Long Phouc to Long Phouc 60km
An out and back ride is never on the top of my to do list, but today........we had no choice.
We ate breakfast and Ju drank coffee with Phoung. We even got to cheer the 100 or so road cyclists taking part in the elite grade road race, as part of the local sports festival, as they sped past the coffee shop. Then we said our goodbyes, cheered on by a group of youngsters enjoying the spectacle.
A short way up, yes up, the street we came across the veterans race start. Some were keen for us to join. Others were not impressed, so we snuck away, down a narrow steep hill. Yippee. This is my kind of riding.
Hundreds of scooters were heading into town as we headed out, and a rickety Bailey bridge was pretty crowded. But climbing, yes another hill, up towards the base of a huge hydro power dam, they thinned out, and now we got to dodge large trucks moving rocks and soil, and creating huge clouds of dust.
I'm feeling pretty seedy, as if I haven't eaten enough. The local pate they snuck onto my baguette isn't sitting well, and I'm trying not to push my right thigh too hard. It's pretty dash hot, and Ju is leaving me in the dust. Thank goodness for our first 10km break. A lady makes us delicious, ice cold, sugar cane juice, and sits with us with her lovely dark eyed daughter.
The next 10km I still feel pretty ragged. We stop at a garage and guzzle juice and sodas. We've been cycling for almost three hours, and only done 20km. Man, I need to make sure I eat more, because I'm really lacking in energy, but that pork fat and rice Ju ate last night would not have sat well.
We are coming up to 30km, and Ju is powering up the hill in front of me. We are very keen to find somewhere to eat, and locals have told us 7km to food. I round a bend and she is stopped talking to two uniformed gentlemen. She had been waved down by a big red stick. We are not allowed to go any further along this road. It is "Frontier Zone". What? Really? One of them rings the boss. Yes confirmed. We have to turn back. What? Really? But we are hungry, and food is just up the road. Rings the boss. They are instructed to escort us BACK (downhill) to food. What? Really? We follow very slowly and stop in some shade. They come back for us. On the phone to the boss again, and I am handed phone.
"Hello. I am Officer. You must go back"
"What? Really? Why? "
"I am Officer! "
"Frontier Zone. Impossible for you to go"
"I am Officer!!!"
We started heading back, looking for food. The locals all though it was a big laugh, us being turned around, but were very sympathetic. We stopped at a possible food stall. They were pretty much closed, but opened up for us. Sugar cane juice, noodle soup, and the whole village sitting with us, singing The Eagles Hotel California, which was playing on the stereo. Made me feel very homesick, but the food was sooo good.
Oh my goodness. No wonder I was struggling this morning. We are going downhill. This morning was all very subtle uphill. But then there are two BIG climbs up to the dam, and up into town, and it's stifling hot.........
But what an amazing days riding. Fantastic scenery, amazing people, yummy food and drink, challenging, and contact with the military.
And then we caught up with Phoung again. He took us to a huge event, in memory of the ending of the Vietnam War, 40 years ago, on the 6th January. We got to see all the preliminary speeches, but were just too tired to stay for the singers from Ho Chi Minh City. A big big night for locals, and a big big sleep for us.