Dec
31
2010

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Climbing to New Year's Eve

by Tara

Figuring out what the problem is, and making a plan to do something about it helps a lot, but at the moment, there's not much we can do to execute our solution. For the time being, we'll just muscle on, grinning and bearing it, even as we're passed by VIP bus after VIP bus, barreling down the mountain at breakneck speeds in the wrong lane (ours), horns blaring.

Da Lat, 140 km

We've begun a long slow climb, and the sun is a devil at my back, searing away. Hot and Slow has to be my least favorite cycle touring combination, tied only with "Cold and Wet." But at least with cold and wet, the more you move around, the better. Here, there's nothing to be done except gradually melt into the pavement, climbing a mountain at a snail's pace.

Tara Climbing in the Vietnamese Highlands Vietnamese Highland View Tyler Riding (& Shadow)

At the top of a bend, I see a man hosing down his truck. Cold water here I come! Practically leaping off my bike and foisting it into Tyler's hands, I run over to mime/ask him to please, for the love of god, spray me down. While a guy across the street chuckles at the sight, the man acquiesces, albeit awkwardly, and the heat of the day dissipates under the freezing cold spray.

After leaning our bikes up, Tyler joins me and asks for the same service. Apparently the guy feels a little less inclined to spray down another man, instead pointing to a nearby water spigot. Laughing, the two of us eagerly run over and turn it on, promptly getting utterly and totally soaked. Oh thank heavens for cold water.

Tyler, Dripping Wet Tara Under the Water Spigot Vietnamese Highland Landscape

Back on the bikes, our cool, all-natural air-conditioning has momentarily put out the fire on our backs. Unfortunately, the relief doesn't last long; as we inch our way up the mountain, we dry out in short order. The hot, hot sun is hell-bent on smiting us, and I need music in order to get my mind off the heat and noise.

Tara Picks a Soundtrack

After an hour or more of ever-so-slowly toiling with the sun at our backs, we pass, miracle of miracles, a waterfall. I run off my bike once more, climbing up some scrubby shrubs and rocks, in order to get at the cool stream. This cold water treatment tides us over for another twenty minutes or so.

Tara in the Waterfall

Eventually, the sun dips behind a mountain and oh, sweet relief, life is bearable again. Sure, there is still lots of climbing to be done, but I'm not physically tired, and with the sun out of the way, I'm free to go slowly in peace, without the constant harassment of heat.

Tired, Hot Tyler

We're very nearly at the top of the pass when our energy is spent. The two hundred meters ahead feel like two hundred miles, and every pedal stroke is grueling and slow. Thankfully, we round a bend, and there, perched on a rocky outcrop looking over a picturesque vista, is a small food stand!

Vietnamese Woman Making Sugarcane Juice

While we sit our tired legs down in a chair to watch the sun's golden light filter across the mountains, the sweet owners give us free bananas (thank you!!), and prepare for us the most delectable sugar cane and lime juice we've ever had the pleasure of drinking.

Sugarcane through the Press

If there's one thing I've learned about fitness on this trip, it's that there's a direct correlation between proper brain and body function, and food that fuels it. If I had a little meter that showed my power level, the bar would be increasing with each sip of juice, and with each bite of the ramen noodles we've ordered.

Sugarcane Juice on Ice

Feeling rejuvenated, the rest of the pass no longer looms so large. When we're ready to go, I fish through our panniers to get out our headlamps and orange emergency vests. There's no way we'll make it to our destination of Bảo Lộc before the sun sets. Back on the bikes we go, feeling superhuman thanks to the food and drink.

We finish the pass without trouble, then begin to reap the rewards of our day-long effort, coasting down into a quaint village with wooden houses, children playing, and woodsmoke that fills the air. It is an altogether different world on this side of the mountain!

With ample energy to enjoy it all, we descend, loving the wind in our faces. We feel we could coast like this forever, waving at kids, pedaling our way towards Bảo Lộc as the world sinks into darkness.

In no time, we reach our destination. The city is completely dark save for the strings of lanterns which hang above the roadsides. The town seems jolly and festive, and much more "Christmassy" than anywhere else we've been in Vietnam. With the smell of woodsmoke in the air, and the sound of carols emanating from an enormous church nearby, it could very well be Christmas at home.

But it's not, and instead, we're going to stay here an extra day to celebrate the New Year.

Bao Loc Lanterns

Happy New Year's Eve from Vietnam!


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5 comments

You know, I have no idea why you guys decided to do the trek up to Dalat. I hated the ride up, and I was in a mini bus!!! It's a scary ride, with no room for passing.... And it's all uphill! It can't have helped your feelings towards Vietnam. You should have done the coastal road to Mui Ne - it has no one on it (really, not joking) and it follows the sea and sand dunes... maybe it would have given Vietnam some hope of charming you!
Posted by Magalie on March 13th, 2011 at 8:32 AM
We went because we wanted to see Da Lat! Sure there was climbing, and yes, cycle touring can be hard work at times, but the people we meet, the sense of accomplishment we feel, and the memories we take with us (both good and bad) are always worth any hardships we might encounter along the way.

We never felt unsafe due to the traffic, it was just all the blasted noise that got to us! We really enjoyed our time in Da Lat, it was absolutely worth the effort.
Posted by Tyler on March 13th, 2011 at 9:26 AM
this reminds me so much of cycling in Bosnia! The stifling heat while trying to go up hills and traffic rushing past you. But at least you had those cool down breaks along the way, i'm very jealous!
Having said that, riding down the other side with the wind blowing through your hair and people waving as you did it made it so worth it!
THe pictures capture the exhaustion and relief perfectly!

Posted by sarah j on March 14th, 2011 at 2:00 AM
Thanks, Sarah! Interesting that cycling in Vietnam would be similar to your experience in Bosnia. I would love to go there someday, along with the other countries bordering the Adriatic... but maybe in the Spring or Fall to avoid the heat. :-)
Posted by Tara on March 20th, 2011 at 3:02 PM
Hello , my name is Yohan and I found this forum and its members really nice!
Posted by yoyonoob on November 15th, 2012 at 11:17 AM
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