To catch up with our previous drives, click here.
As you probably gathered from the previous post, we weren’t in the best of spirits when we arrived in Khe Sanh. We were tired, cold and wet and had very little intention of doing anything but eat and go to bed.
Khe Sanh really wasn’t a town aimed at tourists and, as a result, we only found two hotels before opting for the cheaper of the two. Both were quite dark and cold, but at the end of the day they were a bed, shower and a roof. Besides, we’d been advised to set off between 5 and 6am the next morning, so we just grabbed a bit of food and had the earliest night we’ve had in years.
We had been told numerous things about this drive. Firstly, the aforementioned need to set off at the crack of dawn which, when you don’t have headlights, is rather problematic. Still, we set off at around 5.30am and the sun rose pretty sharpish after that.
Another thing we had been told is that this was – hands down – the best road in all of Vietnam. It wound up and down the mountains, in and out of the clouds and through the Phong Nha National Park, and the views were truly breathtaking. I’ve said it on many occasions on this trip so far, but the videos simply cannot do it justice.
The final thing that had been said to us was that we needed to take extra fuel with us as the road was so remote that there was pretty much nowhere we could buy fuel. I’m fairly sure I saw the odd person by the side of the road selling extremely overpriced gas, but they were incredibly few and far between. We were told that a 1.5 litre bottle of fuel as well as a full tank should get us there. More on that shortly…
We’ve been lucky enough to travel on some beautiful roads throughout this journey. I’ve gone on and on about the Da Lat to Nha Trang road, and we also rode the Hai Van Pass when we were in Hoi An. It’s safe to say that neither of these could hold a candle to this road, as what followed were six or so hours of absolutely stunning surroundings. It seemed like round every corner was another mountain road with views to knock your socks off, truly wonderful stuff – barring the odd rockslide here and there.
Notice how I said six hours? I’m not entirely sure why we were told to set off at 5am, as the drive really wasn’t too long, and certainly nowhere near as long as the one the day before. This drive did, however, take ever so slightly longer than it should have done.
The first hold up was due to what can only be described as a freak accident. We’d made our way out of the freezing cold cloudy mountains and back in to the more humane conditions of a sunny country road when James beeped and asked me to pull over quickly.
“Jack, I think I’ve just been stung by something. Is there anything on my chin?”
I instantly saw was the remains of a sharp bee sting sticking out just below his lip, and the culprit itself on his jacket slowly living out the last few moments of its life. I don’t like to see any animal suffer, but it can’t help but think that in this case justice was served.
We carried on with James’ swollen lip in tow, having taken the opportunity to top up our fuel with the supplies we had brought. To our shock, the needles on our fuel gauges barely moved and we started to have our concerns about whether we were going to make it.
We were running on fumes (or ‘thoughts’, as James put it) when the worst happened. We’d pushed our luck getting this far and around 15 kilometres from Phong Nha, my bike decided that it’d had enough now and that I should stop taking the piss. The dummy was well and truly spat out, and it was going nowhere. Safe to say that 1.5 litres of extra fuel certainly wasn’t enough for my beloved Attila.
I started to convince myself that 15 kilometres ‘really isn’t that far at all’ and pushed the bike for a few hundred metres when I realised that it was a lot heavier than I had expected. There was absolutely no chance we were getting there without fuel.
A few passers-by slowed down for a stare, as well as the odd beep but absolutely no offer of help came our way. Just as I was about to get in to a proper sulk, my faith in humanity was restored by a German girl called Katie who stopped, insisted that the petrol station was too far to walk and went off to get us some fuel. It was only when she said she would be back in an hour that I realised the idea of walking had indeed been a ludicrous one.
Thankfully, she was a lady of her word and returned with two bottles of fuel for our bikes in what felt like less than an hour and we were back on our way. We arrived in Phong Nha around 20 minutes later without any sign of a petrol station on the way – thank the lord for Katie!