So this is our final day’s driving. After such an exciting adventure and two or three days of the best driving many of us have ever experienced, today could be something of an anticlimax. But it was not to be.
Breakfast was a muted affair not just because the food on offer was particularly unappealing, but because most people hit the road early to take it easy on the last 300 kms to the finish.
We had been warned to take it easy because it is too tempting to relax and think that it’s all over; just one more day and we are done.
But we have learned on previous rallies that serious mishaps can happen so close to the finish, so we wanted to go carefully.
We headed out of town driving south through rather scrappy suburbs until we got into the hills and reacquainted ourselves with the conical hills of the Karst valleys, very reminiscent of previous days. The sky was rather overcast which helped to keep the temperature down and we cruised along enjoying the rural life of North Vietnam.
It’s Sunday, but that did not save the children from school, or indeed any slow down in daily village life. Chickens, pigs, and dogs crossed our path in fear of their lives and motorcycles chanced their arm in getting by us.
The fields are fertile here so the colours were all shades of green and we meandered along a watercourse that explained the vibrancy of the vegetation.
Then the traffic started to get denser and we were faced with an oncoming stream of container lorries, trucks and buses, all travelling at the speed of light.
We were approaching Dong Dang (don’t you love the names of these places?) which is on the border with China and we passed within 120 meters of the frontier in the town centre.
In the middle of town, chaos was complete, with a queue of cars, trucks and buses waiting to cross into China. Only the police’s intervention allowed us through and then we faced what was perhaps the scariest stretch of road on the whole rally. We were on AH1, the main route to Hanoi and in front of us, leaving the border, was a bumper to bumper line of vehicles and precious little space in between. Facing us was a stream of traffic, sometimes three abreast coming at us at full tilt.
This was not a drive for the squeamish but thankfully it did not last for long. As we got away from the border the traffic eased and the countryside was actually very pretty, so we cruised along until instructed to turn left and head off back into the hills.
The A279 road will always be remembered for saving us from the mayhem of the AH1 and it was a delight to motor along again on quiet roads through fertile valleys.
The sky was overcast so today will not be the best photo day but that will be compensated by our jubilation photoshoot at the end.
We passed a mountain being demolished on a mega scale to provide material for a new super highway, but otherwise this was an uneventful drive. Thank goodness.
Our arrival at Halong Bay was emotional, mostly relief that we had all made it unscathed, both us and the cars. But joy too that we had successfully made it through to the finish.
It has been massive achievement to get through such a demanding itinerary and team hugs were the order of the day. Oh, and a nice glass of wine too, even if we did look at the wine list and say “How much?”!
We organised a group photo shoot on the quayside and the exaltation was clear to see on everyone’s faces.
This is the last driving post and we hope that you have enjoyed reading it. We hope too that it has given you a small taste of our journey from Vietnam to Myanmar, and back!
A couple of words of thanks:
This Rally was conceived by Robin and Charlotte, Andy and Neil. From all the feedback it has been a great success, so that’s a relief.
The ‘on the ground’ execution was run by Bruno’s ‘Destination Rally’ organisation supported by teams in each country who have done an outstanding job.
So, as participants, we thank them for all the hard work that has made this journey so memorable.