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Day 43– January 12th: Hue to Lang Co: 65kms
We’d been keeping our eye religiously on the weather, looking for a dry day to ride out of Hue. I was feeling a bit claustrophobic, to be honest, and needed to get back on the bike. For about a week now, Accuweather.com had been predicting a break in the weather on the 12th for a few days. This was all the prompting I needed to continue the trip south. This also meant, hopefully, that it would be dry in two days’ time to climb over Hai Van Pass. I had little to no intention of doing it in the wet.
After a restless night, I managed to get away by 9.40 am. The rain was predicted to finish by 10 am. Hue traffic was thick until the outskirts, about 15kms from the center of town. The rain came and went for a couple of hours but was never heavy; just annoying.
At the 20kms mark, I joined the highway once again. I was already quite wet as the rain persisted. I had three long climbs today, two of them to avoid tunnels (I was checking the maps very carefully nowadays!). The first wound over a range leading up to the town of Phu Loc, which overlooked the large Dammed lake, Cau Hai. The climb was only about 250m long but had me puffing at the top. I had climbed it in the middle, chain ring as I was pushing my legs to get used to the climbing that was to come.
The second climb was to avoid a tunnel. It rose up to 7% for 1200m, which also wasn’t too bad. I was feeling happy with myself as I could feel myself getting stronger on the hills. I glided back down to the highway and crossed back onto the right-hand side. Here the highway was gun-barrel straight for about 12 kms until I reached the turnoff for the next climb.
These climbs are part of the old highway before the introduction of the tunnels. They are winding and dangerous in wet weather, and slow down the traffic, hence the need for a tunnel. This last climb rose up between 8 and 10% for 3.2kms. This time I had to stop twice to rest because of the steepness. As good as my legs had become, they were still going to struggle a bit on these types of climbs. I worried that I still wasn’t strong enough to tackle tomorrow’s 12km climb up over Hai Van Pass.
As I reached the top of the pass, my legs screaming to stop again and my lungs working overtime, I was met by a big black dog. He had been waiting for me since I turned the last bend some 100m down the hill. He was barking aggressively, tail straight up and teeth bared. This had been the first dog I’d encountered who looked like he meant business. Most of the dogs here in Vietnam, and they’re a lot of them, will let you pass without even taking any notice of you. Some will bark but not chase, and the ones who might do both are usually tied up or behind a locked gate to deter thieves.
My strategy with attacking dogs is always to get off, keep the bike between myself and the dog (or dogs), and gradually walk past. This has always worked for me in the past, but now I was in two minds as this was a Vietnamese dog, and I’d had no previous trouble with them. I decided to stay on the bike, and as he approached me, snarling, I turned the bike at him, and he balked. That was all I needed to see, so I did this about three more times, each time progressing further out of his territory. Eventually, the dog could see I wasn’t going to be chased, and I was getting further from his home, so he gave up the show and turned around. I was now on the downhill side of the pass anyway, and he’d have a tough time trying to keep up with me flying down the steep grade.
On the way down, I stopped to check out the view of the Lang Co lagoon, a huge body of seawater that has created a spit of land that the small town of Lang Co lies on. When the sun is out and the sky is blue, the lagoon appears a brilliant blue-green color. Unfortunately, the sun wasn’t out, and the sky was cloudy and dull.
Sharyn was waiting at the Lang Co Beach Resort for me when I arrived soon after. In fact, she’d beaten me there by only 15mins. By that time, she had managed to get us a room upgrade to a beach bungalow next to the pool.
I locked my bike onto the verandah and had a hot shower. All settled and clean, we decided to have an early dinner at the restaurant; we were the only ones there. Rather than sit outside with a beach view, we chose to go inside out of the wind and cold; at least our dinner would be hot when it arrived.
After dinner, we retired back to our room. Unfortunately, the AC would only blow cold air. This was a problem as it was getting colder and colder inside. Sharyn rang the front desk, and they sent a man around to check it. It took them a while to figure it wouldn’t blow warm air, and the girl apologized. I could see that they would do nothing about it; we’d have to cover up under the blankets and try to stay warm. Soon after, however, the man came back with a bar heater. We were grateful as they’d made an effort at least to fix the situation. It did make a difference to the warmth of the room.
As I waited for the room to warm up, I used their hairdryer to dry my wet riding clothes. I didn’t want to start with wet clothes on the climb tomorrow. It would be cold up at the top of the pass.
Read on to see if I made it up the famous Hai Van Pass: Going To The Sun: Hai Van Pass