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Day 54– January 23rd: Phu Cat to Quy Nhon: 47.5kms
Under cloudy skies, I left Phu Cat behind me. It was around 8 am, and the road was pretty quiet. I was still hungry and gagging for a coffee to spark me up, but there was none to be found. Every second shop is a cafe in Saigon. What on Earth do they drink up here?!
I rode past several small market stalls on the side of the road; all they had was veggies, no fruit, no meat, no coffee.
As I reached closer to the coast, I had three large hills to climb. This was fine as I had now got my legs, and I would have some views out along the coast. The average grade would have been about 8%, which made it hard enough, but on the second hill, they were doing major roadworks, and I had to stop amongst a cluster of cars and motorbikes while they blasted the hillside up ahead. Needless to say, it was pretty dusty once they let us through, and the now dirt road was littered with chunks of rock which made cycling very tricky.
Since I started in Hanoi, I’ve been wearing a mask each day for the ride. Partly because of Covid, and it’s expected to have one on, and partly to avoid sucking in the fumes of the traffic. Down in Saigon, almost everyone wears a mask on their motorbikes and have been doing so since we arrived back in 2011. This time my mask paid for itself as I didn’t have to chew on all the dust from the blasting on the hill. Still, I was glad to be over the other side and riding along the beach.
After riding past a giant, white Buddha set back on a hillside in Phuong Phi; I turned onto an 18km spit of land with a brand new four-lane boulevard that ran arrow-straight all the way down to a bridge connecting the spit to the northern end of Quy Nhon. The spit was basically a sand dune that had been targeted for development. At the top end, I rode through a modern, gated community of new villas, a stark contrast to the arid, sandy land it sat upon. Well-manicured gardens and huge expanses of lush, green lawns surrounded the villas. It looked like one of the developments in the US that surround a golf club, nothing like the towns I’ve been riding through till now.
Further down the spit, there were several enormous resorts under construction. Each of these had already put in a fair bit of landscaping and lawns. I figured the early introduction of the lawn would keep the sand at bay when the wind picks up, and that’d be pretty often around here.
With no hills or trees, the wind out here on the spit was a dominating factor, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as today, I had a raging tailwind driving me along. It was so strong that the last 8 km, an ever so slightly downhill slope, saw me never having to pedal once. I have to admit. I was just a little disappointed when I got to the turn-off to the bridge and had to pedal again!
The bridge was another story. It’s 5 km long, and that same wind that pushed me down the spit was now trying to push me off the bridge. Staying upright was my only concern as I was buffeted all the way across. I breathed a sigh of relief as I whisked down the ramp on the other side and hit a series of round-a-bouts. Now all I had to do was to negotiate the traffic and about another five smaller bridges till I found the esplanade.
Sharyn was once again waiting for me as I arrived at the Kila Boutique Hotel. Once I’d secured the bike and cleaned up, she informed me that she’d been advised not to ride the bike for the next few months. She had been in contact with two of our friends, one in the US and one in Australia, who were both specialists in their fields. They had seen her x-rays and had told her her bones weren’t ready for the stress and strain of a touring bike yet, that if she wanted to heal completely, she’d need to avoid using her arm for anything that may strain it. She was despondent. I knew she wanted badly to get back on the bike and complete the trip with me, but she had to be realistic, and we trusted our friends.
It was mixed feelings for me. As much as I wanted her to join me once again, I felt her arm wasn’t ready for the effort it would take, and this news was something of a relief for me. I’ve really missed her out there on the road, it’s so strange for me not to have her there after all of our trips together, and I was worried about how she’d feel watching me complete each day while she made her way by bus and car. I had also waited twelve months to do this trip and had put a lot of time into preparing and planning it. Now I was just over halfway through and feeling good on the bike; there was a need in me to complete it, to prove to myself I could do it. It’s that same personal achievement that Sharyn has now been robbed of, and I’d fully understand if she just wanted to go back to Saigon.
We talked about it for a long while. She would arrange for her bike to get sent back to Saigon, and she would continue down the coast with me; at least we’d be together at night.
So, coming to grips with our new situation, we headed down the beach to the Quy Nhon Sports Bar for a few craft beers and dinner. The bar is run by Docker, an Aussie lady from Victoria, who we immediately took a shine to. It was great to chat with like-minded people again after a fair while, and we needed the distraction.
Quy Nhon is one of the nicer places along the coast: Creature comforts in Quy Nhon