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Cambodia and Vietnam 2016 A quick look at Cambodia and then visiting our favourite country, Vietnam for a 5 month stay. Look out Hoian here we come!!!

Day 127 – 5th August 2016 Friday – A Luoi to Khe Sanh

VIETNAM | Saturday, 6 August 2016 | Views [231]

At breakfast we have another team meeting with weather apps to see what is happening. We decide to keep going onto Khe Sahn. First we wanted to see the waterfall that was close to town and that you can walk to a pool and swim. We turned up the road just out of A Luoi and soon were on a dirt track heading up a mountain that was heavily corrugated by the rain. Gary went first, then Keith and I followed at the rear. We were about ¾ of the way up when Gary dropped his bike and we all had to stop. Locals came up over the edge of the mountain where they had been working to help right his bike. It was discovered that he had broken the brake handle clean off. Vicky hopped on behind me and we all headed back into A Luoi to get the brakes fixed. We were soon back on the road to Khe Sahn and it is the part of the trip that we have all been waiting for. I have heard that this section of the road is a bike riders dream. The road totally lived up the expectations. Up, down, round and round. Stunning. I am in awe of people who can look at a mountain and can figure out a way of carving it up to make a road with enough switchbacks to travel without an unacceptable incline. And more than that , actually getting it done. The steepest incline was 10 in most cases. This road is seriously thick with vegetation that needs to be chopped, roadsides dynamited, bridges made to achieve a road. It makes the Southern Expressway in Adelaide look like a walk in the park. One part of this days ride saw us travelling alongside a national park of ( I think, don’t quote me) Phong Nha-Khe Bang National Park. This is where I see my first teak tree in the wild. I am glad that I did not get a photo of this because it would just remind me of the lack of old growth forest beside the road. It does go to reinforce the fact, that one of the only ways to keep old growth forest is to make it into a national park. The gorge beside the road is a rock climbers dream.

Eventually we are on the road of the A Shau valley . To me, this is one of the wonders of Vietnam. This valley is 25 miles long and one mile wide. It is flanked on either side by steep mountains between 3,000 and 6,000 feet. Crystal clear water in the river. We did stop and have a swim at one point and it was so refreshing. The guys opted not to and waited in the shade. The local kids were sitting further up the bank and watched in awe.

We came to where the Ho Chi Minh Trail (now highway QL14) intersects Highway 9 on the other side of the Dakrong Bridge. The bridge was the main access point to the trails during the war, and was bombed and rebuilt repeatedly throughout the conflict. The current bridge was built in 1974. Just around the corner is the town of Khe Sahn (for those Cold Chisel fans). Lunch break, more pho bo; I really cant get tired of this staple food! Then off to the hotel to book in. At this stage we are only 20 kms to the Lao border crossing, so we are looking at the mountains of Laos. How exciting!

This is the home of the Khe Sahn Military combat base, (or as the Vietnamese call it the Ta Con Airstrip) where the good old US of A got there ass kicked (according to the winners tale at the museum).We then have a quick visit to the combat base and museum before they close for the day. The museum is full of famous war correspondent photos which only partially portray the horror of war. My opinion only, but I think a good idea, next time countries get into an argy bargy re religion, oil, politics, the leaders should get into a closed room and have a box on. Winner takes all. I think it is seriously unfair to use the lives of young defence men and women to achieve your countries agenda.

Unfortunately Khe Sahn in the province of Quang Tri, and is immediately south of the dimilatarized zone which separated the North from the South. Consequently, it has been ravaged by the effects of Napalm, Agent Orange and ordnance.It has been estimated that around three times the ordnance used in WW11 has been dropped over Vietnam between 1959 and 1975 (the period of the Vietnam War, or as they call it, the American War. It has been estimated that unexploded ordnance is close to 84% in this area. Many farmers have been disabled or died merely by farming their land. Another thing that the leaving (loosing) army should be required to fix, or at the very least compensate for.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/sep/18/vietnam-unexploded-landmines-bombs

In addition, US Military forces released over 72 million litres of agent orange, to reduce the food growing capabilities of the locals, and destroy the forest cover in a mission called Operation Ranch Hand. Ironic name of an operation if ever I heard one.

http://www.popstoolkit.com/about/articles/aodioxinhotspotsvietnam.aspx

And to further the insult, Napalm was used to burn down sections of the forest to eliminate the cover of fighters.

http://vietnamwbb.weebly.com/napalm-agent-orange.htm

Now the most terrible thing about all of this crap hurled at the inhabitants of the hill tribes in my mind is this. You go to the museum and see who is living in the hills. This is the home of the ethnic minorities, subsistence farmers. They are already severely disadvantaged as a group because the Vietnamese government seems to not give a hoot about them (discounting the new houses and roofs of course). These guys almost do not care or know about the wider Vietnamese population. And they get caught up in the fighting in the most appalling way. Go the museum one of these days. You will get the picture that I have not adequately tried to explain.
Rant over.

After the base, we went to the top of the town, where there is a seven tiered pagoda and a war cemetery. Now this was stunning. Not for the pagoda, but for the view. It was a total 360 degree view of mountains. You could see very dark storm clouds roll in, so after a while we quit and went back for another shower. Seriously sweaty humid weather before the storms hit.

We all went out for dinner at the local pizza shop. Suprisingly good! Crust not crunchy enough, but hey, not so bad . We do a pretty shabby impersonation of their food at times also.

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