Friday, December 21, 2007

Day 5

From: Dalat
To: Nha Trang
Time: 5h
Distance: 124 km
Average: 20

JJ>>Woke up early after a bad nights sleep of strange dreams after too much wine, steak tartar and cheese. Throw the bikes in the car as did not want to get lost around dalat on cycle and go lost in the car instead. After a few wrong turns we found the right road and after 15km got our bike out and started to ride.

Solid little downhills (35kmh for 1 minute) and then uphills (9kmh for 3 minutes) and then down and then up again and again. Steep gradients again but lovely cool weather in pine forests (all around 1500m).

Both of us getting quite tired from that and after a slow 45km stopped for lunch at what turned out to be the start of the downhill.

A long 20km plus downhill. Really beautiful jungle mountain scenery. A land slide stopped us half the way.

Then 45km or so into nha trang to a gorgeous beach resort.

Followed by swim in the sea, pool, hot shower, massage and finishing it off with more fine with and mini bbq. A very fitting end to this short trip. Guess I will never have such a luxurious one again.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Day 4

From: Dalat
To: Dalat
Time: 1.30
Distance: 19 km
Average: 13.50

JJ>>Woke up early and had large breakfast. Strange Miami vice (neon blue and pink colour sceam) hotel full of Taiwanese school girls.

Potted around the hotel room and got on bikes around 10. Cosmo got lost - no where to be found, not that anyone could find someone in a small city full of hills and dreams. Back to the hotel where cosmo was and then a cycle ride around town. Would be nice to have villa here. Rest of vietnam is so hot and this place is so nice and cool and green. Got lazy and off for a nice western lunch and nap.

Now sitting in the Palace Hotel (I think one of the nicest hotels around) overlooking dalat lake, watching the sun going down and listing to the loud speakers introducing the contestants of the flower show with back ground techno elevator music mixed with the sound of the honda dream. This place is all rather surreal. 1000's of young guys and girls in bright uniforms in a parade going down the street. All in the honor of the flower festival. Rather nice and beats the normal military parades you normally see in this part of the world.

Off for more western food and early sleep for tomorrows ride.

CJ>> Dalat day
This was meant to have been a day of riding but for what ever reason has become a day of eating, sleeping and drinking as well as reading through 100 e mails and sending loads of sms. I slept for 3 hours in the afternoon and still feel tired and can keep eating. This was all in the pretence for getting ready for our last ride tomorrow.

Thoughts or advice:
I am relatively fit and have been training to some degree, as the trainer said in the gym “You will be fine on the cardio…” which obviously meant problems elsewhere, i.e. wrists, back and back side. As the biking goes on I feel better. I would suggest being on a bike for a couple of long rides before. Ensure you have the right bike shorts and gloves.
The heat and sunshine really is a major issue. For relatively fit people I would suggest be in highlands and start early and ensure break between 11.30 and 1.00.
The wind is horrible bike north to south and not the other way particularly along the coast.
A car support must totally change things and we will never hit the pain (except for the 1st day) but why do it as long as the plan is correct.
I would highly recommend to friends and colleagues who know their up for it to do some bike trips with a group here (Phat Tires website come recommended)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Day 3

From: Phan Thiet
To: Dalat (well stopped cycling before the destination)
Time: 5.50
Distance: 99 km
Average: 17.6

JJ>>Great day and this is what makes cycling worthwhile. You have a nice destination / target and a beautiful hard ride achieving it. Started off a little later than planned after a huge breakfast. Energy back after the last two days of feeling out of it. Got a little lost in Phan thiet - easy to do in this country. 30km or so of flats and then the hills started.
Basically 1500m vertical climb for next 70km. Really not used to the gradient and had to get off more than once to push as not low enough gear and too unfit.
Cycle surprisingly holding up well.
Stopped for lunch about half way for some welcome sandwiches. All pine tree forests and all very beautiful. Arrived in some dump of a town on hiway 20 and put the bikes into the car.
Clever plan of cosmo's as that would have been no fun to rid - dirty shit road with lots of crazy bus and truck drivers. Arrived in Dalat around 5 and checked into our strange modern Chinese style Vietnamese hotel. Had a nice upmarket Chinese dinner, with fine wine followed by a walk around town and early sleep. Only if all cycling days where like this.
CJ>> Phan Thiet to Di Linh – highway 20
We set ourselves the mission of going to the highway which connects to Dalat. We started full of high calorie breakfast (which I regretted for the 1st 50KM); the riding was really pleasant as it was slightly overcast, flat, no wind and charming countryside. It is a pleasure to ride in such an environment with some speed and have the sensation of making progress. We started knowing mountains were ahead but the road wound its way through the plain and it was a great first leg of 50km.

