17 December 2013

Carving a mountain into a road with hammers and chisels

I'm a bit behind in my blogging, so will start using days of the week for those of you reading new posts as they go up...

Saturday morning, after our usual breakfast of phổ and a mini-loaf of the wonderful, light bread that is surely a legacy of the French occupation long-suffered by our hosts' ancestors, we headed southwest from Đà Lạt to pick up the shortest route north.

Speaking of legacies, I'm still trying to figure out what legacy the Americans left after our approximately 20-year intercession here. I've narrowed it down to the destruction of forests and ecological devastation of Agent Orange; Eurasian children (also, no doubt, from the French and others, so no); or the oh-so-endearing terms g__k and z___head that should be thought of as most of us now think of the n-word. Did I leave anything out?

Our morning goal was to stop a "Crazy House" on the way out of town and then head for one of the many waterfalls shown on my map.
    (Photo by Annika--I didn't hike down)

Apparently the people we asked how to get to Crazy House have the same definition for "easy-to-find" that many companies use for "intuitive"... It's easy once you know it. We asked, "Crazy House?" and kept hearing, "it's that way" or "it's just down the road" accompanied by a pointing of the hand. We never found it and since the girls were very excited about waterfalls, I gave up and we left Đà Lạt. The description I heard of "Crazy House" is Gaudi-meets-Sesame-Street, rather than supply a hyperlink, I will let you DuckDuckGo it. As a HUGE fan of Gaudi, I'm afraid that if I look it up I will be very disappointed I didn't search a bit harder.

Almost as soon as we left town, we hit major road construction. As in mud, not pavement or even gravel, along with weaving and dodging to avoid earth movers and construction vehicles in addition to the normal trucks, buses, vans, and cars. It was significantly more challenging than what we have come to accept as "normal" Việt Nam traffic where increasing size increases both power and right-of-way. I hardly flinch now when a truck or bus barrels down on me from the opposite direction only to shift a little at the last moment. The most exciting so far was when a truck cut in front of me to avoid hitting another truck head on, and missed clipping my helmet by about 6 inches... and I just jigged and kept on riding. Three weeks ago, had that happened at home, I would've pulled over to the side of the road until I stopped shaking.

New the end of the construction, there were a couple dozen workers literally breaking granite boulders using only hammers and chisels. We pulled over to take a short break, and Philine took this photo:
At one point, the square headed woman (a.k.a. my Garmin nav unit) took us down a narrowing two-lane road. After less than a 100 meters, we pulled over to check them out because the road was only 1 to 1-1/2 lanes wide due to vegetation creep. 

The larger view on the GPS showed that this was indeed a shortcut so we went ahead. It wasn't. We dead-ended at a small encampment at the edge of the lake that had covered the road. We turned around and headed back to the main road, following the road itself instead of listening to the square-headed woman. For now.

Here's a photo of the lake as we crossed, taken from a bridge just a kilometer or two from where we'd attempted the shortcut. I'm pretty sure you can see where we dead-ended just a few minutes agoit's the small open spot on the edge of the lake just above the penultimate structure on the right of the frame.Those are floating homes, not flooded ones.

As we rode on, we encountered a few of the Easyriders of Việt Nam; easily identifiable via their vests, bike markings, and the fact that they have a farang riding behind a native. Easyriders takes tourists on motorcycle tours, either on the back of a bike with a guide, or with a guide riding ahead and leading the way. After waving hello a few times, we stopped and talked to them during one of their rest breaks. When we said that we were going to Buôn Ma Thuôt, one of the guides suggested that we stop at Lak Lake (
Liēn Son) with them, instead of going all the way to BMT. He even suggested a hotel, so we agreed to meet them there.

After another long day's ride (click here for the map), my back is killing me, and there's no massage in this town. It's funny how people react when I told them I want a real massage not a boom-boom massage. Yes, that's one of the versions I've been told about :-) The hotel manager in Đà Lạt apparently did not believe me. She said that the only massage she could find for me would be an overnighter. I passed, even though I really needed the massage… on my lower back.

Off to bed... 

Spoiler alert... Tomorrow we get to Buôn Ma Thuôt. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi john
    amy told me you are havin some problems with some ribs..
    if you can get some 2" nonallergic medical tape you can tape these ribs from the sternum to under the arm pit to the spine to stabilize the ribs long enough to heal... a day or so or so orso...
    hope this is helpful...
    really enjoying your trip!!