Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nov. 9th HCMC to Loc An Resort 69 km

I think we were all glad to realize that we can manage the heat and the wind on the first day. It took us two hours to weave the 60 km out of the sprawling city to our starting point: the bicycle riding would be poor if we came on the route out that we took in the two Mercedes minivans. But we got started around 10 am on a fine secondary road. With stops for cold water and wet wipes and cashew rice cracker snacks, it quickly got hotter and more sultry as we rode. The second hour into lunch at only the 26 km mark it started to get very hot and everyone was soaked in sweat and flushed. Lunch was in a roadside half-open tiled room and consisted of bitter melon soup, mystery cooked vegetables, grilled skewered pork, white rice, and roasted chicken. We saw brown rice drying along the roadside and Chau (our local guide) explained that the extra-nutrient brown rice is only eaten by children aged 3 to 7 years old, especially males. Wind picked up from the north (the prevailing winter wind) as we neared the coast and clouds were gathering as we pulled into a beautiful resort at the mouth of river around 3 pm. Sunburnt despite sunblock, I crashed after a shower for 90 minutes to recover.

We passed several rubber plantations with cuts in the bark to release the gum into pails. The trees can be harvested about 17 times and then they are cut down and made into furniture. Chau also mentioned a grisly story of a nearby jungle memorial to the death of 17 (same number somehow) Aussie and Kiwi troops from a battle in June 1968: 2000 Viet Cong were surrounded and slaughtered as well.

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