Amidst my drunken stupor from the rice whisky of last night, I was awoken by the woman at 7 o’clock in the morning still dazed and confused and not ready to face the day. After paying the family for allowing us to barge in on their home for the night and topping up our fuel supply, Kenny and I got some impromptu packaged ramen noodles down the road before we tackled the last 140 km or so to Phong Nha. Kenny had his share of problems with his bike since it failed to start in spurts but my screwdriver came in handy and saved the day. The road was as deserted as advertised with rare villages that would have offered little to no help if we ever came into a bind. The road once again revolved around the mountains spinning a web of winding switchbacks up and down the misshapen earth. The views were stunning as we drew in on Phong Nha and the land that mysteriously held the world’s largest cave hidden for the longest time until it was recently exposed to the world in 2009. The land was fully covered summit upon summit of karst limestone rock mountains embedded somehow with a full cloak of green trees that held tightly to the steep stone cliffs. It felt like a dream cutting side to side through the confused roadway that positioned so closely to these behemoths and their valley floor of jungled forest. Vietnam continues to surprise me. I swear Mother Nature never got bored spinning her magic across this scenic country. I wish I could describe the views and emotions more clearly and justly but they would never accurately reveal what I experienced; as they say it is one of those places you must see for yourself no matter the videos and pictures that try to bring it to life. I would have loved to have lingered longer but some sense of civilization beckoned. We got in Son Trach, the town used as the base for Phong Nha adventures and exploration, and I realized all too quickly how much of shit hole it has already turned into; the place has sold itself to the tourist dollar to the point you can not enough experiencing local no matter how persistent you may be. No matter, I got my motorbike checked out and found out through my Easy Rider interpreting that I would once again need to get fresh gears as the teeth got worn down once more. When will the madness end? I am really starting to get sick of the bike and oddly look forward to selling it off my in Hanoi but I have so much more to see, specially the far untouched reaches of rice terrace studded land lurking up north. While the bike would need an overnight checkup and not get returned to my apparently less than mechanically capable hands, I took advantage of a nearby hostel’s pool to cool off and rediscover the feeling of immersing myself in cool water to replace the unrelenting sweat that I undoubtedly produce. Tomorrow I will explore the caves including the adventurous Dark Cave and the scenic Paradise Cave on my own accord without the overpriced package tours sold throughout unlivable Son Trach.
Riding Vietnam Day 176: The Final Push to Phong Nha and Dare I Say Heaven