Vietnam by Bicycle

December 4, 2013 - 5:34pm

Author

The climbing just keeps coming. Pedalling further and further up into the mountains at an agonizingly slow pace.  The roads have completely deteriorated, becoming nothing but rubble, ruts, and holes.  The villages have grown smaller and smaller until even the smallest of huts have dissapeared.  I'm exhausted, tired, and to make matters worse, it's starting to get dark. What am I doing out here?

Well, let's start with the basics. I'm in Vietnam and I'm on my bicycle. I flew into Hanoi two weeks ago with little more than a backpack, bike tools, first aid kit, a camera, and a change of clothes.  And of course my bicycle, which was lost on the flight over (twice). I've come to see this corner of the world, to widen my world perspective, and to challenge myself as I use my legs to explore the landscapes of Southeast Asia.  Once my bicycle was found, I navigated the never ending flow of motorbikes, trucks, bicycles, buffalo, and buses as I escaped the confines of Hanoi and started to make my way out into the country side after a small stay on the spectacularly stunning island of Cat Ba. But back to the story.

Higher I go. At every bend I hope for the descent, and when I thinkthe downhill was finally arrived I realize I'm just climing slightly less steep terrain. In the fading light I can just make out a road marker that says a town is 10km away.  Over an hour later I get to where the town is supposed to be and think it's a stretch to call this place a village. It's nothing more than a collection of huts. Same for the next town and the next. As darkness completely sets in I feel very exposed. This area sees no outsiders and I only hope that anyone who happens to find me alone in the middle of nowhere has no ill intentions.  Every now and then a growling dog comes out to give chase and I muster the energy to get away. When will this end?

Mountains, blackness, and the dim light of my headlamp illuminating my handlebars and the road in front of me.  I'm beginning to think that I will have to ride all night. And then finally, I reached the top and am relieved as I earned my descent. With the limited light from my headlamp I descended as fast as I dared, screaming down the winding road with precipitous drops at every turn. The cold mountain air bites at my hands and feet but all of my attention is focused on the 30 feet in front of me as at times I approach 40 mph.  And at at the bottom of the mountain, without a town in site, is an unbelievably places nha nghi (guest house). All I can do is laugh. Laughter of relief, of happiness, of many more adventures to come.

I'm continuing to ride into the far north of Vietnam, where I will then traverse over into Laos. From there, who knows? But I will keep you all updated!