We then hit more jungle type countryside and the hills started to climb a bit, when we went through a gate which obviously signaled some park type area. We suddenly hit really climbing hills with sharp gradients and it was a one way climb. This was completely offset by the lush valley type jungle and it was beautiful and how I imagine much of Vietnam was. We tuned back into our Ipods for inspiration and also devoured liquid and food. I had not realized how hungry I was having tried to get rid of breakfast for so long and could not get the food quickly enough down.

We passed some ladies biking down (coasting on their brakes) who shouted out we were crazy and whereas the day before this would have just depressed me I was full of renewed energy. I would say the 100-700 meter climb was the best and we eventually cleared the park and then decided to stop for lunch by sitting in a storm drain, considering the view on offer this was weak on our part but we needed food and also to keep going. More bike tours passed us on the way down and I felt full of moral victory.

We then hit the 3rd leg which was really up and down and we traveled between 950 and 11000 meters and sometimes in quite short bursts. The climbs up were slightly depressing as there are km stones all along but this was made better by some quite long down hill coasts which made it easy to knock of 2-3 km. From the start of the highway we had known it would be 96km so the km stones were important and from 70k it all seemed doable as we had ample time. The countryside had changed to more alpine pine trees and some big trees.

We then started through the central highland type of towns which are so typical; poor, hard baked red earth, the smell of rice wine in the area, pissed looking adults but with smiling school kids (we have met a whole load of these on the trip with them biking back and forth to school). We then hit what must have been an illegal garbage tip sitting in the forest and the smell of burning plastic and rot filled the air, so what could have been an idyllic ride had turned into a Vietnamese reality check but I was not unduly disappointed or surprised.

Our final section seemed to be just a case of finishing off the leg and ensuring unlike the previous day we made it but we did so with little problem and ended up in Di Linh a highway town no sane person would spend more than 5 minutes in. So we packed up the bikes and drove up to Dalat.
We had a huge Chinese meal which was ok but not great and a fine bottle of wine. We ate a Beijing duck, Duck noodles, Duck fried with pepper, squid and chili, veg with two king of egg and that was after our soup. Clearly biking gives you an appetite.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Day 2

From: Ho Tram
To: Phan Thiet
Time: 4h approx
Distance: 70 km
Average: 20

JJ>>Tired and more cramps, too hot, massage, sleep. Tired. Well that summed up today. Woke early feeling rather gaga, eat breakfast and struggled to get on the bike.

Morning was already hot and the wind completely against us - well done Cosmo for not sorting that one out and going in the other directly - well he did well enough sorting out all the fine wine and hotels. Up down, up down, up down, craps in legs, wind slowing us down to sometimes half pace, sun, updown, wind, updown, hotter and hotter, squeaking squeaking bicycle. Not enjoying it even though nice scenery and towns to look at. Stopped many times for water. Basically no energy and burned out from day before. Arrived at lunch point at some spa resort.

At this point I did not want to go on. Cozy had the great idea of going for a massage which really put the nail in the coffin of cycling anymore. The option of going on against the wind in bloody hot weather or a massage and then a aircon'd car was a no brainer. Great spa massage where I kept going in and out of an exhausted coma, sparrows flying around the room and hearing the waves crash on the beach. Heaven after cycling.

Got on our way in the car and spead up to Phan Thiet and checked into the golf course novetell which looks like it was decorated by a designer from the soviet era trained in Africa. All very nice and plush. Hung around the pool. Nice dinner and early sleep.

CJ>> Ho Tram to Phan Thiet
We started nice and early to avoid the wind (which we knew would become a problem) and sun and went out along the coast past sand and forest reserve which was pretty and also some planned coastal resorts which people are excited by but I remain to be convinced. I found the riding quite straight forward but Justin was clearly not enjoying it or really up for it. I felt strong until I rode over a green snake which was sun tanning on the road and was hit by a big beetle on the cheek. The countryside was very Vietnamese with paddy and also salt traps and every one was going about their business. We hit a sign which said Phan Thiet 104km and I thought this was a good sign but Justin was wisely deflated by it, knowing there was only sun and wind ahead. We made progress but the sun did become unrelenting and riding into a constant wind is not only tiring and boring but also depressing. Luckily we were cheered by the signs for our lunch pit stop and bigger signs for a resort. We duly arrived at the resort again getting very hot to find that we were the only two people there and they had a 170 staff. We initially intended to have lunch, have a rest and maybe swim. Like all good intentions it turned to surrender and we slopped off for a massage and dumped the bikes in the car and drove to Phan Thiet.
We had clearly been feeling tired from the day before and a whole host of excuses could be thrown out but I was frankly glad we could sort out both bikes (one in the car, one on the roof) and enjoy some air con and peaceful driving.
We had put in an acceptable day and it gave us the mental and physical vigor for the next day.
We had an uneventful dinner, only 1 glass of wine too much and rest at the Novotel which was exactly we needed.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day 1

