Sunday, September 19th, 2021

Day 3: Mai Chau – Yen Chau


“Gorillas in the mist”

I’ve never had a ride with as many scenery changes as today. The climb out of Mai Chau was absolutely brutal and the first 30kms took me three hours. On the climb (up to around 1600m) it was incredibly foggy, with visibility down to 100m tops. The climb was one of the toughest I’ve done, with long sections at 10%. Just as I crested the climb (pictured) I ran into an English guy going the other way. He was doing the same loop in reverse, and regaled me with tales of woe and horrendous road conditions ahead (echoing Danny’s sentiments). He was between tours in Afghanistan and decided a cycling tour was a way to kill four months. Spoke to him for half an hour or so before we headed our separate ways.

Got my first taste of real hill tribe culture today, seeing young girls around 12 years old leading massive water buffalo along the roadside with rifles slung over their shoulders. The traditional dress is amazing, and varies from tribe to tribe. The local women here are called Black Thai due to the distintive black robes and head scarves they wear. They look stunning as they walk along the roadside, and incredibly shy. Once I dropped out of the fog towards Moc Chau (pictured below) – a dairy farming district set up by Australians – the scenery became much more like home. The people also seemed to be more vocal, with a voice yelling `hello’ from every roadside stall. I’m sure they see the odd cyclist along here but must be rare enough.

Lunch in Moc Chau was brief, as I’d been on the road for five hours already and still had 55kms to travel. The pho was great, and soon enough a crowd gathered around me hell-bent on extending my stay and spoiling my lunch. It was well meaning, but not ideal having four guys hovering around smoking a pipe while I was trying to eat. The drop out of Moc Chau was superb, but felt more like Arizona than Asia. The red rock cliffs dropped to the valley floor and took me with them. Once in the lowlands the scenery changed again. As I followed the river there were lots of Black Thai villages, with Indiana Jones style suspension bridges (pictured below) along the way. Battled a headwind for the last 20kms but bouyed by the magnificent scenery.

Found what looks to be a reasonable hotel (only one in this windswept town), showered up and went to the local market for a look. Ended up in a great beer garden – someone’s back yard – drinking home brew and eating peanuts. Also getting plenty of water in as well. Did 7 hours on the bike today so feel like I’ve earned an ale. Options for dinner look less appealing than the lager….


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