The motorcycle trip that had started in a congested city under miserably rainy conditions ended in just the kind of place I often seek – but rarely actually find.
My dad and I had ventured into the true Vietnamese countryside, a remote rural village with virtually no link to civilization. Everything around us screamed of wilderness – sounds of the jungle, refreshingly clean air, lush natural greenery, and the periodic straw or bamboo hut. It was absolutely magnificent.
…Until less than one kilometer from our destination – just minutes after snapping this photo – when utter disaster struck.
The whole thing started when we came to an impassably muddy road. The last dozen or so kilometers had been a fun challenge, navigating gravel paths and watery potholes, but the farther we ventured from civilization the worse the conditions became. I for one was loving it but my dad was starting to grow concerned.
So when we reached the spot shown here – more like a “puddle of slush” than a road – we decided to get off and push.
Upon reaching the far end we were greeted by a fairly steep hill, so our guide suggested that he take the bikes up for us. Unfortunately conditions were so treacherous that even the bikes seemed to complain – my dad’s blew out its clutch. Unable to proceed, the guide called ahead and asked someone to bring some spare parts from the lodge. A few minutes of makeshift repair later we were back on our way.
…But only just briefly.
One minute I was making my way up the next (slightly less intense) muddy incline, and the next I was sprinting to my dad on the previous hill. Somehow his bike had slipped, tipped over, and fallen on his leg – shattering the ankle under the weight of a fully-loaded saddlebag. It was broken so severely that bone was visible just under the skin. Yet we were so deep in the middle of nowhere – and the roads in such bad condition – that a car couldn’t even get in. Talk about a disaster.
So with his ankle snapped on both sides, the foot just dangling there, the sun about to set, and hundreds of miles from anything, all we could do was drape him over our shoulders and carry him back through the mud to the nearest accessible road. There we hired a van to take us back to Hanoi. It was scheduled to go to Sapa the following morning which meant eight hours of driving by then, but the driver seemed willing to accept $100 for his troubles. My guess is that it’s more than he usually makes in a month.
The trip was grueling. It took a good hour just to reach the first shop where we could buy ice, and by then his ankle was swollen to the size of an apple. The roads were rough and bumpy, jolting him every which way; luckily he had some painkillers from his hip replacement just a few months earlier. In the end it came down to along and arduous waiting game. It wasn’t until 11pm – fifteen hours after we started our journey – that we found ourselves in an emergency room back in Hanoi.
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on Tuesday, May 3rd.