Friday, 19 November 2010

Overcoming the challenges – A robbery, a tropical storm and never ending mountain climbs!

So after eleven consecutive days of cycling from Hanoi, we finally arrived in Hue for our first official rest day. And after some relaxation, plenty of western food as well as a little partying we were ready for the next section of the ride, which involved nine days of cycling in and around the Truong Son Mountains of central Vietnam. This part of the ride was to be the most beautiful but also the most physically and mentally demanding with plenty of hills!

If riding up and down the mountains wasn’t hard enough, a mild tropical storm was to make things even more challenging. ‘Tropical depression 18’ paid the H2H riders a visit, battering us with rain as we rode into Hue on Day 11. This continued unabated during rest day 12. We woke on day 13 to find the rain still beating down and faced with the potentially dangerous situation of riding in these conditions, especially going downhill, it was decided that we would travel by van to our next destination and hope the bad weather would not follow us.

It did! But if this wasn’t drama enough as we awoke on day 14, we learned that during the night one of our hotel rooms had been broken into and the thief had taken wallets, phones and an ipod. So while the team dealt with the shock of this, we were again faced with the same dilemma of whether to ride in potential dangerous conditions. However this time 10 riders, including myself chose to brave the rain and attempt to ride the 113km scheduled route. We set off in heavy rain, nervous but hopeful, encouraging each other. However 35km down the road we were told there was a landslide ahead blocking our path, which would take at least two days to clear. So we had no choice but to cycle back to our hotel. But the resounding feeling in the group was of no regrets – at least we had tried! Unfortunately the ride was not without its casualties – my ipod and phone died in the rain.

Due to the landslide and weather forecasts of yet more bad weather we decided to return by van to a partially-flooded Hue, before the next morning on day 15 moving on to a small town near Hoi An, where around 11am we got on our bikes for the first time collectively in four days and cycled 53 km to Thanh My which was the original destination for this day of the ride. Yesterday we rode a hilly and partially rainy 57 km to Kham Duc, and today we rode a monstrous, a mountainous, an evil but rain-free 112 km to Ngoc Hoi (Plei Kan).

As a team we have had to overcome some difficult challenges in the past week and made some tough decisions, but those problems are well and truly behind us now. We are back in the mountains and back on schedule. This is definitely no longer a holiday, if it ever was: The constant daily movement and cold damper climate has meant we are often riding with damp, smelly clothes; the mountains are certainly pushing us mentally and physically. But every morning we rise again, get on our bikes and ride. We ride with the support of all those who donated and the hopes of all those children we met in Cat Dang. Hopefully the bad weather is behind us, and while we start to set our sites on Saigon and the end of the ride, the events of last week will no doubt go down in H2H history.


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