Hairy E-bikers Travel Blog  – Part 2/ Week 1

Link to Week 2

Hanoi to Kathmandu

(Editor- Having successfully completed the first part of their epic journey from Shanghai to Hanoi last year, our explorers decided to put down roots and explore the delights in Vietnam for 12 months. With both boys having good jobs to come back to there, they decided to get on with the second part of the trip, leaving the final part, onto Mumbai, for some time in the future.

Meanwhile, they are continuing to raise money for a good cause. This leg of their journey is for MAG (Mines Advisory Group) because “Laos deserves to be free from fear of bombs”)

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https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hair-e-bikers-dtf?fbclid=IwAR2Jrsa10KIvAs1J3WxbIloIVNTf2OlEb18mqH617cFaxBxkOdWqls-YVkw)

Leaving Hanoi (Danny)

Journey begins on electric bikes
I don’t think there are many feelings like starting a two month bike trip. I’d say it’s similar to starting a new relationship. There is so much excitement, so much potential,  so much unknown, so much to learn. But there’s also the anxiety, are we going to get on? what have I forgotten? what could go wrong? This second part fades away the moment you’re on the road.
As Tom and I left Hanoi, sun beating down, the breeze gently cooling the sweat on my brow, and Bob Dylan crooning away in my headphones, I felt nothing but sheer excitement. ‘We’re back.. round two.. let’s do this again, but better’, every ounce of fear had been shoved aside by anticipation. The day flew by like the mountains in our periphery. A brief stop for lunch and a late afternoon guitar session by the lake were our only breaks from tearing down the roads of North Vietnam. Our enjoyment and the relief of sunny countryside after weeks of busy city life blinded us from our tiredness right until we collapsed in our hotel.
Riding up first hill on Wisper Electric bike
If everyday’s like this, we’ll be exhausted, but we’ll love it!!

Day 2 (Tom)

We’d made it as far as HOA Binh on day one, about 46.5 miles out of Hanoi towards the border crossing. My battery started cutting out towards the end of the trip, so it was a great relief when it worked fine following a full night’s charge. The day began quite early with our plan being to cycle a few hours first thing, break during the near 40 degree heat at lunch time and set off mid afternoon for a few more hours cycle. The ride also began with a pretty steep incline, that dragged on and on, that transpired to be a sign of things to come. As we got out into the sticks, we stopped for a banh mi trung (egg sandwich) and were welcomed by a group local chi oi’s (older ladies) who were enchanted by my limited Vietnamese and the thought of us cycling to India! After a brief outrage from Danny as he accidentally bit into a piece of Vietnamese sausage which had been inadvertently slung into the sarnie, we vowed to be more explicit about him being a veggie in future, and hit the road once more. With my health still an issue (wheezing and coughing with some acute discomfort under my right rib cage) and the uncertainty over my batteries, the oncoming hills were not welcomed particularly warmly. Eventually however, we were rewarded from our sweaty work with an ice cream hammock break on the edge of a huge expanse, and finally by a long descend, skies clearing just in time for stunning views into the picturesque town of Mai Chau.
Here we allowed ourselves ample time, after a tough morning, to fill our bellies with fried noodles, filled with fresh vegetables. I’d decided to be largely vegetarian during the trip a) because it’s good for you b) because it’s cheaper c) because meat can be dodgy as it’s not easy to keep fresh out in the countryside here d) a little bit to support my buddy too (I guess!) Anyway, Danny said he wanted a beard trim, so with an hour or so of the soldering mid-day heat still to spare, we went opposite the restaurant to a barbers. They loved him. The man gave him a fade trim on the beard whilst the ladies giggled at his blonde locks before insisting of giving him a lengthy hair wash AND massage! I was furious, until they offered me the same treatment and we were both hurled into sweaty bearded nirvana. As we set off the sun was in the decline and the first 10 miles flew by with breathtaking scenery, rice terraces, villages of smiles and wooden stilt houses beauties that the wheels of progress and globalisation almost entirely forgot. Small bridges over clear rivers made from bamboo and wire crossed the way. All was well and we were patting ourselves the back over our decision to take a mid-day break.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was until we got further afield and our navigation device decided to give up on us. After each turn I’d flag down a motorcycle and ask them “Quan hoa duong nao” (which way to Quan hoa?) To which they’d all reply with an almost indiscernible eye roll “di thang” (go straight, obviously) but you still need the reassurance. Then, as the day drew in the weather turned for the worse, a splattering of rain, a few cracks of thunder, until we came around a bend, and could see the wind. Yes that’s right, see it as it had kicked up a cloud of sand and was spiralled towards us. We turned out backs and gripped onto Balloo and Bagheera (Editor- their bikes) for dear life. The winds hit us and we clambered our way to the panniers. Retrieving a small towel and a scarf, we wrapped them round our heads and still adorning our sun glasses headed into the dust cloud towards Quan hoa. After a tough day a small hotel with a cold shower and an a.c that could not be switched off or turned up from freezing. However, we could have cared less!

