Hai Van Pass and on to Da Nang - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

November 23, 2016

Hai Van Pass and on to Da Nang

Hai Van Pass and into Da Nang

November 23, 2016

When we woke up we didn’t know we would ride over the pass. It had poured down rain so heavily in the night that the ceiling of our room leaked. And here I thought there was a second floor! There was a grand stairway but upon closer inspection in the morning I discovered a corrugated roof at the top of the stairs. The second floor wasn’t there at all. It was in the future. From the looks of the rough little town I wondered how long it would be before that second floor was even needed. We and a drunk guy were the only guests. Actually, Andrea and I were the only guests.

It wasn’t raining so we started riding. We had ten miles to go before we were to get to the base of the climb anyway so we might as well ride while watching what the weather was going to do.

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The road was very straight and in good condition. I now know that if a road is fairly new and wide and done nicely it means that development is planned; usually big resorts. Eventually we came to some resorts in the making. One of them, “Mediterraneo”, is going to be enormous according to the plans on the billboard. Environmental consideration is nonexistent and dunes are being rearranged (eliminated). Nirvana Spa and Resort is up and running but not much else exists on that northern stretch of Lang Co Beach.

Mediterraneo Resort development
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Big plans - an approach to the sea.
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On the southern stretch of Lang Co there are more older and established hotels. We breezed past them because the clouds were clearing out. We could see sunshine out to sea and that was good news because that’s where the weather would be coming from if it was going to be rain. We did not want to do our biggest elevation gain and loss ever on wet roads.

As we approached the base of the big hill we looked around for food but didn’t really see anything that grabbed us. We did stop for some coffee though.

Coffee always comes with tea. As you can see, ice is optional in the coffee.
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We started up. We were committed. The biggest concern was Andrea’s hand which didn’t look good. In fact it was a major part of what spurred us on to do the pass. She needed to have a doctor look at her hand and we figured that more modern Da Nang would have that doctor.

I thought it was a spider bite because she said it itched all the time. There was a white central part where the bite or sting took place and around it was a lot of redness. We didn’t even know if she would be able to ride. It looked painful. But as the weather continually improved Andrea rose to the challenge.

We hadn’t gone far when we had a perfect view of Lang Co Beach, a view we never had from the road. It looked like quite a beautiful beach and we were a bit sad we hadn’t experienced it. But we were headed to Da Nang home of China beach which is one of Vietnam’s most beautiful.

Lang Co Beach
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Beginning of the climb
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The climb wasn’t all that bad. It was about 8% a lot of the way. We rode the vast majority of it but we walked some steeper parts. We took a lot of breaks partly because the views were fantastic and partly because of the high humidity we were sweating profusely. I hadn’t sweated that much since ninth grade track when my stupid track coach ordered the track team to run six miles for practice. I about died. I was a sprinter and a very short distance sprinter at that. I ran about half the distance and walked the rest coming in last. I didn’t care. I figured I’d rather survive. That track coach was a moron. Plus he was obese. Shouldn't there be rules about track coaches being just a little bit in shape? Sorry for my diversion, I was talking about sweat.

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There really wasn’t a lot of traffic on the road since the tunnel now takes most of the load. The only big vehicles next to us were trucks carrying hazardous material (oil mostly) and buses carrying tourists who wanted to see the views in comfort. Nearly everyone on motorbikes cheered us on. We didn’t see any other cyclists.

Tight curves
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There are train tracks way down near the rocky coastline but nothing else except wilderness. The huge hill that we were on is completely forested, no buildings. There is one big distracting sound about halfway up. It comes from an enormous exhaust fan pulling the nasty air from the tunnel up and out.

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There are hundreds or thousands of cyclists who have written on Crazyguyonabike about climbs much longer, higher, steeper than Hai Van Pass. Our first cycle tour two years ago was fairly flat. I wasn’t going to do my first ever bike tour at age 61 and immediately fill it with impossible climbs. So, this was a good test for us. We also are carrying way more weight than we will be because we came prepared for cold wet weather up north. Plus, we are still carrying a lot of Cliff Bars, slowly rationing them out to ourselves as treats every now and then when things don’t go so well or when we don’t find dinner. I know my bags will be ten pounds less at the end of our trip. I mean, just think, the Q-Tips, deodorant and vitamins all gone.

Did someone say "Cliff Bar"?
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Moss Wall
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Nearing the top of Hai Van Pass I saw way in the distance what I thought was a white wedding dress (and presumably a woman inside it) up on top of some sort of tower. It was unmistakable, (as wedding dresses are), even as far away we were from it. I told Andrea that she should use her camera to zoom in to have a more clear picture of what was going on. Her camera has a far superior zoom than mine. Andrea said, “I’m not zooming anywhere.” She is always reluctant to break her concentration from riding to stop and open up her handlebar bag to get her camera out. I suppose she thinks that she will be back in the same exact spot and the same exact things will be happening and then she will be more prepared to photograph them. But, to my surprise, she did dig her camera out and zoom in on the odd thing in the distance.

When we got to the top, sure enough, there were some old bunkers and possibly an anti-aircraft platform where a bride and groom were posing for photos. It was a big wedding photography production including a step ladder for the bride to carefully get onto and off the cement platform.

A perfect place for wedding photos, I guess!
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We sat and drank from a coconut as we watched the production, which, minutes later was replaced with a similar wedding photography production. That anti-aircraft platform was never more useful.

Andrea’s hand didn’t look very good. It was like a little white mountain on her palm was about to erupt. But she had made it to the top.

At the top of Hai Van Pass
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Then we coasted down six miles on perfect asphalt and gorgeous views the entire way. Da Nang with it’s two curved beaches and tall modern buildings looked more like a city in the western world and not something I ever expected in Vietnam. It looked inviting.

Starting down the Da Nang side.
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Da Nang in the distance.
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When we made it back down to sea level we had more than 20 kilometers to go before we entered the central part of the city. One long straight stretch of busy road was the only way to go. It was rush hour as well. But we rolled quickly and actually were enjoying the Vietnamese congestion.

We have found that there is a definite mindset one must put themselves in and then just go with the flow. That doesn’t mean you can’t be ultra aware of what’s going on around you at all times. But we have found the Vietnamese to be excellent drivers and quite considerate of us foreigners. If there is the least question of going or stopping we always go forward. They respect that. It means that we are sure of what we are doing and then their job is to not question us. It’s as thought we have become Vietnamese when driving on super congested roads in cities. Hesitation is the worst thing anyone can do. I find myself constantly judging the other’s velocity and probable route. They, too, for the most part, are sure of where they are going. There is little hesitation on their parts. We were completely at ease and had no problems. I dare say, it was actually sort of fun.

We arrived in the thick of modern downtown Da Nang just before dark and quickly found a hotel. The hotel we chose was nothing I would ever recommend; a musty. mildewy, unventilated, cheap place. But it was centrally located near the main market. The main thing was getting Andrea to the hospital in the morning.

lovebruce

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