Stow your tray table, put your seat back in the upright position , open the window blind and hold onto your nuts.....we invite you to join our 2 year (which has now turned into a 3 1/2 year) adventure in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon. Vietnam....look out! Here come the Moggys!
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Saturday, May 26, 2012
A Slow Bike to China - Day 4, Final Day.
early again as we
were rewarded with cooler weather and the most magnificent ride
through another spectacular mountain pass. No time for breakfast so
we scoffed down a couple of chocco pies each and headed off into the
clouds. The road (TL212) was some of the most fun riding we had
experienced all trip and really tested our off road skills and the
durability of the XRs. It was still a fairly major road (as far as
the maps indicated) but there were long stretches of dirt, gravel,
mud and serious potholes, that had us up out of the saddles as though
on our own road of bones. (eat your heart out Ewen and Charlie !!!).
As much fun as the road was, I think we were all pretty happy with
our decision the day before to take refuge at Tinh Tuc, rather than
tackle two hours of this in the pitch dark. It was like this for and
hour or so, before descending into a lush green valley below. Our
early morning conflab had decided that Ba Be lake was now out of the
question as this being our last day of riding, we had to end up in
Hanoi. Ba Be would take us out of our way and we would have had no
time to look around anyway so unfortunately this will have to wait
until next time.
QL212 heading South from Tinh Tuc.
Into the valley below
Stopping for fuel and Banh Mi (Bread)for breakfast in Na Phac
we hit Na Phac, the QL212, which had briefly become the QL279, now
became the QL3. The pace picked up here as the road quality and
width also grew. We did experience a heap of massive 18 wheeler semi
trailers that seemed to be coming from Hanoi and heading toward Cao
Bang (one of which I showed you earlier on its side). Pete's bike
was still struggling with its asthma but wasn't too bad as the we
left the serious hill climbing behind us. Non the less my bike
decided to go out in sympathy and started to lose power and even cut
out completely when in top gear. The QL 3 was in great nick and
would take us all the way to Hanoi, via the major town of Thai
Nguyen. Just shy of Thai Nguyen we hit a three lane freeway devoid
of any traffic and we all enjoyed hooting along at a rapid pace for a
bit. If this keeps up, we will be having our lunch in Hanoi. Making
great time now.
freeway only lasted 20 minutes and then we hit Thai Nguyen, which we
opted to bypass completely and push on towards Hanoi, despite Turbo
being in desperate need to extricate himself from all those chocco
pies!!! The QL3 South from Thai Nguyen to Hanoi was pretty much road
works, gravel, dust and mud, for about the next 40 minutes. Traffic
was heavy and there was was some pretty crazy overtaking as we all
tried to keep the group together. Once we cleared the roadworks
however, the pace increased and we were looking to make great time
into Hanoi, around 1.30pm.
we did need to stop one last time, 20 kms short of Hanoi to fuel up
and give Turbo his much need opportunity for relief !!! Just as we
were patting ourselves on the back for making such good time and
being disciplined about taking shorter rest stops etc, another
challenge presented itself. Pete's bike said enough is enough, get
stuffed, I'm not going anywhere.
found a mechanic, had him come with his scooter and push Pete's bike
back to his shop about a km away (with his foot wedged on Pete's
pillion peg). After the first hour and several calls to Anh, we
spied a taxi parked across the way and discussions about worst case
scenario ensued. We could always leave the XR for Anh to collect,
Pete jumps in the cab who leads us back into Hanoi. Sounds abit like
the sad wagon again so we opted to stick it out and eventually after
a false start and a new watchamathingy fitted, we were on our way
once again and still with a few hours of daylight left. Would have
been a shame for us not to all finish this epic journey on two wheels
under our own steam.
getting into Hanoi was no where near as challenging as expected as
the QL3 lead straight across the Chuong Duong Bridge and into the Old
quarter near the North end of the Hoan Kiem Lake. At the Southern
end of the bridge is a massive round about, and once safely past
this, my crappy sense of direction must have figured this was no time
to test our Ha Ha levels and lead us straight to the Essence Hotel.
you enter Hanoi on a Sunday, as the traffic is likely to be
significantly lighter, as was the case with us.
arrived dirty and sweaty at the Essence to an enthusiastic hero's
welcome from the friendly staff. We dropped our bags and then took
the short trip around the corner to return the bikes to Offroad
Vietnam. Anh was apologetic for the trouble the bikes had caused us
and informed me that he had 18 second hand XR engines, currently
stuck at the Chinese border awaiting clearance. He assured me that
next time he would ensure I had bikes with much newer and more
reliable engines. My final word on Offroad Vietnam is that I would
actually recommend them as I believe they probably do have the best
maintained fleet of XRs available. This will be especially true if
the 18 newer engines make it across the border. Doing this trip with
a guide, mechanic or even a support vehicle would definitely have
been a safer and more sensible more way to have seen the Heaven's
Gateway, but it is as I said at the start of this blog, it was these
very challenges that made the trip what it was.
finished off with some pizzas and beer at Gecko around the corner
(really craved some western food) and then a few more beers and a
couple of Cuban cigars over looking the Hoan Kiem Lake.
in all a legendary trip that will not be soon forgotten. Adventure,
good mates, motorbikes and magical scenery. Would I do it all again?
Shit Yeah !!!
Click on the link below to see the google map of the route we took
and distances covered each day. Note the unrealistic time estimation
of google. Do not plan your trip based on these times. Doubling
them is more realistic, but this still doesn’t allow for stops,
breakdowns or doubling back after getting geographically embarrassed.