Many Many Many Rivers to Cross.
Day 37 of riding for me and day 3 for Troy and Giles of TLRH.
Giles thought I was taking the mickey our of him when I gave him the task to count the number of bridges and ferry crossings we would encounter during the ride through the Mekong Delta region.
He has since realised that there are literally hundreds of them and it is a hard task in itself to keep track of each day when you're riding. My answer was: "It will keep your mind occupied mate, and that I had counted many discarded sandals, shoes and flip flops along the 2,500 km stretch to Saigon for the same reason". Final count over the last two days is 38 bridges and only 2 ferries.
Another rainy day out there for the boys on the long ride home today. Only 60 Kms, but quite daunting in a built up area for the whole route. Lots of road art, painted outlines of motor bikes and bikes on the road, where people had been smashed or killed due to bad accidents. This made us all very alert to the fact that cycling in built up areas in Vietnam is not for the faint hearted.
Troy asked me to give cause why I ride with a whistle continuously in my mouth when in towns or suburbia, answer; since starting in Hanoi the good old whistle has saved my life on numerous occasions by warning others who charge out of alley ways straight into my path without looking, including; women wearing hoodies to protect themselves from the sun allowing no peripheral view to see anyone coming, dogs charging across your path, workmen swinging large lengths of steel onto the road, trucks and vans opening the rear doors into your face, people doing U Turns in front without looking, and children playing on the roadside, etc.
Concentration levels will be at their max from now on as we get more and more into the built up areas of the Mekong Delta. Troy had his first and hopefully his last fall today, but more because of not being able to get out of his pedal cleats fast enough. Luckily he fell inwards and not outwards onto the road. No major damage other than a small loss of skin on his knee to the mighty Mekong road.
We had met a couple of Vietnamese War Veterans today, both being amputees which seems to be the norm here in the South as well. Both were from opposing parties during the war North and South. Giles was quick to see the first elderly gentleman on the side of the road who was taking a rest. I guess due to tiredness from riding his bike with use of only one leg. I was also quick to interview him (Mr.Tham Van Thiet) who had served with the South Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War and had lost his leg above the knee, blown off by a landmine only 20kms from where we met him in today in Vinh Binh Town, Tien Giang Province. More can be seen about Mr.Tham on TLRH website soon.
After Troy's encounter with the road I decided it was time to clear the mind over a quick cup of tea in a very small roadside shop.,Whilst sipping my tea I noticed another elderly gentleman with one hand missing being very curious in looking at my bike parked outside his shop.. Eventually he came into the shop, at which time I invited him to sit with me for tea. Through my guide Prince I able to ascertain that he, Mr.Nugyen Van Bon, was a former North Vietnamese Soldier who had lost his hand during ambush operations against French soldiers in 1950., The French had been traveling by gun boat up one of the Mekong tributaries when they came under fire (ambush) by Mr.Nguyen and his NVA group. The French were able to turn their 50 caliber machine gun on the ambush party. One round from the impact of the machine gun's 50mm round (bullet) wounded Mr.Nguyen resulting in his hand being completely blown off from the impact of the high velocity bullet.
A great conversation with both spirited veterans regardless of whether they had served for the North or South, they had been warriors from different sides and still showed that military toughness and spirit by moving on and showing their guts and determination of doing things without the use of a prosthetic limb.
It was very interesting in talking to Mr.Nguyen in that he was very passionate about the kindness and generosity of the Australian people helping his country, most particularly here, in his part of the world, The Mekong Delta.
xin chao va tam biet