Friday, 21 August 2009


Unable to gain access across the Vietnam border to China in the North, Leana and I had to beat a hasty retreat – I guess it’s not the first such retreat in the past 6 decades or so! Our best option was to cross into Laos from Central Vietnam, which meant a fair amount of back-tracking. First, however, we had to deviate to the N-E coast, to experience the famed Halong Bay – World Heritage Site. From Haiphong (big river port and 3rd largest city) we took a ferry to Cat Ba Island, and stayed over in pretty but touristy Cat Ba town for a day (impressive views from our cheap room – photo). As with many touristy places in this country, karaoke and massage are advertised all over (also known as “singing and sex”). Much of Cat Ba Island consists of beautiful, hilly, tropical forest National Park – through which we cycled to the Northern ferry port. From there the ferry took us through the surreal Halong Bay (flat sea scattered with tall pinnacle rock islands) back to the mainland. Earlier Leana had received spares from SA, and on our Southern retreat one day we spotted a guest house which had adequate space for me to do an overhaul on her bike (with spectators and unwelcome helpers – of course). As fate would have it, 2 days later we cycled the entire day (135 km) in “Typhoon Rain” – deep flooded roads and wet gravel clogging up the new parts on Leana’s bike and destroying what was left of those on old Saartjie (my bike). We retreated back across the DMZ to Dong Ha, from where we headed West on Highway 9 (formerly a branch of the infamous “Ho Chi Minh Trail”) towards Laos. Before reaching the border town of Lao Bao we had to traverse a testing ascent over the “watershed” (where rivers flow East to the sea and inland West to the Mekong river valley). We crossed the border to Laos on the very day our Vietnam visas expired – how’s that for cutting it fine! Daily distances cycled since the retreat from Hanoi are:- HaiPhong 109 km; Cat Ba 14 km (+2hr ferry); HaLong city 37 km (+1 hr ferry); Bieu Nghi 27 km; Nam Dinh 127 km; Tinh Gia 135 km; Vinh 103 km; Ky Anh 104 km; Dong Hoi 96 km; Dong Ha 98 km; and Lao Bao 84 km. Total distance from Cape Town to Lao Bao is 45252 km.

No comments: