Day 19 - Bao Loc to Gia Nghia via Dambri - Dammit
I headed out early to find the famous Dambri falls, riding through humble dwellings in coffee fields on quiet roads. Turns out that the popularity of the Dambri falls has spawned a mini amusement park with bumper cars, rollercoasters and daytime discos. Due to it being the weekend and a national holiday the place was ramajam packed, as usual people were staring at, and sometimes laughing at, the strange foreigner.
See the little tourists?
After a bowl of Pho I rode back through Bao Loc then headed North towards Gia Nghia over smooth rolling hills lined with coffee plantations rising above vast plains covered with rice paddies.
After an hour I stopped to take a photo when a chap on a scooter told me in broken English that the road ahead was blocked and that I should go back to skirt around the enormous, and rather beautiful looking, valley ahead. I found the sign I should have seen for this detour hidden behind one of the old repurposed US military trucks.
The detour initially took me through miles of cool shaded pine forest. Suddenly the forest receded and there was a huge power plant surrounded by a development site, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I couldn't believe the scale of development around major cities in Vietnam, which obviously makes the roads even more hazardous for a number of reasons. Now the US has finally lifted trade restrictions on them, apparently they are considered by some to be the second fastest developing country in the world, which I hadn't expected. However, now I live in the US, my local supermarkets have dozens of types of coffee from all over the world, but none from Vietnam... which is a shame because it is great!
The roads here were very much in progress with huge ruts little better than a motocross track, but I like mud. I then took what had to be a wrong turn onto a shabby dirt track through dense forest, it was slippery fun but I had to turn back.
After twenty minutes I had found the right road. This led me through a low mountain jungle, which was quite foggy, cold and wet but there were many fun corners. However, quite often there would be a fine stretch of tarmac, then just around a bend or over a crest would be a truly horrific pothole or jarring lump where differing surfaces meet. There is a lot of infrastructure development in that area currently, in an attempt to push tourism further inland, creating new Dalat style tourist towns. Shame they can't build infrastructure like their northern neighbors yet, because the Chinese are rather good at it!
I had to redo the corners in the next two photos, which were consecutive, just enjoyed them...
Spot the hazards, Vietnam style -
Future Vietnamese sausage -
At least it was in km... -
Another surprise came when I exited a corner to be faced with a huge dam under construction, with crumbling rocks and wayward construction materials scattered across the roads for miles.
After that more low hills gave great views of distant mountains.
I found the outskirts of Ghia Nghia as the sun was setting, a real work in progress town (the new Dalat I was told) with more construction related debris and general rubbish scattered everywhere. As you can see, not much to look at at the moment.
Thanks to the lengthy detour I was ready for food and bed well before I got a damnable flat front tire. As I entered the centre of town, it started raining. Drenched in mud, I wobbled into a half decent looking hotel, unpacked my bike and slogged my gear into a room, planning to fix the bike the next day. Two minutes later the owner decided my photocopied passport was not good enough, that he needed a driving license like his, how did he expect me to have that? I offered to let him talk to the chap who rented me the bike over the phone to explain my situation but he declined, what a time to meet the only stubborn git of my whole time in Vietnam. Things were said neither of us understood, he managed something that sounded like 'sorry', I managed something that sounded like 'tosser'. I got the impression that they were not used to tourists here.
I limped the bike over to a mechanic but he was closing down. Somehow he thought it may be helpful to squirt a few puffs of air in the tire, I said nothing this time. I then rolled the bike downhill wearing my big backpack to a real dive hotel, the only other one I could see in the pouring rain. It had that special smell that comes with everything always being damp and warm, its weird, but the owner and his family were extremely nice.
Town seemed to be closing up for the night, so immediately I went out for some food. Despite having wonderfully polite and generous hosts, the only place open had fairly scummy food and lots of moody mangy dogs hanging around.
It was all feeling a little weird. A town covered in dirt and debris, gangs of snarling bickering dogs, broken smashed up pavements, huge grand intersections rutted and swamped in mud, everyone filthy and looking like they had all sorts of rashes, a world of grey, brown, browny grey. A setting sun removing all tone was a blessing. I trudged back in pitch darkness in the continuous pouring rain.
When I got back I had a cold shower whilst dodging excitable cockroaches the size of my hand on every surface of the bathroom. I spent that night with all sorts of weird and decidedly large bugs crawling about my room. Now and then one screeching would wake me up. Still, generally I slept like a muddy baby, but before nodding off I knew I had seen enough.