From: HCMC
To: Ho Tram
Time: 6.20
Distance: 130 km
Average: 20.50
JJ>> Started off at around 7. An hour or so of dodging scooters, people and cars. Enough to make anyone awake. Arrived at an equally busy ferry terminal and headed further out of town.

Small roads that barely two cars let alone all the scoters and people fit down. Getting hotter and hotter and starting to feel it. Start to hit endless rubber plantations.

This country seems it can grow anything. Hit unpaved road which is not much fun on a folding road bike .

Lunch under rubber trees and really feeling the heat. Start feeling really tired. Legs start to crap.
Lots of up down up down. 6 liters of water later we hit our destination - a nice beach resort. To tired even to even look at the beach. Think some sun stroke. Have dinner and asleep by 9.
CJ>> Ho Chi Minh City to Ho Tram
Our first day on the road was a novel experience for me and as such I was full of enthusiasm and pluck and by the end I was fu…..

We kicked off from Ho Chi Minh as usual late and having forgotten the sun cream but the adventure had begun the night before as our driver had phoned to say he had quit! This being Vietnam, Yen found a new one at 10 o’clock and we were back on. Having departed Ho Chi Minh a bit late we faced riding with the morning traffic which means noise, dust and avoidance of the weaving bikes. We proceeded over the river by ferry and deluded ourselves with the thought we had hit countryside, this delusion went on for a while as we rode through the first of many rubber plantations and then hit a Taiwanese industrial zone that was devoid of tree cover and this combined with the rising sun was the first sign of the increase in temperature. The riding was pretty easy and we hit the highway to cross over at Long Thanh, we then hit a whole swath of mature rubber plantations which made for nice riding.

We took our first proper break which involved the nutritional diet of bike riders of energy drinks and energy related foods. We realized it was beginning to get quite hot (about 36) but we remained confident until we hit a plain with a road which suddenly deteriorated into a red dirt and was fully exposed to the mid day sun, we kept pressing on to get to our lunch destination but it was frankly horrible and the head really began to thump. This was probably made worse by the Ipod that I had tuned into to get me through it; my only comfort was that it would be harder for Justin as he had slick tires and no suspension. It hit 40 degrees and I felt like I was in a Discovery program on environmental degradation.

We eventually cleared the inferno to hit an area of rolling plantations and more countryside and eat lunch. The countryside then became more promising although we had entered the zone of wanting to just get the end; the problem was that this involved another 40KM. We eventually got through more sandwiches, gatoraid, cashew nuts, water (10 litres were drunk on the day) and more stops. Justin came down with a puncture outside a tire repair shop (this could be statistically quite common in Vietnam considering that there are lots of such repair centers). We hit the final leg which was suddenly deserted and the countryside had changed from tropical red earth to that of sandy backlands of a beach. It was really pleasant as we started to role into the beach area and then we hit the afternoon wind of rolling in from the sea and Justin got cramp 100m from the hotel and nearly had to walk in.

The fine wines and smart clothes were not thoughts of as we settled for massage (in which Justin fell asleep and started to snore!) and a couple of beers and food.

It was an important day for me as it confirmed I would be able to do the trip (at a 130km one of the longer legs) but I would not repeat this leg, rather we had arrived at a place to start from rather than arrive from Ho Chi Minh, actually for reasons which become clear this would be an ideal point to end on having done the trip the other way round.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Start Tomorrow

Back in vietnam for xmas and a 5 day cycle ride. its walm, i am out of shape, not enough training and i am going to suffer.

Ride should be nice:
Day 1: HCMC to Ham Tan (East of HCMC on coast).
Day 2: Ham Tan to Phan Thiet
Day 3: Phan Thiet to Bao Loc
Day 4: Bao Loc to Dalat
Day 5: Dalat to Nha Trang
Day 6: Back to HCMC by train

About 100km a day so not so bad but some nice hills along the way.