I’m back in Eugene as of last Saturday. After I hit Mount Saint Helens, I decided to book it for home, heading west of Mount Hood and down the Willamette Valley rather than crossing into Central Oregon and finding the Oregon Outback Route. There was an event that went poorly (http://www.oregonbikepacking.com/the-death-of-the-oregon-outback/) a few weeks back, and the status of the route is questionable right now.
It’s been a hot week in Washington, with temperatures hitting almost 100 degrees a few days ago. Fortunately, in normal climates, shade actually cools things off and temperatures fluctuate throughout the day so that nights are usually much colder than days. It’s been, dare I say it, downright frigid some mornings. My ride through Washington has been nice. Many more good days than bad. I’m ready to be home, where I don’t have to spend each day wondering where I’ll sleep that night, or if it’ll have water, or if I’ll break down, etc. There is less internet connection here than in rural Cambodia. I feel more disconnected in a campsite one day outside of Seattle than I felt weeks outside of a big city in Southeast Asia. Anyways here are some highlights from the last week or so on the road, both the good and the bad.
A few thanks to hand out to friends, old and new, who have helped me on my way to the final leg of this journey. It took me almost two weeks off the road to get some things taken care of in Hanoi, reset in Seattle, and head out from there. Thank you to my hosts in both cities and everyone else I was fortunate to get to see! Also, apparently when you arrive in Seattle from a bike trip abroad, it is almost a certainty that someone will suggest a bike-brewery tour. So thank you to everyone who suggested it, whether or not you were the first to do so. I admit to being slightly predictable.
After over 2,750km of cycling through Southeast Asia, we’ve reached our destination of Hanoi! Not much to write about the last few days, except to share the beautiful scenery that we’ve traveled through over the last few days and share some final thoughts on touring in Southeast Asia. We have been fortunate to land here with some awesome young Americans in Hanoi, who have graciously welcomed our smelly selves with open arms. Sophie and I will part ways in a few days when she flies out on the 24th, and I will depart soon after.
I’ve decided not to continue past Hanoi, and instead go for a short tour in my own backyard of the Pacific Northwest to cap off my travels for now. My patience with Southeast Asia is wearing thin. In the beginning of June, I’ll be flying to Seattle or maybe Vancouver Island to bike from there to Eugene. So, if anyone’s in the area and isn’t, you know, being a productive member of society with an income and responsibilities, you’re free to come and join me for a ride or two. I imagine I’ll pass through Seattle at some point, and then Portland a little later if I feel like making the detour at the time. I’d like to bike up the Columbia Gorge and then onto the Oregon Outback route and then down to Klamath Falls, again, if I feel like it.
Sophie and I have taken a break from the intense heat, frequent thunderstorms, and ungodly climbs of the central highlands. After a week where we both basically just ran into a mental and physical wall, we made the choice to ride quickly for the coastal city of Da Nang. Da Nang is the largest city we’ve been in since Siem Reap some 900km ago.
More pictures than words this week. I’m not feeling too well.
I made a mistake. The morning before we got to Dak Glei, I was dealing with a small headache and some achiness/tiredness I just chalked up to the climbing that we’d been doing. But the guesthouse we were at had no window and was pretty dirty, and we were both eager to get back on the road. So I took some ibuprofen, forced myself to drink a liter of water, and pushed through the day. Turns out that that morning I was dehydrated, and by the time we rolled into Dak Glei, the small headache had turned into a nasty fever and dizzyness. I spent a night not getting a wink of sleep, my core temperature doing strange fluctuations and with Sophie forcing me to drink water and isotonic drinks. We weren’t planning to do a rest day today, but I certainly wasn’t up to the huge climbing (~4500 ft total) that awaits us tomorrow.
A long post today, with a lot of history, a little about the riding, and a few pictures. It’s hard to capture this part of Cambodia and Vietnam with just a few pictures. The last week of riding has been a little emotionally heavy at times, but we’re finally through Cambodia and on into Vietnam.
Ratanakiri province is along the Eastern border of Cambodia with Vietnam. Its name comes from the Khmer and Sanskrit words for “gem mountain,” named for what the province is known for. As we move closer to Vietnam, the rolling hills have grown larger, and many of the villages along the route contain gem mines. As we have moved East, towns and cities have grown more remote and isolated. I have never really been more aware of being “foreign” in a place than along this stretch.
Ratanakiri is home to the minority group the Khmer Loeu, and contains just 1% of Cambodia’s population. Towns outside the provincial capital of Banlung are organized into vaguely communist communities of around 50 families engaged in subsistence agriculture. The province’s infrastructure, even though it has been massively improved over the last five years, remains the poorest in Cambodia. Almost one out of four children die before the age of five, and three quarters of the population is illiterate.
Nothing but good in this post. Good news, good riding, good weather, good company.
Sophie and I were glad to get out of Siem Reap. Car people, I guess, would describe it as going from 0 to 60 to 0 very quickly. From rural shacks without running water to suddenly massive resorts, towering hotels, tuk-tuk drivers, and tourists and then suddenly back to rural shacks without running water. Such is Cambodia. After 30 final kilometers on the main highway, we turned north at an unmarked turnoff at Dam Daek towards the rural northeast of the country.