For some reason we were riding from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. Sam, Dan, Harry and I had been hastily planning for the last few weeks. None of us had ever done any substantial touring and some of us hadn’t even done any substantial riding. But there we were, at the airport with our bikes in poorly packed boxes. Sam’s axle had already smashed through the side of his box before we arrived to check in - the trip wasn’t starting well.
After arriving in Ho Chi Minh, all bikes present and relatively intact, we spent the next two days exploring Ho Chi Minh. By this point we had decided it was better to skip the section leaving Ho Chi Minh, instead we took a bus To Da Lat and kicked off the riding from there. The bus company had assured us that boxes of our size would be allowed under the bus, however once we had walked the 1km to the bus stop with our bikes in their boxes they informed us there was no way we could get them on the bus. Eventually we got them on the same company’s bus freight line, and they would meet us in Da Lat in 2 days. We then rushed back to get on the passenger bus forgetting that all of our clothes were in the boxes. 2 days later and after 4 days in the same undies our bikes were in Da Lat, built up and ready to ride.
The first 2 days were mastermind by Sam who had planned a fun route, however the fun wore thin pretty quickly, especially after I had gone to the toilet for the 6th time on the second day. As I found out later in the trip, apparently, I don’t have a very strong stomach.
We took our first rest day in Kon Tum after 5 days. The riding was hard but manageable. Our inexperience touring and riding with loaded bikes was the hardest part.
As the riding continued the days slowly blurred together, every day followed a similar itinerary. It started with two Egg Banh Mi’s, two Vietnamese Coffee’s, about 20km of riding, after that we would stop for another coffee, following this we would attempt to ride to just past halfway for the day and take lunch. The second half of the day would be intermittent stops for a cold drink, always aiming to get to the finish point before dark.
The towns mostly followed a trend of average hotels, not terrible, but not anywhere near good, some were actually terrible though. Our NYE mainly consisted of using bugs-pray to kill a hornet infestation in our room The owner didn’t seem as concerned as we were - I was very concerned.
We all developed better ways to pack our bags, better weighting our bikes, and understanding how to ride a loaded bike. Everything was going fine, until we hit some rain. Personally, I don’t ride much in the rain in Melbourne, and I remember why I don’t. Dan was in a little bit more trouble, as rain made seeing with his glasses almost impossible, he insisted it wasn’t a big problem though.
Every time we were all nearing good health, someone got sick again. Sam got a bad bug one day, Harry had a lingering cold, however it was mainly me. I had three bouts of a stomach bug, additionally I developed two infected ingrown hairs. You might think that sounds minor, but after 5 days of an increasingly swollen leg I went to the local Phong Nha hospital. The one woman working there spent 30 minutes squeezing every last drop of pus out of my leg and instructed me to return in 5 hours for another dose of squeezing. Eventually after a lot of squeezing and a round of antibiotics they were healed. I’m still sceptical about how beneficial the squeezing was.
We tried to not think about how long there was to ride, until one day when we worked out it was only about 300km. We hadn't really got around to planning the full route, so the last few days of the ride snuck up on us.
I would love to tell you our final day riding into Hanoi was glorious, a really proud moment in my life, a moment full of comradery but it wasn’t. With 30km to go in the day, after struggling with my third bout of food poisoning, I lay on the floor of café with local school children taking photos of me. Eventually I made the decision to put my bike in a taxi and get driven into Hanoi, I had assumed it would be quick but in fact it took over 2 hours. It was better than riding, but not by much.
After two days in Hanoi, I had finally recovered, there was a feeling of accomplishment, we were all very proud of ourselves. All up we rode 1806km with 13739m Vert, well the others did, I rode 30km less than that.
We were all already planning our next trip, my only requirements were somewhere with better food sanitation, less leg infecting bacteria, and also less hornets.
Actually, no hornets