I had to choose between being blind and holding my breath. I weighed the options as my glasses fogged up like a mirror, and inevitably chose the latter. It was probably safer.
When the hell is fog going to end, I thought as I maneuvered my motorbike through the mountains in Dalat, Vietnam.
I focused on staring at the headlights straight ahead as rain splattered against my glasses and stuck to them. The ever expanding rain drops on my glasses mocked me as I used one hand to wipe them like a wind shield wiper.
My friend and I were on our way to Pongour Waterfall, 50 kilometers south of Dalat.
That morning we jumped on motorbikes hungover and in the rain to drive to Pongour to chase yet another waterfall. Following the blue dot on my iPhone on Google Maps, I led us through what looked like a simple road through the rice paddy fields in Vietnam, hoping to see some spectacular views of the surrounding area.
Except that it wasn’t spectacular.
After we cleared the mountains, I thought the most difficult part was over. Suddenly, I found myself off roading through mud and puddles with questionable depths and wasn’t sure I would be able to make it through.
“I think it’s this way,” I said to my friend as I looked at the road in front of us. I almost laughed at the thought of driving these $4 rental motorbikes through the mud. My friend’s breaks barely worked on her bike, and somehow, the 2 liters of gasoline I put in mine were almost gone.
But it was the only way.
I went first. After surpassing a guilty looking herd of cows as if they had just escaped their pen, I maneuvered my bike no faster than 5 mph through the mud and puddles like I was taking it out for a salsa dance.
At that moment, my motorbiking skills were equivalent to my dancing skills: nonexistent.
My bike was on its side and I was sitting next to it.
“Are you okay?” My friend said as she tried to bring her bike over to me.
“Yes,” I said, laughing. “The mud got me!” Two Vietnamese men that appeared out of no where stared at me expressionless as I tried to heave my bike off of the ground. Instead of helping, they only stared and kept walking on their merry way as if I were on display at a zoo.
The mud trek continued for another hour. I wondered how Google Maps had managed to find these roads that seemed unused by anyone other than tractors and cows.
Four hours later, we arrived at Pongour Waterfall, muddy and tired.
The angelic falls welcomed us and were well worth the ride.
Tiny Vietnamese children pranced around beneath the falls and jumped between the rocks as if they were fawns in the forest. The water caressed the rocks like soft hair over someone’s face.
We opted to take the highway on the way back home to avoid the dirt roads. It was a drastic change from the peaceful back roads we had initially taken. Instead, blaring horns, trucks, numerous motorbikes, taxi’s, buses, and cars welcomed us. I felt like an ant every time a truck and bus passed me, and prepared myself incase I suddenly needed to veer off into a bush on the side of the road.
Jesus take the wheel.
It wasn’t until I was in the middle of a mountain and driving up a narrow, meandering road that I realized my motorbike had been on empty for at least 35 kilometers. Being the cheapskate that I am, I wanted to see if I could make it back to the hostel. From experience, motorbikes can be on empty for days before they run out of gas.
Except, of course, this time.
About 10 kilometers from my hostel, my bike died in the middle of the road.
Crap, I thought as I jumped off and dragged it over to the sidewalk. I mustered a laugh- this would only happen to me. My friend and I looked around and wondered what to do next.
As if gold had dropped from the sky, I saw it: there stood a woman selling gasoline next to where my bike had died.
“How much for petrol?” I said as I ran up to her stand. She put up four fingers indicating 40,000 dong.
“I don’t need a whole bottle, only half,” I said, but to my dismay, she wouldn’t have it. I bought the entire bottle which barely changed the line from empty, but it was enough to get me home.
As you all know, I never get away that easily.
My bike wouldn’t start.
For ten minutes my friend and I tried to start my bike which was as stubborn as a dog learning a new trick without any treats.
Maybe I should abandon it, I thought, getting fed up with what this bike had put me through.
I swear it has a mind of its own.
After almost twenty minutes, the bike revved to life like something out of the grave.
I drove that bad boy immediately home before anything else could happen.