08.04.2011 - 08.04.2011 30 °C
Good Morning World! It is the 8th of April and day three of our three day Easy Rider adventure from Dalat to Nha Trang.
Here is a rough map of the adventure we have been undertaking (google doesn’t have all the villages):
Today we are heading out of the mountains and down to the coast to our final destination, Nha Trang. On the way we stopped at some rubber tree plantations, cocoa farms, and pepper farms.
^^ Rubber tree plantation
^^ Collecting the rubber sap
^^ Cocoa plant
^^ Kirby learning about cocoa
^^ Pepper drying
^^ Freshly picked pepper
^^ Dried pepper
One of the really cool places we stopped at was a wood furniture store. The men go out to the forest and collect the tree stumps and roots that fell victim to Agent Orange and illegal logging. They carve the most beautiful tables and chairs, dressing tables, and statues. You can pick up a full set of table and chairs, hand carved for around $400.
^^ Dressing table in construction
^^ Seat in construction
Most of the day was spent on the road as we had a fair few kilometres to cover before we hit the coast. The road we were travelling on used to be the US army’s major transport thoroughfare through the central highlands to support the northern bases at the frontline, and as a consequence it was the most ambushed mountain pass during the war. This unfortunately means it was also one of the most heavily Agent Orange sprayed areas in Vietnam and the landscape was noticeably scarred by the deadly toxin. In some places you could even make out the flight path of the plane, with rainforest on either side of a desolate poison highway.
In recent years the land has now been able to support cultivation of rice fields as the poison sinks deeper into the soil; beneath the roots of the rice plants. However, when it comes to the rainforest in the area it is a different story.
Basically the forest grows normally until it reaches a certain height and the roots touch the Agent Orange that is sinking down into the soil. When the forest reaches this level everything dies and the once blossoming rainforest becomes a defoliated barren tragedy, a stark contrast to the rainforest we encountered in the deep Mekong. As you pass through this area an eerie feeling that something is missing niggles at your mind. It took us a while to work out what it was; birds. We didn’t encounter, nor hear, a single bird our entire time passing through this area, a strange occurrence considering there was no cities nearby or any other obvious reason for there not to be birds; obviously another fallout effect of the war.
What the local people are now doing, instead of watching the forest continually struggle with dying and recovering, are planting Australian gum trees along the affected hillsides; as they grow tall before their roots hit the Agent Orange; they then cut them down and sell the wood. This is only temporary though, as the government has a strong stance on revegetating the devastated lands when the poison sinks further down and they are able to mend the forest. If only the DNA of the people could be mended to stop such a high occurrence of birth defects.
Finally after a long day on the bike we exited Rotuong Pass where the rail, road, sky, and sea meet on the outskirts of Nha Trang. It is prawn farms galore around this area and we stopped to chat with some local fisherman and prawn farmers. Just as TiTi and Kirby were driving off to head into Nha Trang city Hiep mentioned that I had Science degree with a focus on animals and that I had also done some study on aquaculture and marine biology. As it turns out every single fisherman needed someone like me to work on their prawn and fish farms, and they were all gunning for me. After 35 minutes, some awkward laughing on my behalf, and about a thousand handshakes I had guaranteed myself a lifetime of work if I ever decided to stay in the area. Meanwhile in the city Kirby was having visions of a squashed Kyle on the road as we were considerably late. Thankfully I wasn’t squashed, just flustered from all the attention .
^^ Meets the road, sky, and sea
So this was it, we had arrived in Nha Trang after 4 days of action packed adventure with the Easy Riders. A few big hugs from the guys later (very cute) and we were all alone in our hotel room, left to reflect on what was our best experience in Vietnam yet.
I would recommend for anyone and everyone to take a chance with the Easy Riders, they certainly aren’t a gimmick or a rip-off, and they provided us with insight into the history, culture, and way of life of the Vietnamese people that we would never had acknowledged had we not tore up our bus ticket from Dalat to Nha Trang.
Hiep and TiTi were amazing chaperons with great English, and the whole experience felt more like hanging out with two old friends than tour guides. So if you ever find yourself in the mountain town of Dalat in the central highlands of Vietnam, search out these guys, you won’t be disappointed!
Tomorrow we explore Nha Trang, and rest our weary bums, haha.