Monday, 8 May 2017

Day 27: Final Descent

Our penultimate day started with hearty bowls of bo kho and the usual ten coffees for Storm. We'd heard a rumour from Becs about egg tarts, so after breakfast Rhiannon and I went on a mission to find them. After traipsing up and down the road for a while and giving up hope of ever finding them, I heard a cry of delight from Rhiannon. She'd spotted the egg tart lady, hooray! We ran across the road and promptly bought enough for the whole team and the dhl drivers. Egg tarts for everyone! Unfortunately (or fortunately) most people were too full from breakfast to even consider an egg tart, and so of course I ended up snacking on them throughout the day (I ate five, and I'm not sorry).

After taking a team photo outside a temple we set off for the second last time. Around 12km into the ride we came to the 'scary downhill' that Zak had warned us about the previous evening. It was about 10km of steep winding road, complete with those suicidal bus drivers we all know and hate, whose favourite pastime seems to be running unsuspecting H2H riders off the road. We've noticed that the closer we get to Saigon, the less people seem to value their lives, with reckless overtaking and moronic motorbikes pulling out in front of you becoming more and more frequent. As I rode along today I spotted lots of spray-painted outlines of bikes on the road, and remembered someone saying it was to mark the location of traffic accidents. I rode on and tried not to think about it.

Once the steep decline was over the rest of the ride was fairly straightforward, with only a couple of grade 5s and one grade 4 climb. Amy and I cruised along for a bit, stopped to refuel with revive and egg tarts, then cruised some more. The sun was blessing us with its presence and bore down on us as we rode. But we're hardcore cyclists now, and a bit of hot weather wasn't going to beat us today. The scenery that flashed past us wasn't particularly inspiring, although one town had lots of enormous house-sized rocks randomly scattered around, with no explanation about how and why they were there. By this point I was starting to feel the effects of a third 100km+ day in a row, but as we approached the last climb of the day something in my head must have sent a signal to my legs to power up it as fast as possible. This is the last real hill of H2H, go for it! I arrived at the hotel completely exhausted, but satisfied.

We're at our final hotel of the ride and I don't think I'm alone in feeling sad that everything is coming to an end. Whenever this has been mentioned over the last few days it's been met with cries of 'no, don't talk about it!' 'I don't want to think about that now!' Most of us are also feeling exhausted after three days of long rides, in which we have encountered lots of challenging weather and road conditions. But hopefully everyone is also feeling incredibly pleased with themselves. After all, we've nearly cycled the length of a whole country, and don't our legs know it! Over the last four weeks we've all been tested physically and mentally, but we've also had the time of our lives, and as I rode today I had a think about all the things I'm going to miss about H2H. The list was long, and here is what I can remember:

Morning stretches, riding out of the towns in a big group, lying on the floor in any location being completely acceptable, second (and sometimes third) breakfasts being normal, ice cold nuoc mia, roadside hammock breaks, Jimmy's mind blowing magic tricks, Bianca's fab ukulele playing, Storm cursing the whole way up the mountain, Zak's morning texts, hotel party rooms, swimming in roadside bodies of water, amazing scenery that makes you go 'WOW' every five minutes, never ending downhills, shouting hello at school kids, discovering new Vietnamese food, chatting with the lovely locals, cold drinks after a long day, team meetings, spotting the DHL van, playing with the world's cutest puppies, belting out Bohemian Rhapsody, Mr Cuong's fun sense of humour, visiting the charities and getting to meet a bunch of wonderful kids, riding with the butterflies, the sense of achievement at the end of a big climb and feeling the massive high while riding down the other side... And alright, I guess I'll even miss Keith's constant stream of puns. Or maybe not.

Cycling the length of Vietnam was always going to be an adventure, but the thing that made it so amazing for me was the wonderful group of people I got to experience it with. Every single team member has supported each other throughout the entire ride, and even when we were struggling, we were struggling through it as a team. It's been an absolute pleasure to be a part of H2H 2017, and is without doubt the best thing I have ever done.

--Grace Boosey


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