Day 21-25

Editors Note:  Please note that these blogs were written at the end of each days ride and contain extraordinarily horrible grammar.  We aim to fix this up as time permits.  

DAY 21 

We were up early again and strapping our gear to the hogs at 9am, the hotel woman from the previous night was thankfully out of sight. We paid for the overpriced coffee and with a little coaxing, managed to kick start the life back into the bikes

Highway 1 started off gloriously with almost empty 3 lanes going each direction, our joy was short lived as is soon descended into the chaos we know Highway 1 to be

Lucky for us we had the empty road of the Ho Chi Minh trail to hone our bike skills. We were ducking in and out of traffic, overtaking and making good pace toward Ha Long. We were looking for a turn off that took us off Highway 1 and onto the road to Ha Long bay, this proved a bit tricky with one road leading to a dead end and some sketchy directions. We stopped for lunch at a Pho bar who for some reason served everyone else in the establishment but us. Dejected, we packed up and left to find another one where the hearty broth gave us the energy to push on the final few hours.

We arrived in Thai Bien very early. We decided not to push on any further as we knew we could not reach Ha Long bay today and there would be no decent accommodation passed Thai Bien. We asked a lady for directions to a hotel and ended up infront of one of the best hotels in the town. We decided to treat ourselves to the best rooms we’ve had yet.

At 4ish, feeling a bit hungry, we stepped out looking for a snack, we walked the streets of Thai Bien and saw alot of men getting their beards shaved by roadside barbers, something we might do tomorrow morning! We also spotted a vendor selling fresh loaves of the glorious bread this country produces. We instantly picked up some warm soft rolls and then decided to find some cheese to go with them. The hunt for cheese took us far and wide and into many shops, despite playing mini games of pictionary with the shopkeeps it was hard to convey what we wanted and couldnt see cheese anywhere. Finally we decided to give up and head back to the hotel where we noticed a built in minimart selling everything we could possibly want. Including cheese.

To top off our wonderful day of relaxation, we ordered pizza delivered to our doors and watched Due Date in the comfort of our room while sipping unusual locally brewed ales.

Tomorrow we hit the road to Ha Long bay, one of the sights we have really been looking forward to. Should be great!

 

DAY 22 

Last nights kip was a real treat.  Comfortable beds in awesomely big, clean rooms and the morning view out of the huge window looking down on the city got us in the mood.  We checked out and headed to the hogs.  We’d planned to go to one of the many street side beard groomer stalls and get our faces feeling less sandpaperish. Yesterday when we arrived the streets were lined with them but this morning there was only 1.  He was also already with a guy.  That’s okay we’ll wait our turn.  This is until, he started using these sharp tools to clean the guys earlobes.  If that wasn’t bad enough he was showing the man what he’d got.  Absolutely gross.  We decided we didn’t want that tool being shared with our ears and skipped the morning shave.  Besides we had a natural wonder to see.  Ha Long Bay.

The roads today were very busy.  Everyone seemed to be heading towards Ha Long Bay.  This meant we could barely go faster than 40km’s/hour on most roads.  Bus after bus overtook us and would hog the lanes.  On a positive note the sun was shining again meaning the ride was at least pleasant.  At one point we’d been going down the same road for a good 30km’s and I decided to pull over to check that it was the rite road to be on.  It was like we still hadn’t left the town we’d been in last night yet.  At this point Pattni bombed rite past me not noticing I’d stopped.  Brilliant.   At least it WAS the right road to be on however further down the road Pattni was now on the opposite side of the road heading back.  He said the road became a dead end.  This conflicted with the fact that a lady just told me it was the rite road to Ha Long Bay.  We went to the dead end.  It was a dead end.  However a cheeky suprice awaited us.  The dead end was a dead end due to the fact the road turned into a big lake and to get across the lake we had to take a boat!  Pattni, the hogs and I piled on to a vessel with about 10 other bikes and we made the 10 minute trip across the lake.  On board we met a Vietnamese guy who lives in Australia and is back on holiday.  It was interesting to hear his story about how he ended up in Australia.

Once we got to the other side we continued to bomb it.  We were making okay time and looked at arriving in Ha Long at about 4pm.  The riding today was very uncomfortable.  I don’t know what happened to our seats last night but it was like we were both sitting on concrete slabs the entire time.  I also have to make mention that I kept getting the most incredible wedgies.  We stopped 3 or 4 times to try and get comfortable.

Finally arriving in Ha Long Bay we could see some of the rock formations out at sea already.  We found a nice hotel overlooking the bay and then went out to a beachside cafe to have a chow down and celebratory sud.  This was well worth it.  It was such a feeling of accomplishment.  We were here in Ha Long Bay.  Who’d have thought we’d come so far, 4 weeks later.  Afterwards we went back to the hotel to wash up before dinner and then we headed out to an awesome restaurant where we feasted out.  Tomorrow morning we’re up at 7.30am for the Ha Long Bay cruise tour, we’ll be back at the hotel at about midday and from there we’ll be hogging it 180km’s to finish off The Greatest Trek.  It’s been a hell of a journey and it hasn’t sunk in that tomorrow will be our last day on the hogs.  I don’t really want to think about it :(

 

DAY 23 

Rise and shine and it’s 7am.  Jesus.  I thought we were on holiday.

