Off to Parts Unknown ... travel blog

Traditional home of the Bana people

The brickmakers wanted their picture taken ...

So they took ours in return ... finally a good one after...

Hitting the Ho Chi Minh trail ...

Carefully crossing the bridge (after which a few local kids ran across)

Mist in the mountains ... can't really get the sense in picture....


Our day started in a orphanage in Kom Tun run by Catholic nuns. We spent some time in the nursery playing with the dozen of so children under 4. In some respects, it was like being home watching my nieces and nephews fighting over the same toy and having fits when they don't get their way. Unfortunately, however, in this case, there really weren't enough toys to go around. There were also a couple of kids with obvious developmental problems and it's sad to realize that these kids will probably never get the attention they need. I was particularly affected by the Libbys in the group. (For those of you unfamiliar with my family dynamic, I have 10 nieces and nephews under 8. Libby is 2 and loves attention. While her twin brother will run and hide from new people, Libby will attach herself to anyone willing to hold and cuddle her.) In the nursery, there were 3 obvious Libbys who literally attached themselves to Becky and I. It was hard to put them down.

An hour later, though, we were back on the bikes. We drove through some Bana villages, en route to the Ho Chi Minh trail, which we hit around midday. Apparently, a few years ago this was still a pretty rough road, but paving was completed in 2003. It is now open to all traffic, but nonetheless, most of the traffic we saw was still of the 2-wheeled or 4-legged varieties. As we slowly ascended into the highlands, the temperature began to drop. By mid-afternoon, the mist was thick on the lush, green mountains and we would through some beautiful terrain. It reminded me a lot of my mountain biking trip through Bolivia, but this time, Ba was in control and I came away without any unfortunately road rash. By late afternoon, we were in a race against the rain. Fortunately, we won. Lightning was striking in the distance as we pulled into Phuoc Son, but we were sitting comfortably in our room when the rain started. (Unlike Day 1 when the afternoon rain sent us running to a small home, where we sat with a local man for an hour while Young taught us card tricks. In retrospect, however, that wasn't a bad way to wait out a rainstorm.)

(Random anecdote: To understand the dynamic of our trip across the highlands, it's probably helpful to have some insight into the characters. Young is the father-figure, who brings us plum tea at the end of a long ride. Ba, as I've mentioned, is too cool for school and pretty much lets us do what we want. Tonight, Becky and I played cards, while Young and Ba went to bed ... or so we thought. A little while later, I caught sight of Ba sneaking out the back door. The next day, Ba was full of denials and Young looked on disapprovingly. Unfortunately for Ba, a couple other Easy Riders were more forthcoming and the effects of too much rice wine were written all over Ba's face. I think I should have titled this section "The Odd Couple of Easy Riders".)



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