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E-bike expedition part 4 Vietnam - Online diary 2016-2017

Motor under water – unforgettable birthday – crazy idea

N 16°02'55.0'' E 108°14'54.2''
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    25.01.2017 until 26.01.2017

    Day: 575 -576


    Quảng Nam

    Da Nang

    Latitude N:

    Longitude E:

    Daily kilometers:
    118 km

    Total kilometers:
    21,629 km

    As the crow flies:
    84 km

    Average speed:
    19.9 km/h

    Maximum speed:
    47.7 km/h

    Travel time:
    5.54 hrs.

    Soil condition:

    Maximum height:
    480 m

    Total altitude meters:
    59.238 m

    Altitude meters for the day:
    739 m

    06:18 h

    5:39 pm

    Temperature day max:

    09:00 a.m.

    Arrival time:
    5:40 pm

(Photos of the diary entry can be found at the end of the text).


“Happy birthday my beloved darling. I wish you many more wonderful journeys and expeditions. Above all, health, contentment, happiness, enjoyment of the moment, fulfillment and success,” Tanja’s voice wakes me up. “Thank you,” I reply and listen to the torrential rain, the uncomfortable sound of it splashing inside our room. “Does it make sense to drive on in this constant downpour?” “It’s your day. You can decide how you want. If you want to stay here, that’s completely fine with me.” “Actually, I didn’t want to spend my birthday in such a remote, rainy village.” “I can understand that. Then we’ll just go to Da Nang. It’s a big city and we’re sure to find a better place to stay there and maybe a restaurant where there’s something tasty to eat.” “Hm, but that would mean not only cycling 120 km through this awful weather, but also having to cross the Cloud Pass.” “Who gets to cycle through Vietnam in a monsoon on their birthday? You certainly won’t forget that.” “I don’t know if that motivates me right now. I think I’d rather stay. We can go to the street restaurant from last night. The food there wasn’t too bad after all,’ I reply indecisively. After some back and forth, we decide to stay. At 8:00 a.m. the heavy rain lets up a little. I stand under the small canopy in front of the room and gaze thoughtfully into the gray sky. “Maybe we should set off after all?” I ponder uncertainly. “As you wish,” Tanja replies. “Okay, let’s go then,” I decide. As soon as our saddlebags are packed, it starts pouring again. Nevertheless, we load up our bikes and leave the coastal village behind us. It doesn’t take long for the water to seep through the zippers of our rain pants and run into our shoes despite the protection. After 30 minutes we are soaking wet. Just like yesterday, we cycle along narrow roads through many villages, which would certainly be idyllic if it wasn’t raining all the time. After 50 km, we meet the A 1 highway again, on which the trucks hiss back and forth. At a fork in the road, signs prohibit us from entering the 6.3 km long Hai Van Tunnel, which pierces the pass of the same name ahead of us. Only cars and trucks are allowed to use it. Two-wheelers of all kinds are forced to drive over the pass, which is almost 500 meters high and 20 km long. Shrugging our shoulders, we accept the next challenge of pedaling over the cloud-covered Hai-Van or Cloud Pass in this miserable weather. Click, click, click, I shift the Rohloff down from fourteenth to third gear to master the climb. Even in this terrible weather, the bike technique works flawlessly. Although the engine is sometimes more under than above the water due to the deep puddles, it purrs reliably.

The China Sea appears to our left. Low-hanging clouds combine with the foaming spray of the meter-high waves. The roar of the surf far below us reaches our ears over the dripping tropical forest. Numerous motorcyclists rattle past us. Some drivers and passengers give us the thumbs up and motivate us with their shouts of encouragement. When the rain lets up a little, we stop to take a few photos. As soon as the camera is unpacked, the gates of heaven open again. I quickly stow the expensive equipment back into the camera bag hanging from the saddle. I hope she can take it. The higher we get, the denser the clouds become. It doesn’t take long before the billowing gray wall draws the two cyclists into itself and limits their view to just a few meters. To be seen, we switch on the front lights and attach our flashing red rear lights to the trailers. Tuuuuuuhhhhht!, sounds the loud horn of a train that is working its way over the once strategic mountain pass not far from us, which forms the natural weather divide between South and North Vietnam. The remains of an old bunker shimmer out of the fog. A witness from the time when heavy fighting took place right here during the Indochina and Vietnam wars. Tuuuuuhhhhht!” the railroad horn roars through the wall of fog, recalling the terrible disaster when the Việt Minh blew up a bridge pillar on June 24, 1954. Two locomotives and 18 carriages plunged almost 20 meters to the ground, killing 100 people.

