It took 3 days to get the visa stamp in Nanning and make it back to the border town. I have nothing interesting to say about Nanning. Just an incredible number of high rise buildings. Like a shit New York. Good to get cycling again and I finally made it over the border into Vietnam. I have been here before. Many moons ago I spent a week motorbiking around the north. I learnt to ride a motorbike on the streets of Hanoi which was entertaining. Stall, wheelie, stall, wheelie until I eventually got the hang of it. I had an amazing week touring the mountains on my trusty Russian Minsk until the final day when I lost it on a wet descent and landed on my shoulder. I rode back into rush hour Hanoi with one arm. It's good to know one's limits. Since then I have stuck to bicycles and I'm looking forward to cycling across the north as I head towards Laos.
Great day exploring the rugged mountains in the north east of Vietnam. In crossing the border I have moved into another time zone. I should move my clocks back an hour. Instead I moved them forward 23 minutes. I realised I have no need for the actual time. I have no appointments. Nowhere I need to be at any given time. It suits my camping life for the sun to set at 7 so this evening I set the time accordingly. I'm now operating on my time. It's called JMT.
RIP Mark E Smith https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=N8bjJf3Q5mE
One of those days. I managed to snap one of my tent poles and now require masking tape to erect my tent. Whacked it down all day. Hit the deck doing 2 mph up a steep climb. Lost control on some slippy rocks whilst clipped in and a second later I was lying in the middle of the road. Felt a bit silly. Broke a handle on one of my pannier bags which is now only fastened to my bike thanks to a bungee chord. Got coated in mud from head to toe but came across a town with a hotel and couldn't resist. Watched Vietnam vs Uzbekistan with about 50 locals all crammed into a tiny restaurant. Jubilant scenes when Vietnam equalised. Then there was a power cut. The power came back just as the referee was blowing the final whistle. Vietnam had lost.
Mud bath. All the rain has turned the dirt roads to mud. Fine going up but treacherous going down. I inched my way down one steep descent full squeeze on the brakes. My back wheel skidding about all over the place. I lost it completely on one corner. I hit the deck and rolled down the road. I was fine except for being covered in mud. Most importantly there was no damage to my bike. I walked the rest of the way down the mountain.
The bad weather continues but today the mountain road was mostly paved and I was able to keep it upright. Still a lot of mud to contend with wreaking havoc with my bike. I seem to be stuck on my middle chainring. This means i can't go quick enough on the flat and I can't go slow enough on the climbs. I tried to fix it but to no avail. Sometimes I think it would actually be helpful to know something about bikes. My trial and error approach to fixing problems doesn't seem to be helping. That said I'm getting good at the foot gear change. You drop your right foot onto the bottom of the chain, lift it up and try and drop it onto the desired chainring. This way I can I change ring without having to stop and get my hands dirty.
Heavy mist but thankfully the rain held off. Visibility was pretty poor so I spurned the mountain route and sped along a valley next to a free flowing river. Had a few deja vu moments today. It's 13 years since I rode around these parts on a motorbike. Impossible to remember where I went exactly but definitely feels like I've been here before.
Excellent high road through the mountains before a thrilling descent on a dry, paved, mud free road. The bike is working a lot better. I can now change gear between the bottom and middle cog but I still can't get onto the top cog without using my foot. My front brake pads have been worn down to nothing but luckily I was able to pick up some new ones in a small town. It's great how cheap everything is here but you do wonder how your new brake pads are going to fare when they only cost 40p.
Another great day exploring remote back roads as I get closer to the Laos border. Quiet meandering roads through the hills. One such road led me to a wide river. Sadly there was no bridge. Explains why the road was so quiet. Managed to persuade a local guy to take me across the river in his boat. I gave him £5 for his trouble and he looked ecstatic. I was able to find another road on the other side. It all saved me having to double back 60km. Camped by a beautiful lake next to a farmyard and dreamt of chickens.
Not seen the sun since the first day in Vietnam but the rain held off and I had a lovely day pedalling alongside tranquil rivers, through gentle rolling hills with the occasional climb into the clouds. Made it to the border town of Dien Bien and took a day off before heading over into Laos. It's been great being back on a bike again in Vietnam. It's a lot harder without an engine but Vietnam is most definitely a 2 wheel country. Everyone is on a motorbike or a bicycle. Far outnumbering vehicles. In the towns every other shop is either selling or fixing motorbikes. None of the bicycles here seem to have gears. Everyone pushes up hill. I get a few open mouthed looks high up a mountain. They must wonder how I do it. The people are extremely friendly and open. Every single kid, bar none, yells hello at you as you go past and they look delighted when they get a hello back. I have not seen a single tourist in my time here which surprised me a little but I have been travelling through remote areas out of season. Laos next. If I get over the border that is.