The route: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/171303618
‘Just 60km – practically a day off’, we said to each other that morning, lingering over coffee and the greasiest fried egg this side of a greasy spoon café in Ol’ Blighty – as English tourists, our hotel waiter has decided on our breakfast choice for us. So we spent the morning blogging, mapping routes on the Garmin and catching up on emails.
Setting off at 2pm after a lunch of the very moreish ‘ban my pate’ (hot baguettes stuffed with pickled vegetables and meat of questionable provenance) we returned to the battleground that is Highway 1. Every other metre of the 40km we rode north seemed to be under repair, with single lane diversions channelling pedestrians, bikes, motorbikes, cars, buses and trucks into the path of oncoming traffic over potholes, speedbumps and deep ruts. Great fun. Turning off onto a tiny winding lane was a relief – we’d never have taken it had the GPS not assured us it was the right way – but our progress slowed further as the narrow path wound around a valley, up and down farmland hillsides. Finally as dusk came we turned onto the ‘main’ access road to Cuc Phong, Vietnam’s first National Park inaugurated by Ho Chi Minh himself in 1962, in a brief interlude between orchestrating revolutions. We time-trialled to the Park HQ in the fading light, and were mighty relieved to arrive before it was pitch black.
We were shown to our room at Mac Lake, 3km into the park proper, hoping for a peaceful night listening to the croaking bullfrogs and watching fireflies. Alas this wasn’t to be – a tour party of excitable Vietnamese students on karaoke camp were on hand to entertain us with their overpowered amp and appalling singing. Thankfully they ran out of steam by 10pm allowing the local fauna to take over entertainment duties.