The Greater San Fransisco Area

Continuing my quest to travel the world.

It has been my quest to cycle around the world for a very long time, although I have ticked off 16 countries to date, I still haven't achieved the ultimate goal of cycling the world. I cannot wait any longer for the conditions to be perfect, age is catching up with me, so it is now or never.

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia
After our trip to Vietnam in 2012.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Home and pondering our future.

We are at home and going through a gauntlet of emotions. Is everything that has happened to us this year a message? Are we past cycle – touring now?  Is this the end or is it the jump start we need to change tack and try a different sort of cycling holiday? We both love cycling and it’s our life, but has touring done it’s dash and we try overseas cycling events? Do we do cycling tours with a company where you are safe and more secure? We don’t know.

I still despair about what is happening to my stolen bike and all my gear. I’ve resigned to the fact that I’ll never see it again. I’m trying to replace my clothes in order of priority and need, as I can afford it. I have a doctor’s appointment today to replace all my stolen Asthma huffers .  I need to start an insurance claim, but need to buy a computer printer first, as we have always managed to do without one, but now need to download and print off claim forms and receipts for expenses. So everything is money, money, money right now.


I have my job back – thank you Jim – you really are a great employer. Niel appears to have his old job back too, but he has yet to confirm that.

One overseas cycling event we definitely want to do and train for, is the next Paris – Breast –Paris. It is an endurance event of 1,200 kms held over 3 and a half days. That is an average of about 350 kms a day. It is held every 4 years like the Olympics and the next one is in 2014. It is well organised with schools and gyms and town halls being adapted for cyclists to bed down for a sleep. You can do it how you like, racing it to do it in the shortest time you can, or pacing yourself and sleeping when you need to, and taking the whole 3 and half days. It is very popular, with thousands entered every time. But you need to do official qualifying rides to prove you can do it. That will probably be our next trip.

Another outcome of our Vietnam trip is my concern and despair for the animals over there. I can’t do anything about those poor animals as I don’t have millions of dollars to set up animal shelters, but I’ve realised I can do something on a small scale here and advertise their plight, and volunteer in our local SPCA. If you want to act globally, you need to start locally.   

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Bicycle and all my gear stolen.

After successfully obtaining our visas for Cambodia, we negotiated the rush hour traffic to get out of Ho Chi Minh city in the direction of the Cambodian border. After 30 kms we stopped for our first drink. It was a stall or as the call them in Vietnam a Cafe. We left our bikes leaning one on to of the other, with mine on the outside, on a low brick wall by the entrance, we sat no more than 2 meters from the bikes. A salesman on a bike tried to sell us some dried food which we didn't want, and when he was gone so was my bike. If the thief had ridden past the entrance on my bike I would have seen them, but they didn't, so I can only assume that someone local, saw that we were distracted by the salesman and took my bike being the one on the outside. It happened so fast that it was unbelievable.

After a quick search by Niel and the stunned cafe staff to no avail, they phoned the police for us. I got a ride on the back of the policeman's scooter to the police station, and with the help of an interpreter, who tried her best, but wasn't very good at English, wrote a report about what happened. after writing 4 reports - some translated into Vietnamese by the interpreter, I asked for a copy for our insurance claim. When Niel lost his bike earlier in the year, we realised we needed a copy to make a claim. They refused to give us a copy. Apparently it is against the law to give copies of police reports, We said that it was the law in New Zealand to have written evidence of lodging a report with the police. The police man made me write it all out again NOT on letterhead paper, but it needed his superiors signature. His Captain was in a meeting. 7 hours later, we had to give up waiting and go back to the hotel in a taxi. They said it would be ready to be picked up at 8.30 the next morning.

At 8.30 the Captain was still in a meeting and to phone back at 2pm. At 2pm he refused to sign as he didn't believe me, as it happened too fast. At 4pm he said he'd sign, So after one and a half million in taxi fares , and writing out my report yet again, translated yet again,it was finally signed.

The ploiceman, interpreter and I.

All this time no one is out looking for my bike. I am gutted as my bike has been to 7 countries with me, I really love my bike, and my gear means a lot to me. It is useless to any one else as it is mostly clothes, and camping equipment, my personal medications, and 2 pairs of shoes, and my walking stick - useful since my surgery. The only thing of any value was my camera. Luckily most of my photos had been down loaded onto the computer. My clothes were special to me as they were either brand new for the trip or collected over many years from overseas trips, some were birthday presents. They wouldn't fit anyone here as all Vietnamese people are tiny and my bra size is 18 double D - who is going to benefit from that. So really the thief as not benefited much at all and has devastated me, cut my trip in half, and put Vietnam in a bad light. Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore no longer get the benefit of our tourist dollar. So they loose out too. All for the benefit of what?

