Quang Ngai to Kon Tum to Buon Ma Thuot
We headed out of town on the bus to avoid the traffic of highway one. First stop was a type of corner store where we bought ice. There were huge blocks of ice sitting in a box covered in bags and banana leaves and e shops over chopped of pieces with a saw.
We started riding once out of town and the first leg was 15 kms up and down the foot hills finishing with a steep climb of about 10 degrees. It was as hot a the day before and this time with hills. I realised I was still feeling a bit dehydrated from the day before so opted for the bus for the next two legs – 15 and 20 kms respectively of similar terrain with the day getting hotter. As the temperature (and the steepness of the hills increased) gradually more and more joined me on the bus with a hardy group cycling the whole way. However, at the top of the mountain pass all got back on our bikes and rode the 15 km straight down the mountain. The views of terraced rice paddies and wooden houses were fantastic and often our way was blocked by herds of grazing buffalo.
We stopped for tea and coffee at the bottom and the boys joined in an impromptu game of soccer with the local kids. Then it was back on the bus to the next town and our hotel. One hightlight was another song about Ho Chi Minh but this time he taught us the chorus so we could join in.
The next day dawned overcast and rainy so our plan to ride through a rubber plantation had to be canceled to due the mud. However we drove though the drizzle for a few hours and then started riding. It was so much better than the past few days as the cloud cover kept the temperatures down. The morning ride was 53 kms with two rest breaks and I kept in the front group the whole way where we found ourselves spontaneously singing about Ho Chi Minh as we cycled along. We rode up and down gentle hills but has another big steep decent where we met a herd of cows about half way down. We were on back country roads through villages and farms and it is harvest time so we met many a tractor or ox drawn cart filled with produce.
We stopped for lunch in a local noodle house and had a beef hot pot for lunch sitting on tiny plastic chairs. Each table had a gas burner on it, surrounded by a plate of noddles and a plate of greens, and a plate of tofu, we each had our own bowl. The they brought out the hot pot which had strips meat in a broth. When it was boiling we added the tofu, put noodles in our bowls and served a helping. Then, we added greens and had a second helping. They kept coming round with jugs of broth to top up the hot pot and more noodles and greens. It was completely delicious but it must have been a surprise to any locals coming in for their usual lunch to find the place packed out its 15 sweaty westerners dressed in tight fitting fluro clothes.
The weather was worsening and clearly some big storms had come through. We were travelling on a back road part of which was dirt and came to a flooded patch partly washed away. The two engineers in the group took charge and we filled the pools of water with logs and stones and eventually the bus and bike truck passed safely through. Onwards to another rubber plantation where we had a look at the rubber being tapped and then rode about 5kms through the plantation until the rain and mud made the path too slippery – that plus three flat tyres was a sign it was time to get on the bus a bit sooner than planned.
Headed to our hotel for the night, where we hosed ourselves down outside before tramping our muddy feet into the marble foyer.