After crossing the highest point of the Cloud Pass, we let our bikes roll down in a controlled manner. The visibility improves with every meter you go down. “I think it’s actually warmer here!” Tanja calls to me happily, sticking her thumb up. The on-board computer displays 100 kilometers. We cycle into the third largest city in Vietnam. Da Nang welcomes us with crazy traffic chaos, which demands maximum concentration from us. In flow mode, we weave our way through thousands and thousands of mopeds of all kinds, following the twists and turns of the Blechanakonda through the metropolis. A strong wind blows towards us from the South China Sea. Fortunately, we left the horrible wetness on the other side of the Cloud Pass and are almost dry again, apart from our still dripping shoes. My satnav guides us through canyons of high-rise buildings. As dusk approaches, the lights of numerous hotels, some of them expensive, flash towards us. “Here it is,” I say after 118 kilometers, pointing to the hotel that we had pre-booked yesterday and that accepts our dog. “If you want to take your dog into your room, it costs 100,000 dong (€4.15) extra,” says the receptionist to Tanja. “But they advertise that dogs are accepted at no extra cost,” she contradicts. After a phone call with the owner of the house, they still want 50,000 dong (€2.08) from us. Tanja is angry and won’t accept a surcharge, so we get back in the saddle and drive on to find another place to stay. The first two hotels we went to wouldn’t tolerate dogs, and the third would tear a deep hole in our coffers. “Let’s go back and pay the extra price. False pride won’t get us anywhere,” I say. “You’re right,” Tanja replies.

After almost nine hours in the saddle, we roll our bikes into the underground garage and clean the saddlebags under a jet of water. Another hour later, we open the door to our beautiful, clean and dry room. Exhausted, I let myself fall onto the comfortable bed. “I think you were right.” “What do you mean?” “I definitely won’t forget the birthday,” I reply, rising again.

“Can you hand me your flashlight, please?” asks Tanja, who is looking for something in one of her panniers. “Yes,” I reply, but can’t find it. “Did you leave it at the last accommodation?” “Nonsense, I don’t leave my valuable head torch anywhere,” I reply, slightly annoyed. “So where is she then?” “No idea,” I reply, emptying all four panniers. “Not there. She’s not there. I just don’t believe it. There was nothing in the room when we left,” I say, thinking about where the important piece of equipment might be. “Maybe you left them in bed?” “In bed? Hmm, could be, actually. Possibly slipped between the mattresses. Or under the pillow? Man oh man I think I’ve actually forgotten them. Well, that’s a shitty birthday present,” I get annoyed. “Don’t let the headlamp spoil your birthday. It’s just a lamp.” “But a very expensive one and apart from that, I need it every day.” “Then we’ll have to make do with my lamp in future. Apart from that, I don’t believe in losing it.” “How is that possible? It’s not in the bags, so I left it there. We don’t even know the name of the guest house, we don’t have a phone number and if we did, we couldn’t even ask for it because they don’t speak a word of English there.” “I have an idea how we can get her back.” “Well, I’m curious about that.” “We’ll call the receptionist at Beachbar Hue who sent us to the basic accommodation after we didn’t stay. Maybe I can get her to stop by and ask about the lamp.” “And then?” “Well, if the headlamp is still there and the owner is honest, he’ll give it to her. I’ll ask them to send the lamp here in the post.” “Wow, that’s a crazy idea. If it works, I’ll believe in miracles.” “Miracles happen all the time. I have a good feeling about that.” Tanja’s motivating words put us in a better mood again, so we leave our accommodation and head for one of the many restaurants. After being served overpriced and burnt squid rings, we leave the rip-off store and find a better restaurant. Because it’s my birthday, the manager buys us two cans of beer. I enjoy a seafood pizza. “Tell me, Tanja. Wasn’t Da Nang a city on the coast of central Vietnam affected by the environmental disaster?” I ask, chewing with relish. Tanja looks at me with wide eyes. “You don’t mean the Taiwanese company FORMOSA PLASTICS GROUP, which dumped highly toxic wastewater into the sea, causing the biggest environmental disaster since the Americans used Agent Orange in the Vietnam War, do you?” “These are exactly the criminals I’m talking about,” I reply, puling the pieces of fish out of the pizza…

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