Warning: Mom if you are reading this please press the ‘back’ button.
Oh boy, where do I start with this one.
How about in Nha Trang, Vietnam, when it all began. It was here that my friend Cam thought that it would be a fantastic idea for us to rent a motorbike and drive to the next destination on our list- Mũi Né. It was a four hour drive along the coast of Vietnam and promised beautiful views of the ocean. I was very hesitant of this idea but with Cams peer-pressure and my desire for adventure I reluctantly agreed. We would drive to Mũi Né the next morning- stay the night- and then drive back.
We went to a small business that was renting scooters- really just a man in a room with two scooters. We told him that we wanted to rent the motorbike for two days. To rent out the motorbike we had to write down the name of the accommodation that we were staying at and give him our drivers license. I didn’t understand the point of having a driver’s license if you have to give it away to drive. Anyway, Cam was quite the quick thinker and handed over his student I.D card- pretending that it was his license.
The man didn’t seem to believe us at first but after a little convincing he handed over the keys. There was only one helmet so I asked him for another one- no way I was getting on the back of a motorbike in Vietnam without one! The only extra helmet he had was a ‘women’s’ helmet. This ‘helmet’ was more like a hat than a helmet.
Cam jumped on the motorbike and I jumped on behind him with just a backpack carrying our belonging for the trip. We headed out of the city towards the highway and the sun was already blazing down on us.
When we got on the highway it was insane. It felt like we were in a bad video game. It wasn’t that we didn’t know the rules of the road in Vietnam- there just weren’t any. When passing cars, big buses would drive into our lane and head straight for us. The buses would then honk at us to get out of the way because they were bigger and ruled the road. Our little motorbike also wasn’t much of a match compared to the many giant semi-trucks that were driving. It was a chaotic and high stress environment.
I must say that we got a lot of strange looks. Two foreigners whizzing down the highway passing semis on a little motorbike. As fun as it was at times- it was also draining. Cam and I switched driving every hour but even if you were in the back seat you couldn’t relax. This was one of the rare moments that you wanted a backseat driver. We were always both on the lookout for a car passing us from behind or a big bus heading straight for us- it was mentally exhausting.
On top of everything, what Google said was a four hour drive turned out to be seven. We were essentially driving through a desert for seven hours. Even my hands were starting to burn- I had never had my hands burn before. They were painfully hot and dry as I gripped the handle bars.
But we kept our spirits up. When I was the passenger I made an effort to take moments to appreciate the beautiful scenery around me. I would smell the fresh air of the countryside around me as I belted out Life is a Highway. Because the wind was blowing in our faces Cam couldn’t hear me singing so I could sing at the top of my lungs..
For lunch, we stopped at a beautiful little restaurant that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. It was right on the ocean in a beautiful location. We ordered and then went for a dip in the ocean while we waited for our food. The cold water felt amazing on our hot burnt skin. We couldn’t believe that such a stunning place could be so barren.
We eventually made it to Mũi Né- skin burned and faces covered in dirt. I could taste the grit in my mouth.
The next morning went for a swim in the ocean and then are a late brunch. It was a little after noon by the time that we ended up hopping back onto our motorbike and venturing onto the crazy highway again. The way back was just as wild- only we were starting off already tired and burnt.
Because our bike had a small tank of gas, and we never knew how far it would be until the next gas station, we made sure to fill up whenever the opportunity presented itself. It was about halfway through our trip back to Nha Trang when I was driving and saw a gas station on the side of the highway and decided to pull over.
There were cars all around but I manage to swerve off of the highway to the gas station. Coming off of the highway I was probably going about 100km/hour- it is hard to know because our speedometer didn’t work. Of course I slowed down, but looking back now my sense of speed was probably skewed from driving on a wild highway. Even though I slowed down as best I could that quickly, I was probably still going about 50km/hour- way too fast to stop safely.
Things got scarier when I realized that the ground below us wasn’t smooth pavement- it was loose gravel.
Because I had swiftly turned off of the highway onto loose gravel I had no traction. I quickly began to lose control of the vehicle. The motorbike was more powerful than me. I was terrified and didn’t know what to do.
Next thing I knew the motorbike came out from underneath me and my body went flying hard into the gravel pavement. Cam went flying off too and landed on top of me.
Cam got up and managed to quickly get up and grab the motorbike to turn it off. He was a bit shaken up from the accident and had some deep scratches but still managed to keep his cool. I was anything but cool.
I laid with my face in the gravel for a few moments- unable to catch my breath or process the pain that was just inflicted on my body. As much pain as I was in all I could think about was how awful I felt for making Cam crash. I felt like such an idiot that the first thing I said, as I lay scattered in front of the gas station, was; “Well, we needed gas.”
After a few more minutes of lying in shock Cam managed to help peel me off of the ground. I remember feeling dizzy and shaky. I felt ill. My body was in complete shock. Cam walked me over to the gas station where he sat me down and bought me coke to help get some sugar in my body. Eventually I had calmed down enough so assess the damage. My shoulder was in excruciating pain- it felt like it was out of place. I asked Cam to lightly pull my arm from behind because it felt like it needed to be popped back into place- the pain was unbearable when he did that.
My body was covered in deep scratches from my ankle all the way up to my face. The crash had torn a hole through my shirt and my wounds were filled with dirt and rocks. Cam and I went to the bathroom to try to wash our scrapes. Because the pain of my shoulder was unbearable, Cam had to help me wash my scars. The touch of water was torture on my tender wounds. The only access that we had to water was with the hose that people use to wash their butts after using the toilet.
Here we were on in Vietnam, in the middle of nowhere with burnt skin, dirty faces, and cut up bodies washing ourselves in a gas station with a butt cleaner.
This was one of the rare moments that I have when traveling where I longed to be home. I wanted so badly to escape my pain, fear and discomfort and just be safe in my bed at home. I didn’t want to get back on the motorbike. It was the last thing that I wanted to do- but I had no choice.
I took my bandana and used it to bandaged up the worst cut on my body- which was on my ankle. We had a lot of cuts but nothing to cover them with. Because of my shoulder injury I couldn’t drive- I felt awful because this meant that Cam had to drive four hours straight. I jumped on the back of the bike and held onto Cam- not before fueling up of course.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I had fractured my shoulder in the accident. Holding onto Cam with the backpack pressing into my shoulder was agonizing. The highway was covered in potholes. Cam tried to avoid them as best he could be it was nearly impossible. Every time he hit one I would let out a piercing scream as I felt even more pain sear my shoulder.
Because the whole ordeal had lost us about an hour of sunlight, we didn’t have time for lunch. We stopped quickly to buy some snacks. I must have looked pretty bad because all the locals kept telling me to see a doctor. We didn’t have time though and had to keep trekking on. Unfortunately, despite our efforts, the sun set on the last hour of our drive. When we finally drove into Nha Trang- completely mangled and exhausted- it was dark.