Distance: 44 miles
A horrendously early start with a 4.15 am alarm, really felt tired this morning as only got a few hours sleep last night. After breakfast we boarded buses for a 3 (?) hour transfer to our start point. I dozed through most of it so have no idea what time we arrived but sun was out, out, out.
After a pit stop of mid-morning snack it was time to hit the road. Today’s route ran alongside one of the Mekong’s tributaries, but this was no sleepy backwater, both river & road were busy with traffic. Huge narrow draft boats, painted with the ‘lucky eye’ on the prow, carried cargoes of building materials and stone. Stilt houses lined the banks, water hibiscus grew in abundance. Although the plant is useful as animal fodder & fertiliser, it is a rampant weed that threatens to overtake the river, making it impossible to navigate.
Gradually we moved away from the riverside, to cycle through acres of paddy fields and in the distance through the haze we could see hills, our final destination.
The heat was incredible and just as you thought you couldn’t go on, you suddenly saw the waving arms & friendly smile of one of the Vietnamese support team, complete with cold water & ice. After refilling water bottles, the cold water & ice were used to bring down body temp. Cups of freezing water were tipped down shirts and over heads. Everyone dunked their cycle helmets, and filled their buffs with ice to rest on the back of necks. Many of us stuffed ice cubes into our bras or into the holes in your helmets so it would gradually melt. We all kept an eye on each other’s water intake, as yesterday several ladies were taken ill after drinking so much water on the long road that their sodium levels dropped dangerously low. Thankfully our support team has 2 doctors so overhydration was quickly recognised rather than the dehydration the ladies thought they were suffering.
Lunch was again amazing, the roadside restaurants we have stopped at, have all provided fantastic food, and here we had the opportunity to thank our Vietnamese support team who would be leaving us at the end of the day. We had cycle guides, the mechanics , the water stop drivers all of whom went above & beyond the call of duty. Always happy to point out a ‘Happy Bush’ or if indeed there is no convenient outdoor location for a roadside wee, then asking local families if the stricken lady could use their toilet facilities. Ahh the toilets you may ask, pleasantly surprised, somewhat smelly but doable, but have experienced worse in French ski resorts circa 1980!
As you cycled closer to the border, you could see subtle differences in the people & were surprised to hear for the first ‘party political messages’ being broadcast from speakers along the roadside, why it was deemed necessary in this area, I have no idea.
The last run to the hotel was a steady climb into the hills, but with the route scattered with pagodas, buzzing villages and the ever present shouts of ‘Hello’ from local children, it was interesting rather than arduous.
Our reward, a night in a fantastic hotel with views that stretch for miles over the valley we had cycled through.
Tomorrow we have a day off the bikes as we take a 6 hour boat journey upriver to Phnom Penh, crossing into Cambodia.