May 25, 2006 GMT
Vietnam III

Minsks are imported to Vietnam as farm machinery, and is said to be unbeatable when it comes to off road transport. So letís find out if it is as good as they say. A new road was under construction between Nha Trang and Dalat. About 150km of unfinished highway. Indeed, it was so unfinished that I barely made it through. It started with a surfaced freeway. Then the luxury of tarmac ended, and the remains got more and more narrow and bumpy and deteriorated until it was no road at all.

Mountain monsters

The Minsk showed its Achilles' heel. The two-stroke engine was much too weak at low revs to perform well. The option was to burn clutch. And I did. I had to, and I was just waiting for a breakdown that didnít come. I pushed the bike over piles of blasted rocks, gave full throttle through mud, manoeuvred in cotton-thick fog, and waded across rivers. The most demanding 20km took five hours to pass. I met many road workers isolated for months on their designated spot in the mountain. Some where laughing, others were shaking their heads. Many asked for cigarettes; they hadnít had a smoke in a long time. Tough men living tough lives, sleeping with their shovels and machines, far away from the nearest tube of Colgate. A bit like Hopen really.

The path is blown away with dynamite

The road ended as it started and I cruised into Dalat. I found a quiet corner in a cafť. A lady entered with a hideously cute spaniel squashed up in her armpit. She ordered two cigarettes and a matchbox. I took a picture, the spaniel got spooked by the flash, and it ran out in the city traffic. Thus I decided to vanish too to avoid a compensation claim for one run-over puppy dog. My aloneness told me to seek comfort at Dalatís main attraction, the Valley of Love, but so few were visiting that they closed the park while I was in it. And the next day I drove to Saigon, the end of my Vietnam, and I played tennis with a cool gang of veterinarians in exile. I got rid of the Minsk within hours.

A split second before runaway

This is the Valley of Love. I came alone, and left alone.

What now? Australia is pretty close now, but Balto is not in a very happy state. Heís going to a retirement home, and at home is a brand new motorcycle Ė Balto II - waiting to be rigged and shipped back to the east. Ships travel slowly, these things will take some time, and I will fill up the cash box while waiting. There is some work to be done before we go on.

Balto I - Retired and replaced

Posted by Erik Saue at May 25, 2006 01:43 AM GMT

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