I’ll start by saying that Day 8 has been my favorite cycle of the ride thus far.After yesterday’s short distance, we knew that we didn’t need to leave as early as usual, which gave us some more time to enjoy our luxurious digs…However, this was another day without sun, and there wassome grumbling when we woke up to grey skies and a light rain. The team rolledout around 9:30, back onto the Ho Chi Minh Highway. The rain stopped quickly,and the surrounding countryside was engulfed in a heavy mist.
At around the halfway point we turned onto QL 17, a smaller and much less trafficked road.
This was when things got good. We knew to expect a slightly challenging hillnear this point, and a few of us stopped to refuel before we neared the ascent.The hill started, and it was difficult, as expected. Once we got to the top,though, it felt like we were on the top of the world where no one else existed.It made for a lot of great photo ops, but none of the photos can do theatmosphere justice.
Then we flew down the hill, and here it felt like the
locals were a lot more awed by our presence than in previous towns. It was aneasy ride to Dong Le-or Dongle-and we were greeted by a friendly and skillfulbanh mi lady. We proceeded to buy out her entire stock, and she informed usthat there wasn’t really anything good to eat or do in the metropolis that wasDong Le.
The weather was still grim, the hotel wasn’t overly welcoming, and theday was still young. Luckily, quick thinking by Adam and translation by Vienled to another plan. There was, in fact, the world’s largest cave within easydriving distance. An excursion was quickly arranged, and most of us piled intothe van to make the trip. The scenery was continually gorgeous, and we got theopportunity to listen to some of Mr. Cuong’s tunes while appreciating the hillsthat we weren’t climbing on our bicycles. We got to Phong Nha National Parkaround 4pm and managed to book one of the last boat trips to the cave. Thelighting in the cave was predictably Vietnamese in taste, but the cave itselfwas pretty spectacular. In general, it was refreshing to take a field trip.
Bonuses included a delicious, multi-course dinner and a slightly longer ridehome wherein we listened to the DHL drivers’ techno CD-on repeat. All in all agreat day.
Pictures: Conor and Mike T.