It was difficult departing from Dong Hoi, the beachside hotel we had been staying in. Although there were signs up prohibiting swimming due to visibly strong waves, it had been such a fulfilling reward after a 100km ride to see the ocean and feel the sea breeze. We woke with sunshine spread across the horizon to do our morning stretches right by the sand.
That wasn’t the only treat we had in Dong Hoi. The previous night we were lucky enough to have a taste of home with a local backpackers hostel serving western food. We were tired and down in the dumps for losing three of our members to injuries, but the food helped everyone cheer up a bit. When we found out western breakfast was available the next morning, we were ecstatic. I had to resist not stuffing myself, but I definitely had to go for that extra ice cream with my waffles.
Then, we were off again, bidding farewell to the sea and the charming little city of Dong Hoi toward a place we were told would not be so eventful, Cam Lo. Previous H2H group members had warned us that Cam Lo would be more a glorified truck stop than a town. I was imagining the worst, a good strategy for these things, just so it’s not so bad when you see it.
My ride for this particular day was still Chuong, our mechanic’s, trusty Cannondale mountain bike, which had served me well since my road bike’s rear axle broke at the end of Day 3. On this day my legs were happy and rejuvenated, and I decided to push hard with Mike to the front of the pack, but before long Mike was having some trouble with a tire. Little did we know, my riding buddy was about to have a disappointing tube change, then an entire tire, then a puncture, then another faulty tire. That’s two tubes and two tire changes within a couple hours, which launches him to the top of most tire problems in the group.
That too, had its benefits, as we spent most of the day with the back van and it’s eccentric driver, Mr. Cuong, as well as our cheerful mechanic, Chuong. The four of us happened upon the best lunchspot I’ve been to on this trip so far – offering a tower of delicious food for a mere 40,000VND, just $2. The best part was Mr. Cuong barging into the kitchen to cook some of the food himself. I guess the rest of the team will just never know how good it was.
Once we were fed, Mike and I pedaled like we were possessed, keeping a consistent 35-40 kph. I’d been riding with Mike for a few days now and we didn’t have to say anything to each other to know that we both wanted to see the rest of the team. Once we were caught up, the remainder of the day was a sweet, relaxing ride.
This route featured a cultural and historical stop at Nhgia Dia Liet Si Truong Son (Cemetery of Ho Chi Minh Trail Soldiers). The mood among the ten or so H2Hers in my group was reflective and somber, a welcome contrast to being hungry or exhausted. There was a bit of drizzle, which added to the gloomy mood that afternoon. H2H, after all, is a cultural experience, and I believe the team was touched by the reminder that Vietnam has a sad past deserving of respect.
By Chris Tran
Photos by Chris Tran