Today was looooong! We left Yen Minh at 9 am and didn’t arrive in Dong Van until a little before 5 pm. Knowing this would be a long and hard day, we wanted to get a good breakfast before heading out. We had soup with the most satisfying little meatballs floating amongst the noodles and other little meat pieces. Mine was called bun cha and had a concentrated, sweet-ish broth. Margaret’s, bun cham, had a salty broth with the same yummy meatballs and same generous helping of thin rice noodles. We both agreed that the three bite-sized patties in our soup weren’t enough and we could easily eat a whole plate of them with some rice. Unfortunately they aren’t served that way 😦
With meatballs (and coffee) in my belly and prepared with snacks and water, we set out. The first 30 km of our 48 km ride was through some serious fog. Most of the time I could only see about 50 m in front of me, which is probably for the best because i think the climbs would have psyched me out. I started listening to the whir of the motorbike engines going by me to hear if they were going up, down or around a curve. It as equally scary going downhill in the fog, because even with lights it was difficult to see oncoming traffic, and presumably difficult for them to see me. This meant that we didn’t see the “amazingly rugged limestone mountains” that other bikers note as one of the most rewarding parts of this route. It was all personal perseverance at this point, the weather and views weren’t very motivating. I walked my bike for several segments of the ride because even with music, my legs were very tired. Walking my bike was easier than riding, and almost as fast as the slow struggle of pedaling up steep mountains with panniers adding extra weight.
Then, with about 18 km left to go, we rode into a valley and the sun was shining. Deliriously happy to see the blue sky and road ahead of us, we took a zillion pictures and rode on with our spirits renewed.
The small towns that we passed through didn’t have any hot food, only snacks and drinks, which meant that we never ate lunch! We stopped many, many times along the way for munchies (cashews, peanut brittle, mentos, Gu gel, Cream-o sandwich cookies) but after stopping for more than a few minutes the cold air made us want to keep moving (even in the sunny section it still felt quite cool). It is winter here and despite being a southeast asian country, it’s cold! I put my purple mock turtle neck on for an extra layer and had a “neck sock” pulled up over my cheeks and nose that helped shield my face from the wind.
Seeing the kilometer markers to Dong Van on the side of the road getting smaller and smaller, and excited about the thought of food, we pedaled into town and decided to stay at the first guesthouse we saw. Searching for an open restaurant at 5 pm wasn’t easy (most places were only starting to prepare food and told us to come back later) but down a winding alley we found a place where people were eating and polished off a huge lunch/dinner combo including a large tub of rice.
Every guesthouse we’ve stayed in has had hot water for showers, which feels amazing after a long day of cycling. Almost every place has given us towels, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste as well! Amazing for traveling light. The flip side is that cleanliness has been suspect at times (sheets not washed etc) and because we are essentially staying in an extra room in someone’s house, we hear all of the noise coming from family gatherings in downstairs, always including a blaring TV, or sometimes a rooster in their backyard. Right now I’m enjoying some children’s tv show music (and not by choice). My window is also right next to the town’s main road which means that there is a constant stream of engines going by, but with some earplugs and my tired body, I think I’ll sleep just fine.