 

Check out our Just Giving page for much more information on the charity.  Please take a look.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hair-e-bikers-dtf?fbclid=IwAR2Jrsa10KIvAs1J3WxbIloIVNTf2OlEb18mqH617cFaxBxkOdWqls-YVkw

Danny – So it turns out blogging when you’re exhausted is very difficult and it is much easier to just eat a huge meal and collapse. Because of this we have missed the last few days worth of blogs so I will try to summarise day 3 and 4

Day 3

Day 3’s objective was to reach the border town Nam Neo, 62 miles from Quan Hoa. 62 miles is fine when it’s flat. Actually a very manageable distance with time for food and breaks and chit chat and midday beard trims. However this was not flat. There wasn’t even a flat section. We fought our way up every hill, taking turns to be the motivated one, and the one ready to give up.

                                                                                     

This technique got us through the day as we knew the second we both flagged we were finished. I hadn’t had a chance to fully charge my spare battery so for the last few miles I had no assistance. My two bags of luggage, two useless batteries and the guitar on my back all felt much heavier now, but we pushed on into the night. Approaching Na Meo there are a few small villages that we deemed close enough to stop at for the night, however each one of these had nowhere to stay. This was a tough pill to swallow, and as we were literally chased out of a town by blood thirsty dogs for the second time that night I was starting to reconsider many of my life decisions. Eventually we pulled into Na Meo, found a tiny hotel around 500 metres away from the border and drifted into our most deserved sleeps yet.

Day 4

The morning of day 4 was taken up by admin. We woke a little later than planned and decided to take the morning off cycling. I had to finish some work, Tom was finishing the blog from day 2 and we had some problems to get fixed on the bike. We also made the incredibly poor group decision to wait until we crossed the border to change any money into Laos Kip (LAK). We assumed some border town on the other side would have an ATM but why take the risk? This was stupid. Real dumb. It turns out when one crosses the border into Laos there is nothing but roadworks and the occasional shop for miles and miles. Obviously these shops only accept local currency so water and food were both out of the question. We crawled forward, the road frequently vanishing into rocky rubble, until we reached a town around 25 miles from our planned destination. The thirst and hunger were overwhelming and we had to try and convince someone to take the USD we had for some water and a place to stay. It took some convincing, but the Laotian instinct is to help. Despite being incredibly confused by what we were asking, eventually we managed to buy 2 packets of noodles, 2 eggs, 4 beers and a floor to sleep on for 10 dollars. The family stood off at first and we felt rather unwelcome but soon warmed to us and invited us to join them for dinner. Eventually we were taking shots of rice wine with the Dad, singing songs with the kids and laughing in confusion with the mother as we tried in vain to communicate with her. It was not the evening we had expected and certainly not one we’ll forget!

(Editor – Until the photos arrive I have included what I believe might be the appropriate inspiration for the names Danny and Tom have given their bikes (See Day 2), as found on Danny’s old playroom wall!

 

It certainly sums up the mutual trust between biker and vehicle but also between mates travelling a long, arduous journey together!!)

