The week began on a super high as I had my travel buddy Guy with me for the week. We began our first day on the road along the beach, sadly having to avoid rubbish, dead fish and tires littered across the sand. We soon headed inland into a forested area where we scrambled up rocky hills and navigated through the tightly compacted trees. Along the way, we passed two men on a bike, one holding the biggest gun I have ever seen. Luckily, we are greeted with the usual shout of “HELLO” and a friendly wave.
After we exited the forest we found ourselves back on the coast trudging through fishing villages. Under the intense heat of the sun, fish were drying on the streets and vast pots of fish paste lined the pavements. Quite an assault to the senses!
Another reason it was great to have Guy on the road with me was that he speaks Vietnamese! I’d say pretty fluently, he’d says just a little bit… Either way it was a luxury and I was very impressed. With this in mind, we decided to try and cross a river that didn’t have an official ferry stop. We made our way to the riverbank and within a couple of seconds Guy had found a local willing to take us across. All for the whopping charge of 70p for the both us us. We may well have been charged more than the locals, but who cares! We were intrepid explorers… (Well sort of!)
Once we had crossed the river, we entered what Guy described as Mordor. As I am not a film buff, he had to explain the ‘Lord of the Rings’ reference. We were surrounded by huge industrial plants, cement works and a huge tower with giant flames leaping from the top. We spent the remainder of the day navigating around Mordor and finally ended our journey in a lovely hotel where we were the only residence not wearing boiler suits.
Unfortunately, Guy had picked up a calf injury whilst in Japan (he is a teacher at the international school of Hiroshima) and had agreviated it on our trek around Mordor. We consulted our map and decided to attempt another unofficial river crossing 17km south of our fancy hotel. Guy would go by taxi, negotiate the crossing and drink coffee, whilst I completed the Kms on foot. The run took me through more heavy industry, passed dozens of cement trucks and up and into the hills. They was the first real hills I have faced on the journey but I felt strong (ish). As I shuffled my way up the hills, to my right were continuous lines of factories and refineries but to my left were forests and rushing rivers. I especially enjoyed running down the hills with the cooler air in my face.
Upon meeting Guy, at our planned meeting point by the river, we drank a cafe sua da (iced Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk) and marvelled at the power of Google maps. The tiny village we were in, didn’t even have a name but we had found each other! Another successful unofficial river crossing and we were back on the road. Guy joining me for the final 10k of the day.
We seemed to have left Mordor behind but it was evident that the area we were moving through was anything but affluent. We were in the province of Nghe An, which is known to be amongst the poorest areas of Vietnam. As always, the people we saw all greeted us with friendly waves and huge smiles, often reaching out to touch our white skin as they were worried about us being out in the sunshine.
Over the course of the week we stayed in many of the cheap hotels (Nha Nghi) that are everywhere in Vietnam. We spent our evenings drinking a few beers, playing cards and attempting to find food. The ‘highlight’ being, random seabugs which I inhaled after a 32km day.
As we approached the end of our week on the road, I realised that I was on my seventh consecutive day of running and was in desperate need of a rest day. Guy’s calf had magically recovered and we ran 18km, along the highway, to reach Vinh. I realised I was well ahead of schedule, so decided that instead of staying in Vinh for my rest days, I would head back to Hanoi with Guy and watch England play the All Blacks in the rugby world cup semi finals. We jumped on the train and treated ourselves to a cabin with beds. As we traveled the 7hrs back to Hanoi, we rumbled through many places that I have run through. I even saw two of the highway hotels where I had stayed on my ‘3 days of highway hell’ section of the trip. It gave me a real sense of how far I have come so far.
As we reflected on our week, we read the news story about the 39 victims discovered in the lorry in Essex. It is suspected that many, if not all, of the victims are Vietnamese. These young people pay up to £30000 to reach the UK, often via China. Many Vietnamese who choose to undertake the journey to the UK and other European countries, in search of income for their families, are from Nghe An province where we had been running. The blue dragon foundation, one of my chosen charities, are working tirelessly to bring traffickers to justice and stop this modern day slavery. This heartbreaking situation must be tackled.
I am writing this from a beautiful, lakeside coffee shop but have itchy feet and am ready to hit the road again. Unfortunately, I am having an extended stay in Hanoi as I have developed a nasty cyst that has needed treatment by a doctor. I am currently on antibiotics and hope to be back on the road by the end of the week in time to meet my friends Jules and Fiorella in Vinh. Watch this space!
Thank you so much for reading. Please donate as little or as much as you can. It will make a huge difference to the lives of many.
Love Naomi (aka Nam)