The route : http://connect.garmin.com/activity/177002837
The chat: After the rather demoralising experience that was 6th May 2012 (forever etched on our brains), and having lost faith in our GPS, both of our maps, and North Vietnamese roads in general we made the decision to cheat slightly. After last night’s route revision/map consultation/general commiseration session, we had realised that unless we could climb several mountain ranges (3000m) on a unknown dirt track in one day in a route profile which would have made Contador feel nauseous then we wouldn’t make it to the Vietnam-Laos border before our visas expired. So we didn’t feel too bad about the logical next step – jumping on a bus for several hours. The galling thing was that the bus took us several hundred kilometres further south towards Hanoi – undoing several days hard slog in the reverse direction to reach Na Hang. Equally gallingly, the unsmiling greed-monkey who ran the bus charged us 4 times the usual bus ticket price to take our tandem – a fact she didn’t reveal until we were 50km away from Na Hang in the middle of nowhere with the tandem stuck under several motorbikes and a basket of pigs under the bus. We would have complained more whole heartedly, but we were focussing on retaining limb sensation. Factory chickens had more room than most of the passengers -the bus had 15 seats but there were at least 40 people crammed in. Surprisingly no-one else seemed bothered about the prospect of impending DVTs – but they were all at least a foot shorter than us.
3 hot and sweaty hours later we and the tandem were released for a glorious 60km ride during which we raved about the joys of cycling vs public transport. Arriving in Yen Bai in the early afternoon and with the prospect of another hilly 100km ahead of us before nightfall, we again had to bus it to Lao Cai – a similar experience to the first ride, but with the added aromas and sounds of several of the bus’ passengers quietly vomiting as the bus wound its way around steep hairpin bends.
Our sheepish arrival in Lao Cai was a bit of a culture shock – having been in places which the LP had definitely not mentioned for the last few weeks and not having seen another westerner since Cat Ba 10 days previously, it was overwhelming (not in a good way) to be met by hundreds and hundreds of overweight Westerners in technical clothing, and hotels and fast food restaurants as far as the eye could see. We went to bed hoping that Sapa would be an improvement.