Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cam Thuy to Cuc Phuong ...March 24, 2009

As I said, the hotel in Cam Thuy was pretty gritty but during dinner we did hear a lot of one Vietnamese person's perspective (our tour guide) toward the Communists, Uncle Ho, and the move toward market based economics. He surprised me a little, but he is making good money and does not need the state to provide anything. They all said that there is no single payer healthcare beyond the very basics, unless you are employed by the government. School is mandatory through grade six, but available through grade twelve, but higher education is paid for by the student's family. I won't repeat what he said about Ho, in case anyone is listening.

The road out of Cam Thuy was moderate, mostly flat, with agriculture teeming on both sides of the one lane road. We crossed the Da river several times and saw a crew starting a new highway retaining wall, digging deep four foot diameter holes for rebar/concrete by hand, lifting the clay out with buckets suspended from bamboo crane/lever contraptions.

We had some bike problems which slowed us down, and everytime we stopped, all the kids within hearing/seeing distance came over to watch the repairs. This gave me lots of opportunities to unload the yellow LiveStrong bracelets. Our guide now is wearing three, the driver has given three away to ladies along the way, and I have given four to Hieu for his kids and one for himself. The worst bike problem was when John's saddle broke completely off the seat post and the crew did not have the necessary bolt to reattach it. Joe gave up his saddle/seat post and rode in the minibus the rest of the way. I don't think he regretted getting out of the 90-90 heat-humidity. He said he loves bikes, but does not like to ride all that much. We noticed that if some really narly hills were coming up, he would let Hieu ride with us for a while. Hieu is about 32, but he smokes a little, and he was walking up some the steep stuff while John and I were granny gearing it up. We stopped frequently for water refills and photo opps. This crew is taking good care of us.

After lunch of four different kinds of very tasty, but very fatty Muong pork, which is a small pig, and several beers, we got back on the bikes for the last 10-15km into Cuc Phuong National Park. This last stretch had some 10% grades, and the heat was at the highest. I was soaking wet all day. This park was established in 1962 by Ho Chi Minh. It now houses a threatened primate rescue center which has mostly gibbons and lenguers in cages. They say they can't let them out due to poachers. The plan is to eventually get the hill people educated about endangered species and be able to let them go.

Our room in the park was nice and the grounds were beautifully planted with ornamental tropical plants and flowers. We had another many course meal (mostly beef and pork with greens, and rice) and warm beer, all making for a nice sleep. Tomorrow we will ride through the park before hitting the road for Ninh Binh.


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