Ba Be Lake to Mèo Vạc (was supposed to be Đồng Văn, but we were 27km short.)
Started 7am arrived at 8.15pm - total travel time 13 hours and 15 mins - many breakdowns and flat tyres today.
Last night was the quietest night we’ve had. No cars, no horns, no karaoke, just geckos, crickets and the fan... and the occasional fart from one of the rooms. The walls and floor are thin!
Up with the birds for 6am breakfast of crepes and on the road at 7am for we were to have a big day of 220km and quite a bit of it rough and slow.
After refuelling in Ba Be we were off. Cuong was a little worried about how deep the water crossing would be. After breakfast everyone was issued with two large clear plastic bags to pack their bags in. If the water is too deep it will be a long, slow detour.
I had my daily Vietnamese lesson with Huyen and Twan. So far, I can count to 10 and say hello, goodbye, please, ask for someone’s name, good, bad, here, there, left, right and straight.
As much as we love our bright red Vietnamese flags on the cars, we found we had to remove them for most of the bridge crossing as they were a bit too tall.
The clouds hung in the air and the humidity was high as we travelled along the narrow, always winding roads, beeping horns in every corner. Our drivers have found the driving to be very low stress. Once you know how things work, it all makes sense and there is no “agro” on the roads, even in Hanoi.
About an hour and half into the drive we started a long climb, with the temperature dropping along the way as we headed up to 710m above sea level.
By around 10.30am we made it to the water crossing. The water was deemed too high for us to “have a crack” so Tap, the mechanic, drove all the cars through. It was spectacular to watch from the foot bridge behind the crossing.
We had around 15-20 km of rough road to go. We were now amongst the many hill tribes so we started to see some traditionally dressed people through the small villages.
Rob & Jenny’s car was first to go down. This time not a quick fix, so they jumped into the support car and headed up the hill. Eric and Paulette’s Jeep then decided it didn’t want to start. No spark. Alan & Eric stayed with Cuong and the car to get it fixed as the mechanics were still with the other car. Everyone else headed up the last part of rough track to the main road. We had picnic lunch in a small roadside stall. Cuong soon arrived with Eric and Paulette’s car running again.
We had lost a lot of time now and still had four hours to go, and we only finished lunch around 3.30pm.
After lunch we were about to jump in the Jeeps and, you guessed it, Sue and Trajco’s jeep had a flat tyre. That was quickly fixed and not too far down the road it was clear a thunderstorm was about to hit.
We pulled over to get out the red rain ponchos and while we handed them out the storm hit. Eric also told us that his brakes were failing! Really? Okay. The rear brakes were removed to find the brake fluid tube had broken.
This would not be fixed quickly, so we bundled everyone into the other cars and continued on. I jumped behind the wheel of the lead support car so Twan could assist Quong with the brakes.
10 km down the road and there had not been a spot of rain where we refuelled. Cuong turned up as did Twan, riding the motorbike.
It was clear we were going to get in late, so Cuong was able to shorten the drive to a town closer.
The hits kept coming. Now that we were driving in the dark Sue and Trajco’s lights decided to only work intermittently and it’s pretty dark out where we were in the country.
We finally limped into Mèo Vạc around 8.15pm. Jenny and Rob’s car, we believed, was now only an hour behind us and by the time we finished dinner their Jeep and bags had arrived.
What a day!