Sunday 23 November 2014

Cycling alone....Its a long and lonely road and there are dangers... Maybe that's why we do it?

Cycling long distances through remote places is obviously not with out its risks. 
Most risks we can mitigate against. Some we can not. Being ROBBED on a desolate highway is one of those risks which is very hard to prevent. Escape is nearly impossible when you're on a bicycle and your assailants are on motor cycles. Defiance is (in my view) far too high a risk to consider. You are really left only to comply and hope you get out of it with out too much expense or injury - or worse.

The people who robbed me appeared to follow me from a small highway town I had just passed though. Their weapon of choice (disconcertingly) was a blood filled syringe. Their request of 2 million VND was fairly aggressively delivered as they stopped their motorbike in front of me to block my path.  I handed over some of the cash in my pocket - about 800k and they left without further incident. They even apologized as they left, with matching rotten teeth grins declaring they needed the money for drugs and showing me their track marks.

With 500km in front of me on very quiet roads and many small and somewhat notorious towns to pass through I made the decision to abandon this leg of my tour of Vietnam and get a bus back to the nearest large town Nha Trang. With the adrenalin pumping immediately after the robbery I pushed hard to the next township which I could see a few k's ahead. 
I was there in 15 minutes and immediately spoke with some locals at a tourist stop who helped me waive down the next bus. The chance arrival of a random, long distance coach with a spare seat and room for my bike was the next small piece of good fortune I encountered that day.
2 hours later I was back in Nha Trang contemplating my next move.  As the ordeal took place on day 1 of my ride, I quickly restructured my plans to use the next 5 days based in Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue, purchased an overnight sleeper ticket on the 8pm train and boarded after a remedial beer and pizza.

The next 5 days worked out perfectly. Day rides out of Hoi An and Hue, A support vehicle and the company of a fellow rider Alex, which all allowed me to relax and enjoy immensely a somewhat different adventure than originally planned.

Map shows exact point where I was robbed by 2 (male) individuals on a motorcycle. Time of robbery was around 3pm, November 8th. I had received some warnings about this coast from Nha Trang all the way to Quang Ngai. If cycling alone or with out vehicle support please take extra care. I was lucky. I had passport, USD and other valuables on me. And they did not (despite the syringe) display any violent intent. And I'd even venture to say, Vietnam is a very non-violent society, However when people are desperate anything can happen so its good to be prepared mentally how you might deal with such an occurance.

On the third day of my revised schedule I took on the famous Hai Van Pass. Nowhere near as tough as the ride up to DaLat - This climb is around 11km long to the summit. The views are fantastic and descent was a real blast!

Saturday 22 November 2014

BGC Cycle Asia with Robbie McEwen

A dream realised. If you re an NBA fan, equate this to meeting Michael Jordan. If you re an AFL nut this is the equivalent of having a beer with Lee Mathews. For me it was spending an hour with Robbie McEwen in a bookstore cafe, drinking coffee and having a laugh in an impromptu meeting - which was really just a couple of Aussies catching up in a foreign city. Robbie was in town promoting the BGC cycling event and his book, which was released this month. I made a point to do my shopping and drop by the book store on the way out to see what was happening. To my great fortune I happened to meet Robbie and his manager at the cafe bar.I offered to share my table and we hung out for an hour. Great bloke, happy to share a lot of his life stories with me and enquire a lot about living in Manila. Tried not to act like a groupie,and to be honest the conversation just flowed, not even focused on cycling or the tour or those epic sprints he won during his stellar career on the bike. Talked about Asia, the gold coast, Belgium, our kids and life in the Philippines. A great experience for me and hopefully a normal day for Robbie and his manager who I think enjoyed the casual encounter.
And to top it off (Coincidentally) I even made it as poster boy of the 2014 event! Kids thought that was hilarious!

Robbie and me

BGC streets at the start

ALWAYS show off at the finish line!

Vietnamese village life as seen from the bike - Vinh Mỹ, Thua Thien-Hue, Vietnam