We were now heading south away from the high mountains of the north expecting to descend to a lower elevation.
When doing my route planning I had read that the ride from Meo Vac to our destination for the day, BaBe Lakes, consisted of great scenery so we were looking forward to more of what we had seen yesterday. But as we climbed up out of the town it became quickly apparent we might not be seeing too much as we soon hit wet and very misty conditions. The mist quickly became very thick and visibility was no more than 20 ft. We proceeded along a twisty road on a mountain pass very, very slowly. The rain was coming down lightly and together with the thick mist made for slick road conditions. My visor kept on fogging up so I kept it slightly ajar but had to constantly wipe the front of the visor with my glove to remove the outer condensation. Conditions were tough but improved considerably as we reached a lower elevation. Visibility improved, the rain and mist lifted, and soon we started to see the lovely scenery we had been anticipating. We rode along two rivers with a lot of rice paddies and small villages. It was not quite the dramatic scenery of yesterday but great nonetheless.
Then we started to ascend another mountain pass and the difficult wet and misty conditions returned. Again visibility was severely limited and we rode along slowly seeing almost no other vehicles or motorcycles on the road. Same difficulty with outer condensation on my visor. I was coming around a sharp bend exercising care when suddenly I went down, the bike crashing to the road. I landed under the bike on my right side slamming my thigh into the road. As I went down I saw a truck approaching from the opposite direction perhaps 20 feet ahead of me. As I went down it stopped. I bounced up off the road pretty quickly as the driver of the truck jumped out and yelled at me approvingly "nice fall!". Not too sure what he meant by that but I think he meant that I landed pretty well and bounced up fast. Zach was riding behind me and rounded the bend as I jumped back up. He and the truck driver helped me pick up the bike. I was pretty shaken. It had happened so suddenly (yeah I know - thats why I went down
) and I couldn't figure out why I went down. I dont think I touched the brake/s at all, and I certainly did not crank the gas, so why the bike slid under me mystified me. All I could see was that the road surface in that particular spot was different to elsewhere consisting of rocks about half the size of a fist set into the asphalt creating a cobbled surface.
The bike seemed OK except for the metal luggage rack frame which had broken at one of the weld points, and a broken mirror. We rode on to the next town and found one of the ubiquitous Xemay (bike mechanic) shops. He could not repair the frame but there was a welding shop right next door and the guy promptly welded the frame back together and charged me $1!! While we were at the mechanic shop he did some additional maintenance helping us adjust chains and the like. Of course our presence attracted a crowd - wherever we went in Vietnam our 250cc bikes were viewed as huge and people loved to come look at them, climb on them and generally make a fuss of us. When done the mechanic declined to charge for any of the work he had performed.
One of the locals enthused at us and our bikes:
By now I was starting to feel the pain from my spill. My leg was starting to hurt pretty badly and I just wanted to reach our destination and hit recovery mode. We stopped a little further down the road at a larger Xemay and bought a replacement mirror, cost $4.
The next couple hours riding were really quite pleasant. We got wet descending from the mountains as it was still raining but things gradually improved. The scenery was lovely, there was a lot of agriculture - mainly rice paddies and some corn, water buffalo, small but pleasant villages. Road conditions were decent, again the usual fare of the north consisting of pavement broken up frequently with short dirt and rock sections.
Eventually we reached BaBe which was quite a bit larger than I had been expecting. The last 15 km before we reached the town were really quite special, the vegetation had become a lot thicker, the road was good and we zipped along. We rode through town and then on another 15 km until we reached the BaBe National Park. The park service runs a hotel, more like a lodge, near the entrance and we checked into a room. My leg was hurting like heck and a hot shower revealed severe bruising along my thigh. It was already purple. There were a couple of restaurants nearby and we found ourselves a decent dinner.
Zach told me that back when I fell he came around the bend behind me and when he saw me lying in the road under the bike with a truck stopped right in front of me he thought the worst had happened, that I had been hit by the truck. He said he was pretty shaken up. Maybe so, but by the time we reached BaBe that son of mine was not showing me much sympathy
Total distance for the day 220 kms (137 miles)