HCMC Dining Guide

Friday, April 19, 2013

H2H 2013 Day 13: It's a zoo!

This was the first of the officially sanctioned Evil Bitch Days (though the Hue - A Luoi trek certainly could've counted this year) - those select days that combine long distances with intense climbs. We had 105km (65 miles) to cover on the way to P'rao, and there were two major ascents to contend with.

A short climb about 20km in gave us a peek of what we were in for that day - mountains spread into the distance, and we weren't going around them.

The sun was finally out after roughly 10 days of thick overcast, and we were looking forward to getting our cyclist's tans going. The first climb was hot and fairly steep, and definitely caused some problems for a few people. Though it was hard, I felt good. I couldn't help but realize how much stronger I felt on the bike than when I did H2H last year.
The top of the climb was signaled by the first of the day's two tunnels. The team assembled and we goofed around for a bit before continuing on. The next stretch was incredible, with twisting, slightly downhill roads providing us with amazing view after amazing view.
We soon hit the second tunnel, where a bunch of us climbed on top to keep an eye out for the remaining riders. Once the team had regrouped we headed off, the day's main downhill just a few minutes away.
The downhill was a serious adrenaline rush, with a number of hairpin turns and a steep descent that allowed for major speed. My brakes were almost useless, and my hands quickly tired of slamming the brake handles down. Around one corner was this fresh landslide - luckily no one ran into it.
Almost as soon as the descent ended the road curved back up, signaling the start of the second major climb. I remembered this one being tough last year, though more so psychologically - it's really dispiriting to round corner after corner only to see the road keep going up. Conor and I were riding together, and we worked our way up slowly. It was hot, and we were sweating buckets. Eventually, finally, things began curving down. A few mountains away a thunderstorm was brewing, and I thought we would get wet.

There were also tons of animal encounters today - I almost ran over a huge pig that ran in front of me; a terrified goat exploded out of the bushes next to Conor and I; cows lazed about; and dogs tried to attack people. I think I saw more animals than people or vehicles.

After some nice downhill we finally hit a small village 20km from P'rao, our destination. This was the first of civilization all day, and it meant food. We settled in as other riders arrived, and we quickly learned that almost everyone had been poured on in a major thunderstorm. Soon after the storm arrived and let loose a massive torrent of rain. We decided to wait it out, and right at 4pm things cleared up. We mounted up for the last stretch.

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera on me for this, since I had put it in the van to avoid the rain. The scenery was stunning, with low clouds draped over mountaintops. I rolled into P'rao an hour later and was told by one of our support van drivers that there wasn't a room to be had in the whole town. Apparently there was a conference on locals using locally-made products going on. Huh? After some debate it was decided that the best plan was to have the vans drive us to Da Nang, 65km away, where there would most definitely be room. There isn't much in this part of the country, so there were no other towns to try.

Still in our sweaty cycling gear we piled into the vans for the drive to Vietnam's 3rd-largest city. The road through the mountains was narrow and rough, and it took nearly three hours to get there. We ordered Indian food online and immediately hit the hay. It had been a major day.

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