Ride to the clouds
Nha Trang Travel Blog› entry 70 of 126 › view all entries
My 100cc Yamaha was old and battered; typical of a one-day $2.50 rental. Its odometer had been disconnected at 100 kilometers and I doubted the 'low mileage' could ever increase its resale value. Another 50,000 Dong filled the tank with three liters of gasoline and I was surprised that the gauge actually worked. I rattled on rough roads around the rugged hills west of Nha Trang. Around one bend, the road was blocked by a small herd of water buffalo being led to greener pastures. Some of the older beasts looked as scarred and weathered as the rented motorbike. I wondered if they might charge my red shirt but they streamed by on either side.
I intercepted Highway 1 at the village of Suoi Cat.
Beyond the river, the blacktop road climbed steeply. The Yamaha's engine bogged and surged on some of the inclines as its clutch slipped with each gear change. My ears popped after one hair-pin turn; temperature dropped at another. As I climbed into the clouds, it looked and felt like rain but I continued on, refreshed by the cold air.
Finally, nearly a mile above sea level (1500 meters) and 60 kilometers from Nha Trang, I reached the end of the road on Hon Ba Mountain. A clear day would offer nice views all the way to the South China Sea but I was in the clouds. A gray house there was built in 1915 as a research station. The Swiss bacteriologist Alexander Yersin used the area to acclimate quinine trees imported from the Andes Mountains in South America. That tree provided the prevention and cure for malaria. Yersin died in 1943 in Nha Trang and his home there is currently a museum. The physician-bacteriologist is well known and respected throughout Vietnam.
A motorbike and a white car were parked in the dirt lot. I declined a Heineken beer offered by a small group picnicking on a blue tarp in the front yard of the house. I preferred spending limited time up there exploring the woods and hiked three-quarters of a mile into damp semi-tropical forest. A soft trail on fallen leaves led me under naturally felled trees and around moss-covered boulders. Some of the mushrooms looked just like those I had seen in Bavaria in September. It looked like wild hogs had scarred some areas but the only wildlife that I saw were mosquitoes swarming my head.