Most of our friends think we're crazy, our parents definitely thin we're crazy, hell, even I think we're crazy - but money has changed hands, and I find myself sitting on the back of a Minsk on Highway ?? watching Graeme dodging trucks in front of me, the week ahead an unknown quantity. Excited, nervous, ecstatic, scared - tick yes for all of the above!
Looking back, Graeme and I both agree that our week in the mountains astride the ubiquitous Russian Minsks was one of the best weeks we have spent. We will always remember the absolutely stunning scenery, the beautiful people, the laughter, the friendships, the songs (!), the rice wine and of course our sore bums!
In a week filled with highlights, some of our best times included
Day 1 - after being soaked to the skin by a torrential downpour, riding up above the clouds to arrive at Mau Son just in time for a beautiful sunset and speccy views across to China.
Day 2 - we turn a corner and see a washed out bridge with the river flowing rapidly across. Surely we're not crossing there! But apparently we are, and after watching our guide wobble across its now or never! Half way across the bike stops and I put my foot down - but there's nothing there! Me and the bike disappear into the water - saddlebags, passports and all.
Day 3 - taking the bikes up a steep hill covered in rocks... into first, full throttle and up I go bouncing over rocks and boulders - my visor falls down but, I can't take my hands off the bike to fix it! The road never ends but eventually we make it to a level outcrop of rocks - what a great feeling! A refreshing swim in the beautiful Thang Hei lakes completes the day.
Day 4 - Exploding mines, waterfalls, swimming (nearly) to China, and Vietnamese massage - what more can you ask for??
Day 5 - Being hosted by the most friendly and wonderful family at Ba Be Lakes - we will never forget our time with the Dangs. A massive feast including freshly caught fish (and freshly killed chicken!) - the rice wine is mixed with honey and we toast everything we can think of. Hint: if you want a quiet night, don't let the Dangs know you are on your honeymoon! We knew it was time for bed when we found ourselves singing a rousing rendition of "Waltzing Matilda".
Day 6 - chugging along in Dangs boat along the beautiful clear green Ba Be Lake - diving in is even better, ah bliss! At lunch, our host's grandson (6 years old) steals our hearts by very solemnly performing the ritual of inviting his guests to drink. His ruou is water - after last nights excesses we are wishing ours was too!
Every day: the people, in particular the children - screaming, laughing, waving, smiling kids. Watch the trees above and take a Polaroid camera! Beautiful, stunning, amazing, incredible scenery.
Food, glorious food - you won't lose weight!
Thanks for a fantastic week - we would do it again tomorrow!
Carol Sandiford and Graeme Hogan from Australia