CategoriesTravel

Overlander: Day 7 – Rest and Repair

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Our wander around the city of Swakopmund revealed that the word “city” is perhaps a little generous. It basically boils down to nine blocks arranged in a grid, with a bunch of outdoors shops and mechanics specialising in off-roaders. It almost seemed like the city only existed to serve overlanders.

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    Overlander: Day 6 – Dune 45

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    At various points through the night before then, I needed to answer the call of nature. Lacking any alternative facilities, the only solution was to walk for about 20 metres away from the camp into the scrub that surrounded us to the horizon in every direction. As I was…communing with nature, I looked up into a crisp, clear, starry night. And I started to laugh. There was nothing especially funny up in the sky, I wasn’t being tickled by nature. It was just raw joy.

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    Home by the Hải Vân Pass

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    From the start of my trip across Vietnam, the Hải Vân Pass had been the one thing I could call an objective. Everything else was a bonus, but that 93.4-km drive from Huế to Da Nang was all that mattered. So, I rose on a miserably drizzly Saturday 29th December 2018 and, with a degree of nervous excitement, awaited the arrival of the motorbike taxi driver who had offered his services as a tour guide the previous day.

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    Finding History in Hue

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    After walking down to the Perfume River and across a bridge, I made my way to the Imperial City – the seat of Vietnamese royalty up until 1945, when the country declared its independence from the French. It remains an impressive sight.

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    The Long Road to Hue

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    With no direct bus to my next destination — Hue — my itinerary took me first back to the capital and then on the road south. The first leg was uncomfortable because I’d been given the seat/bed right next to the toilet, but the hours passed without incident. Once I arrived in Hanoi, my problem-solving skills were really put to the test.

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    A Local Experience in the Muong Hoa Valley

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    I awoke on the 26th December 2018 perhaps the freshest and best rested I’d been all year. The dead quiet of the Mường Hoa Valley, combined with the unbelievable comfort of the bed in Mama Chu’s house and the fatigue from the lengthy trek to get there all combined to create the perfect conditions for a refreshing night’s sleep. I was a honestly quite reluctant to rise from the super-soft bed and its almost mattress-thick blanket but, with the rest of the household already up and about, I felt a little guilty sleeping in.

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    A Christmas Miracle in Sapa

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    I arrived in Sapa in northwest Vietnam much earlier than I planned, at about 2am on the morning of Tuesday 25th December 2018 – Christmas Day. I’d been told that the bus would arrive closer to 6am, getting me there just in time to find a place to stay, dump my gear, rest a bit and then plan my adventures in this remote mountain town. Instead, I found myself in a sleeping city, with not a single hotel open for business.

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    Dodging Tourist Traps in Ninh Binh

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    When it comes to historical edifices and their restoration, there’s a sweet spot – a fine line between completely ruined and completely rebuilt which is difficult to exactly trace. At least, there is for me. Sadly, the ancient capital of Hoa Lu missed the line by a country mile.

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    Playing the Tourist in Tam Coc

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    I arrived at Ninh Binh train station from Hanoi as the sun was dropping out of a hazy sky. I had the general intention that I wanted to rent a motorbike and find a homestay (the Vietnamese name for a hostel), but that’s about as far as my plan went.

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    War Planes and Word Games

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    My second day in Vietnam started with a hasty departure from the apartment I’d borrowed. My plan, formed the previous evening with the person who usually lived there, was to head to the train station and get a ride to Ninh Binh, which I’d been told was a beautiful and peaceful spot.