Dalat to the coast was another 100+ kilometer day. Part of that was a dramatic downhill. Dalat's elevation is 4800'. Some of that hard-earned elevation was surrendered dropping off the hill that Dalat's on, but the real drop is about a third of the way to the coast -- the Ngoan Muc Pass. That must be a 3000' drop, and I'm glad I was bicycling south to north. About an hour past the pass, I experience yet another Vietnam: an arid, dusty land, punctuated by cacti, and scrub brush.

Back at sea level, it was hot again. Now, for the first time, facing a headwind. Headwinds break a bicyclist's spirit like nothing else. When you're climbing the steepest hill, you always know that there's a downhill somewhere ahead. With a headwind, you're simply working twice as hard to go half as fast... and there's no downhill on the other side. The road surface was getting bad, too. Not all the time, but there were stretches that even the big Soviet-built buses were having trouble negotiating. I was starting to worry about the rest of this trip. I remembered that one bike-touring company had stated that they traveled north to south because of the winds. Granted, Michael from the other bike-touring company hadn't been concerned about the winds, but he also didn't think that I needed a triple crank (proof that he was crazy!).

I made it to the coast. After finding Lonely Planet's one hotel recommendation in Phan Rang closed for renovation, I panicked for ten minutes until I finally found another decent- looking place. The manager spoke absolutely no English, but he was fluent in German. This made for an interesting situation -- I know about 50 words of German. Over the next hours I used my German, my pantomime, and my Vietnamese phrasebook to check in, to eat, and to learn about the ride north to Nha Trang. There wasn't much to the town, and I went to sleep pretty early.

It was at least a 900 meter drop to sea level again. The only hint of the steepness is in the background of this photo -- the thin white line curving up and out of the top of the photo is actually a massive water pipe climbing straight up the side of the mountain.
This arrid countryside was a world apart from the Vietnam that I had started the day in...
  Next: Phan Rang to Nha Trang  
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