Saturday, October 27, 2007

High on the Hai Van Pass

“Active” pretty much sums up our day yesterday. We rode our bicycles much of the way from Hue to Hoi An. We even conquered the Hai Van Pass (aka Cloudy Summit). Although reaching the summit was a sweet reward (we were “awarded” bracelets for our achievement by our driver), the views on the way up and throughout the day were the real reward.

Just outside of Hue where we began our ride, we pedaled through ornate cemeteries built in swampy fields where water buffalo grazed. That was one of the most beautiful parts of the trip, but we were just beginning the day’s ride and didn’t take nearly enough photos. We passed through scenic villages and saw lots of smiling faces. We even became the first bike tour to cross a newly constructed (and not yet completed!) bridge. (The alternative would have been to take a “ferry”. Upon seeing the “ferry”, we decided that the not-yet-complete bridge was the far more preferable alternative.)

The Hai Van Pass was the crown jewel of the day in both effort expended and scenic beauty. The approach to the pass afforded us our first glimpses of the South China Sea and the lush mountains surrounding it. The ride up is full of steep, sharp switchbacks that were, in some cases, challenging on a bike so it is easy to understand why a tunnel was built to accommodate most trucks and autos. The six-mile ride to the summit included a fifteen hundred foot elevation gain along with the switchbacks and the day was warm and humid - in other words, no easy ride! Yet we were still in awe of the natural beauty of the place as we pushed up the mountain. This is one place where the pictures don't come close to conveying the overwhelming beauty of the area.

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