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Top Gear

Sunday 10th December

Miles: 91   Climbing: 2753ft

I left Hue with the hope of getting to Da Nang that evening. There was only one problem, the Hoi Van Pass was in the way. It’s a pass made famous by Top Gear when they drove up it on old motorbikes and mopeds (and only just made it). It’s a very popular route for motorbikes and a lot of companies here offer tours. You don’t hear of many people doing it on a bicycle. It’s a relentless 6 mile climb of between 8-20%.

I did come across a few obstacles on my way, tunnels. There were 2 long road tunnels that had very obvious signs saying no pedestrians and no bicycles. At the first I stopped to consult my map only to discover that the alternative route would mean backtracking quite a distance. So I was standing there, with my map, looking at the tunnel, wondering how serious those signs were. I mean, nobody obeys any traffic laws here, if there even are any. Everyone jumps red lights, uses the wrong side of the dual carriageways if it’s more convenient for their exit and even drives on the pavement if the traffic is bad.

As I’m deciding what to do a Vietnamese man drove by on a motorbike and shouted something whilst appearing to wave me towards the tunnel. I took this to mean “it’s fine, you can go through” so turned my lights on, checked there were no lorries heading my way and pedalled as fast as I could through the tunnel.

As I was getting closer to the pass I thought I really should stop to eat, I didn’t want to be running out of energy halfway up. I stopped at a small place, took a seat and asked for one of the few things I knew how to order, rice with chicken. I was very pleasantly surprised when the smiling waiter asked me, in very good English, if I would like to see the menu first. The menu had English translations, the first time I’d seen this outside of the cities or resorts, so I had quite a feast.

There was no more avoiding it, time to do the pass. As I was approaching it the traffic thinned out and there were more tourists on motorbikes than I’d seen before. The whole way up I was getting surprised looks and cheers from people. I tried to do the whole climb without stopping but about a mile from the top I was forced to stop to give my legs a break for a minute. I finally arrived at the top to cheers and applause. I even got a free can of coke from a little old Vietnamese lady who refused to take any money off me for it. I sat and chatted with people for a while before picking up my bike to carry it up to the best photo spot.

The whole climb had taken me just over an hour which is not bad really. Now it was time for the descent, which only took me 12 minutes. It was a lot of fun, I was probably being far too reckless and overtook loads of motorbikes on the way down. Not far away from the bottom was my end point of Da Nang but I was feeling amazing after the pass so I decided to carry on until the next town of Hoi An.

I arrived in Hoi An after dark and found a hotel on a small island in the estuary. I wondered around Hoi An a little and took in the bright lights of the town but I was pretty tired after a big day so decided to explore properly with a day off tomorrow.

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