Nha Trang to Dalat
- 137 kms
- 6 hours riding time
We had all been looking forward to todays ride. Lonely Planet described the winding road between Nha Trang and Dalat as full of amazing mountain views and a dream road for motorbike riders. From what we found I can only assume the author had never actually ridden the road or the review was from some time in the distant past where the road was in far better condition. What we found could barely be classed as a road.
Much to Jarrods disgust it wasn’t until about 9:30m Shauno and I managed to drag ourselves out of bed. Jarrod had gone home earlier the night before and we may or may not have been good enough mates to let him know all about it when we stumbled in in the early hours of the morning.
To make things even more pleasant the day was an absolute scorcher. By the time we packed up and began loading the bikes it was already well over 30 degrees and not a cloud in sight to take the edge of the sun. We were all dripping with sweat before we even rode off from the hotel and found our way to the nearest petrol station.
It was about 10:30am as we rode out of Nha Trang looking forward to the cool mountain air and spectacular views ahead. The road out of town is all new and is in brilliant shape as we wound our way south along the coast. The area is undergoing significant development with a huge number of clearly 5 star resorts opening up. Thankfully the first thing they have put into the area is the road infrastructure so the ride was very cruisy all the way back to Hwy 1A.
Knowing the last day’s ride from Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City was going to be a long one (over 300km’s) we had planned to see how far we could get today and if we hit Dalat at a reasonable time we would continue on south rather than staying there to make the following day a bit shorter. We did after all only have 180kms to cover today.
That plan was immediately thrown out the window when we hit Hwy 27B. While there had clearly been a decent road here at some stage it was now little more than a patchwork of road and gravel. Complete sections of the road up to 2m x 2m had been dug out of the bitumen leaving only exposed gravel and dirt underneath. Those sections of bitumen that were left were, as a result, also covered in gravel making the ever changing road surface a complete nightmare to ride on.
You would get the occasional bit of bitumen that would allow you to get up to 30 or 40km/h only to quickly find yourself dodging potholes on a road covered in gravel. It was so slippery on the gravel that this day I just settled for riding straight through the pot holes rather than trying to swerve to avoid them. Needless to say I had a very sore ass by lunchtime but it was better than coming off which I’d nearly done a couple of times turning on the loose gravel.
This was also the road I had my closest call of the trip. Coming around a blind corner at about 50km/h on one of the few decent sections of road I found myself facing a large truck completely blocking both lanes. To avoid a large pothole, the truck driver had decided it was best to travel to the other lane on a blind corner and was in the process of turning back across both lanes when I came around. Panicking somewhat, I managed to lock up both the front and rear wheels of the bike. As the back of my bike and my pack presented themselves beside me (scary sight) I thankfully managed to unlock the front wheel and start to wipe off a bit of speed. My only thought at the time was to make sure I stayed upright even though sliding sideways as if I was to go down I would surely end up along with the bike lodge well underneath the truck. I’m sure more by luck than skill I came to a stop facing sideways to the road with a gentle tap into the side of the truck.
Clearly not understanding the road rules in Vietnam I was in a bit of shock as the truck driver then began to berate me out the window for hitting his truck (still parked across both lanes of the road on a blind corner). Thankfully for both of us I’m sure neither understood a word of the abuse that began to fly back and forwards (him in Vietnamese, me in English). Eventually, somewhat frustrated and still in shock I moved on down the road. It would take a good 20 minutes after that incident before I finally stopped shaking from the adrenaline hit.
After some time we made it to the Hwy 27 turnoff and began to head up into the mountains. The road would continue in roughly the same state until we hit the base of the mountain where things amazingly got worse. Instead of the random mix of surfaces the road changed to nothing but dirt, mud and puddles. Fresh from a recent drenching the road was an absolute nightmare. Our speed went down to almost nothing. The 10km ride to the top would take us over an hour to complete.
Now just to give you an idea of how bad the ride was going up, even with the amazing view you can see above and below I’m not sure it was worth the ride it took to get there. Jarrod and I did however get to spend a bit of time at the top enjoying it while we waited for Shaun to catch up. We had given up waiting for Captain Slow about half way up and just continued on alone. Having only experienced road riding before he was very much out of place on the dirt and that it was a full 15 minutes later that he made it to the top.
While Jarrod and I had been sitting there waiting we made the decision that we were not going to make it any further than Dalat that day. It was already 3:30pm and we still had some 40km’s to cover just to Dalat. Given the ride we’d had that day it coud take anywhere up to 2 hours to complete that.
Thankfully the road did improve once we hit Hwy 20 heading into Dalat. The scenery also changed dramatically. As we got closer and closer to Dalat the houses got bigger and more grand. They were larger than anything else we had seen for the trip and clearly this was an area that had money. It was also an area that was clearly big on tea production as it seemed every home had at least a small tea plantation.
We made it into Dalat city just as the sun was setting and made our way to Thien An Hotel. It was only when we stopped to get directions to the hotel that I realised just how much of a toll the days riding had taken on my body. I physically could not get my phone out of my pocket to check the maps. After fumbling around with 2 hands I eventually got it out and then dropped it cold onto the edge of the road. I’d been gripping the handle bar so tight for the last 6 hours and my body was so exhausted that my hands were apparently no longer working.
Eventually we made it to the hotel and got the top floor room with 3 beds for $30 for the night and unloaded the bikes for the evening. We were recommended a lovely little Vietnamese restaurant up the road where we got a simple meal and were all in bed by 9pm. Tomorrows ride into HCMC would be a big one so we arranged an early checkout and planned to be on the bikes by 6:30am.