Ok so I was in Sapa again, after having to return to Hanoi by train with the old bike because of having too many problems and breakdowns with it.  I was not confident to take this bike into Laos I know the roads are due to be very difficult there.

I arrived back in Sapa at the hotel where Hugo was waiting for me.  Tired after a long sleepless night on the train I grabbed my bags and headed for the room.  Hugo had already been in Sapa now for three days and was itching to get back on the road.  I felt tired but agreed and after a shower some breakfast and strong coffee I was ready to go.  While waiting for Hugo to sort his shit out I perused over the newly bought road map of Vietnam to plan the next leg of the journey to Dien Bien Phu, close to the border of Laos.  It was going to be a long ride and so finding the quickest roads would be my objective.

“Whats the plan bro?” Hugo exclaimed setting down his bags and admiring our new map.

I showed him a route which included what appeared to be a highway to Dien Bien Phu passing through a major town Lia Chau as a back up should we not make the whole journey.  He was not too optimistic with the amount of extra road we would be covering but I assured him taking the major roads and the highway would be much faster than backtracking along the winding mountain roads.

We both agreed and quickly got our bikes ready for the ride.

Lost in the middle of nowhere

In the north of Vietnam they seem to be getting organised with the roads and are at this moment starting to finally fix and expand the road system.  Only thing is, the Vietnamese had decided as it appears to fix and expand every road in the north at the same freaking time.  The road from Sapa to the highway was bad.  Steep in places winding continuously with construction you just drive through regardless of diggers, gravel, sand – you name it its all going on making the road even more dangerous than it probably first was.

We made it to the highway with only one small set-back.  My crashing! I hit a corner heading up the mountain and skidded into the ditch over loose sand.  Normally I would get myself out of this as on these roads you skid all the time, this time however I lost all control and ended up in the ditch with the bike on top of me.

“Fuck man! Fuck! you alright!”  Hugo was trying to lift the bike from on top of me.

“Yeah man, I’m alright bit my leg is stuck go easy”.  At this point I did not know if I had broken anything or what, the bike had my leg but I managed to wriggle free.  I was alright apart from a large bruise appearing on my leg as we got the bike back on the road.  It was a shocking reminder to the both of us to take it easy.  Had there been an un barrierd cliff edge it would have been a different story and one not worth thinking about.

Pushing on we finally hit the highway, but wait no “What the fuck is this”?  The supposed Highway clearly added to the road map, was still in construction the road they were replacing was the only road to our destination.  When I say it was bad, I MEAN it was worse than bad.  However what was supposed to be our fast passing Highway turned out to be an incredible off-road adventure.  The bikes were really put to the test, every possible bad condition you could think of was on this road, and there was a long way to go.  Passing trucks and cars kicking up clouds of dust that stopped you in your tracks making the whole road and your surroundings disappear into a cloud of yellow dirt.  Riding through deep slippery sand and water-logged roads this was not only a major challenge but fantastic fun it turned out.  It got so ridiculous at times you just had to laugh.  We were covered from head to toe in dirt and wet and muddy.

And then… The road cleared for a large section and now we could see we were following a large ravine along the Nam Na river.  The view was spectacular and made the tiresome road so worth it.  Around us towering lush green mountains, jungle and that river. Stopping to admire the beauty before us taking it in, taking a photo that just cannot capture what we were seeing.  -Simply Breathtaking

The road finally sloped and wound down towards the river and at a perfect spot by the rocky foot of the mountain we took the opportunity to unwind and relax.  Stripping down to our underwear we could hardly wait to jump in and it was the best thing we could have done at that point.  The water was slightly cool and looking up all around us at the wonder of this incredible land was the perfect respite from the dirty dusty road.

We of course didn’t make it to Den Bien, so stopped for the night in Lai Chau a small town with a bit of a wild west feel to it.  There was one hotel in the whole place, where we spent the night.  There were group of cyclist staying there too, who had also arrived there via the same road. 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

…Robert Frost