Wednesday 24 October 2012

Not comfortable - but so interesting

When the total journey's only about 150km, but it takes you 6 hours to do it, that tells you all you need to know about the road. Today we completed our circuit through the spectacular Dong Van Karst Plateau, looping back round and returning to the town of Yen Minh, near where we spent a couple of nights at the homestay. The road is narrow, winding, up and down, and also pot-holed and often unsealed, with slips and roadworks. As well, it's crazily busy with pedestrians as well as vehicles: mostly motorbikes carrying their usual absurd loads - we helped one guy out today who lost his balance and fell over, and was cast, his four big sacks of dried beans making the bike far too heavy for him to lift by himself. The guys set him back up again and he went on his way, over 100km to do while perched on the petrol tank.

It seemed we always met the biggest trucks on the sharpest corners with sheer drop-offs hundreds of metres down to the river - no exaggeration, the scenery is Andean-epic. The endless lumpy peaks shaded off into the distance, green to purple to silver, the terraces stepped away down to the river, and everywhere there were people, local H'mong, the women in neon-bright pink and turquoise, orange and purple: headscarves and skirts with trousers, all of them carrying babies in slings or huge bundles of firewood or baskets of some sort of crop. We're over taking photos of the buffaloes on the road, the goats with bells round their necks or the pigs - that's all so two days ago; but the people are endlessly fascinating, and so friendly. Quite often, we've seen them taking photos of us, Westerners being such a novelty here.

The journey seemed harder today because two of us were sick, one very, poor thing, which meant lots of stops for her to chunder and the rest of us to enjoy being still for a few minutes. It was a huge relief to get to our destination for the night: another echoing hotel room with high ceiling, bare floor ornate furniture and idiosyncratic light switches. Also, this time, the hardest bed ever - honestly, it's like a divan base that they forgot to put the mattress on. But it doesn't matter at all, because I'm so tired (and empty - no dinner for me tonight, though I went along anyway and slipped lots of treats to the little cats prowling round under the tables in the restaurant) that nothing's going to stop me getting a good night's sleep.

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