Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Day 21: Ea Drang to Buon Ma Thuot

After eight days of continuous cycling, spirits were pretty high in the morning as we knew what was awaiting us at the end of this day. REST DAY NUMBER 2. Chris, Jacqui and I were awoken by Andrea with her daily routine of playing music at around 6am. This definitely helped me arise and get ready for the day despite the fact that ‘Party in the USA’ made it onto the playlist at some point. (Yes I did just add that to shame Andrea for possessing that song). After our regular routine of eating breakfast at 7am, stretching at 7.30am and doing things that we should’ve done already like buying water and fixing punctures, at 8am, we were soon on the road.

With only around 80km to cycle today, it was pretty manageable in comparison to some of the days we’d had before, but the mix of the blazing morning sun, an uphill climb straight away, not having enough for breakfast and the constant cycling of the previous eight days soon made me start to flag. The conditions of the road were not ideal, with tons of construction and graveled roads and manic truck drivers pushing us off the roads. However, the whole day was also contrasted with a constant stream of migrating butterflies fluttering across the road. This didn’t really make much difference to someone as grumpy as me, but to the more positive thinking riders amongst such as Natasha Fitzgerald I’m sure it would’ve made her day even more “amazing and delightful”.

About 20k into the ride my chain came off my bike. There was only one thing to do. Call Super Chuong. This year we have been really lucky with our bike mechanic Chuong who sits in the back  van waiting for inevitable bicycle blunders and mishaps to happen. Not only can he fix any problem on any bike at any time, he has gone way beyond his job description on this ride acting as a translator for us numerous times, entertaining the children at the orphanage, and helping me work my gas stove to name a few. This is why the team have nicknamed him Super Chuong. After fixing my bike in just a few minutes I continue to the lunch stop halfway along the ride.

After lunch we have only 40k to ride until our long awaited and well deserved rest day in BMT. And even better news, only 4k is uphill and the rest of the ride is a gradual descent. The kilometres start going down really quickly. With only 20k to go I catch up with Helen, Natasha and Annabel who are stopped by the side of the road again waiting for Super Chuong to change an inner tube, amazingly they have already taken off the damaged inner tube which Chuong had shown them the day before. Whilst we are waiting for Chuong, a local man comes across the road with a white and brown dotted lizard on a fishing rod. Natasha uses her Vietnamese skills to find out that the lizard is 5 years old (we later find out that he actually said he is going to sell it for 50,000 dong). We did consider his offer as it was a bargain at that price but the lizard seems a little aggressive and probably wouldn’t make a positive contribution to the team.
The descent in BMT feels great and not only is 36 hours of not riding a bike at the end of our day but something else that has equally been anticipated, KFC!!! Well as the only vegetarian in the group, I couldn’t quite share everyone’s excitement, but I did tuck into some French fries and a hot apple pie. After days of eating rice, meat and eggs, the opportunity of KFC was too good to miss for most. After a quick shop in Coopmart, I stocked up on Snickers and pasta and we make it to our hotel at around 3pm.
We have showers and naps to rejuvenate for the night. Andrea tells us about the restaurant she went to last year and we decide that’s where we want to eat. We call a taxi to take us there, 2 left turns and 30 seconds later we realize we’re at the restaurant. The meter hasn’t even moved from it’s 8,000 dong starting number. Rob and I feel so embarrassed by the fact that we got in the cab for this we decide to pay the driver more than double the fare. We continue the night with copious amounts of beer, rice wine and vodka, responsibly of course. Paul ‘The Claw’ Cordier gets into his usual habit at the dinner table of trying to propose a toast every 5 minutes. This is one of his few vices along with “fine wining and dining”. Good times are had by all knowing the fact that we can get up at whatever time we want tomorrow.

Words and photos by Luke Chesters

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