15 Mar The ride to Dalat, about insane red buses, slow trucks, and nice people
We could not have asked for anything better. The road leading out of Cat Tien is quiet, there is hardly any traffic, and the scenery around us is beautiful. It is nice and sunny and we have somewhat of a tail wind. The road leads us over rolling hills and through several small villages. We ride past more coffee beans and other roots and vegetables spread out in peoples front yards and along the road to dry.
Unfortunately, this cycling paradise is soon coming to an end as we turn onto the road that will eventually lead us to Dalat. We know we have about two or three days of mostly uphill riding to make it to Dalat. On the first day we plan to make it to Bao Loc, which is located near the initial pass. What we did not expect, is the influx of traffic, especially of big American-style semi-trucks and insane red bus drivers.
Dear Red Bus Drivers,
We know you have customers to pick up, places to go, and schedules to keep. We also understand that you have the bigger vehicle and therefore the right away here on Vietnamese roads. Yet, please keep in mind that some of us are a little bit more vulnerable and do not have as much metal protecting us and please remember that you are not the only ones sharing this narrow, busy road.
There are lots of scooters and cyclists mingling on this road, many of them carrying fathers, sons, wives, daughters…sometimes family of fives with little children. Would it really hurt your business or reputation to slow down for a moment or to give the scooters and us cyclists just one foot of room when you pass? We too, only want to make it to our destinations without having to fear for our lives and without having to listen to the insane loud horn you honk when you get closer to us. All we want to do is share the road with you, but you tent to scare the heebie-jeebies out of us when you come straight at us while passing other vehicles along your way. We have seen pedestrians, scooters carrying whole families and little children, and ourselves dodge off the road to avoid a collision with you.
Really, all it takes is a nudge onto the brake pedal instead of laying on the horn for all of us to get along on this busy road.
Thank you for your attention, a bicycle tourer”
The deafening honking is slowly driving us insane and the absolute mind-boggling and inconsiderate driving style of the bus drivers is turning the 2 to 3 day ride to Dalat into a 4 day bicycle-touring nightmare. During the next few days, we take many breaks away from the road and end up calling it quits earlier in the day than usual, just to get away from the never-ending honking and the nerve-wrecking red-bus-drivers.
Luckily, we encounter some very nice people along our ride which more than make up for the crazy riding experience. A gentleman who gives us bananas while we take a break at the side of the road; a small restaurant owner, who treats us to a fruity dessert; we have nice chats with a young woman who makes Vietnamese spaghetti and fruit shakes and we get offered beer while we take a break to cool off our feet in a river…and of course the many smiling children and people who wave at us along the way.
We also check out a few Buddha statues and found some nice places away from the road to enjoy more iced coffee, sugar cane juice, shakes and other goodies.
As we start the climb up to the initial pass however, we notice that the American semi trucks are not really behaving like the trucks at home. Most of the drivers are just as courteous as the drivers at home; but unfortunately, they too like to lay on their horn excessively. Thanks to the lack of regulations in this part of the world, though, most of them are heavily overloaded and barely manage to haul their loads up the mountain, which means they are way slower than their American counterparts.
“Dear big Semi-Truck-Drivers
Thank you, for making us feel good about ourselves. While you rumble, moan, and groan up the mountain you still find a moment to give us a thumbs-up or peace sign. Your stalling, stopping, and struggling trucks make us feel good about our abilities to climb mountains and we are happy to return the waves back to you while we pass you up pedalling up the mountain.
Thank you so much, a bicycle tourer”
Just when we thought, that we would never arrive in Dalat, we finally encounter a nice 4 lane highway on the fourth day traveling there. There is hardly any traffic on it. Although, we encounter a “no-scooter” sign, we are not sure whether bicycles are allowed on the highway. At this point we do not care anymore and decide to take the easy, quiet, big road before heading up the the last steep 5 mile climb on the small road into the town.
Here are just a few different things we saw on scooters on our way to Dalat, it is amazing, what all can be transported on 2 wheels.