Where Is The Monsoon
NOT A MASKED BANDIT, A FARM WORKER PROTECTING HERSELF FROM THE SUN.
The monsoon season in the depths of the tropics. Hot, humid, and constant deluge. “We’ve been through every kind o’ rain there is; stinging rain, big old fat rain, rain that flew in sideways, and sometimes even rain that seems to come straight up from underneath” was Forrest Gump’s description of four months of endless downpour in central Vietnam
We are now five days into our ride south through tropical Vietnam following the famed Ho Chi Minh Trail, the supply route that leads thought forbidding jungle celebrated in a thousand Hollywood movies as an inhospitable place alive with all manner of ferocious mammals insects and reptiles all hell bent of inflicting a myriad of horrible experiences upon any wretched soul who has the misfortune to pass this way. Not only will the passing wayfarer be tormented by the fauna but he will be undergoing a constant soaking as the never ceasing rains pelt down upon him relentlessly.
‘Phong, where is the rain?’ I enquired on the forth day. ‘It rained the day before yesterday’ was his reply. I could not argue, for it had indeed indeed drizzled for a good ten minutes, and the day before the same, but for less time, and today we had quite a down pour and a flash of lightning and a rather impressive clap of thunder that rolled menacingly through the valley for what, if not quite an eternity, was an impressive amount of time that left me wondering just where it eventually rolled out of the valley and ceased to be a menacing rumble.
So, wet it has not been, but hot, oh yes, it has been warm. I know from our mid-summer expedition into the mountains of the northeast last year that despite what I had thought these tropical chaps are not quite all they are cracked up to be when it comes to dealing with the heat. I explained to Phong then that he is supposedly designed for these conditions whilst I am from a land where the temperature never rises above tepid and when all precipitation ceases it is consider worthy of celebration by way of headlines across the national press. He told me to shut up and pass him some water.
We intend to run this tour twice a year and our discussion as to what dates would be most appropriate lasted not more that a few moments as we agreed in unison that mid-winter when the mercury is dabbling in the mid to high twenties by day and cool by night is the only time to go.
Our investigation of The Ho Chi Minh Trail Road is quite fantastic. The road is a ribbon of finely surfaced tarmac rolling gently through what is best describe as classic Vietnamese countryside; rice fields, bamboo forests, jungle and sugar cane. Wooden houses on stilts, bamboo homes with palm roofs, little houses with corrugated terracotta tiles. Peasants in conical hats ploughing fields with wooden ploughs pulled by water buffalo, and of course the odd Englishman and is Vietnamese chum cycling through on mountain bikes.
The HCM Road thus far is remarkably free from traffic and as such is the perfect route for exploring the lower laying land of Vietnam. The route, of which I shall explain more in a later blog post, is the result of joining together small roads that were in them selves made up from an intricate series of trails linking the north or the country to the south. As mentioned the surface is so far perfect and the traffic is light. From time to time we are able to turn off of the HCM Road and take to one of the smaller roads that helped make up the network taking us deeper into rural Vietnam.
Tomorrow is an early start as it is looking as though we may have a couple of passes to cross, cunningly positioned to coincided with the warmest part of the day. Maybe we will have a little downpour to cool is off a little.
THE HO CHI MINH TRAIL WINDS TWIXT GUM TREES AND TEA
ONE OF THE SMALLER ROADS THAT MAKES UP THE ORIGINAL NETWORK OF TRAILS
FELLOW TRAVELLERS ON THE HCM TRAIL
LOCAL TRANSPORT ROLLS THROUGH THE SUGAR CANE FIELDS
AN ITINERANT FEATHER DUSTER SELLER PLIES HER WARES
A ROAD SIDE SHOP