Tuesday 25 Feb
Day Four: 60km Buon Ma Thuot to Pleiku
Alex got a vomiting bug in the night and so I had to hold the side up and cycle the miles by myself today. Not as much fun on the road but good for teasing him about being in the “biff’ wagon later. (That’s Army slang for a broken person). We were kindly invited to Thang’s family home for lunch as we were passing within 15km. We are the first Westerners he has taken there, an honour. A feast was laid out on rush mats in the main room; delicious! Alex was sad he could only manage boiled rice.
The tables were turned in the evening when I started to feel nauseous just as Alex was feeling better. My constitution was made worse by the dilapidated centre parks-like resort we stayed in, and our supper. A freshly-killed yet partially cooked whole chicken was brought out – head still attached – with a side of chicken intestine soup. A record early night, asleep by 7.30.
Wednesday 26 Feb
Day Five: 70km to Kon Tum
We were happy to have survived the night in our worst accommodation yet, and glad to hit the road early. We were still feeling a bit ropey as we tackled rolling hills and fairly busy roads. The local farm traffic is relatively benign. It’s loud, slow-moving and easy to spot because the load is always significantly larger than the vehicle. Long distance coaches are another matter. They speed from town to town, often taking part in mini drag-races, one on each side of the road. Blind summits, tight corners and the safety of their passengers are all secondary to beating their friend in the other bus.
We arrived in Kon Tum by lunchtime and after a siesta we cycled around the area to see a rickety suspension bridge, a indigenous tribal house with a huge, almost vertical roof and a French Catholic church. Ox and cart, next to scooter and wood fires next to bling Bollywood-like wedding venues. We watched a lovely sunset and then dinner. Tonight our stomachs just about allowed us to try savoury Vietnamese pancakes made by a slick family team with one woman handling 15 frying pans at once!
Thursday 25 Feb
Day Six: 70km to Pleican / Ngo Choi
For someone who has never cycled for more than one day in a row I feel surprisingly good! I am encouraging early starts so we can cover the distance by lunchtime and before the heat builds. This is much to Alex’s chagrin as he is not a morning person. The super strong Vietnamese coffee goes someway to helping though. Alex is taking a siesta as I write this.
Most days we exhaust ourselves cycling in the morning, wash our clothes ready for the next day, eat (lunch), sleep (siesta), eat (dinner), sleep and then do it all again! It’s a constant effort to keep eating enough to fuel the cycling legs. The scenery is changing as we go north; coffee plantations are giving way to rubber tree groves and cashew nut bushes. These are intermingled with ubiquitous banana trees and rice paddies. It has been unusually windy for a couple of days because of a storm further north. Mostly we feel a headwind which saps our energy and doubles the challenge. We get a big morale boost from the personal fan club of children in every village. They always shout hello and wave excitedly. They have the most amazing smiles it makes me smile too!
PS. Check out the link at the bottom of the blog to see the map of our progress so far.