He’ll be coming around the mountain

ducklingfield)What a day!! It all started simple enough. One of my nephews joined me at 7:30 for coffee. I looked around for his bike, and not seeing it I asked where it was. He said that he would ride on the back of mine.. What!!? I did not think this possible, and told him to get a motorcycle.  It is a good thing I insisted on this as you will read. We swung back to borrow a bike and were on our way. It was only 15 minutes or so until we started to see cartthe country past the houses built against the roadside. We turned off the main highway onto a smaller potholed secondary road that would get us to Dalat. We started to cruise by some beautiful scenery, and countryside houses, when, the road ended. The Typhoons of a month ago had washed out and damaged much of the road. Ahead for unknown kilometers was the roughest, dustiest, ugliest road I have ever seen. The road was dried red clay and the dust filled the air like a smoky fire. We are stuck behind big trucks andhouse busses kicking up clouds of this dust, bouncing over terrain that would challenge a trail bike. After endless kilometers of beating our bodies and bikes, we finally found some pavement. We increased our speed ant were starting to move fast, when we hit the rumble strips. I guess the traffic in these mountain road was getting too fast and crazy, so rumble strips  were placed wherever there was a good stretch of road. We left the last of civilization and started deep into the jungle and mountains….. Then It happened. Li’ltruck Sissy stopped dead!! We determined that there was no spark. We pushed it back a kilometer or so and found a small repair shop. The mechanic changed out most of my ignition system, and tested it. We took the time to hose ourselves off and remove some of our clothes to bat them against some bricks. After we had lost enough soil to plant a small garden from our clothes, and washed the rings of clay from out eyes and mouths, we were on our way again.fix

The drive to Dalat is spectacular. The rugged mountains climbed or dropped on each side of us. In every direction was almost endless jungle, a beautiful expanse of wilderness. The mountains were jagged and waterfalls were plentiful. We started up the steepest of mountains, a hard climb for our little 110 cc bikes. At times we could not get over 40 kmph. At high altitude we could hear the bad roadpoor overstrained engines straining for air. Still, the views were breathtaking and I was enjoying the drive. Alas….. the strain of the roads where too tough for Li’l Sissy and she conked out again. I had fried the new ignition system that was installed only 2 hours earlier. Again, we pushed the poor thing around 5 kilometers until we found a repair shop on the fringes of Dalat. The mechanic replaces a burnt out coil with a much heavier duty one which he guaranteed would not burn out. Finally on our way again, weroadbad) arrived at Dalat. We passed among the endless green houses and stepping hills, along a cool almost cold mountain plateau. Here it is a forest more than jungle. There are pine trees and some others that could be recognized in more cold climates. Dalat is a beautiful city. There are flowers, and fruits everywhere. It is known as the agricultural hub of Vietnam. The climate is suitable for the growth of all kinds of vegetables and fruits, not able to be grown in the lover elevations. We headed for the central part ofriver the city when………    Wham!!!!!   Traffic..  Lots of traffic, people are everywhere. As luck would have it, it is the flower festival. In Dalat every year they celebrate a festival and decorate the city with flowers. People from all over the country come to attend. We fought the traffic and then braved the market to purchase some dried fruit. Mayhem….   I love it!!  There was a time that I was intimidated by the noise, confusion, and all around chaos, but now, I fit right in. My nephew is amazed how well I fit in. Theshop) last time we traveled together anywhere, he was a baby sitter. No longer, now he could have fun with me as a partner. He laughingly translated numerous times from the native hill women that I was being offered second wives, Of course as normal I politely refused and told them if I ever wanted one, it would be them. They laughed at this and off we would go. My nephew got an offer himself J

valleyWe left around 5 with the intention of returning to NhaTrang about 7. I thought it unlikely as it took us so long to get here.

We left with the light hoping to make some good time on the decent plateau highway before we would be forced to slow in the jagged mountains. It was not to be. After cooking along at the maximum speed out little bikes would go, Li’l Sissy decided to throw a tantrum and lost her chain. It jammed in the chain guard, and I cameduy skidding to a halt right before a hairpin turn around a cliff. It was not a close call, but reminder enough to drive defensively here. We were able to re-attach the chain, but had lost our light. As the day passed into darkness, we both learned new and valuable lessons. The temperature dropped by 10 degrees. I started to get cold in my tank top. I did not get much chance to get to cold though, the clouds had dropped to mountain poorlevel, and it got wet, miserable, and cold. The mist of the clouds soake3d my glassed and the intense fog made visibility only mere feet. We were forced to slow to 20 or 30 kph for very long distances, the whole time trying to keep the bike stable from our shivering. This was insane!! Driving could not be more dangerous, but we had nowhere to go. All there was is jungle and cliffs. No houses, hotels, or shelter of any kind. There was one good thing however. There was almost no traffic. The locals are too smart to attemptmarket such a foolish trek. From time to time, a oversized monster of a vehicle would blind and deafen us. Thankfully after a couple of hard blind hours, we broke through the clouds and had descended enough to have some visibility again. The country was now so dark, our feeble headlights did little to show the way, so we cruised on, not being able to see the potholes until the last second…. Bang!!!….. another Bang!!……   Ouch!! For a greenhousemoment I thought the torture was all over when, THE ROAD FROM HELL!!. I had forgotten. Now, in the dark, we had to negotiate this dirt, dust, mud, and mayhem for att least an hour. I did not have the gumption to get off and take some night shots, as my but was too busy clenching my bike seat. Along this bucking ride, I lost a foot peg, side cover, and any sense of fear I may have ever had. We finally broke through back onto the potholed roads, then back to the highway, a couple of battered hardened men. Wepeople rode side by side, grinning like children. A four and a half hour ride in hell, we both understood. It was a bonding experience. An experience that that we probably both hope not to share again, but we prevailed. We limped back into NhaTrang at 9:30 pm. We phoned and learned that everybody had already eaten so we stopped at the closest roadside street vendor we could find, and hungrily devoured a steaming bowl of beef noodle soup.

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This morning, I am suffering from a pinched neck, a bit of sunburn, and a few sore muscles. Otherwise everything AOK!  I have replaced a part or two on the bike, and washed the cached dust from it. I think I may need to invest in a more powerful bike if I wish to make any more long distance trips. Li’l Sissy is good around town, but is a big sissy in the hills.

What is today going to bring???   I do not know…  Life is goodtrees

 

PS.

As happens so many times, I write this blog rushed. I do not have the time to go back and check for mistakes, so please forgive any boo boo’s I made.

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Owee

Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

4 thoughts on “He’ll be coming around the mountain

  1. Owee,
    I will be in Dalat/Nha Trang around Dec 6-8. I hope to take Phat Venture bike ride from Dalat down to Nha Trang on the new road. Hopefully since it is a new road it will be in better shape than the route you took. Also, from your story, I seems that I should take some type of rainproof windbreaker to keep me warm in dry, as I suppose there is a good chance it might rain.
    Joe

    1. I have emailed you Joe
      Yes it is the same road. It is mostly in goor repair, however, in the heavy rains mud slides and washed away areeas do happen.
      A windbreaker is a must as well as a very warm sweater… It gets darn cold up there….. even in summertime.

    1. Welcome Gary… Glad you are enjoying my mistakes. Until I have an internet connection in my house, I will continue to give you all a chucke… 80% of by blog is posted without proof reading.

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