Our route for day 3 was fairly straightforward, follow the road QL49 which runs West out of Hue, then join up with the Ho Chi Ming highway which runs south down the middle of the country. Once through the hills turn east and ride to Danang and the sea. Planned as maybe a six hour ride, it turned into 10 hours.
QL49 was a great road but very bumpy, and consisted of huge climbs and descents, great scenery but very hot and dusty. The road was not finished of course, some parts were very tricky with our style of bike. The 70k to the junction to go north seemed to take forever, and when we reached it we dived into the first place with shade to recover with water and coffee. The cafe clearly had not had any western visitors in a while and looked at us and our bike fairly quizzically, that would not be the last similar look of the day.
Every guide you read on Vietnam suggests a bike is the best way to see the country off the beaten track, our day makes that a certainty. We joined the very quiet highway and tried to stop for fuel, but unfortunately they had run out so we had little choice but to continue with what we had. Surely there would be fuel down the road, but for 3 hours we wound ourselves through what has to be a bikers dream but with no places to stop. Good tarmac’d roads winding up and round the hills, following the contours of the valley. No traffic, we saw less than 20 scooters and 2 cars for the entire 5 or so hours on the highway. But at the back of our minds the nagging feeling what if we run out of fuel. Markers on the road counted down the k’s to the next village, 40,30,20 only to find it was actually for a bridge. The only visible help was opening the tank to see if there was fuel in it, which miraculously there was and it didn’t seem to go down too quickly. A small engine definitely helps on that regard. Just as we really needed to stop, as it was getting painful to sit as well as the fuel requirement, we came across a couple of shops, with the great sight of their basic pump which deals the petrol out based on a container line in litres.
Clearly no westerners ever stop here, and why would they? The entire village came along to see us, the lady who ran the shop did speak some English because she was a teacher in the school opposite. She proudly took me on a tour of the few classrooms there. It actually looked pretty good, but some the children had no shoes either in school or by the shop. She said, I think as we had some trouble communicating, that it was very poor there. It clearly was but then this was in the middle of the hills, in the middle of nowhere. The kids smiling and cheeky as usual had their photos taken, and they love seeing them in camera display afterwards. The naughtiest one actually tried to secretly tie some junk to the back of the bike!
A Vietnamese couple chatted to KT whilst we drank bottled sugary green tea, and gave us the slightly dispiriting news that we were a further 3 hours away from Danang. We set off again, at least safe in the knowledge that we had fuel. The road got better and better with large sweeping turns through the valleys and still no traffic. Only one small section was under construction and that didn’t trouble us. Eventually we reached the turning to Danang, stopped at another random shop where a very old lady served us more green tea and some sort of cake. After finding a proper fuel station we set off on a much less interesting road, and then battled through the Danang traffic.
We arrived totally covered in dirt and dust, with panda eyes because of the glasses and face masks we wear for the dust. We must have looked a state, but a shower in a very reasonable, new and clean hotel called the Indochine just off China Beach sorted us out, and we stepped out to find an Aussie bar round the corner serving ice cold beer. It was definitely needed after a mad mad trip.
Would we have done it had we known how long it would take? You would be nuts to do so, but either way it was a fantastically great day.