HCMC Dining Guide

Saturday, April 11, 2015

H2H 2015: Days 6 & 7 - The Road Bites

It's been an eventful past few days for H2H 2015, hence the lack of updates (plus spotty wifi coverage). Day 6 was a short 53km from Pho Chau to Huong Khe, all on the Ho Chi Minh Highway. This is one of the shortest days of the ride, unfortunately this year it rained almost the entire time. As a result I didn't take any pictures, and I also didn't enjoy the ride very much. It was cold and I was already battling congestion, and I also had my first crash. On a downhill a truck began passing from behind, so I moved over to let my friend Chris slide in behind me, and as I did so I accidentally rode onto the white line at the edge of the road. Immediately the bike lost any grip and slipped out from beneath me. I fell to the left, towards the truck, but knew it was there so popped up right away and moved back to the right. Somehow I managed to come away with nothing more than a slight cut on my ankle and some road rash on my thigh, even though I was probably going 30-35kph when I wiped out. Guess you could say I'm an experienced crasher.

The rest of the day was uneventful, and luckily the skies dried out by the time we reached town. Huong Khe is one of my favorite stops on the ride, as it has a pretty nice hotel and a lake which you can sit around while drinking or eating. The only negative was that we discovered that Bekah, who had crashed on the first day and hurt her left arm, had actually fractured it and needed to fly back to Saigon. We were now down to 19 riders.

Day 7 ended up being an extremely stressful one, for reasons I'll discuss in a minute. It was a 71km ride from Huong Khe to Quy Dat and started out fine enough. It was overcast but dry and I made good time towards the front with the usual fast riders - Chris T., Jack, Tat, Georges, Zak, David and Carolyn (if you'd like to see who this year's riders are check out this link: http://www.h2hcharityride.org/volunteer/). There was one significant early climb, which I remembered from past H2Hes, with a great view at the top.
The problem with this hill is that there are train tracks right at the bottom of it, which are very dangerous when hit at high speed. Luckily for us a train happened to be crossing so we had to come to a complete stop anyway. We carried on another 20km to Dong Le, a former stop on H2H, through small villages and past countless 'hellos' and high-fives from kids along the way. Once in town we had some amazing chicken curry for lunch. While eating, though, I received a call that there had been an accident - one of the female riders had hit the railroad tracks the wrong way, gone over the handlebars and knocked out three teeth while splitting open her lip. She was packed into the rear van and rushed to Dong Le, but the medical facilities there were inadequate. We then decided to have her driven to Dong Hoi, the nearest major city, about 100km away. Chris R., the team co-leader, went along, which meant I had to get the remaining riders to Quy Dat, our stop for the night, with just one support van. We made sure to stick together, and luckily the scenery the rest of the way took our minds of the accident.

We were nearing Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, and the landscape was just incredible. This region of Vietnam is a vast limestone plateau that stretches into Laos, and it is among the most awe-inspiring places on the planet, in addition to one of the only remaining largely untouched natural areas in the country.

There were a few tough climbs, followed by hilariously fun downhills, as we ascended the plateau. I stayed at the front and waited at the top of each climb before we headed down as a team. This was new territory for H2H, so I was left just as speechless by the surroundings as everyone else.

We finally rolled into Quy Dat later in the afternoon after a challenging day, both physically and mentally. We had received word that Rebecca, the injured rider, had received some treatment in Dong Hoi and was on her way back to Saigon for further care, along with Bekah. We couldn't believe that we had lost two team members in one day, but everyone seemed to be keeping it together. The view from the hotel was a good distraction as well.
That evening the group which had gone to Dong Hoi to help Rebecca returned, and the team was whole again (at least as whole as possible at this point). The following day would be a beast: 111km through the national park to Dong Hoi. But boy was it a good ride. More on that later.

Also don't forget to check out the team blog here: http://h2hrfvc.blogspot.com/

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