A highland adventure or disaster?

Christine and John sent word that they would perhaps be
interested in touring the Central Highlands on the back of motorcycles so into
the shop Bossy went to have a new set of tires, new chain and modified sprocket
for higher speed cruising. It should have been a simple enough task, but
sometimes I forget where I am…………. Here is the story.

The larger size tires and chain/sprocket set were not
available locally, so they had to come from Saigon.
No problem I thought. The front tire and sprocket arrived. Apparently the rear
tire had to come from Hanoi,
moreover the sprocket/Chain combo were totally wrong. I was advised that if I
wanted the correct sprockets, I would have to send my original to Saigon as a sample. This was a Wednesday. Chris and John
had arrived in Nha Trang and had decided to do a 5 day tour from Nha Trang to
Hoi An. The motorcycle shop assured me that even if the new part had not
arrived, they could install the rear tire and put the old part back on until
the new one arrived. OK!! Everything is covered!!! IF worse came to worse, I
could rent a larger motorcycle from the Back Pack area…. I was excited to do
the journey on my improved Motorcycle……. But wait!! This is Vietnam and if
things can go sideways, they almost always will.

I was notified that the part would not arrive in time…… No
problem I said, just put the old one on. After a moment of silence I get the
response that the old part had been sent away as a sample and it would not be
possible to have it back. Alas….. with some disappointment, I prepared myself
to rent a bike and do the trip without my noble steed. Sunday arrived and I was
delighted by a phone call that said the part had been located, and it was on a
bus. Bossy would be ready to go at 9am Monday morning…. The very time we had set
to start our journey…. YAHOO!!!! 8 am Monday morning I caught the bus and went
to the shop to see the new sprocket assembly being installed. The front
sprocket mounting plate bolt holes did not line up and after an hour of one of
the apprentices mucking about, the boss showed up and quickly remedied the
problem. I started to have my doubts about the mechanics working on the bike
when I had to show them that links had to be removed from the chain to make if
fit properly. Finally!!!! 10:30 and the bike was finished. No need to rent
another after all. The ride to the hotel was not far and off I went to pick up
Chris and John with the driver that was already patiently waiting. I was not 1
block from the hotel when…………. Ka BANG!!!…… Thwop.. Thwop…. Thwop….

The mechanic had neglected to bolt the rear brake caliper to
the frame. As soon as I applied firm pressure to the rear disc brake…. It
grabbed as it should, and followed the wheel ripping the hose and having the
caliper wedged in between the disk and the rim making a horrendous sound. I had
an instant sinking feeling in my gut. Oh No!!! everything was ready to go and
now this!! I reached the hotel and explained the situation. I would return my
bike and pick up a rental, so we would leave about 2 hours later than planned,
but still plenty of time. Thien, the other rider I partnered with for this
journey returned with me in order to give me a ride to the rental office, but
when the boss saw what had happened, he was immediately apologetic and said he
would have it repaired in 30 minutes…..OK!! True to his word, they had a
replacement hose and the caliper refitted in 30 minutes and then the farce
began… I watched amazingly shaking my head as they tried to fill the system
with fluid. They were rapidly pumping the brakes trying to get the air pockets
out. I was trying to explain to them that they were doing it wrong and what
they had to do was start at the master cylinder and work back. They seemingly
did not understand what I was trying to explain so I had my Vietnamese partner
translate for me how it was to be done. ( in the past I spent a few years as
the branch manager of an industrial brake company so I am experienced in such
matters) The mechanics treated me as if what I was saying was sheer lunacy and
I was an idiot. For more than 1.5 hours they tried to get the rear brake to
work without success. In frustration, I had them assemble everything and drove
with a weak and barely functional rear brake to pick up Chris and John. I was
angry…. Tired…. But most of all, embarrassed and shamed that my reputation and
reliable word was affected by this event. It was too late to find a rental
bike. With the new tires and a very good front brake, I concluded that the bike
would be safe enough as long as I did not take the lead. I would have extra
reaction time if Thien was ahead and encountered any reasons for emergency
braking. Even though late, it was not too late to depart as we had designed the
tour to have shorter mileage days and leisure time. My intention was since we
were departing a little later in the mornings, I would have someone who knows
what they are doing bleed the brakes before departing Buon Ma Thuot the next

The bags all loaded, we were off. I have done this beautiful
route to BMT many times and as I expected, Chris and John seemed to enjoy the
drive. I imagine they were somewhat disappointed that we were not able to leave
until 12:30, but it could not be helped. I tried everything possible to be on
time, but I am not sure the Vietnamese understand the importance of that when
it comes to business.

Oh Dear!! What I thought would be a one page blog looks like
it may be a few. I am off to Dalat with a now much improved Bossy with a nice
trio tomorrow, so I will continue the saga when I return

Here are a few random highland pictures

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

One thought on “A highland adventure or disaster?

  1. Good one Owen!!! Man, by now you should know that nothing here is ever done with any kind of time frame in mind…never. Vietnam operates on ‘rubber time’.
    And, we must be constantly reminded that we are tays, therefore we know nothing, we are idiots in their eyes.

    Still chuckling though, it happens to all of us.


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