Da Nang to Khe Sanh – Leg 7

(Click on the above image to see the full version of the map)

Leg 7: Da Nang to Khe Sanh – STATISTICS

Total Distance: 335km (208 miles)
Total Moving Duration: 10hrs, 26min
Total Duration: 11hrs, 34min
Average Pace: 32kmph
Max Elevation: 883m
Current Elevation: 498m

Today’s leg from Da Nang to the North Vietnamese town of Khe Sanh is the longest and the most remote of the journey to date so to say I was feeling a tad apprehensive before we set off would be an understatement.

Fortunately one of my concerns, the state of the road, was quickly dispelled as once again the HCMT was in excellent condition.

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Although the road condition remained familiar to earlier legs the country side underwent a marked change the closer we got to the  first fuel stop of Prao.

Up until now signs of the American Conflict had been minimal but the impact of millions of tonnes of ordnance dropped on the HCMT route was becoming increasingly obvious.

Over and above bomb craters scattered all over the country side was the unsettling sight of massive deforestation caused by Agent Orange.

Over 72 million liters of Agent Orange was dumped during the conflict with a large percentage of this over the Northern half of the HCMT to expose the supply route to aerial bombing.

The photograph below is a prime example of large sections of this 50km run into Prao. Hard to believe that the American Conflict ended over 40 years ago…

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Unfortunately it wasn’t only the country side that was showing the scars from the conflict as at all of the stops along this leg the people were also showing the damaging effects of this horrific deforestation and DNA damaging chemical.

Quite a sobering reminder that the images on display at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh are not isolated to just the pictures on the wall.

At least the weather was perfect and Jonny was behaving but this was all prior to the real test of the leg; the second stage from Prao to our final fuel stop of Huong Phong. This stage, by far the most remote to date, would take me over a section of the Annamite Mountain Range that runs parallel to the Laos Boarder.

The only incident that we almost had during the first half of this stage was plowing into a herd of cows, the first living mammals seen in over an hour, and given their stunned reaction I’m pretty sure we were the first anything they had also seen in some time.

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The remoteness of this area was absolute. Unlike the earlier stage of the trail where I would see an oncoming vehicle every 5 minutes out here there was absolutely nothing but glorious, somewhat damaged, Vietnamese countryside.

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In typical fashion it was just when I reflected that everything was going so smoothly the rear tire punctured.

It happened on probably the only piece of road works on the entire length of today’s journey and unlike previous punctures this one took a good 5 minutes before the tire went completely flat. 5 minutes to reflect on my absolute rotten luck as once again I found myself in the middle of the most remote stage of a leg with a flat tire.

The feature map shows the location of the puncture in red and if my GPS was to be believed it was at least 40km until the next settlement of note.

Concerned would be an understatement.

Once again we were left with little option but to push on at 20km an hour with every bump in the road reverberating through the bike frame. Fortunately the road condition was in direct contrast to the state of Jonny – absolutely outstanding.

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After a torturous hour of riding we encountered a couple of local lads loitering around one of the many tunnels on this stage of the trip. Although they didn’t command any English the sight of a flat, seriously damaged tire, managed to portray our predicament and the welcoming smiles quickly turned to concerned shakes of the head.

Although they had no means to repair the tire they managed to portrait via an odd game of charades that help should be five (something) up the road so we pressed on.

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The five wasn’t kilometers as that milestone came and went. Perhaps they meant miles as after about 8km from the tunnel at the exact moment I started to hear the noise of the wheel rim scraping the road we arrived at a river side country village equipped with a local mechanic.

Goes to show that no matter where you are in Vietnam you are never more than 30km away from a Motorbike Garage!

This garage however lacked power and as I watched my savior manually take Jonny’s rear end to pieces my usual confidence in the Vietnamese mechanic started to wane.

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Whilst my confidence was on the decrease the crowd in attendance was on the increase.

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I’m pretty sure that when we eventually left this garage the entire village had come to see what this mad foreigner was up to on a scooter in the middle of nowhere.

Although my mechanic friend did his best it was pretty clear within a couple of kilometers of leaving his garage that something wasn’t right.

In the knowledge that there was no help behind we pressed on and eventually limped into Huong Phong, the only other major town prior to arriving in Khe Sanh.

Fortunately my new mechanic spoke some English and after a bit of a poke around concluded that –

  1. Jonny was missing two critical bolts (probably on the floor at the previous mechanic’s garage)
  2. The wheel was buckled
  3. And the tire was, as suspected, a write-off

Right.

Fortunately all of this was fixable, for an inflated price, and eventually we were once again on our way.

But Jonny wasn’t quite done with me.

The first sign of trouble was a horn fail whilst trying to scatter a group of kids playing in the middle of the road.

How embarrassing – hornless in Vietnam.

But the horn wasn’t alone and a quick test proved that the indicators and light were also out of action.

With a clear electrical issue I was on notice that if the engine stopped I may find it rather hard to get it started again.

So it would be fair to say the next two hours were far from enjoyable but we made it to Khe Sanh and the welcoming arms of another mechanic.

This leg of the trip was stunning from so many different angles but I was left mentally disillusioned and physically exhausted as I reflected on the previous 12 hours from the roadside pavement outside the mechanics garage. But we had made it to Khe Sanh, deep into North Vietnam territory, leaving finding some accommodation hopefully the last challenge for the day…

Related Links:

Hoi An | Da Nang Review
Khe Sanh Review
Khe Sanh to Phong Nha – Leg 8

 

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