We successfully cycled from Dalat to Nha Trang a few days ago.
The bike ride was great fun. We started with about 30km of what the tour company described as 'rolling hills'. 30 minutes later i felt like suing the tour company under the trade descriptions act since the hills were certainly not 'rolling'. They were actually steep and rapid descents followed by even steeper, back-breaking climbs up a hill / mini-mountain. Describing them as rolling was like describing Everest as a small mound.
All the way through the first 30km they had warned us about the 5km solid uphill ascent that awaited us. I wasn't sure i was even go to make it that far. The clouds closed in and the temperature dropped and before long we couldn't see more than 2 metres in front of ourselves. After a short, Oreo-filled break we set about the steady 5km climb to the top. I had taken up a steady position as the back marker by now as the others, including two 55-year old's, set the pace up front. Whenever we do these physical excursions there always seems to be a ridiculously fit older person either with knee or hip replacements. On first glance i always assume that i won't be the most unfit in the group but then we start and all of a sudden the bloke who i thought resembled Compo from Last of the Summer Wine suddenly transforms into Daley Thompson!
I did actually make it to the top of the climb, finishing ahead of Hannah who persevered and powered her way through the climb to the top. I was helped a little by two very welcoming words - 'support vehicle'. The whole way through the ride a support vehicle had been chugging along behind us and become my faithful companion at the back of the group. When the driver of the support vehicle decided that if he went any slower he would go backwards, he ushered me inside the vehicle for the remaining 2km. Myself and the support vehicle had started a relationship that must be close to how a blind man feels towards his labrador.
After a quick lunch we then set out on 30km solid downhill riding. It was more like sitting than riding though as the hills were so steep you didn't have to do any peddling and could just enjoy the stunning mountain scenery whilst pelting downhill at 50mph! It was amazing and i'm not sure we'll ever expereince riding such a long downhill again. The newly laid road helped as did the abscence of traffic. On reaching the bottom it was nice to clench my hands together again as for the last hour they had been permanently ready to apply the brakes. One thing that refused to clench however was my bottom which was bruised and battered and provided me with a comedy John Wayne walk.
The secret to recovering after a long bike ride is very simple. A nice curry and some beers in the evening and then a day at the spa the following day. We enjoyed both of these. The day at the spa was fantastic. First we went in the mud baths. It was like being covered in thick chocolate but felt really good. It wasn't as thick as we thought it might be but still clung on to your body and supposedly was good for the skin. Next we enjoyed a mineral bath in a private, heart-shaped pool. I got in first and then Hannah jumped in a few moments later. For some reason when Hannah got in a load of water overspilled out of the pool. They had obviously over-filled the pool, there could be no other explanation!
Our last treat at the spa was a 1 hour, full-body massage. This is something that i've never experienced before and it certainly was an eye-opener! We were ushered into seperate rooms where we changed into scummy, communal shorts that you might expect to wear if you'd forgotten your PE kit. Then we were asked to lie face down and for the next hour the masseuse used every one of her limbs to alieviate all of your aches and pains. At one stage she was walking up and down on my back using a pole attached to the ceiling for support! Ten minutes later i could feel her knees pressing against my shoulder blades as she attempted some sort of crab maneouvure and it all finished with some bizarre popping thing on the toenails. It felt really good though and we both came out feeling very relaxed with no aches or pains.
We are moving on tonight (Thursday) as we get our first taste of a Vietnamese sleeper bus. We move to Hoi An for 4 nights and then fly to Hanoi. One month left now but we are trying our best not to think too much about home and enjoy every last second of our adventure.