal over. After the first little climb, Abigail was already venting at me and calling me nasty names. Murderous hills will do that to people. A lengthy descent followed, where we coasted for 15 minutes past children on bikes in school uniforms with turquoise sweaters. Fields and fields of cabbage. Every shade of green against an overcast sky. Relative quiet.
Then we climbed. Straight, straight up. Like climbing a staircase. We made it as far as the entrance to Lang Biang mountain, where we made unsuccessfully tried to make friends with a very pregnant mini pony and turned around back down the stairs and up the longer, but not so intense staircase.
View of Trai Mat from pagoda.
After passing back through Dalat, we headed south of town 8 km to Trai Mat, a small town I'd visited a couple times best known for its two pagodas. We had a rest stop, quick tour of the pagodas and nearby cemetery and headed back into Dalat.
We filled up on food and called it an early night. A very early night for myself. The midnight to early morning bus ride with my legs spilled out into the aisle had down me in.
Pagoda in Trai Mat, outside of Dalat.
After crashing for a full twelve hours, we got a late start on Wednesday. Had some trouble as the bus station when we were told they only had room for two of our bikes on each bus, much earlier than we hoped to return. My fury was exacerbated by the employee who seemed to find our predicament comical and laughed in our faces. Rational Abigail had to remind me that Vietnamese tend to laugh when they're embarrassed. Unfortunately at that point I was too worked up to care much.
After much deliberation and weighing our few options, we decided on a shortened ride. Two of us would return at 2 and the others at 3. We still managed to make it outside of the city for the area's big test: Prenn Pass.
Jeff and pregnant friend.
According to Jeff's Vietnam guidebook, Prenn Pass is the reason Dalat remained one of the most untouched cities during the "American" War. The pass rises eight kilometers from Prenn, a grueling climb. It wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered. But this year I was dealing with much better conditions. No 40 mile per hour wind and no rain. Last year, my hills tune-up in Dalat coincided with a typhoon hitting the Central coast, the remnants which hit Dalat.
On the return home we passed a couple small towns I remembered from the ride: Bao Loc and Dinh Quan. We spent Thanksgiving in Bao Loc and our final night in Dinh Quan. Just seeing it got me excited!
21st Century Buddha