A beautiful country, Lance Armstrong, Capturing the illusive hairless silverback gorilla of Central Vietnam, and the Universe speaks, the short story of Day 11.
Opening the curtains this morning it seemed we were in for another wet day. We headed to breakfast and there was a very clear and visible order of best shirt washer. Aji's shirt was white, as if never worn before except for a few little marks here and there, when asked how did he do this (real men chat for us at breakfast!!) he gave us his top tips for cleaning a white shirt - use cold water!, second place was myself, more grey than white and with a fairly disgusting odour, third and a long way last was Jon, who frankly looked like he'd gone outside and washed his shirt in a muddy puddle, it was three tone grey and brown with stains all over it, with Aji one side and Jon the other for a second I could have sworn I was having breakfast with Rab C Nesbitt and Martha Stewart.
In our best Jane Fonda cycling get-up we headed to the lobby to check out, with Wham playing through the hotel speakers we found it perfectly acceptable to do our hamstring stretches in the middle of the lobby, mid hamstring stretch I was interrupted by a couple from Australia who handed me a 100k VND note, perhaps to get me to stop stretching, but they said politely it was for the children, Diane and Lloyd you are a very generous couple! Thank you.
As we rode out of the city fear genuinely came over me, up front my worst nightmares as a child was literally coming to life and in all places Daklak! The Daleks were here, I used to hide behind the sofa on a Saturday night when these things would be on Dr Who!! Scared, I floored it faster than trying to out sprint rabied wild dogs.
We continued riding through central Vietnam, the landscape is beautiful, coffee plantations, pepper farms, men and women doing hard yards in the fields, but all with smiles on their faces. This part of the world is tough but very special.
As we cycled through a little town we saw a boy ride through red traffic lights in a hurry, immediately it was time for another race, and this time we were beaten by a country mile, again smiles and laughter all around and a magical high five whilst riding to end the race.
As we started the many ascents through the mountains, Jon's black magic bag came good today, the pills and potions inside had clearly made its way to every cell in his body as today he transformed into the incredible mountain climbing gorilla, racing up the mountain roads faster than Lance Armstrong. Unfortunately this meant I was following him downhill, and yet again he decided to be a disgrace and I rode into a mist of filth at 50km/h, it was that bad I couldn't see and almost crashed my bike.
From my perspective it was evident Jon needed a toilet break, so we stopped by the side of the road and Jon crept into the bushes to relieve himself, within seconds a man appeared from nowhere equipped with a bow and arrow ready to capture the illusive hairless silverback gorilla of central Vietnam.
With a lot of wind, rain and mountain climbs it had been a tough day, we we're tired and the universe spoke. We needed water so we stopped at a nearby shop, it was evidently a poor area, there were kids outside the shop, full of smiles and their economic situation plain to see, I decided to buy the kids some milk and they were so happy and grateful, we started talking to the owner of the shop, we told her what we are doing and then she told us her son was diagnosed with congenital heart disease 7 years ago, in that year they had a good coffee crop and prices were high but the cost of surgery was also very high as the condition was bad, 200mn VND bad / 9000 USD, (coincidentally the same amount as we received from one extremely generous and kind hearted donator two days ago), 200mn VND was a figure they couldn't afford and their son was going to die, so with the help of heartbeat and with the local province and national insurance doing their part, their son had the surgery he needed and is now living a very full and happy life. It was incredible that by chance we stopped in this shop in very rural central Vietnam and the lady who owns it is directly connected with what we are doing. With this amazing experience the final 12kms were the best of the day.
As we finished the ride a little girl came up to say hello to us, she has so very little, like many people in this area but is clearly so very happy and so very friendly. The people in this part of Vietnam work extremely hard, they have little material wealth but they are incredibly happy and wonderfully friendly, it has been an indescribable pleasure being able to see the rural areas of central Vietnam and its magical people, I feel blessed.
Unfortunately very soon thereafter I was taking my shoes off only to realise the clip on one of my shoes had broken, my shoe was done up tight and now I couldn't get the thing off my foot, I had visions of having to sleep , cycle and shower in this wet boot until Saturday.
After a long day we got back to the hotel and it was fantastic to see amazing friends and my wonderful wife, their support means so much to me and is hugely motivating, I am so happy they are all here and have been able to join me and experience so many aspects of what we are doing.
We are all cycling to Nha Trang tomorrow, it should be fun :)
Thanks for making a difference and helping save a life.