22 December 2013

Pleiku to Khâm Duc – 288 km in seven hours

On the road early Tuesday (day 9) to give myself a little more time for what I was told was a bad road to Kon Tum. As I left Pleiku, I stopped for a bit of breakfast at a roadside stand – here shown with a couple of guys who stopped to say hello and checkout my helmet. There are very few full-face helmets in Việt Nam, at least from what I've seen, and mine gets attention everywhere… I'm sure in part because of the hi-viz color.

I still don't know what was in the bread though it was sweet and the color of the green sprinkles my Mom uses to put on cupcakes. A very unappetizing green...

Maybe it's because I'm getting used to the roads, or perhaps because I stood on the pegs a good part of the way, the road was significantly better than I had envisioned.

When I saw a very large statue off to the side of the road I decided to take a short break to check it out. In addition to the statue, there are a pagoda, and a temple in which they were conducting services. The doors were open, so I listened for a while as I admired the statue and the pagoda.

Back on the road again, I was soon through Kon Tum and headed for points north. Just outside of Kon Tum, the weather changed--colder with rain. At one point I found myself thinking that although the scenery sure looks like Việt Nam, the weather sure feels like Olympia...

Now, in addition to the rough roads, I had cold, rain, and mud to deal with... and gravel, remember the gravel...

After riding a bit longer, I came upon a huge traffic backup led by two trucks. In the trucks there were men throwing out fake Vietnamese and American money. The first truck also had a man  who alternated sticking a drum and a gong. I nodded to him as it was my turn to pass and he nodded and smiled back.  It felt good... like the locals who smile, wave, and call out, "Hello!" as I walk or ride by. Maybe I don't look like a local?

By early afternoon I was both tired and hungry, so I decided it was time to stop for a hot bowl of phó. I was the only customer in the roadside restaurant, so I got to sit and watch Vietnamese soap operas with the family as we all ate.

Did I mention that it's cold and raining?

After lunch, it was a constant alternation of dirt, mud, on– and off–road riding. In my experience, it's often like that here, making the riding constantly challenging and interesting. As you know if you read the post, "The Beginning", I'm very new to motorcycles. This adventure is giving me all kinds of experiences every day.

As I neared Khâm Duc and the end of the riding day, I hit a long downhill with tight curves. At the top of the hill there was a 40 kph sign--the last such sign I will take as a mere suggestion :-)  About two curves in, the road was suddenly covered with gravel. Who the f__k thought it was a good idea to throw gravel into so many curves? There must be a very large group of people who are responsible for it because it seems that the most difficult curves are very frequently made more so with the addition of strategically placed gravel--sometimes a little and sometimes a truck load. For those who have only ever driven cars, I will tell you that gravel in a curve is NOT something you want to see you while riding a motorcycle! I suddenly went from enjoying the rhythm of the curves to "Oh shit! OH SHIT!!! Oh shit!" as the bike slid sideways toward the guardrail. I'm still unsure how I managed to keep it off the rail, but I did! WHEW!!!

Pulling into Khâm Duc non-too-soon (today's map), I saw the Phuoc Son Hotel on my right. It was well-recommended in a couple of the blogs I've read, so I checked in to an adequate room for US$10 per night… a good end to a long and challenging day... 50% farther than any previous day! I just hope my sopping wet gear can dry out overnight.

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