This year I had decided that I would simply ignore Christmas. I planned to either run through it or give myself a rest day on the beach. However, that all changed after I reached out to the running community of DaNang.
After running with Ross and Jodi from DaNang to Hoi An, they invited me to spend Christmas Eve with them and a merry crew of expats and locals. We went to a cute, little cafe in the back streets of DaNang, for a ‘potluck dinner’ and I spent a lovely evening chatting to a variety of interesting people from all over the world.
On Christmas morning, I took myself to the beach for a coffee and looked out across the beautiful golden sand onto the sparkling blue sea beyond. I watched surfers riding the waves and travellers sipping beers in the shade of the coconut trees. I finished my coffee and jumped onto the back of a Grab bike (motorbike taxi) and headed to the local market, as I had been invited to spend Christmas day with another lovely crew of expats. In exchange for a bag of oranges from the market, Em cooked the most delicious Christmas dinner! We ate turkey with all the trimmings, drank freshly squeezed orange juice and feasted on loads of Christmas chocolates! For the second day in a row, I looked around the table at the smiling faces of these people I had just met. Yet again, the kindness of strangers on this trip is blowing my mind. How lucky am I!?
On Boxing Day morning, I hopped out of bed and headed to a yoga class at Em Yoga. I’m definitely not a yogi but I know it does me good and helps with my recovery on this journey, so I tried to go most days during my stay in the city. After the class, I had coffee and cake with a couple of the girls and received a couple of offline donations towards my amazing charities.
Full of cake, I decided to stick to Boxing Day tradition and go for a walk. Whenever I’m back in the UK with the Skinners, we usually head to the seaside for a brisk walk along the front, eat fish and chips and play in the penny arcades. The Son Tra Peninsula with the huge, marble-white lady Buddha had been beconing me towards her over the last couple of days. I decided to go for a hike up to the Buddha, I reached her after about 5kms of winding uphills roads. After consulting my map, I noticed that here were many smaller trails all over the peninsula. Ignoring the fact that I should be resting, I ploughed on up into the mountains. The scenery was stunning, exposed cliff edges with sweeping views across DaNang beach and the towering city buildings beyond.
Em (my Christmas buddy), had told me about the endangered Langar monkeys that are found on Son Tra, I didn’t expect to see any as they are so rare. However, I turned a corner and was greeted by the sound of these animals chatting away to each other and I soon spotted about 3 or 4 of the endangered monkeys up in the trees.
After 13kms of very steep terrain, I reached the end of a trail, which was home to an 800 year old Banyan tree. The tree had been a shelter/look out for soldiers during conflicts here. I sat under the branches and tried to imagine what it might have been like to spend days, weeks, months up on this isolated mountain. I concluded, that I would have been terrified and terribly lonely.
On the steep descents, I couldn’t resist having a little run and letting gravity pull me downwards. Without the weight of my backpack, I felt like I was flying!
On the 27th, it was time to head to Hoi An beach, to restart the run. I was treated to a delicious, Greek souvlaki lunch by Em, who had been out cycling, and we chatted about future adventures and how great it is to meet like minded people.
After lunch, I went back to the exact point where I had stopped running the previous week and set off into Hoi An old town. I ran next to rice paddies and the stunning yellow buildings of Hoi An ancient town, I even managed to ensure that my route took me over the iconic Japanese Bridge.
Today was time to get back on the road properly, I was lucky enough to be joined my Jude and Fiorella, friends and fellow teachers who had flown up from Saigon. We were joined my Chris and Gabs (who are currently cycling around the world), who I had previously met in DaNang. As we jogged through the bustling streets and over high bridges out into the countryside, Chris flew his drone over head and has kindly offered to put the footage together to raise awareness for my charities. More random acts of kindness from people I’ve just met!
We waved Chris and Gabs off at the 10km point but I’m sure we will catch up later down the road towards Saigon. Jude, Fiorella and I headed towards the coast. We ran through tiny villages and soon were hearing the familiar shouts of ‘HELLO!’ and waving at many a friendly local. The day ended with 2kms along a beautifully sandy beach and a couple of delicious passion fruit juices. At 24kms, this was Jude’s longest ever run day and she smashed it! It was just another training run for Fiore, who is tackling a mountain marathon in a couple of weeks! I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to restart this challenge with.
Thank you for spending your time reading about my adventures.
I’m having the most amazing time but the real reason I’m doing this is for the kids and women of this amazing country who need a bit of support to get back on their feet. Without a birth certificate, children are unable to attend school, my chosen charities sort out this very important paperwork. The fact that human trafficking still exists as we are heading into 2020, is simply wrong. We can all help to make this change and improve the future for thousands of kids and women.
Please help by donating as little or as much as you can, sharing my page, telling people about the running lady or coming to experience some of this journey with me.
Much love and happy new year!
Naomi (aka Nam)