Monday, 8 May 2017

Day 26: Doggos!

Our hotel in Lam Ha was situated right beside a pretty little lake with a floating lotus flower thing in the middle. We were up early, despite the tiring day before. While having our morning coffee by the lake a little frog joined us at our table. After getting tired of our chat he made a run/hop for the road. In trying to herd him back towards the lake he made a crazily high leap for my face. However, due to my fast frog-dodging reflexes he landed on a taxi. We don't know what happened to our little buddy. We hope for the best.

Most of the team rode out of town at 7.30. Some other riders had set out at about 6 to avoid being too long in the sun. Nearly straight away I realised there was something wrong with my bike. I couldn't go into my higher gears to make use of the nice flat stretches of road that we had. I had a tumble from my bike at speed trying to take a turn on a downhill stretch in the heavy monsoon rain the day before. My chain had came off (and my shoe) but at the time I was more interested in getting out of the way of oncoming trucks and assessing how much of me I had broken (none, thank god). After about 10k of frustratingly trying to keep up with the pack while my legs spinned around in low gears, I stopped and waited for the support van. The hero that is our mechanic Hoa sorted the problem in a jiffy and I was off again.

It was a strange day in that we didn't take any of our breaks together. We are used to the first riders spotting a particularly welcoming looking nuac mia stall, pulling in and then proceeding to make high pitched screeches to notify any passing riders of our whereabouts. At about 40k we saw most of the group. After that we seemed to disperse. Keith and I didn't see anyone for a long long time. Zak and Rhiannon were ahead of us. But then they passed us by. We stopped for pineapple and pepsi about 20k away. Loan and Harriet caught up with us. "But you were ahead." "We stopped." "We didn't see you".

The ride itself was nice and easy. A few climbs but lots of downhill and flat sections too. For about 20k in the middle I was feeling pretty rough. I had a cough from being caught in the rain the night before which made it hard to catch my breath. I also was a bit stiff and sore from my fall and couldn’t turn my head to the left to check for oncoming buses and trucks when I was overtaking. But after our last stop for pepsi I was in a much better mood and enjoyed the ride into town.

We stayed between two hotels, each as unpleasant as the other. The windows in my room didn't close and while the decor was bland, the mould and damp on the wall added a textured earthiness to the room. One of the hotels did have a sweet wee terrace out the back that overlooked the lake. And of course the little crippled chihuahua, who is an H2H legend. This tiny, strange doggy with stiff limbs and long, long, long fingernails was doted on by everyone. We wanted to take her with us to Saigon.

We didn't venture too far from our hotels due to the rain. A few doors down we found some AMAZING Bo Kho on which we gorged for lunch, second lunch, dinner, and breakfast the next morning. The puntastic Kiwi Keith brought some pizzas to the hotel. And though we protested that we were much too full of Bo Kho, they were demolished.

"The ending" has been hanging over us like a bad smell the last few days. We are not allowed to talk about work. We are not allowed to talk about the cycle ending. And yet in 2 short days it will all be over. I'm going to miss an awful lot. The euphoria of turning a bend and seeing that finally, finally, unlike the last 52 times you’ve turned a corner on this climb, the road dips down. The exhausted contentment as you coast downhill, revelling in each non-pedalling second of it, knowing that you have earned it. The relief at seeing the DHL van parked at the dingiest of hotels after 115km in the heat. The relief when you stand up on your pedals and give your bum a moment to feel alive again. Our morning stretches. The pleasure/pain of peeling your shorts from the most intimate parts they have crawled up into at the end of a long sweaty day. Waking early in the morning, and knowing the only thing you have to worry about for the whole day is getting from here to there. Getting to spend all day, every day exploring this beautiful country.

Each and every person on this ride, who have gone from complete strangers to a bum-cream sharing family. I'm even going to miss Keith's puns. Well, on second thoughts. . .

--Amy McInerney


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