Today began with some sightseeing including a trip to a minority village. We went for a “boat” ride in a hollowed out log, with a young woman standing on the back with a large bamboo pole pushing us across the lake. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought, the water was shallow and warm, but Vinh told us the night before that the lake was filled with leaches and was not swimmable. All the way across I had visions of Humphrey Bogart in the African Queen, pulling Katherine Hepburn in a boat down a river covered with leaches. But enough about that, the ride was great and we continued on with a walk through the village where you would think it was 100 years ago until I noticed all the satellite dishes and color TV’s in the huts.
The country and all that has happened since we were here in a senseless war captivate me. Vinh, our guide, is amazingly knowledgeable about history despite his 28 years. He knows dates and events and is willing to answer all my questions about what was happening when and where. I am remembering my friends, particularly my friend, Nick, who never came home. Was he here, where I’m cycling through the beautiful countryside on a carefree day in August?
I’m learning that bike trips are about several things. The guide may be the most important. Ours makes the trip come alive and shares freely and enthusiastically all he knows. There is no judgment about speed or endurance and the support car is there to let me rest my weary bones when I have had enough cycling for an afternoon. Yesterday we cycled all morning and it felt great. You cannot see a country from this vantage point any other way. The school children all stand on the side of the road as we pass shouting out “Hello”, waving and smiling. Every time we stop for coffee or lychee fruit we meet incredible people who are friendly, peaceful and welcoming. Biking trips although social during breaks and meals are a very solitary event. While I’m on my bike, I’m alone with my thoughts and on this trip that is particularly poignant as I reflect on the war. I knew when I signed up for this trip that I would have some feelings but this is amazing. After lunch yesterday I biked for a few hours and then I called it quits as I saw the very steep, long uphill before me. We were having cold drinks at a roadside stand with the support van and it just looked so inviting. Tomorrow is our 30th wedding anniversary and what better way to celebrate than with an amazing ride through the mountains of Vietnam. We are headed to the sea. Let the good times roll!