The opening stretch out of Son Trach and Phong Nha for roughly 100 km held some of the same glory and wonder of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (albeit not as magnanimous and hulking from above) that I had seen the day prior. It was almost like a sending off of sorts to endeavor me with its presence one last time. I left the area regretfully desiring to hold on for longer to cast my eyes upon its sight again and again. One chance encounter on the road added a footnote to otherwise non-noteworthy day. Cruising along at the usual pace that I had lead, I found one motorbike powered by a local edging into my lane attempting to turn even though I clearly had the right of way at this T in the road. While slowing down, I noticed her turning further along careless of my presence which cause me to move left to avoid. The two of us began an awkward dance that could only result in the two of us colliding into one another. The crash was minimal with just our front wheels making contact. It was such a slow motion, rolling collision that for the first initial moment the two of us came to a standstill until she and her passenger, poor old Granny, tumbled over while I stayed upright towering over them. For a brief moment I felt bad for them as locals rushed over to help them out but that emotion quickly segued into concern for the well being of my bike and the need to get the hell out of there since the local gathering clearly wanted recompense (I couldn’t be bothered with it; their stupidity put my life in danger as well: a longer, more in depth coverage of Asian driving will follow in a separate post). From there on out the land did not offer much to glance at beyond what I had already seen before such as roaming buffaloes and nondescript, relatively flat farm countryside. However the roads were a dream with its continuous flow of straightaways that got us humming at an unusually fast clip. During the rare stop to readjust my booty and once again bring it back to life, I couldn’t believe progress we had already made even at midday. Just short of our expected stop, we stopped for a chat with a Spaniard who was cycling Vietnam. As it turns out, beyond his flight to India and out to Bangkok, he had been cycling the entire time covering countless kilometers. The motorbike has taken a lot out of me so I can only imagine what a bicycle would do after all that time and road. I felt like a slightly lesser man using the power of an engine to traverse the country but then again it takes a special lunatic to achieve such an admirable trip. Along with my motorbike journey, his story has opened my eyes to other forms of travel that go beyond the usual train and bus. For one, it lets you see a country on an entirely different level and dimension but more so it brings on different challenges both mentally and physically that you would never face through otherwise easy straight forward modes of transit. I think travel (at least for long trips unlike a holiday or vacation) should incorporate risks and obstacles. Traveling should force you to look more deeply at yourself and challenge you in ways you have never experienced before. How else can you beyond what has always been done? As much as my failures have sucked at times, I have learned so much more about how much I can take and keep moving forward with a bright outlook. After leaving the Spaniard, we continued on into the dark far longer than I had intentioned. The darkness itself was no matter or trouble but the bugs big and small that flew across our faces and occasionally smattering into my eyes hastened my efforts to find a place to sleep. Nearly blinded out of my wits we found a Nha Nghi (guesthouse, or something like that) and thus ended the day’s travels eclipsing 350 km which was far more than I had ever approached. The motorbike gods blessed me today without a single breakdown (knock on wood). While winding down for the night, James got word from a Vietnamese friend of his through Facebook that the man that snatched his bag from the roadside had turned up and called her as one of the numbers in his calling list. The plot continued to thicken for this poor chap; no longer could he let this go as hope formed an imbalance with realism on the situation.
Riding Vietnam Day 178: The 350 km Day