 

 

                     

 

Check out our Just Giving page for much more information on the charity.  Please take a look.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hair-e-bikers-dtf?fbclid=IwAR2Jrsa10KIvAs1J3WxbIloIVNTf2OlEb18mqH617cFaxBxkOdWqls-YVkw

Day 5 (Tom)

Early start. 5:30 lights on, up gesturing for us to get a move on. 2:30 roosters start crowing. And having only ate a couple eggs, some noodles and a small amount of rice, in both solid and liquid form the night before, with no signs of anything breakfastable we were on our way. We began traversing up and up, on fairly decent roads, with clouds all around. The slow ascent coupled with flatter sections offering some leg pain relief. Our stomachs grumbling. Until about 10 miles in when this relative easy morning abruptly turned into something quite different. The road disappeared, as we turned a corner we were confronted by steepness coupled with muddied tractor tracks. At its summit there was 2 diggers and a steam roller actually operating clearing the rubble and completely blocking the path. We had to gesture for them to stop so we could wrestle the bikes passed them, as by this time the only choice was to walk them!

After the considerable morning’s struggle, we welcomed a downhill section, despite the poor state our brakes were in, we’d managed to lose the right sized Allen key to tighten them. The next village we saw we stopped at in search of sustenance. The first shop-like house we saw was owned by a woman with about 5 daughters aged between 4 and 10, we gestured for water, and she shook her head, but offered us something labelled ‘cocunut drink’ to which we excitedly thanked her, and offered her dollars. She could see we were desperate, and waved the money away. I crammed the singles into the children’s hands and we went and sat outside the wooden stilt farm house to enjoy the drinks. As we did so the sun broke through the clouds and two of the older children came out with a bag of energy drinks and green sweet bread. Their generosity manifesting in beaming smiles before nervously backing away back into their home. The second half of our cycle flew by with clear skies, following a river, small cave carved cliffs overlooked the well-surfaced roads that took us into Vieng Xay, the first town since the border, which meant an Indian curry and, finally, an ATM!

That afternoon we met some Spanish hydroelectric engineers who took us by 4×4 to visit some of the area’s famous caves. These were occupied by some 20,000 people during the American war, and contained hospitals, schools and even an elephant passage ceremonial hall (called so because elephants would pass through it carrying goods for the people living there). Weddings and meetings would be held there. Outside was full of reminders about why this charity we are collecting for remains so important, as the area was littered with bomb craters and the remains of explosive devices. We made our way a further 18km to the next city Xam Nuea and found a pizza restaurant and a decent hotel to sleep in. What a day!

 

Electric Whisper bikes and our Boys need recharging!

 

Day 6 (Danny)

Waking up and seeing that you’ve got two huge day of mountains ahead of you is not always particularly motivating. 64 miles is not a long distance in two days on flat, but we had 8000 feet of climbing to conquer. It can be hard to get out of bed after reading those numbers. The one thing that kicked our asses into gear was the alluring scent of our first day off, just two days away.

At the start of the trip every day is harder than the one before until you take that day off to give your poor legs a rest. This meant that day 6 was our toughest yet, constantly digging deep into our selves to find any reserves of energy we had left to push us up each hill. The views remained breathtaking but there comes a point where exhaustion overcomes almost any spectacle.

Day 7 (Danny)

 

…….started like day 6, with legs aching from the day before, and more steep inclines to conquer. Our only respite coming from the 2 minute breaks to get some water (both our camelbacks have broken) and have some kind of chat/moan. Then, at around 4pm we saw a beautiful sight. We knew we were only 4 miles away, but at this point in the day that means nothing. So when we came over the top of a hill, and saw a long, winding, gorgeous downhill slope, as far as our eyes could see, I almost broke down with joy. The road headed left and round the valley below us until it was completely perpendicular to where were standing, stretching so far from left to right that it created an almost panoramic view of a glorious declining speedway. This road ended up curling round the mountain and bringing us the full 4 miles into our destination town, just as the sun was setting.

On arrival we had our traditional dirty beer (the beer we have before we get out of our sweaty clothes and shower) in a gorgeous cabin overlooking the river as the sun went down. One of our most deserved beverages, and therefore one of the most delicious!

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