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Mud, mud, glorious mud 16 June 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Happiness, Travelling, Travels, Vietnam.
Tags: , , , ,

Today’s adventure started in Bao Lac, a small border town with a surprising amount of new houses, and looking less poor than other towns in the region.

The drive started well, and by lunch we had covered half of the 131 km to Cao Bang. Cao Bang province so far is beautiful, with rice paddies and limestone mountains in the distance.

The sun was also out, blue skies as far as the eyes could see.

Then, about 45 km out, we had to wait in line for some road works. Fair enough, we think. Just a bit of mud, slippery as anything, but it won’t slow us down.

How wrong were we. Firstly, road works are the name of the game. Planning clearly isn’t. So instead of having a kilometer or so of inconvenience, we soon come to realise that pretty much all of the road from here on in is completely torn up. And most of it seems to just have been torn up, without anyone actually working on it.

And with the great amount of rain that we have had every night, the whole lot has turned into slippery, soppy, deep mud. Or sludge.

And then my partner also gets a flat tire. If I thought I was having trouble staying up, I don’t want to imagine his struggles, as he swaggers all over the place.

Twice, I wipe out. It is just impossible to keep the bike on its course – accelerating and breaking both just takes it off into the opposite direction I was heading. I’m wiped out twice, and three more times, I keep it standing, but I am perpendicular to the road.

Add huge trucks. That splatter muddy goo up to your helmet as they pass.

For a little while there I was not having any fun, I was just so scared.

Luckily, after ten kilometres or so, we found a little shack with a young man, his son and mother, who fixes tires. My partner and I got to play with the two year old while dad fixed the bike.

We kept going through mud all the way down the mountain (at least 25 km or more) completely muddy from head to toe.

Interestingly, I have learnt more about mud in one day than I ever thought I would. I could soon spot the most treacherous mud flats, and how to get out of them. When the mud is so thick it cakes onto your tires is the worst, because you lose all traction. Puddles tend to be deeper than you think. Glossy mud is liquid, whereas darker mud is drying.

Also, I learnt that chickens do not tend to change direction. If you can, pass behind it. If not, you better break, as it will run out in front of your wheels.

And soon I was having fun again despite my thumbs hurting from gripping on to the handle bars too tightly, and my shoulders aching from concentration.

Also, mud is strangely colourful (yes, I spent hours staring 5 metres before me, and could not look around at the scenery much). It comes in yellow, red, orange, black, grey, light brown and dark brown. And every shade in between.

The shower that followed that epic ride was well deserved and extremely welcome. I still have mud on the back pack and my rain coat, but the bike and me were thoroughly hosed down (not at the same time, mind).

Ready for tomorrow’s (last) adventure.

Good night Cao Bang.


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