I would not recommend Vietnam to anyone now, and I can't wait to go home. This has also made me reevaluate whether I want to carry on travelling anymore.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Cambodia here we come.

filling in our visa applications at the Cambodian Embassy.
After a dreadful ride into Ho Chi Minh city, to obtain our Cambodian visas, we are now looking forward to trying a new country. Why was it so dreadful? 80kms of non stop city with traffic to go with it. The god awful bus drivers blasted their horns at us so they could undertake in our lane which wasn't a lane but the verge. Add in insane amount of scooter riders who were so numerous they were using what footpath there was for a lane, and factor in the idiotic scooter riders who were riding on the wrong side of the road against oncoming traffic and tooting at us because we were in their way!!!

This is a two way road, but both sides are filled with scooters trying to go in one direction - this is what we were trying to cycle against. add in the buses, and you get the picture.

Need-less-to-say, I was irritable to the extreme and swearing at  bad drivers and yelling at them to get licences. No one must have a licence in this country as no one has any idea about road rules, it is NOT the more you blast someone with your horn the more  they should give way to you. Actually the authorities must know about this overuse of the horn, as we saw big billboard signs with a picture of a horn with a line through it. As we saw this sign, a bus driver went past tooting a tune with his horn!!

Today is my birthday. Niel got me a lovely yogurt and blueberry cake from a fancy bakery. It is lovely. The very nice ladies at the reception, who have our passport details, saw it was my birthday and put a plate of fruit in our room. And to top it off, we got our Cambodian visas.
My yogurt and blueberry birthday cake.

I have seen more stray dogs coming into Ho Chi Minh than in the whole of Vietnam so far, that is really saying something. They broke my heart as they looked so scared and miserable. some were only puppies. If I had millions of dollars I would set up an SPCA in this country and do something about all the abandoned, non stop pregnant females, starving and ill and injured animals here - especially the dogs. If they like to eat dogs, why don't they eat the strays to end their misery.

Vietnam hasn't been the delight I had hoped for, although there is no denying their friendliness. The potential is there, but they have a long way  to go to be a good tourist destination. Roll on Cambodia.

Friday, 14 September 2012

We are so spoilt.

Westerners are so spoilt.

We are 2 days away from Saigon, or Ho Chi Min City. The bottom of Vietnam is poor and full of roadside rubbish, but the people are friendly as always, sometimes too friendly and it can get too much. What I am impressed with, is the children. They are so happy and unspoiled. So many of them ride adult bikes that are too big for them. They can hardly touch the pedals, yet they dub their little brothers or sisters or even their grandmothers around as though they do it every day. It makes me ashamed of our western children who are so spoilt and always want more.

Two girls on a bike.

Actually the children here are a delight, always yelling out ‘allo’, sometimes desperately, as if they are scared you haven’t heard them. They are beautiful and a delight to watch. A teenage girl  yesterday, tried to sell me a pen that she had covered and embroidered – how very enterprising. I think they are taught at school to say ‘Allo, what is your name”. As they all say it to us. They giggle like mad when you respond to them. I am often rude to bad drivers and being tooted at for no reason, but I always try to be nice and respond to the children.

Nha Trang from our hotel restaurant.

The rainy season has started and we are getting rained on a fair bit now. But actually we like it. It reduces the temperature. The other day we were riding along and the road was bone dry, and there was a curtain of rain in the road just ahead of us, it was so heavy it was bouncing back off the road, but we were dry at least until we hit that curtain of rain.

In Ho Chi Min City we have to get our visa for Cambodia, we are not too sure where to go to get it and how long it will take, hopefully it will be easy, and we will pass over into Cambodia, where I’m sure the children will be just as unspoilt.   

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Pale skin? Not me.

Pale skin? Not me.

We are 1,500 kms through Vietnam now, and we have a week left until we cross into Cambodia. Today is our second day off, and our bodies and bikes need it. Our bikes are filthy, and my wheels need trueing from my crash I had  5 days ago. Our bodies need a break from the constant sun and heat, and from getting sunburnt. And we need to give our bodies some decent food. We have lost weight, well size anyway, and have foregone any lunch since our first day out of Hanoi, only eating ice creams and / or yogurt when we can find it. If we can find both Coca Cola and ice cream, then we make ‘spiders’ by mixing them and they go down a treat.

Cooling off after arriving at our hotel each afternoon.

The women here are obsessed with being as pale as possible. They cover themselves from head to toe in hoodies, with hats on top, and sunglasses, long sleeved tops, with woollen gloves (  no matter how hot it is), longs, with socks under their jandles. I am constantly told to cover my arms and they shake their heads at my burnt arms. I saw the ‘Miss Vietnam’ programme on TV, they were all very white. I know it is healthy to be white, but I like having a tan, as most white people do. It has nothing to do with being  Muslim and everything to do with cultural norms.

Drying fiber on the road side. I guessing it is for weaving into mats.