Opening the blinds and the view out to the bay is amazing.  In the distance behind some morning fog lay the crusts of Halong Bay.  Today will be an epic day.

After turning on the shower for a good 5 minutes and only cold water streaming out I miss the shower and get ready.  By 7.30am we’re down in the foyer waiting for our taxi.  20 minutes later it arrives and we’re hustled to our boat.  The SS Titanic.  Actually it was a small wooden tug boat, really cosy.  We get some prime seats on the open top and we set sail.  It took about 40 minutes to get across to our first stop and as soon as the rocks became viewable everyone went photo crazy.

Our first stop was a huge cave.  The place was packed, hundreds and hundreds of tourists walking around in single file.  It was how I’d imagine a Jurassic Park opening day.  The cave was lit with tons of LED’s which almost took away its mystique.  After touring the cave we got back on the boat and headed to what we really came to see.  Ha Long Bay.  This is until the captain realised we’d left a man behind and had to head back to the cave to pick him up.

Soon enough we were cruising the main stretch.  Hundreds and hundreds of rock formations sticking out of the ocean.  Amazingly beatiful.  You can see just why so many people come here.  Theres something enchanting and fascinating about them.  The boat which was at first noisy and energetic had now become silent as everyone just gazed in awe of what was around us.  We had another pit stop in the middle of it all for what seemed like a good hour.  Pattni and I soon became figity so we bought an orange from one of the many sellers floating around in there own rafts.  We made a game called ‘Who Could Throw The Orange Most Daringly And The Other Person Catch It’.  After going through 2 oranges and hitting cans of beer and annoying other passengers we were en route to our final stop.  This was the best stop as we got to munch down on noodles and chips.  Heading back to the mainland all we could think about is the ride to Ha Noi.  We thought the tour would be 4 hours but it had now stretched on 6 hours.  Our plan to make Ha Noi by sunset had gone out the window.

Getting back to the hotel the receptionist tried to scoundrel more loot out of us for the late check out but after insisting we were told the tour was 4 hours and not 6 they gave up.  We strapped up the hogs and bombed towards Hanoi.  Traffic was horrible heading out of Ha Long but we still managed to get 80km’s under out wheels before the sun started to dissapear.  We stopped halfway between Ha Long Bay and Hanoi at a small town.  We found a nice hotel and the lady who ran it was one of the best hosts we’d experienced for quite sometime.

After an evening bowl of Pho we retired back to our rooms and were asleep by 9pm, absolutely shattered from the long day we’d just had.  Tomorrow we get to Hanoi!

 

DAY 24 

We woke this morning full of excitement.  This was it.  All the months of anticipation.  All the mystery.  Everything that had gone into this trip was to conclude 80km’s down the highway.  Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi in 4 weeks with not a single minute of riding experience between us.  How have we made it this far?

When we hit the road it had already started to drizzle, certainly not the sort of weather we’d been expecting to finish the trip with.  The drive to Hanoi, despite the miserable weather, was without a doubt, one of the most exciting legs we’d covered since we left Ho Chi Minh City, but not due to anything particulary memorable happening but because something we’d only ever laughed about was actually coming to fruition.  It was raining so hard that at one point I had to pull over and make one last purchase.  Moments later, Team Rwanda now sporting a classy, locally made rain poncho and Team Pony-mane riding only as the Pony-mane knows how,  representing the familiar short sleeve t shirt complete with nipples representing icebergs, we bombed ever closer to Hanoi. The stones on the side of the road that we’d grown to ever appreciate and love, depicting the distanct to go became less and less.

Finally, in the distance, the hustle of Hanoi city.  We were so so close.  In fact, before we could pull over and collect ourselves we’d already entered the official precint of Hanoi!

As we rode past a sign welcoming us to the city of Hanoi, the first thing I noticed was not that of any major traffic build up, a stark contrast in landscape or a significant change in the culture of people surrounding the roads.  But it was seeing Pattni fist pumping the air in pure jubience.  He turned to me with the biggest smile on his face I’d seen from him and then I returned it right back to him.

Yes, yes we had done it.  We’d rode from one side of the country to the other and we’d done it with nothing but each other and the bags on our backs.  Every mechanical break down.  Every cold, wet storm.  Every sweaty, burning heatwave.  Every scavenged meal and rickety bed, suddenly felt far more worthwhile than we’d ever imagine on the whole journey.

For us this was our greatest trek.  This was something we’d set out wanting to do for so so long and despite all the doubts, we never lost sight.   This was a trek that we’ll more than likely, never forget.

 

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DAY 25 

We flew back to Ho Chi Minh City.  The flight was good.  The end.