Breakfast of bread, fried eggs and a red coloured jelly, which may be replica jam (sugar and E numbers, I guess). A steady run for 7km back to the bridge we crossed yesterday and turned left following the river and then started to rise over some stiff climbs. We stopped for lunch half way up a hill and the sun came out for the first time this trip making the temperature rise to 25-30 deg C and it was a hot afternoon. The van drivers made a good lunch on their burner and wok of chips with garlic accompanied with cucumber, tomatoes and warm tinned tuna.
Tuesday 29th March 2011 Dong Van to Yen Minh
Woke up at 6am to bad weather today, misty and drizzly and dull. Breakfast at 7am and away at 8am. Cycling today took us through the Lung Cu commune, the northern most area of Vietnam, bordering China. This was a big day again with 80k covered and climbing 1900 metres, which was so hard I succumbed to cadging a tow off the local bus for about 2k to give my body a rest. I was later given the title of founder (and only) member of the new CTC - Cyclists TOWING Club.
At Lung Cu some of us hardy ones climbed the 700 steps to the monument and took in the views over China (Trung Quoi). We retraced our steps back up the hill and passed through villages of the Lo Lo tribe and followed a narrow road winding its way through the mountains to Sug La and the ancient town of Pho Bang then on to Pho Cao. We looked as black as the ace of spades when we had finished. Our clothes were full of grit and mud as none of the lorries sheet their loads and the wind and rain blow the loads off onto the road.
Our day ended with a 15k descent to Yen Minh to stay one night at the Thao Nguyen Guest house, which was quite new and the best yet, although the bed was hard and my shoulder complained all night.
The Vietnamese people are very friendly always smiling and waving at us. Seen more ploughed hillsides with more buffalo dragging primitive wooden ploughs, haven't seen any tractors. The people act as beasts of burden carrying huge bundles on their backs. The women are tiny, miniature, standing about 4' 8" with packs on their backs too. The Vietnamese put us to shame with their wiry bodies and capacity for carrying heavy loads. So far, Vietnam is an interesting place with wonderful landscapes. 50m 80k
Wednesday 30th March 2011 Yen Minh to Ha Giang 62m 90k Had a good sleep then woke to more mist and drizzle and back in long trousers again today as only very brief periods of sunshine.
A long day today climbing out of town and passing through amazing terraced rice paddies. The mist cleared about 11.30am giving us much better views from the hilltops. After lunch half way up the mountain we climbed another 7k to Quan Ba Heavens Gate pass then continued to Ha Giang for another one night stay. (Perhaps they should call it Hell's Gate for cyclists). The climbs today were very steep (as usual) and I fell off on a hair pin bend when my front wheel skidded on wet, loose material as I slowed down to take a photo, bruised and bloodied but nothing serious. We saw motorcycles and donkeys loaded with bamboo canes on their way to town and dogs piled up in baskets behind motorbikes on their way to market. The higher we went the rice production gave way to maize plantations, using every nook and cranny and steep hillsides.
The Huy Hoan Hotel was very nice and the food was excellent. I am still trying to get my clothes dry from two days ago due to the cool weather and unheated rooms. I would hang it from my saddle but it would be blacker than when it started out.