18/10/10, 99 days to go, Vietnam Road Trip

99 days to go! Unfortunately back in May i’ve been hit by some persisting stomach bugs, for which I eventually was put on antibiotics. Not once, but twice, because the first round of medicines didn’t quite do the job. All this medicines left me somewhat weak in the knees and at the end of June I found myself unable to ride more than 10km’s or so, feeling just exhausted an light in the head. Not a good thing when you just committed yourself to a 12.000 km bike ride 😦
Since then recovery has been quite slow. My stomach and gut remained quite sensitive to both local Vietnamese food and more conventional western food, but there was progress nevertheless. I’ve been riding 25k’s across the Bai Chai bridge every day for the past 2 months and during the weekends I made some 75k trips. But despite that, my enthusiasm for the Tour d’Afrique has slowly been replaced with utter fear for the monstreous task ahead!

With only a little over three months to go until my departure for Africa, I now had to decide whether I would procede with this amazing venture, or whether I would postpone the trip until next year. I figured that the best way to find out whether the body will hold up is to make a little trip with my bike. So that’s what I did.

Day 1: Halong – Cat Ba Island – Hai Phong, 83km, 800m elevation gain
On friday I left around 0700…

…in order to be in time to catch the 0730 ferry to Cat Ba Island, located in the beautiful Ha Long Bay.

Views from the ferry were magnificent and the weather was very nice 🙂

And Ca Ba Island is King Kong Land. They actually shot the latest movie here. Lots of butterflies as well.

With my head in the clouds, but there were none, so not really. 

30k into the ride, Cat Ba, Backpackers Paradise. Feeling strong so far. Conquered quite some hills already. 

50k into the ride I took the ferry from Cat Ba Island back to the Vietnamese mainland. 

It was quite crowded 🙂

On the mainland I ended up on the highway…

But as long as cows can use the highway, so can cyclists…

And then I entered Hai Phong, one of Vietnam’s largest port cities. 
Staying in a hotel nearby the French Opera House, now used to commemorate uncle Ho. 

There were flowers to congratulate me on my first proper day of cycling. I made it through the day without any problems! Very happy with myself!
Day 2: Hai Phong – Ninh Binh, 125km, 400m elevation gain
I left at 0600 to beat the heat, but it was already very busy on the streets. Vietnamese like to beat the heat as well, using the big park in Hai Phong for their sporty morning routine. 

Leaving the city along very busy roads. Which was nice for the first 10k, but after that the polution in combination with the high temperature became quite bothersome. 

But after 30k I left the city behind me and I found myself surrounded by rice paddies. 

And I made a new friend 🙂 

Vietnamese landscapes are beautifull, but today unfortunately I cycled along a lot of very busy roads…

But the last 10k’s or so I cycled through Ninh Binh, which like Cat Ba is King Kong land as well, but on the mainland. 

I stayed in one of these very nice huts 🙂

I love ducks! And they were everywhere!

After installing myself in the hut and after taking a shower I had energy left to take a boat ride!

Need I say more?

All these remote places, only accesible by boat!

Because I wanted to take another shower later in the evening I decided to climb some stairs as well. 

Taking me to this crazy path through the bush. 

Taking the boat through the cave, back to the civilized world again. 

Visiting a budhist temple…

With this nice bridge…

And these nice lotus flowers…

Staying out untill the sunset. What a wonderfull day. What beautifull place. Body still feeling okay!
Day 3: Ninh Binh – Cuc Phuong, 85km, 1000m elevation gain
Out early again, through Budhist landscapes.

No busy roads today! Only Cuc Phuong National Park!

The road into the rain forrest! Going up! With some crazy steep bits…

Look at this 🙂

And downhill was even better!
The bike ride was good. However at the end of the day my stomach was protesting a bit, but not to much… Nevertheless it made me worry a bit… Did I gave to much during these last three days?
Day 3: Cuc Phuong – Hanoi, 120km, 400m elevation gain
Leaving at 0600 again, with a wonderful sunrise. Originally I had intended Cuc Phuong to be my final destination and had intended to take a taxi back to Halong. Especially because I didn’t like the perspective of the busy roads around Hanoi. But despite that, I wanted to know whether the body would keep up…

I do not regret my decission to keep going…

Views were quite spectacular and roads were not very busy!

Made another nice climb…

Found some more rice paddies…

Some more tower karst….

And only 20km before Hanoi the roads became busy…

Hanoi always feels like a little village to me, but that’s only because the city center is so nice and compact. 

Outside the center there’s al these massive housing blocks. Future vertical ghetto’s…

This one is okay…

I like cycling into Hanoi. Not to bad. 
My stomach bothered me a bit during the first 30 or 40k, but after that I sat on the bike quite well! 405k completed in 4 days without any significant complaints!
Day 5: Hanoi – Halong, 150km, 600m elevation gain
Like I didn’t intend to ride my bike to Hanoi, I didn’t intend to ride it all the way Back to Halong either. But I did anyway. 

I’m very happy that after Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, London, Berlin and New York I can now add Hanoi to the list of cities in which I rode my bike 🙂

Leaving the city across the old French steel railway bridge. 

Across the red river…

Feeling quite at home, on a dike, along a river, comming across an occasional cow. 

According to google maps this is a main road 🙂

I like the colors of the rice fields!

Entering Quangh Ninh Province again…

Local Vietnamese ladies having fun with my bike 🙂
And after 150km back in Ha Long, with a view on Cat Ba Island again. Feeling very relieved and pleased with myself. This trip was the confidence booster that I needed. Knowing that I can do 5 days in a row, with 30+ degree temperatures, with some 10-15kg of baggage in my panniers, finishing with a 150km ride with an increasing head wind… It eases my mind 🙂 a lot 🙂 🙂
So I’m not rolling over the Tour d’Afrique until next year. I just keep doing my daily rides and will keeping taking it easy until my departure. I’m now looking forward to Africa again, instead of fearing it! Nevertheless I am quite aware that I will only be attempting to cycle across the African Continent, and that there are no guarantees that I’ll actually make it…
99 days to go!

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