Thursday, 9 February 2012

Days 6 & 7 - Pho Chau and Huong Khe

Day 6 was supposed to be an 85km trek from Do Luong to Pho Chau that ended up being considerably longer. We thought we had 20km on Highway 7 and then 65 on the HCM Highway, but as soon as we got onto the highway the first distance marker for Pho Chau said 85km to go. We suddenly had a 105km day on our hands.

The weather was pretty much the same as it has been every single day since leaving Hanoi: overcast and occasionally misty. The road was awesome though; beautifully paved and largely traffic-free. I'm pretty sure I saw more livestock than motor vehicles on this stretch. The scenery was also fantastic, with endless rice paddies, hills, and verdant forests.

After a while I ended up completely alone, even the DHL van was behind me, since I didn't stop for lunch. I got into a rhythm on one of my gears and started cranking out the kilometers. I savored the quiet and the fresh air. There were spans when nothing passed me for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, which was a godsend after spending time on chaotic Highway 1 the previous day.
We were less than 10km from the Laos border at some points

I kept counting down the distance to Pho Chau, making steady progress, until I hit the totally unnecessary hill just a few kilometers outside of town. That was just cruel to tack on after already putting in 105km. I finally reached the town right as all of the students were going back to school, so I ended up riding down the main road with about 5,000 kids all on bicycles staring at me. By the time I found our hotel for the night, my bike computer read 111km traveled that day. Good lord. Distance aside, I actually sort of enjoyed the day (unlike everyone else), since the road was so beautiful and quiet. The rolling hills had made for a nice challenge, and I felt good.
true fact: I saw more piles of buffalo excrement than cars on the highway
Day 7 was far shorter: just 54km, a negligible amount compared to the previous day. We were all very happy about the short distance, and although the skies were still grey it was a nice ride. Joe, Tom S. and I reached Huong Khe in just over 2 hours, and the others soon followed, giving everyone a long time to relax. This is a nice town, with a scenic lake and nicely paved roads, something that can't be said for all of our stops. The ride was mostly uneventful, although Quinn got two flats after having two punctures yesterday, tying me in the lead for overall flats with four. We're now a week into H2H 2012 and have covered about 550km, and nearly everyone has some sort of bump or bruise to prove it, and many of the bikes are in rather poor shape. Morale is high though, and we're all looking forward to our rest day in Hue a few days from now. Onwards!
- Mike

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