Culture night was led by always-full-of-surprises Tat, who used to be a stuntman and (in the words of Carolyn) "actually touched David Tennant!" on the set of the show Dr. Who. He taught us how to get into a fight without actually hurting your opponent and to make it look good for the camera. It was definitely the most raucous culture night so far.
The next morning we were off to A Luoi, about 73km from Hue. After a little bit of confusion getting out of the city, we were on track for our first real mountain day (which was a mere appetizer for the thigh-splitting horror that awaited us on Day 13) and it was certainly not easy.
The first 35 km or so were uneventful. Then we hit the first climb, and the road conditions were poor, with lots of gravel and potholes (particularly on the downhills, which needed to be ridden with extreme caution). There was a climb rated at a 2 (with 1 being the most difficult) that seemed to go on for quite a long time.
After lunch at about the 50km mark, we did the second climb which started off relatively easy (and beautiful!) with a lot of paved roads and not too much of an incline, but about 10km into the 17km climb is where it got really difficult. The paved roads were still under construction and the incline seemed constant. Luckily there was no downhill after the second climb, just a short jaunt down the HCM trail to the sleepy little town of A Luoi.
Today built a lot of character, and a lot of muscles. It's days like today where you really have to remind yourself that you're not just doing this for fun, you're doing it to help some of Vietnam's poorest children to help themselves. Because without that inspiration, you just want to throw in the towel and get in the van for the rest of the day.
One thing I will say about the few days post-Hue is this: the scenery is quite stunning, and you really get the sense that you've earned it. It's like getting the meat out of a crab; it's that much tastier because you've had to work harder for it. (to paraphrase Chris Rolls)
- words by Isaac Luchini
|R&R in Hue|
|Many of us hit the local Giant shop in Hue for gear.|
|We'll miss you Hue!|
|Back in the Saddle Again!|
|View from the hotel in A Luoi|