Saturday, March 14, 2009

Quang Ngair to Kontum

Today we left for the Highlands, and believe me, there's a reason why they are called that!
We have traveled uphill, and the scenery has certainly changed. This is farming area, and the scenery is beautiful. Everything is so green! Besides the usual paddies, we have seen the following; rubber tree, pepper and coffee plantations, banana plants, pepper drying, cassava and bitter gourd. We have seen buffalo, cows, goats, dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks crossing the roads, and sometimes had to negotiate around them.
We started our day with a warm up. Our early morning ride was on rough and uncertain roads, and I felt a little "off'" (a Parkinson term; we have 'on' and ''off' periods), so after about 8 km of riding, I left the others to ride on over the potholes and dodge the cars and motor bikes, while I sat in the bus and admired the scenery.
Lunch at Bato, was a pleasant surprise. Our guide, 'Hilly', showed us yet another of his great talents, by cooking us a sumptuous lunch.
After lunch, we were bussed up to the Vihoduk Pass, where we had a HUGE descent into our next stop for the night; Kon Tum, but not after giving each other a 'group massage'.
This involved riding about 16 km uphill, and 50 km downhill. And was it steep???!!! With my mentor of the day, Leanne behind me yelling out instructions, I began the most exhilarating and nerve wracking part of the trip yet. We careered down the steep road, turning corners, breaks on and off, whilst those bikes and cars still fought the road with us. Somehow I managed to stay in control, and actually enjoy the ride, but then a huge obstacle came in the way... darkness.
We had started the ride too late in the afternoon, after a misunderstanding with the back up truck, who were waiting half way down the pass with our bikes, and had to drive back. Suddenly it was getting dark; again... But this was far scarier (if possible) than yesterday.... we were not travelling as a group, we were careering wildy down a strange country road, through villages, with motor bikes and cars honking...all in the dusk. Some bikes had no headlights, whilst the lights of others dazzled and blinded us.
I was alone with Leanne, when I said that we must stop and wait for the bus. I was very scared, and could just see Yon's horror at what I was doing. The bus came 5 minutes later, with Fred and Chris in it, and we picked up Catherine another 5 minutes down the hill.
We were very relieved to see Hilly and the group had stopped further on, and everyone piled onto the bus for the remaining 25 km. Hilly apologised and explained why we started so late, and we all forgave him. He had acted responsibly. He was so happy that he revealed yet ANOTHER talent; he sang "Sealed with a kiss" to us over the bus microphone!
We arrived in Kon Tum hungry and tired. Kon Tum is a pretty town that one feels will take off in the next few years. It is built on a big river. We had our first bad meal there... our vegetarian food was inedible. So after dinner, a group of us went for a walk in search of gelati ha, ha, but had to settle with trying out sugar cane juice from a vendor. Sounds nice, but no-one liked it.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Karyn
    What an amazing time you are having and the way you write and include the photos it makes us feel a very little bit like we are along for the ride with you!! (says she who sits on her bum at her desk all day!!) You will deserve a very long rest when you get home. Thankfully mum and dad aren't connected to a computer otherwise they would be on the phone to John for you to come home! Enjoy and take care. Love Debbie