Day 4 and 5 (Ho Chi Minh Trail) ~ Road Construction and spills

After riding through the lush countryside and indigenous communities, we hit a less than idyllic patch.  The multiple shades of green give way to a uniform grey, due to the seemingly endless road construction. The road narrows to one lane, with traffic going in both directions, dust and dirt flying, buses and cars honking loudly. This portion of the Ho Chi Minh Trail reflects the economic expansion which Viet Nam is experiencing.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail has much historical significance. It was the main logistical corridor for transportation of weapons, food supply, and all the necessities of a people waging a war of independence.  Ho Chi Minh’s army moved an enorrmous quantity of material through forests and valley on dirt paths and across rivers and through jungle.

When the American military opted for a strategy to disrupt the North Vietnamese armies supply chain the HCM Trail became target number one. The airforce dropped large quantities of defoliant (Agent Orange) to reduce the thickness of the jungle foliage which served to protect the North Vietnamese convoys.

A photograph depicting a convoy carrying supplies across a floating bamboo bridge on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the 60’s.
Ho Chi Minh and his top lieutenants planning a military strike.
In the Kon Tum Museum: photos of local indigenous men and women being trained for combat.
One of the challenges of the ride is dealing with the hot sun, which is strong and relentless. It takes a concerted effort to prevent sunburn.
Scarves save the day protecting our necks from burning while sunblock and face masks protect our noses.
At the end of these  days of riding through construction we look a bit like coal miners, as there is so much dust on our faces.
2 lanes gets reduced to one lane, gravel, dust, noise.
So far the day is a bit stressful due to the concentration required to avoid potholes, incoming traffic  and kamikaze bus drivers.
It is at this point of the trip that we deal with a few motorbike issues. There is a leak in our gas tank and we realize this when we go very suddenly from full tank to empty. Then the smell of gas… The easy part of riding a motorbike in Viet Nam is that there are motorbike repair shops in every village. Luckily we are just leaving town and within five minutes the leak is fixed. Second time around, another leak, this time Ben disappears for 30 mins while Adam and I sit with a local family while we wait.
Perfect opportunity to have a snack and a conversation while we wait for Ben to come back with one of the bikes.
Back on the road, bikes fixed, taking a short stop next to a young forest
Motorcycles plus construction plus terrorist bus drivers plus gravel = Adam getting pushed off the road by a bus onto some wooden beams on the side of the road on Day 4 and  us avoiding a huge pothole and spinning into gravel on Day 5.
Crouching on the side of the road after the spill, we take a few minutes to assess the bodily damage and to regain composure.When we stop to get gas shortly afterwards (as our gas tank opened during the spill) I (P) am not feeling so great. My body is reacting to the shock. A few local women see me all disheveled, covered in dirt and sitting on the curb next to the gas pump. They bring out a portable stretcher for me to lie on. Ahhh ~ i am very grateful for this kind offering. My body refuses to move, everything aches! ” ok guys ..this is it!” I tell Ben and Adam “I’M done. Find a taxi, a bus, but I’m not going back on the bike today.”.   I even say something  very uncharacteristic…”I’m too old to be falling off a motor bike.”
 
After making my firm declarations of intent, I relax for about twenty minutes, getting over the shock. A taxi can come in two hours, fine. So I’ll wait for it.
 
It is amazing what total relaxation can do… As I find when I do get up, that, yes Im bruised and scraped, but I’m fine. I request a round of applause at being upright and on my feet ( much the way soccer players receive after getting up  after an injury), and I am back on the bike. We are back on the road.
Finally good scenery and MASSES of yellow and cream butterflies signal the end of road construction
While the experience of falling  off the bike is a bit scary, we were left with only some bruises and our sense of adventure intact.
“Ouch!  There’s blood and a big bump on my leg!”

4 thoughts on “Day 4 and 5 (Ho Chi Minh Trail) ~ Road Construction and spills

  1. Sharon Rosenzweig

    Oy, jeesh, I’ve been worried about you as the stress shows in your faces the last few posts. You look so beautiful, but like you’ve been through it. I’m relieved to hear you could call a time out, respect your limits like a true yogi. Also that you’re so resilient and got back on the bike. Take it easy, kids.

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