60km, av. 15.2km/hr, max 48.8km/hr, time on bikes: 3hr 57 mins
As the heat intensifies, our starts are getting earlier… but still not that early. Today we’re on the road by about 9.15am. The sun breaks through the low cloud around 9.35, so at least we beat it by 20 minutes!
The heat today is hard work, but the roads and scenery are fantastic. The first 35km or so are some of the finest we’ve rode so far, with a beautiful, well built, undulating road (Route 14, the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail) following the river valley as it twists and turns, with barely a house to be seen, just a valley filled with lush tropical vegetation and the sound of birdsong. There’s even a moment when there isn’t a single electricity pylon in sight!
We lunch (crackers and a pineapple found on the road yesterday) at a beautiful roadside waterfall – not sure if it has a name but you can’t miss it – where the temptation is too great to not stand under its cooling waters. It’s soooo refreshing!
The remaining 25km are much harder, as the heat and the gradient increases. It’s not killer, but there are several 10% stretches, and the 30c heat is pretty intense (although we know it’s gonna get hotter!) We take it easy, with plenty of rest, rehydration and shade breaks, and arrive in the town of Khan Duc at about 4pm.
Khan Duc is also bigger than we expected (maybe all these hills are making us think we are still in Laos?!?) and there are loads of guesthouses, although the rooms we see aren’t great. Obviously, word gets out that there are two frazzled-looking cyclists looking for a place to stay, as a glamorous looking woman from the big Be Chau Giang hotel rides up on a moped and asks us to follow her. They have cheap rooms for 150,000 VND which are a cut above what we’ve had for this price previously, so we go for it. There’s even shower gel and shampoo, and towels that are bigger than face cloths! Plus, the mattress is *almost* comfy… we’ll sleep well tonight and we need to – tomorrow is the Big One…
** PS. Today was also our first (and last) anniversary as a couple together. I forgot it, Rachel didn’t, and I was in the dog-house all of the following day if I remember rightly; so there are some good memories mixed with some not-so-good memories on this day and 1st March 2015. I’ll always be sorry about this. **