Today was the day. The start of the bike trip proper. Our friendly mechanic helped us find the road out of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) and then we promptly got lost. After a few sketchy U turns across a freeway we found the right road towards the coast.
The houses started to get smaller but bigger… In the city everything is reall small and on top of eachother. We had walked down a side alley, which turned out to be a dead end, but there were people living in single small rooms. It was their, lounge bedroom, shop, garage, the lot! Kitchen most often spilled out onto the road as they would all usually sit around a small table on tiny stools to eat communally with their neighbours. However the buildings themselves were massive, tall and skinny and all different. The houses heading out of town were becomming smaller buildings but they clearly had the whole place to themselves. Their front room with sofa and tv was still also their garage, I felt a special kinship with the vietnamese on this.
We had to pay 10,000 Dong (lol) about 30p, to cross the river in a ferry. It was stinking hot and crammed inbetween at least 100 bikes I was sweating buckets! The road opened up into another highway for a while. We were blasting along at a dizzying speed of 40km/h, well, we think so anyway. None of our bikes agreed what speed we were doing. Mikes thought we were doing 100 when mine said 40, and by the end of the days riding it was always on zero and we had only done 12km of distance, so it was definately knackered.
Not unlike the rest of Mikes bike. Blasting along in a three, Cam at the front, then me, then Mike. I had kept looking back to check on him because I had my suspicions about his bike from the start. Sure enough, hes not there so we pull over and find him with a flat tyre. Got that fixed after a short walk to a mechanics and carried on. The back wheel was really wobbly now, and was making his whole bike shake so we pulled over again at another mechanics – there is one about every 200m in vietnam it seems and good job too.
This time the prognosis was really bad. The engine had minimal compression and needed a new piston and rings. The guy knew his stuff as he completely dismantled the bike in minutes. He took the piston, got on a scooter and left us with only half a bike. It was a bit disconcerting but he came back, fitted the piston and rings and started the bike, it sounded a lot healthier but something was knocking. He popped the piston back out and took it off again, this time to have the crown machined to make sure the valves weren’t hitting it. Sure enough, the bike sounded a lot better but was still knocking. This was something I had suspected for a while, and the mechanic confirmed, that the main crank bearings were shot. He said it was ok to keep going tho so then he fitted a new tyre and that solved the wobble issue and we were off. Only 2 hour delay but now with a much healthier bike.
The delay meant that the sun was setting and now we had the prospect of biking in the dark. None of us had very good lights but we had to atleast find a hotel.
At last we came into La Gi and found a really good hotel that was as cheap as the hostels we were staying at. This might have been because the guide book said there was nothing to do in this town for backpackers. We thought it was great tho, to be honest, a pile of hay would have done the job. We were shattered.
Last thing to do was wash up and get some food from a street vendor. No english was spoken anywhere in this town so we sat down and the lady brought us what she brought us. It was amazing and luckily didnt give us the shits.