Day 4 and based on the excellent time we had yesterday, we were looking forward to another glorious day of riding to the Chinese Border crossing in Long San. The last 3 days had been an adventure and every day was different from the one before so we were not sure what would happen today.
The weather was co-operating and sometimes we almost felt warm as we rode on roads that could easily qualify for the IRT (Ice Road Truckers) series on TV. Shortly after we left Cao Bang, the roads went from poor to horrible in a matter of minutes.
It was exactly what we were hoping for! Tough riding conditions in clear weather with good visibility and a chance to ride on roads that even most Vietnamese refused to tackle on motorcycles.
The roads were so bad that the posted speed limit was 5 km/h and given that motorcycles keep Vietnam running we soon realised that we were often the only motorbikes on the trail (road).
The Vietnamese use their bikes for almost everything and in any condition so if they refuse to ride, it means conditions are really bad. It of course helped that we had dirt bikes and Al and I had some experience riding off road – and that we were crazy enough to do it!
The landscape and just the atmosphere that day was exhilarating. Part of it was the danger associated with what we were doing.
We were either sandwiched between moving vehicles with minimal clearance, had a steep fall if we miscalculated or were riding on terrain that only trail bikes could cross.
After a couple of hours of taking it slow through this madness, I said to the guys that this was getting ridiculous. Hue was being too cautious and at 5 – 15 km/h we would never cover the 220 kms we had to cover that day, to be positioned as near as possible to Halong Bay.
I forgot to mention that aside from the trail, traffic and drops, there were also roadworks in progress along the way so there were trucks tipping their loads and road gangs at work.
Al agreed and after this he led the way through most of the tough riding bits with Hue following him and Craig in 3rd position and me as sweeper.
This is a picture of us at the end of those few hours. (Al and my rear end were so sore that we were reluctant to swing our legs over the bikes).
About an hour or so after this shot was taken, we reached the Chinese border. Just like the day before, we swung around a corner and there it was.
The tall building is the Chinese side and the small ‘huts’ are the structures on the Vietnamese side.All but 10 – 15 metres away and a world of difference. Coming from Singapore, I was not used to a border crossing for two countries being so close to each other.
We stopped for lunch and had Al’s favourite Vietnamese fried noodles and watched the activity going across the border i.e. from China into Vietnam. I am not sure of the stats but something like 90% of Vietnam’s goods are grudgingly imported from this manufacturing behemoth.
Hue, up to then was not having a good day. He was having problems with his underpowered bike and even had to look for a workshop this morning before we set out to get it looked at. Just after we ran the gauntlet, he lost his bike key and now he was sweating bullets because I was insisting that we try and cross the border.
The last time he tried it to do this, both he and the American lady he was with were fined $100 each and detained for 4 hours. We didn’t want him to get into trouble so I told him to sit it out and that the 4 of us would cross on our own.
The rest of the day was quite uneventful except for the part where Craig got lost. Yes, after we left the border, along the way he decided that he did not like the direction we were taking and headed off on his own 🙂
What actually happened was that he didn’t see us take a turn and he kept on riding and because he could not see us he sped up and rode even further away. Al realised after less than a minute that we had lost Craig and Hue and I went to find him. Hue could not keep up with me so he gave up and I managed to find Criag after about 5 kms. After that 10km adventure (to and back), we got bakc to where we had left Josh and Al and the latter was still trying to get his bike’s fuel cap back on!