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Day 64– February 2nd: Cam Ranh Bay to Sorrento Beach Club, Phan Rang: 38kms
As I had only a short ride today, we arranged to have breakfast downstairs before we left. The banh mi op la (a baguette with a fried egg) was just the thing I needed for today’s little effort.
I had done my homework for today’s route around the peninsula to the Sorrento Beach Club just north of Phan Rang, and it involved a series of rather large, steep hills. A challenging profile, indeed! After saying goodbye to Sharyn, who had arranged a car for today with the owner of the bungalows, I headed off around the peninsula.
I had only gone about 500m when I was presented with my first obstacle, a good kilometer and a half-climb of 10% or more. It stopped me in my tracks, and I took the sight in. There was no run-up, just a straight climb with no shoulder. I sucked in a deep breath and hit the pedals. I got down in my granny gear straight away and ground away. It only took about two minutes before my lungs and legs were screaming, so I stopped and got my breath.
As is often the case, what I thought was the top of the hill was just a false summit, one of two. It just kept going up and up, and I had to take four bites of the cherry to get to the top finally. I pulled over to the side, puffing like I was having a seizure, barely able to drink from my water bottle. I had to tell myself again that I had all day and I could stop as often as I liked, but I knew too that this was only the first of many hills and not even close to the biggest, a 6km climb with an 8% grade.
After a ten-minute rest, I set off downhill and onto a long, lumpy section that took me around the very scenic coastline to the next big climb, a 200m almost vertical ascent. Well, that’s what it looked like at the time! I stopped and told myself that it was a chance to get my legs before the big climb later on.
The frequent stops to rest all helped, and as I went, the weight of my water bottles decreased as well, meaning less to carry up the mountain. That’s how my mind was working now; every little bit helps!
As I began the longest climb, I could see it was a series of switchbacks that meandered up the hill in front of me. I could only see a short distance in front of me before it turned and continued up. Every switchback presented me with a different view, from one valley to another and then out over the sea. Most of the switchbacks had parking areas for viewpoints, and I’d pull over and use one of the concrete seats to lean the bike against while I rested and took some photos.
At one viewpoint, a small group of young girls sat around applying makeup in generous proportions to each other so they could have a much sought-after “selfie” to show their other friends. They never even seemed to notice me, which, I admit, slightly deflated me. After all, I was a foreigner, AND what the hell was I doing all the way up this very long, steep mountain on a loaded pushbike?!!! Narcissism has killed curiosity, it seems!
At the last and highest viewpoint, there was an old man selling drinks from under an ancient, decaying lean-to. As I was almost to the top, I stopped and bought a couple of drinks, and took a rest on a seat. The old fella didn’t seem surprised to see me either or bothered about whether I had Covid or not. Up here, it was very windy, and I was glad to see that I’d have a nice tailwind to help me up to the pass, about a kilometer away.
Feeling OK by the time I reached the pass, I decided to keep going rather than rest, as there was literally nothing to see except scrubby bushland. Descending down the other side, however, was much different as I could see out over the very picturesque Vinh Hy village with its uniquely round harbor. The local fishing fleet lined the harbor, reminding me a bit of the Greek Islands.
On the other side of the harbor, a very large hill reminded me that I still had quite a bit of work to do before I was finished today. I took my time coming down, mainly to get photos but also because of the appalling state of the road.
Safely down the mountain, I crossed over a small bridge and stopped at the foot of the next big climb away from the town. It was a 10-15% climb of about a kilometer and really had me puffing. To make matters worse, I was greeted by two mad dogs just before the top of the climb, which broke through a fence and set after me. I got off my bike and put it between me and them. By the time they reached me, the owner had shouted to them to come back, and they complied. I shot off a nasty look at him but said nothing. After all, it’s not like he’s going to fix the fence!
On the other side of the climb, a car stopped in front of me, and Sharyn poked her head out and asked me if I was OK. I was too tired for any stories of climbs or stupid dogs and just nodded my head. She took that as a “yes,” and off they went.
After just one more climb, which I hadn’t bargained on, it was pretty much a downhill run from there. I found Sharyn waiting for me at the front of the resort, which wasn’t very well signed. She led me through a large garden area with a very inviting pool to the bar/restaurant area, where I parked the bike.
There was no other guest there except us, so it was a pretty quiet affair. After a good rest and some rehydration, I was happy to discover I could have a good, old-fashion meat pie for lunch, a welcome meal after today’s efforts. It had been the second shortest day but also one of the hardest after Hai Van Pass. It is also one of the most spectacular sections along the coast.
The owner had told us that the police had been testing foreigners in the area, especially ones from up north. For this, we needed to fill in health statements saying where we’d been and when, as well as a lot of personal information. When the two policemen arrived, they sat down and studied our statements and passports for about half an hour while we waited at the next table having lunch.
When they were done, one of them came over, smiled, and asked if he could check our temperatures. We were both OK, so he said goodbye, and they left. It was a bit of an anticlimax in a way, but I’ll take that any day.
The resort is home to a kite surfing school, and the rooms are spread out over a large beachfront area. Fortunately, the owner upgraded us to their VIP room right on the beach. It was a huge room with a really comfortable kingsize bed and a wide-screen tv with Netflix. I parked the bike in the room, got cleaned up, and headed back over to the bar for dinner.
Here we met Paul, an English teacher who has his own school in Phan Rang and is an avid kite surfer. It was great to have a chat and a beer with him. We washed a pretty nice pizza down with the local Bien Trung beer, deciding that we’d stay a couple more nights here as we needed to time our run to Mui Ne to coincide with the Tet holidays. We figured that if anything happened over Tet with Covid, then Mui Ne, a coastal resort town, was the place to get stuck.
Check out our next stop: Smoke, Salt, and Smelly Pools.