Saturday, November 2, 2013

Little Horse on the Loose (first 2 days run)

Written from Cua Lo, near Vinh, Northern Viet Nam, the 2nd of November 2013.
The little horse was basically ready to go as soon as I got here, it was I who was not!  But we're on the road now if not really up to speed yet.  The Horse is the same bike I've ridden three years running now, she sleeps during the off season in a lean to off one side of my mechanic's house out in the country, and an oil change, a new tire, and some oil on the chain and she was ready to go again.  She's a Chinese copy (interchangeable parts!) of a 1970's Honda 100 cc motorbike. . .and once you sort out the electronics and wiring and a few rubber pieces that were a little too de-engineered, she's a remarkable little bike. . .very light and powerful enough for this environment. . .gets me and my luggage over hill and dale without complaint, and has been known to go up and down really rough rock roads that had me scared half to. . .er  anyway. . .she's a good machine for the job, hence the affectionate name.

We left Hanoi with a detour by the old hotel to drop off some flowers for the grandma there.  I'd spent most of an hour standing on a street corner watching every possible OTHER sort of vendor roll past, corn, melons, pottery, roast duck, half of a pig on a trolley, everything you could imagine except not a single flower lady.  Jeeminy.  I gave up, packed, signed out and we hit the road and. . .coming out of the alley were run over by a flower lady with a load of roses and glads.  We took the gladioli, shoved the stems under the bungees that hold on the luggage and made the detour.  For years I've brought her flowers and she's tried to bury me under fruit.  But she's getting very old now and forgetful. . .though she knows exactly what flowers mean, so it was a sweet good bye.

I only wanted to get to Sam Son for the night (170 km, half a normal day), but early enough in the day to do some serious looking.  I've been hoping for a large traditional style boat (a Sam Son specialty) in very-early stages of construction (last year I know that 5 were built there in 3 months time, but I never got the very earliest stages. . .or, for that matter, the crucial hoisting of the sides).  Not to be.  Nothing doing on the beach at all except for sailing rafts. Sigh.  (sailing rafts?  sailing?  and I'm griping?? oh my)  Okay then, how about at the Port in the river mouth??  That's one of those mythical places that disappear and you can't find again for a while, but I got lucky and we rode almost straight there this time. . .but the boatyard is gone.  No kidding that's over doing the "mythical" thing!  It was a major boat building facility. . .and it's been bulkheaded off,  filled level and graded out.  Nothing there.  I had to look twice to be sure I hadn't missed the right river. . .but no it's true.  Wow.  Ah, but down the road (make that down the trail. . .it'll be a road some day maybe) they're back in business and there's lots of good activity, including a MID sized traditional boat in earliest days of construction. . .and her twin sister almost complete...not exactly what was needed, but close enough to answer some big questions. . .so I have lots of photos.

Day two (today) was on to Cua Lo, a really easy day, not too bad traffic, weather getting positively nice (blue sky??  cool morning, hot afternoon?  what's not to like??)  Dust.  Oh.  Well, it would be mud if it were raining eh, take your pick.

With a quick return to the disappearing boat yard to start, we made a really late start, but under normal conditions it's only 3 hours running or thereabouts, so, not unreasonably late.  There was nothing whatever to report as it started out but at a Red Bull and Water stop in mid afternoon I became a grandfather.  It was really abrupt, but. . .I mean, I was minding my own business, standing up behind a chair to slurp the caffeine and the water back (think "C&C with water back". . .but use Red Bull) and the daughter of the coffee shop (Gee I hope I can remember where it is. . .) the daughter, as I was saying, was finishing up feeding lunch to her two-year old and, I kid you not, brought the little lady over and handed her to me. . .and she (the grand daughter) was absolutely delighted.  Patted my beard.  Stroked my bald spot.  Leaned against my cheek and held on with an arm around my neck.  O'migosh.  I almost sold the bike and rented a house.  What a sweet heart.  I'd make a great grampa I would.

And here in Cua Lo, things are changing too. . .the harbor is being dredged by the little dredge that could, he just hasn't finished yet (and won't any time soon).  The harbor has been shallow since I started coming here and now. . .it's almost usable for corn and potatoes. . .and there are some sort of fish pens set up all over the inner harbor. . .will have to see if I can figure out what that's all about.  The fleet looks fine, and oh my goodness, there are three, count 'em three new mid-sized draggers under construction in one of the boat yards...and they're spaced out like beads on a string a week or two apart.  To make it better, I had three really good portraits to drop off here. . .the owner's wife, daughter and grand daughter. . .from last year.  So I've gotten an automatic upgrade from pesky white guy to great photographer all at once.  Not bad!

The connection here is too slow to upload photos.. .check back in a day or two. . .

We've landed in Dong Hoi, in the path of typhoon Krosa, due to hit sometime tomorrow between here and where I'm trying to get (Hue) so this will be a short stop and a quick run to the south to see if I can outrun the beast.  I'll load a few photos from the past couple of days. . .
Okay, this is a very unusual school bus, even here.  I mean, the cyclo is typical enough, but the cargo??  
Just a glance at Viet Nam. . .quiet little neighborhood.  I was on a RR over crossing.

Diesel Powered Sailing Rafts.  Pretty rare creatures, but really effective on a shallow sandy surf beach. There are about 54 of them active at the moment.

The wedding photos get done a month ahead of time. . .and obviously the sit in the sand and the romp in the surf are at the end of a long day of being bossed around by an expensive photographer.  I think they burn the dress after this.

Okay. . .here's what I come for (other than riding the Horse). . .this is brand new, just finishing up now, mid-sized traditional boat typical of Cua Lo and also found here in Sam Son and rarely up in Halong Bay.  I knew that.

Ah. . .but here's how you start one.  I didn't know that!!!  

Several fish boats had an almost too good trip. . .one is in a near sinking condition alongside the dock while the ladies keep offloading fish into dump trucks. . .about ten pounds at a time in plastic baskets, over the scales and into the truck.  They'll be fish sauce in a while.  Please note that fish to be eaten fresh is handled a bit differently.

And this is the new grand daughter.  Don't I wish!!

Some of you are no doubt aware of the myth of the pig truck with my name on the front bumper (sort of like the headless horseman. . .but different). The notion is that if I see him coming he'll miss me.  So I watch closely!   This is a very uncommonly nice and new pig truck, and no name on the bumper.  Besides, he was stopped at a RR crossing.

More of what I came for. . .in Cua Lo now, and a very near sister of the boats in Sam Son, at a different stage. . .about ten days into the project actually.  She'll be two months to launch day.