The route : http://connect.garmin.com/activity/174608356
The chat: Today started with my favourite – a 5am alarm call which was sadly necessary to try and beat the heatwave and get the big climb of the day out of the way before the sun was too high. The heat at 6am as we pedalled out of town was already oppressively humid – it felt like a hot summer’s day in England despite the sun only having just risen – not a good omen.
We pressed on and upwards along a meandering 10% climb – unsurprisingly even at 6am practically all the villages we passed were full of people hard at work in the fields as they tried to finish ploughing/rice sowing/buffalo herding before it got to hot. Finally reaching 800m at midday, we decided to break for lunch and benefit from the slight temperature reduction achieved with a bit of altitude. Stopping in a cafe full of Vietnamese lorry drivers smoking pipes and tucking into rice wine, we were the centre of attention for a good 2 hours. Given our limited Vietnamese and the drivers limited English, communication consisted mainly of them going through our bags and holding up different bits of our electrical equiptment and asking “how much?”. They also attempted to barter rice wine for our caps, sunglasses and kindles – unsucessfully.
The rest of the way to the Ba Be National Park (renowned for caves, lakes and general beautifulness) was downhill, mainly, with a few cheeky climbs thrown in just to completely exhaust us. We were aiming to make it all the way to the park, but 11 hours after leaving Cao Bang we were still 20km from the park and darkness was falling fast. Plus we were shattered. A guesthouse in Cho Ra village offered views over rice paddies where women were doing aerobics, and cold beers – it seemed stupid to press on, so we dumped our bags and headed out for some extremely bad food. The owner clearly had a bit of a thing for taxidermy – there were embalmed porcupines, birds, cats, lizards etc in bottles everywhere you looked – not exactly the classic decor to generate an appetite, which was perhaps lucky as the tasteless and expensive pho served up left us thinking that perhaps a crocodile in formaldehyde would have been a more tasty option.
*No animals, children or indeed truck drivers were seriously hurt in the making of this cautionary photo tale