John Denver. 4 weddings and too many funerals. Resilience & Beauty. Fit for a King. The story of Day 6..
What a day, thank you all so much for your words of encouragement after yesterday's shocker. What I failed to highlight yesterday is that after the day I had experienced I couldn't stay in a shared, no aircon room, with mattress on floor, in a homestay - which was the plan. I told the guide to take me to a hotel and it was the best decision I have made thus far. A decent meal and a good sleep in the best bed on the trip meant I woke up feeling good and ready to shake yesterday off...as Taylor was repeatedly telling me at 5:30am.
With Spud firmly back in the saddle we set off and thankfully today our guide could ride with me, the bike was rolling well (my performance has nothing to do with me, it's whether the bike is rolling well) and I quickly got into a great groove. As we headed out of Phong Nha the remnants of the war were evident to see, every rice paddy has huge craters in them, these craters are from the bombs which were dropped during the war. As we got to 30km I was immediately taken back to a place as a child; country England and the strong smell of Hay and cut grass, the smell took me immediately to a time when I would walk in fields and play poo sticks over little bridges. This lasted for around 20km when the next smell hit me, the distinct smell of Gum Trees. I couldn't have scripted it, a real flash back to a wonderful time as a child and then a smell so distinct to our future in Australia, with these thoughts in mind and a very long country road ahead of me, the lyrics to the John Denver song played through my head loud and clear... ‘Country road take me home to the place I belong’... To be honest I wasn't thinking about Australia or England, I was thinking about the Nam Hai in Danang and that ridiculously opulent villa Ms Miller is currently staying in, that's where I was wanting to belong at the 50km mark this morning!!
The scenery along the road was again beautiful, but this was surpassed with the people whom we saw and met along the way. I saw some children riding home from school and as I rode alongside them and said hello, they went faster, so I asked them if they wanted a race, not being understood I said it more loudly and slowly in English because as we know from previous experience this works... Quickly realising again Brit abroad does not work, I shouted the words Go Go Go... and we were off, a full on race with all the kids, smiles on faces and laughter all around it was again a magical experience.
A little further along the road, two women were drying the rice they had collected from their field this morning, it is such tough work in such tough conditions but you would never think it from the smiles on the faces of these women, these women are incredible.
With 100km complete I stopped, and from the sound of old school techno, Karaoke and men shouting Mot Hai Ba Yo (1,2,3 skull your drink) I knew we were near a wedding. As I was packing up my gear I could see Ronnie in sign language discussion with a smartly dressed man; Ronnie was being invited into the wedding. I could see him politely refusing and he quickly got into the van. I got in and asked him what happened, he told me the bloke had invited him in, so I asked, why didn't you go and have a look? quick as a flash he responded, “I was frightened I might end up down the aisle with one of the village women from yesterday”. Brilliant.
As we crossed the DMZ into Quang Tri we learned about the horrific stories of the war and the hundreds of thousands of lives that were tragically lost in the very area we were riding through. This area was the most heavily bombed during the war and thousands of bombs and land mines remain unexploded. There have been far too many funerals in this part of the world..
As we cycled towards the ancient capital of Hue we passed some truly magical places; with the smell of incense sticks lingering in the air we rode through little old villages with temples and pagodas, people were playing and washing in the river, men were playing pétanque, farmers were taking their hens, geese and chickens home, men were finishing their long hard days in the field and one man in particular got my attention, he was carrying two huge bales of hay over his shoulders, it was 4:30pm and 34 degrees, his trailer was full of hay and he had been doing this all day. I thought to myself, whenever you think you're having a bad you're not, it's easy, this is tough. The people who live in this part of the world are remarkably tough, they live in a beautiful part of the world and make the most of everything they have, the genuine smiles on their faces clearly illustrate they are happy...Wonderful people in a wonderful county.
Entering into the imperial city of Hue through the old walls was spectacular, as was the sight of the forbidden city. The finest coffee in Vietnam is supposedly here in Hue. The French brought their best coffee here for the King and supposedly the best coffee is still here, I look forward to trying tomorrow.
Upon arriving at our hotel I couldn't believe my eyes, the hotel room is definitely fit for a King, we have literally gone from the ridiculous (including Spring mattresses with no filling) to this! Unbelievable!
Hopefully I sleep well tonight as we are off to Hoi An tomorrow for Day 7, Aji and Mike riding too, it should be good.
Thank you all so much for your support, today you made a huge difference to me.