More Motorbike Adventures
09.05.2009 - 10.05.2009 8 °C
Heidi was feeling quite sick again in the morning, so we slept in a bit. We finally got ourselves out of the room and headed downstairs around 11 am, where we bumped into the Slovenian couple and their American friend Robert. We explained to them that Heidi was still feeling sick, and the Slovenian said they had just the cure: a magical Slovenian home remedy syrup that is made from the sap of some kind of tree (they didn't seem to be so clear on the details of the ingredients) that is supposed to help with nausea. Robert was the guinea pig, as he took the first swig of this brownish-colored sludge. After the reaction he had to the syrup, you would think any reasonable person would take a pass at trying it, but because Heidi was feeling so nauseous, she decided to give it a go. Heidi later described the experience as "like drinking spoiled vodka that clung to every inch of your mouth". Glad I didn't feel sick. As an additional humorous note, we would later witness the Slovenian girl using the syrup as hand lotion.
After Heidi took the home remedy cure-all, she decided to stay in for the day and rest, although she encouraged me to go out and join the Slovenians and Robert in a little motorbike tour. I begrudgingly acquiesced to her encouragement. I met them downstairs and we headed out together to rent motorbikes. This time, due to the power in numbers, we were able to rent bikes for 64,000 dong each (around $4)--cheaper than the day before, but we negotiated to add fuel ourselves. Our destination was the Tram Tom Pass, which was just after the unimpressive Silver Waterfall that Heidi and I had visited the day before. Since I already knew my way in and our of town, I led the group. The weather was less than ideal, with light rains and the heaviest fog we had seen yet. This would cause me to nearly get into an accident as we headed through the center of town to the nearest petrol filling station. A Vietnamese couple turned in front of me; but, naturally, I deftly maneuvered the bike out of the way, in the process skidding sideways on the rain-slick road. I maintained balance, so no harm done, but I did give the couple a warning honk of the horn and glare to show my disdain. Robert would later comment that the scene was "awesome". Robert and the Slovenians fueled up, but then the troubles for Robert began. There was some kind of dispute about the amount of petrol pumped, as the Vietnamese woman manning the pump gave Robert a bit of petrol after another motorbike had fueled, without resetting the tank meter first. Robert felt that she wanted to charge him too much, as he didn't closely watch where the meter was when the fueling started. After a brief exchange of raised voices, and a tirade of mockingly imitating the Vietnamese language, Robert eventually paid the extra fifty cents. As the Slovenian girl would later note "many troubles always come to Robert". More of his troubles later...
We were finally on the road, and we made it out of town without any further incidents. We navigated along the narrow roads and eventually made it to the only road out to the pass. The weather at this point was horrible--it was extremely foggy, to the point that moisture was beading on our clothes--and this only added to the bitter cold that we were feeling from the 40 F degree weather. We had all bundled up quite a bit in anticipation of the cold ride, but our hands were still freezing. Visibility was also really low, which made the narrow roads a bit of a challenge, as we had to quickly move around approaching trucks that suddenly appeared out of the mist. We made it past the waterfall, and then made a pitstop, where we debated whether to continue through this misery, or cut our losses and head back to town. The book guaranteed that once we made it through the pass, the weather would be sunny and warm, but we were skeptical. A solo Russian traveler, also on motorbike, joined the debate. He decided to turn back, but we committed to pushing on.
