A Bridge too Far
As I thought the rain had dissipated for a bit and it was a fairly hot today for the 100kms ride from Tra Vinh to Can Tho. We crossed the 100th bridge Cau Can Tho over the Mekong River and just on the edge of Can Tho being a milestone of the journey since leaving Ho Chi Minh City with Troy and Giles 5 riding days ago.
We hit some fairly nice road earlier on with a wide verge for motor bikes and cyclists allowing easy and fast riding for about 50kms. Opposed to route 1, known as hell's highway this was excellent to ride on, so we were able to put the pedal to metal and move on a bit. However, I have to keep reminding myself that it's a journey, not the Tour De France. Andrew Nicholson (around the world record holder for the fastest time cycling 123 days) recently sent me an email to wish me the best for the long ride home, he also wished that he was doing a similar journey like mine, in other words; taking the time to ride the journey and taking it all in.
Therefore, I'm constantly looking for opportunities to meet people, seeing things that I cannot possibly see if racing along. The good roads are a dream to ride on and to move along at speed but opportunities are missed. Unless you're on the back roads and slowing down to capture the moment it's a wasted trip.
We have certainly hit the Khmer region with lots of Cambodian Temples, Khmer people on the move and young Khmer kids selling raw honey in honeycomb on the side of the road.
We no sooner hit the back roads and some of those opportunities came up. I hadn't been invited inside to see a Vietnamese style house since I started my journey, but after seeing a group of Vietnamese men working on a grass thatched roof I hit the skids yet again to explore into something that caught my eye.
The workers were very friendly so we asked if we could enter the front of the garden and see the trade work. Not quite the occupational health and safety rules that you would expect in Australia, but they had their own way of getting the job done. I noticed an elderly gentleman in the doorway of the house who had brought a bunch of coconuts out front to offer us a drink. He was the owner of the house and had that military demeanor about him, so I asked my guide to ask him; had he served in the military in the past? He replied that he had served a brief time with the South Vietnamese Paratroopers at Cu Chi , but didn't like jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft. Small talk led onto being invited in for coconut juice and a look inside his house and the kitchen activity that was going on at the time (Vietnamese style cooking).
We finally got to meet the whole family; Mr. Nguyen Trong Tien and his 96 year old mother Nguyen Thi Son (born 1921). Now Mrs.Nguyen according to good luck in Vietnamese culture had 10 children and a very healthy life. She immediately grabbed Gile's and my hand like we were long lost sons. She obviously sadly missed 4 of her children who live abroad in the USA and Australia, and continued holding our hands until it was time to say goodbye.
After a lovely and lively chat with Mrs.Nguyen and her family we had to sadly decline a lunch offer to hit the road for another 45kms in the midday heat. Facing a rougher road now but also allowing that precious time by slowing down and taking the time to look and listen to the many xin chao/ hellos from friendly Vietnamese and to reciprocate their friendly gestures along the route. To them, who haven't seen two many foreigners if any at all out in this part of the Mekong Delta, it means a lot to be friendly.
Crossing more big and small bridges on route to Can Tho taking the time for the odd photo was now the mission. Small boats laden with fruit for the Can Tho markets to ship building yards making the new and larger boats for the Mekong Delta way of life and other aspects of life in the Mekong Delta further came our way, so taking every opportunity to capture it all became critical. With only 3 more days before crossing into Cambodia, Troy, Giles and me will be taking what will be the last opportunity (since I started riding in Vietnam 12th May) to summarise on a journey that most certainly for me has been an extraordinary adventure, lifetime experience and one of closure to a chapter of my life here during the war as a combatant over 45 years ago.
xin chao va tam biet