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Day 57– January 26th: Quy Nhon to Tuy Hòa: 93kms
I got an early start today, stopping at the foot of the first big climb that takes you out of town. I had ridden less than a kilometer, so there’d be no warm-up for this one. I told myself that it didn’t matter if I stopped on the climb, I had a long way to go today, and I’d have to conserve my energy for the back half of the ride as well.
I began the steep climb, enjoying a tailwind and feeling OK. About halfway up, I stopped to rest, still concerned with saving my energy. By the time I reached the top, I realized I was still in the middle chainring and not relying on my “granny gear” to climb my way up. That heartened me because I knew that the second climb was even longer.
The long descent to the second climb was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it while I could. The road surface was in good condition and allowed me the thrill of speeds I don’t normally do. There’s always a little bit of risk on these long downhills, but you really feel like you’re alive.
With my legs well and truly warmed up now, I tackled the second, longer hill. Grateful for the wide shoulder, I made my way up and around the headland and past the Bai Xep turnoff where we’d been yesterday. The road remained very lumpy, but I was feeling good. I felt strong.
An hour after beginning the first climb, I was down on the flat coastal plain once more, passing through the small village of Xuân Hải. I stopped for a drink and a bite of a pastry, a sort of reward for doing so well over the hills, especially since I’d been a bit apprehensive about it earlier. Here two schoolgirls rode alongside me for a couple of kilometers practicing their pretty basic English. They dropped back when an older schoolgirl passed them and scolded them for something. That annoyed me. I was enjoying their company.
The route remained undulating, and I was constantly climbing, although never for too long. I rejoined the highway for a short time after the fish farming community of Hòa Phú. Around lunchtime, I took a shortcut off of it and cycled through the town of Sông Cầu to pick up a banh mi and have a rest. The side road into town went down a hill and through the main street while the highway went up and around the mountainside. As I sat and ate my lunch, I could see the highway on the other side of town as it swung around and hugged the next peninsular. It didn’t look too much higher than where I was in town, so I figured it wouldn’t be much of a climb back to it.
I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong! The main street out of town crossed a bridge and went under the highway; there was no on-ramp to get back onto it. I stopped and checked Google Maps again. The road I was on joined back up with the highway another couple of kilometers up the road, but not before I went over this enormously steep hill in front of me.
As I stood on the side of the road, psyching myself up for the 12% climb, two schoolgirls on an electric bike went gliding past me, giggling like only schoolgirls can. It didn’t help!
It took me about four stops to crest the hill, where I stopped to survey the surroundings. It was about 500m down to the intersection with the highway, and it was steep! As much as I like to freewheel down hills, I had to ride the brakes down this one so that I’d have control of the bike once I joined the highway below. At the bottom of the hill, the highway was three lanes wide on both sides and busy. I managed to merge on safely and continued on the wide shoulder.
Somewhere along this stretch, Sharyn had passed me in a minivan and actually got a photo. I never saw her; my head remained down, focusing on what lay before me. A short time later, the road turned east again and rose to round another peninsula. As I negotiated the long climb, a school had just come out, and once again, I found myself surrounded by scooters and electric bikes manned by kids barely 12 years old. As I puffed and panted my way to the top, the kids waved and said hello as they passed me, staring intently at me like some strange animal in the zoo.
I knew that before I reached Tuy Hòa that there’d be one more big climb. I wasn’t disappointed. There was a long, slightly downhill section before reaching the climb. I stopped and got a drink, and rehydrated, eating the last of my snacks. There was an old truck stuck halfway up the hill, slowing the traffic but not stopping it. That would work in my favor as the traffic would veer away from my lane to go around the truck and give me cover on the high side so I could stop and rest safely. Once again, I took my time and crabbed my way up there. I was pretty tired by now, having cycled about 80kms, one of my longest days so far, and still having roughly 20kms to go.
The road continued straight south until, at the north end of Tuy Hòa, I turned onto Hung Vuong Street and rode down through a very quiet, almost deserted town. Covid had brought the town to a halt, or so it seemed. I rode past many half-built hotels and resorts and even a large supermarket complex that was almost complete but left unfinished. It struck me that Tuy Hòa must be something of a tourist destination, and their main income had disappeared.
I had made the longer-than-usual ride today so that we could spend an extra night here and meet up with a Vietnamese friend, Quoc, who we used to tutor back in Saigon a couple of years ago. Quoc is an architect and owns a cafe here, among other things. He was keen to meet us, so I thought the extra day would come in handy, as well as give us a chance to look around.
I found Sharyn at the Coralina Hotel near the beachfront. She had booked us a nice, airy room with a sea view and a comfortable bed which I instantly crashed on. It had been a big day for me, and I was shattered. Quoc called, and we agreed to meet at a pub about a kilometer down the road. I really didn’t feel like walking so far, but they had advertised craft beer, so what could I do?!
Sitting on the street, we waited for Quoc to show up. He eventually came on motorbikes with his wife, Trinh, and her friend. Trinh’s friend was there because she spoke the best English. Quoc’s is a bit limited, and Trinh really doesn’t have much at all. Still, we enjoyed a few beers and caught up. It seems Quoc is doing alright for himself, and the girls were really nice.
We got a cab after our drinks, and Quoc told the driver where to go. He took us to a popular local restaurant, where we sat out the front on the footpath. The owner served us himself and spoke pretty good English as well. He was so happy to have some foreign visitors that he bought out a bottle of homemade rice wine for us to share. After drinking Tiger beers again with dinner, this was like rocket fuel!
By the end of dinner, I was pretty tired and looking to rest my head, but Quoc, knowing my love for craft beer, insisted we both hop on the back of his scooter so he could take us to a local pub he knew that has some. I have to say I had some reservations about this, not because I was so tired, but because we’d never been three on a bike before, and he’d probably had enough to drink already!
Somehow we managed to make it around to The Swan, a small pub come drop-in center for local teens, none of whom were drinking alcohol, let alone craft beers. The older kids drank coffee and smoked weed; it was a real education. Quoc knows the owner, but he wasn’t there. We troubled the barman behind the tiny bar that looked like an afterthought and had a couple of beers before excusing ourselves and walking home. Fortunately, it was just around the corner.
Next up: Of Friends and Fish.