After driving no more than five or six minutes through the pass, we noticed an immediate difference in the weather--we could see the sun poking out of the fog a few kilometers ahead, and the weather was already significantly warmer. After a few more kilometers, the fog disappeared and the temperature was actually really nice. The drive through Tram Ton Pass was beautiful, and we really enjoyed the ride and the views as we coasted down the narrow, steep slope of the winding road descended through the mountains. The slope was quite nice, so to save fuel I cut the motor on my motorbike and coasted down the mountain. Robert was in the lead, and he soon cruised out of sight. After another 15 minutes of so of driving, I spotted a downed motorbike on the inside of a steep curve of the road. No questions who this was--none other than Robert, buried under his fallen motorbike. He had taken the corner too fast and hit some loose gravel before flying off the road. I pulled to a stop and lifted the bike off of Robert and the Slovenians arrived soon after to help him move to a place to sit on the side of the road. That is where the real fun started. Robert started moaning, pulling grimacing faces, and complaining about the pain in his hip, leg, and ankle. We helped pull off his shoes and socks, and Robert eventually pulled off his pants to inspect his wounds. The Slovenians helped put some cream on some of his bruises, and we debated about turning back to the Fansipan trail head, where there was an outpost with some staff and (probably) some medical supplies. He had some bad bruising on his thigh, and had some general cuts and scrapes from the wipe out, and had a little chunk of skin hanging from his pinky finger, but no major swelling or signs of serious injury. Nonetheless, Robert sat on the side of the road for a good half an hour, continuing with a series of moans and groans and telling us about how much it hurt. I didn't take his pain too seriously and thought the whole scenario was quite amusing. He finally sucked it up and got to his feet. We took a look at his bike, but there was no major damage, just a bent footpeg that the Slovenian guy and I bent back with a broken piece of bamboo we found on the side of the road. The worst of it was that Robert had put a huge tear in the jacket he had borrowed from the guy he had rented the motorbike from. Oops, he will have to explain that one later.
A good 45 minutes after the spill, we were all back on the road, again enjoying the scenic descent into the valley below. We made it down into the valley, where we passed through some small villages interspersed with patches of rice fields, and we were all a bit amused to see the local version of a gas station there, which amounted to small water bottles filled with fuel, next to a hand-pump. In general, the whole area was quite undeveloped. We eventually made it to the small town of Tam Duong where we made a pit stop. We went to a small bia hoi joint, which serves beer, tea, and small eats. There Robert immediately took a seat and propped his sore ankle on a chair. The people there were extremely nice and accomodating, and also really curious to see what the foreigners were doing here (as it didn't seem like this area got a lot of tourist traffic). Everyone got a kick out of Robert when he began moaning again, and laughed hard when I used body language and sound effects to describe his crash. The middle-aged woman running the shop helped Robert, fetching him some ice and applying some cream to his scrapes and cut finger. She then made us some pho noodle soup (which was fantastic) and we relaxed in the warm sun, shedding a few layers while enjoying some cold local beer.
After resting a bit, we decided to head back to Sapa town, where Robert was determined to take a hot bath and put some gauze on his cuts. Once we made it through the pass, we found that although it had lessened a bit, there was still fog and it was still cold. We made it back to town without any problems and stopped again at the Baguette & Chocolat where the Slovenians had some dessert, and I bought a brownie to bring back to poor Heidi. Robert continued on, as he was in a hurry to get into the bathtub. It was only after he left that we realized he had forgotten his money pouch with us, and we chuckled a bit as we knew that he still had the torn jacket to explain. Nonetheless, we took our time, finished the desserts while chatting a bit, and eventually made it back to the hotel around 6:30, where the motorbike guys were waiting for us with a not-so-cordial "too late" greeting. Also, the owner of the ripped jacket was waiting there. Due to Robert's lack of money at the time he returned his motorbike, I agreed to wait downstairs while the Slovenians went up to get Robert and pay the 20,000 dong the guy demanded for his damaged jacket. After more than 10 minutes of waiting, I was sick of hanging out, so I let the motorbike guy follow me upstairs to Robert's room (which conveniently was right next to ours) where we roused Robert out of his already-poured hot bath to pay the money. Overall, no problem, as both Robert and the motorbike were satisfied with the 20,000 dong (about $1.25).
The day ended with bringing the brownie to Heidi with some Western-style take out food. We ate, made a fire in the room, went to bed early. Not a bad day.