Bleeksie, Ci and Frederik set out from Hoi An for a ride that would take them into the mountains for 5 days of serious fun. The brief was 3 days of hard riding for the boys, then two more chilled days with a mix of cycling, time with the family and exploring remote Tay Giang district.
Day 1 was a relatively easy 115km along quiet and picturesque rural backroads up towards the mountains, with a total of 918m climbed. After a mostly flat ride through the rice paddies, then some ascending past Khatu villages, dams and acacia plantations, we arrived at the jungle along the Lao border and our home for the next two nights, Kham Duc. This is a friendly and relaxed town with an excellent hotel and some brilliant food.
Day 2 saw us tackle a demanding 120km out and back ride to Dak Glei, which takes you over the Spring Pass twice for a total of 2248m climbed. This pass is a triple-headed monster that takes you up to 1100m. Luckily the amazing jungle scenery studded with waterfalls helps take your mind off the pain. At the end of a gruelling day we were glad to see Kham Duc again.
Day 3 saw us heading back north 120km to meet up with families in Bhohoong village. This ride involved yet more spectacular jungle scenery and good quality, quiet roads. After a nice descent to Thanh My for lunch, we set about the business end of the day: an 8km climb at 5% closely followed by an 11km climb also at 5%.
The cool temperatures made these bad boys much more enjoyable than usual. Slightly easier than yesterday at 1979m gained. On getting to Bhohoong we found that family members had just beaten us to the bungalows, having bused up from Hoi An and Danang. We wasted no time in joining them for a glass of red.
Day 4 and the following Sunday were to be shorter rides allowing us to meet up with families along the road to explore some local sites. The first of these was the beautiful waterfall below the Tay Giang turnoff, getting to which involved some passing of children (and some adults) across the fast-flowing river. After a baguette lunch by the waterfall, we made our way to Tay Giang and our accommodation for the night, a Khatu village in an amazingly picturesque spot just above the town.
The evening’s entertainment was to involve a show by a Khatu song and dance troupe. Prior to the performance, we invited the members of the group to eat (and drink) with us. They wasted no time in introducing us to the local brew, ruou bakich or ginseng rice wine. I cautiously asked one of our hosts what the alcohol content of the ruou bakich was and he said “Not to worry, it has ginseng in it, so the cure is in the poison. You never get a hangover with this stuff.” Your mileage may vary.
Day 5 started with a visit to a local school where we were able to make a small donation. Some of the Khatu junior high school students kindly gave our kids a mini tour around the facilities. As many have to walk for 3 hours to get to it, this has become a boarding school with a kitchen that provides much better meals than the kids would get at home. Meanwhile, the cyclists watched a kickass game of volleyball that was in progress.
Then it was on to the main event of the day: assault on Cinammon Peak. This little hill rises for over 14km at an average of 5%, with some long, steep pinches. If we are to believe our Garmins, we climbed 1500m in 20km today.
Despite his adventures with the ruou bakich the night before, Bleeksie conquered this beast in just over an hour. Frederik made it to the top after a little rest on the way, and Ci opted to come up in comfort in the van. At the top we decided there was no dishonour in getting in the van for the descent and the trip back to Hoi An. Once home we repaired to the Irish pub for some stouts, ciders, burgers and fond reminisces about the uplands of Central Vietnam.