Motorbike through the Hills.

Sapa Travel Blog

 › entry 42 of 105 › view all entries

The train pulled into Lao Cai through dense fog. Off the train, and the air was fresh. Cold and fresh. Nipping at your skin and turning your breath into clouds of "steam". The station stood a mere 3km from the China border. All ran smoothly and we made our way by minibus, climbing up high into the mountains. We emerged from the fog and into clear skies. The scenery was truely spectacular although partially obscured by heads and the fact i was sitting on the wrong side for the views. Rice fields were everywhere, embedded into the hills, rising up in layers. The mountains were a rich green, the sky a piercing blue and the sun a blinding white. This continued for every moment as we winding our way up the mountain roads which were suprising smooth. The driver deemed in necessary to stop the minibus half way up a slope to take a leak. The bus didn't want to start after he returned, so we clambered out and helped give it a starting push. We past many hill people walking to the market in central Sapa, baskets strapped to their backs containing their produce and all wearing their traditional outfits. The majority are Hmong people who (mostly) wear blue clothing which is coloured using an indigo dye from a plant which grows on the slopes of the mountains. The arrival to our hotel was smooth and we received a friendly welcome, clear explanations of our plans and a breakfast of: omlettes, pancakes, bread and juices which i shared with the 3 Australian girls. We were the only ones signed up for the full day of biking so luckily the group was small. So far so good. I was then told that i had been booked as a private tour so i was to receive my own personal guide and my own motorbike to ride. Even better. My guide arrived (he is called Binh) and he immediately made a good impression; purely with his handshake, smile and interaction with the receptionist. He showed me to the bike, an automatic and let me give it a test run. It was fine. So off we went. Along the main road and straight into the hills. I stopped within two minutes. It was cold. The wind fiercly pierced my skin making my ears ache. I added a tight fitting warm vest and we continued. It feels incredible, smoothly zipping my way up the mountain at 50kmh without effort. Passing through shadow and back into light as we drift around the mountains edge. Contrastingly, the sun now came as a relief rather than shade. I stopped again. Pulled my windbreaker over, keeping the hood up and sitting the helmet on top. Finally i was warm. We carried on up to 2000m and stopped to gaze into one of the valleys with bisected two provinces. The road infront of us continued on to Laos and the mountain (named Fanispan) to the left of us, called "the Roof of Indochina" is the tallest mountain in Indochina. We stopped at "Silver Waterfall" which rose up over 100m and fell beautifully down, hitting rocks and passing under a bridge on its way to the bottom. I sat for a hot drink with a local. The mixture of fresh cold air, the arouma of hot coffee and wooden fires burning on the mountain roads hit you beautifully. We passed down and through the valley, passing the cascading rice terraces which poured like the waterfall over the mountains edges and down its green slopes. We followed the falls water and reached the river where we travelled along and across "roads" which were full of deep puddles,large rocks and gritty sand. We ate lunch in a hilltribe village sitting behind the hustel and bustle of the more busy and tourist-full spots. The mother was warm and welcoming. The older son worked in the sun making a fishing contraption of some sort from bamboo wood. The younger son hung around me, trying on my sunglasses and putting on my helmet. Annoyingly they provided me with a nice but western meal. Bread and bananas. While they ate noodles. She also settled a pot of local tea by my plate which was especially nice in the cold weather. We visited another waterfall in a more secluded area. I had two Hmong women insist they show me to the falls, obviously wishing that i will repay them by purchasing one of their many goods. But i wanted none and told them so. But their village was on our way back to Sapa, so i gave one a lift on the back on my motorbike and cut her journey from a two hour walk with a darkening sky to a 20minute ride. Me and my guide swapped bikes so i got to have a go on a geared motorbike, although it had no clutch. It was easier than the automatic especially up some of the tougher and steeper paths. I hung back and let him go ahead so that i could get some speed on a straight stretch. The speed wasnt huge, 80kmph but it was thrilling, especially considering where i was. It was an awesome feeling, the dark hills, the wind, the setting sun. We had to cross a road where it had formed part of a waterfall. I managed to but with one very wet foot. Later, after showering I was on the back of my guides motorbike venturing out the City towards the unlit mountains as the final moments of daylight hung in the air. It was cold but once again beautiful. The setting sun sent a stunning soft light spilling over the mountains. While the sun set, smoke rose from small burning fires that dotted the land. I could spot the sillouete of children running across the tops of grassy banks and cattle lying in the dark. I got off the bike and walked down a path into the village and to the home in which i would be staying. The family consisted of a strong smiling husband, a happy wife and shy daughter. It was a very basic home with a fire which lay under a make-up of bricks and that was fed with long wooden logs. Over another was a herbal bath. The daughter who was 19years old was to be married two days later to a young 17 year old boy. They do it young here. They spent a long time cooking a huge feast. They placed large pans over the fire and added lots of different ingredients, constantly tasting the result and then adding some more of this and that. They practically force-fed me. Piling food and not letting me stop. Rice, beef, chicken, noodles, bamboo worms. On and on. Rice whiskey to start dinner. The father, his skin dark from work on the fields, smiles and nods, signalling me to drink. One large shot...knock it back. Two minutes later. Another shot. I stopped counting after the ninth. I was out of it. They were knocking it back like its water and they were damn thirsty. I eventually refused anymore. We sat by the crackling fire where they began to roast sweet-corn which they shredded and piled my hands high. I retired. My body could take no more.


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photo by: Paulovic