Ea Drang to Pleiku 104km
Mark has a point. Many of the major roads I've cycled in Vietnam seem to have major roadworks happening. So you've got three options. Get a bus. Ride the minor roads, which you know are going to have potholes and be dusty. Cope with the roadworks. Personally, I enjoy the challenge of the roadworks. I reckon it's good practice for when the roads really get bad. And I also compare what I'm riding, with what I've ridden, and really, these roads aren't that bad. So how do I cope? Here's some ideas.
First of all I slow down. What's the rush anyway? And going a bit slower allows more interaction with locals. Then I choose where I ride. I often use the hard shoulder, even if it's dirt. The scooters use this space, and there is often a reasonable smooth single track. I also mix it with the big rollers. They create lots of smoothness, and you're well away from the main traffic. You just need to weave between the rollers.
The worst place to be, although sometimes unavoidable, is on the narrow, dug up main drag, in amongst the traffic. There always seems to be a big bus or truck right behind you, blasting their airhorns. I could do without the horns. At least now my left ear is as deaf as my right ear, (as a result of Indonesia horns). The big challenge here is to stay focused, and out of the way. Gets the adrenalin flowing, that's for sure.
The scariest part for me is deep gravel. Fiona, with her road slicks, just doesn't like the stuff, so I generally unclip my shoes, get down into a Grannie gear, and hold my breath. Fiona doesn't like slippery mud either. Mud on the slicks makes for superslick, and sideways movement. Does nothing for your balance. Anyway, either of the above, plus buses and trucks passing within inches.....yep that's scarey...and you need to be focused. Doesn't take long for the kms to fall behind you when you're so focused.
So roadworks, are just a part of the big adventure. I really don't think they should influence your thoughts about a country. It is what it is. That's another part of the adventure.
Saw an interesting set of events today. A police van was heading in the same direction as I was. Three cops on board. As they drove, they flashed their lights at trucks. The trucks stopped, and the driver would get out with his docuements. One of the cops would stride over to him, swinging his big stick. The documents would change hands, and the cop would walk behind the truck. Too quickly for any truck or document inspection, he would emerge, sometimes patting his pocket, often smiling, and return to the police van. Both parties would drive off. Repeat, for 10km.
Meet a lovely young lady at one of my rest stops. Really good English, lovely smile and sense of humour, single, and would love to travel. Let me know if you're keen to meet her.
Another 100km tomorrow, and I'll be within spitting distance of the Laos border. In many ways I don't feel as if I've done Vietnam justice. It's the first country I've cycled in on this tour, that I would consider returning to. There's the whole northern area to see yet. Don't know when I will have time to fit it in, with all my other planned adventures.