HCMC Dining Guide

Saturday, February 25, 2012

H2H Day 21: Get Me Off This Road

We've been riding on the same highway for the past four days, and for the most part it is horrendous. It looks fairly smooth, and you are able to pick up a healthy head of steam, but it is covered in deceptively innocent-looking potholes that make such speed absolutely brutal. Going downhill on this road surface is just shattering - our bikes have no suspension of any kind, so our arms act as shock absorbers as the shallow holes in the road pummel our skeletal systems to pieces. I got a headache several times, not from the burning heat, but from being bounced around so much. These bumps are so vicious that they could easily throw you off your line and into the steely embrace of a dump truck, so staying focused and in a straight line is extremely important. At least the strong headwind of the previous day had slacked off.
That road looks pretty smooth, right? Wrong.
There is also no shoulder, and when the idiotic bus and truck drivers of Vietnam try to overtake each other, we often have no choice but to go off the road in order to avoid becoming another statistic. We've had several instances in which drivers have even intentionally run someone off, for reasons unknown. On the 80km ride under a cloudless sky from Ea Drang to Buon Ma Thuot (from now on just BMT), we all neared the breaking point with this road.

I came close to breaking more than just mentally about 35km into the ride. I was going downhill, rather quickly, getting bounced around like a piece of popcorn, when a motorbike passed me just as a truck going in the opposite direction came around a blind corner in our lane. The moto cut right in front of me and started braking. I slammed on my brakes but could tell I wasn't going to stop in time, and the result was...well, watch the video. I happened to have a helmet camera filming at the time:

(It's hard to make out, but apologies for the vulgar language at the end.)

That video is a prime example of how quickly things can go wrong on the roads here, and how dangerously people drive as well. One second I was cruising, the next I was on my back in the dirt. Fortunately this happened in an area where there was grass, not gravel, along the road, so no skin was opened up, but I landed squarely on my right calf, which will be bruised for a while.

I got up and dusted myself off and carried on. We stopped for drinks at the halfway point in a town called Buon Ho, which had a simply gorgeous church on its main road.

After that break it was back to more jarring cycling on the road from hell, until we hit the 22km to go marker, when the highway smoothed out and allowed us to absolutely crush the remaining distance. I rolled into BMT around noon, covered in sweat and dirt, and my rest day began - no more riding until Saturday. Obviously, plans for the rest day involved the Colonel. (I actually think KFC is pretty disgusting, but when you've eaten almost nothing but noodles and rice for three weeks...)
After everyone arrived and scarfed down some chicken, we got our hotel sorted out and began to decompress. 400km to go, but now we rest.

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