Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Day 22/23: Buon Ma Thuot - Rest Day - Lien Son

The rest day in Buon Ma Thuot came just at the right time, as legs and minds were growing weary from the hills and the heat since Hue. The novelty of a KFC gave our pallets a welcome rest from rice and meat, and we spent the day by a swimming pool at a nearby hotel. Some sunbathed, some swam, some played cards, and some replicated well-known wrestling moves with surprising accuracy and finesse: 

The sun may have affected my judgment as I allowed Danny M to take his clippers to my head, the result of which polarized opinion (for the record, I think he did a good job), although a shorter barnet is definitely a practical move in the intense heat.

The day served as a perfect remedy for our struggles on the saddle – comfort both physically and gastronomically, and a pleasant example of how well all team members get along, despite spending twenty-four grueling days in close quarters cycling long distances.

The following morning was a comfortably late start, as we only faced 50km of relatively flat roads to Lien Son. Danny McCance led the now-familiar stretch routine, and we were on the road around 10ish. A swift exit from Buon Ma Thuot via a cashpoint and we were again in the countryside.

A significant portion of the group decided to take the ride at a leisurely pace, stopping for the odd nuoc mia, photographing their surroundings, and generally making the most of a day on which no 10% incline signs were to be seen.

At one stop, a local lady insisted on passing her baby around the group, which mainly resulted in tears (from the infant). Alex, however, managed to keep the little fellow smiling.  

At the same location, we noticed a large sack of freshly-picked cashews. The origin of said crop had been the topic of previous conversation on the ride. Natasha was particularly impressed with the produce, going ‘nuts’ with excitement (it wouldn’t be right to document the day without including some bad puns).

Shortly after the stop, a barely noticeable incline provoked an outburst of faked-struggle; riders mocking the terrain’s attempt to challenge us after what we had experienced in previous days. Bizarre...

As the day progressed, the scenery became prettier, prompting a few more stops for photographs and general appreciation. We rode through unavoidable swarms of butterflies, the likes of which I’d never seen before the ride. I’ve lost count of the amount of butterflies that I’ve ridden face first into.

Despite it being a short day, we encountered many of the elements that have defined H2H. Rice paddies stretching as far as the eye can see, luscious green hills, groups of enthusiastic school children screaming their hellos, a vast spectrum of flora and fauna, and lots of cow feces. Stopping to take it in without looming inclines and baking heat made the day a lot easier. 

I think that these kind of moments have become an important part of our journey – it’s often therapeutic both physically and mentally to rest the legs for five minutes and acknowledge the incredible backdrop that often surrounds us. Particularly on days when you’re battling against degrees of incline and centigrade, it can be easy to forget what a stunning part of the world you are in. Thankfully, today wasn’t one of those days. To our ever-strengthening thighs the ride felt more like a relaxed excursion, and the team was able to make the most of it.

We rolled into Lien Son around lunchtime, had a little cool down, and consumed the C2 and 333 that have become staples of the team’s liquid diet over the past month.

When asked to sum up the rest day and the following ride each in three words, one rider chose, respectively:

‘Absolutely bloody marvelous’ and ‘a leisurely affair’.

I’d have to agree.

Post ride, the day ended with a fantastic culture night from Jacqui, which involved everybody attaching a balloon to one foot and attempting to pop each others’ balloons, with the last team standing claiming victory. It was, without a doubt, the most fiercely competitive moment of the entire trip. 

A nice early night to get ready for the next day, and we were done.

In the immortal words of Ice Cube:

“It was a good day”.

Words/videos by Matt
Photos by Luke Chest-hairs

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