Monster Truck Ride

Phong Nha to Vinh

At last a quiet night to catch up on the blogging. Not that I’m complaining (I’ve got zombie cake) so much cool stuff has been going on, but I want to write about it all!

Today was meant to be a Boring Day© , just getting to the next place was a couple days ride away. We are aiming for Nimh Binh. We only managed Vinh in the end.

So we wanted to get an early night and rise and leave fresh and early to cover the big distance. Our arses wouldnt be happy but it would help the various time restraints on us. Well after meeting the builders, we were in the bar and got chatting to some cool people and it turned into a really good night. This meant we were not up early and we were not fresh for the ride. The girls went on ahead of us and we would just have to suck it up and arrive later.

Finally we got going and filled up with fuel (nearly had to push Mike but he made it) we also bought a spare bottle to carry with us so we could just go till we ran out. One of the roads out of town was another war relic. A massive runway that had been incorporated into the road network. It was dead straight and wide as a… well as a runway is wide. Its was awesome to imagine the north vietnamese planes coming into here amongst the mountains in the heat of battle. Just a spectacular setting for a movie. I like to subtly remove the reality from these sorts of things because war is so horrendous, if you think about it too much it just gets depressing.

Not long after the runway road we were blatting along and over a bridge when Mike honks at me to stop. Big10 problem. He has hit a bump too hard and the suspension bottomed out and sheared off its mounting bolt. The whole rear swing arm is now just on one shock. With the weight of mike and his bag, I’m surprised it didn’t buckle! At this point we were royally screwed. Hours behind the girls, on a ridiculously remote jungle road, now with a busted bike and no way to get back to town to fix it. We unloaded the bike and checked out the problem. I had brought a little toolkit with me incase of problems and it had been used regularly for small adjustments. But major mechanical failure was a little beyond a wilkinson special multi-tool and some zip ties.

We flagged down a passing truck and the nice guy let us throw everything in the back and take us into town. It was slow going because there was nowhere to tie the bike down, Mike had to hold it enroute. We didn’t think we had come far but it was at least 20km back to the town. Luckily we had passed a mechanics on the runway road and were dropped off there. We offered money for the ride but he wouldn’t take it – again an example of wonderful Vietnamese generosity.

The welding in Vietnam is… interesting, to say the least. Because I am lucky enough to see expert welders everyday, seeing the shonky tacked up, pigeon shit welding that passes out here was awful. Often we would turn up in a hostel and the beds would have been welded together onsite by what I can only assume was a toddler. Maybe I need to develop selective weld-blindness, that’s a thing right? We were not here to argue however and the guy did do a lot better job than the other examples I had seen. Although, he did just rest a bar between the welder and the frame of the bike as the ground… that was a bit dodgy.

Fixed and on the road again, we decided to head back to town to see if we could put the bikes on a train. It would be a bit of a cheat on the bike trip but also an awesome experience. The only way to find out would be to go to Dong Hoi train station and ask, so we did that. They said it would be a day before there was space and it would take that long to bike. So by this point it was 3pm and we just had to get as far as we could. We just gunned it and made it as far as Vinh.

After biking so far and for so long today, Mike’s bike has developed quite an interesting noise. We need to get that sorted in the morning. It sounds like something between an asthmatic steam train and a tin can of pins… not a cool sound.