There are some things that really annoy me about this country, the mistreatment of animals and the constantly being tooted and blasted at by trucks and buses, for no reason, all day; but there are some things I really like about Vietnam. I like the way the women are all treated as equals with the men. They definitely are not subservient. They are hard workers. I  saw an old lady using a pneumatic bolt remover of truck wheels the other day.


The other thing I really like is their prowess at growing food. They are the best Horticulturalists I have seen, I suppose it comes from years of providing food for their families in tough times, but I bow down to their skill. I think every rural house has a rice field, as they are drying their rice on the sides of the road and in every driveway and even the intersections of roads.

using the interections to dry rice.

And, as a flower lover, the Vietnamese also love flowers. There are Florists in every village and they are skilled flower arrangers, something I totally approve of. I often see scooters laden down with enough flowers to fill several shops. Actually the laden down scooters are a constant source of amazement.
This load was particualrly amusing as we cycled by, do you see Niel?


We saw our first other cycle tourists a couple of days ago. They were Dutch, and had a child with them. Now the ladies here - would have been horrified at how brown they were. They really would have attracted attention skimpily clad, brown as berries and white blond hair. Whenever things were not up to their standards though, they just put all of their stuff on a bus, and went somewhere else. Never the less it was great to see them and to compare notes.

A bit of coastline for the first time.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Adventure or is that Mis - Adventure

A truck load of dogs of to the meat market.

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, things just don’t go according to plan. I’m really happy with how I’m cycling and I was thinking that all I have to do is loose some weight and everything will be perfect.
Harvesting the rice by hand.


I must have eaten or drunk something that Niel didn’t, and I got the dreaded travellers’ diarrhoea. After some antibiotics and anti – diarrhoea, I felt better, but lost my appetite, and couldn’t stomach any unfamiliar food. Next day, all was going well, we had made it to our destination in good time and we were looking for a hotel. Niel said don’t stop at this one, so I rode slowly by, when I turned around he is nowhere to be seen. I wait about 5 or 10 mins, and head back to the hotel I last saw him, where he told me not to stop. Meanwhile he had given up waiting for me and ridden on as he thought I had gone on without him. We didn’t see each other as we passed on opposite sides of the road.  I waited 3 hours for him to come back to the “last place we saw each other” (our golden rule), He went 30 kms on to the next town, realised I could be anywhere and came back the 30 kms back to the place where we last saw each other. He was livid, that I hadn’t looked back to check he was behind me, so it was all my fault, what do you think.  The next day, it rained all day, very heavy at times, and a few kilometres before our destination, after a day of rain, we were bumping along a very rough road, full of pot holes. You couldn’t see how deep the holes were, and I hit a very deep one, I went over the handle bars. I hurt my knee, right on the spot where I had had key hole surgery a few months ago, and fainted. So there I was sitting on the gravel and mud in the pouring rain with my head between my knees trying to remain conscious, while Niel fixed my bike. Thank god the next day – nothing untoward happened.

Me with my bloody knee.

On the plus side, we have completed our first 1,000 kms, and we are half way through Vietnam. We have also reached the touristy part of the country, so there is more people that speak English, and more Hotels.

At the top of our biggest hill so far looking down to Da Nang.

Tonight we are in a 5 star hotel and in the lap of luxury.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Animal Cruelty.

Animal cruelty has turned me off meat.

As an animal lover I have been shocked to the core by what I have seen here. I know they eat dogs, but do they have to torture them first. The only animal they treat with any respect and attention is the cows. Even the atrocious drivers will slow down for the cows on the road, but not for anything else. Even Niel got hit by a truck while walking alongside the road – on purpose. The driver was aghast when he realise he’d hit a white person. However if he had been a dog , he would have been ignored. No, Niel wasn’t hurt. What I find the hardest to bear is the dogs approximately 10 to a tiny cage, all pushed in so tight that there is bits of dog body pushed out through the bars. They are dehydrated and salivating to try and reduce body heat in the 38 degree heat. These cages are on the back of scooters.

There is nothing I can do about it, except bring it to the worlds attention.

How to keep cool.

In the first week of cycling, we have worked a few things out. We now know that the word for ice cream is Kem. We now know the way to cool down in the oppressive heat is to use the hose at petrol stations and completely soak ourselves before letting the breeze cool us off.


They might have no respect for animals, but they love their children, and are generally  very friendly.

Today we are having our first day off from cycling as I have the runs, combine that with the 38 degree heat, left me very drained.

The only other white people we have seen is an American group here to reclaim lost bones of old vets. We haven’t seen any other cycle tourists.  We have heard of so many people that come here to go cycle touring, but where do they go, we haven’t seen anyone. Lei - the lady here who speaks English says they don't get tourists here, that is why we are constantly stared at, followed, touched in shop queues, and said hello to all the time.
Actually I have discovered a great ploy. When you get sick of the people cycling beside you or scootering beside you and you can't get rid of them, you put the brakes on and they go flying past. It works a treat.