Sunday, 25 November 2012

Let's go to the beach beach!

For our last day in Hoi An we were treated to a full hour of sunshine which we used to pedal to the beach. On arrival it promptly clouded over but it was still dry so we were happy. It wasn't long before the heavens opened so on went the ponchos, Lauren hopped on the back of the bike and we used the heaviest rain so far as a perfect time to browse the shops (awful idea) before heading back to our hotel to wait for The Sleeper Bus.

The term 'sleeper' bus is extremely misleading. Instead of the standard coach seats we know and loathe the bus is decked out with two levels of pleather recliners with a box at the end for your feet. Obviously it was raining and obviously I was next to a leaky window, so that was nice. As it was about 6pm we were expecting a bit of chat but the lights were swiftly turned out so we entertained ourselves with eye-spy, I-went-shopping and other such classics. Our driver's favourite games appeared to be 'chicken' with the oncoming traffic (braking so you were rammed into the foot box) and 'beep-the-wretched-horn-as-much-as-I-can'. Our confidence in him only increased after he stopped at about 10pm to drink an entire bottle of rice wine. This being 'nam (man) there obviously a few locals crammed in for good measure and us being lucky they slept in the (very narrow) aisle right next to us. I mean he may as well have been spooning me and various limbs invaded my pleather personal space all night. The stop-start journey of no sleep and Bryony's bursting bladder (she actually fell on me at one point) continued until we were unceremoniously turfed out in Nha Trang at 5.30am...and to think we had foolishly assumed our 'direct bus to mui ne' would be direct. Still we were ejected right next to a cafe which sold coffee and pain at chocolat so there are worse places to be stranded. My bag also felt like it had been thrown in a puddle. A couple of hours later we were picked up by another bus (seats not beds) and had a wonderfully horn free, event free, multiple seats journey to Mui Ne. I wanted to hug the driver. (I say event free, we did make one stop en route to a very strange place playing pan pipe Christmas music with one of the greatest nativity scenes I've ever seen -think neon lights and dolls).

Arriving in Mui Ne was great and after RainFest 2012 it was a welcome scene - a sandy beach that stretched on for miles and SUN. It is also a kitesurfing Mecca so plenty of beach entertainment, mozzies kept at bay, a chance to go windsurfing again and a smattering of handsome men in board shorts to boot.

All this wind made me think I should at least attempt a watersport. As it had been about 6 years since I set foot on a windsurfing board I felt I should get a refresher before merrily hiring some equipment. The only option was a beginner lesson on the morning -no such thing a a refresher it turns out - but Bryony was keen to try and Katie and Dave (our scooter friends who we bump into in every town) were up for it too. So the 4 of us arrived at 8am ready for a morning of fun. An illusion that was promptly shattered the moment we met our instructor Darko the Grouch, an angry, bald Russian man with little to no people skills.
We had a land lesson (my favourite) where he barked contradictory instructions at us 'LOOKA DOWN' ...'DON'T LOOKADOWN LOOKA ME, WHY YOU LOOKADOWN?' whilst explaining the basics (which was like being taught to snow plow again). He also patted the ends of my toes to move my feet so I shrieked and I'm still not sure he knew why (donttouchmytoesihavenonails). When we finally made it into the water (we were half cooked at this point) the others believed my reassurances of 'its easier on the water' and to Darko The Grouch's credit we were all up and sailing around very quickly. Whether it was excellent instruction 'LOOKA DE ANGLE', natural talent or fear of being shouted at I'm not sure. Every time I did anything I remembered from the old days I was told to get back to the starting position and pootle along holding the mast. Lauren (still stitched at this point) was basting on the beach too afraid to congratulate us incase Darko turned on her. Still it was great fun being back out on the waterand even more fun to laugh at 'Brownie' being 'instructed'. 'BROWNIE BACK AND OPEN, NO BROWNIE FRONT AND POWER, BROWNIE JUMP IN'. He did soften a little towards the end but we didn't come back for more and left a little deafer than when we arrived.
The morning exertions had taken it out of us so we spent the remainder of the afternoon frolicking in the sea and enjoying the beach. The marvelous, sandy, sunny beach.

The only downside to the beach is that I'm up to my usual tricks and no matter how hard I try, I've brought a lot of the beach into our room so we are ALWAYS SANDY. I mean there was so much sand on my bed I might as well have been sleeping on the beach.

Another Mui Ne plus is that Sarah (who i met in Bali) was in town so I had a friend to play with in the morning. We had grand plans but they never amounted to much more than strolling along the beach and finding fruit shakes. One morning as the others slept off their red bull heads I met Sarah for breakfast and went exploring to discover a little more of the Russian town and find a jeep to take us on a sand dune adventure in the afternoon.

We started by visiting Fairy spring, a scenic walk up a stream to a fairly unremarkable waterfall, then had a micro stop at a fishing village - very picturesque boats but most definitely a place that should be seen and not smelled as we were surrounded by rotting sea crustaceans and numerous rats feasting on the various remains. We moved swiftly on.
To the white sand dunes! These were very pretty white sand dunes (the name rather gives it away) that spring up randomly in the middle of nowhere. Our jeep bumped on up the 'road' and we transferred to our atv sand buggies/quad bikes. New thing I learned about myself: I am terrible at driving atvs on sand. With my new motorbiking prowess and quad biking history I was sure I'd have no worries as I zipped off, but I promptly swerved all over the shop and nearly fell off in front of everybody. Lauren and Bryony were cautious Sallies as I zoomed around with Sarah and Amy. All was well for, oh, 5 minutes until we went to scale a larger dune. Sarah and Amy's buggy beached itself and I watched on and laughed as the back wheels sunk deeper and deeper into the sand. Being the Good Samaritan I am I went to find the children who were lurking about to help us ridiculous tourists when things got sticky. But I got stuck in a sand bowl. I found reverse (information I attempted to shout over to a sinking Amy) but all I did was manage to move backwards and forwards for what felt like forever. I eventually made it out but it was back the way I came so we were no better off. As the sun started to set help arrived and with more than a little help we were on the path back to base. Not our finest moment.

As we had fannied about getting marooned we were a little behind schedule so instead of arriving at the red dunes (these are red sand dunes, again, imaginatively named) in time for sunset we arrived when the sun had most definitely set. However since this was the 'sand sledging' spot we were getting out for a slide! We took a sheet of plastic (opting for one between two since we were only going for the one slide) and started the trudge up the dunes. As Bryony mounted me it became quickly apparent that two on one was not going to work, so now covered in sand we got one each and made the thoroughly underwhelming sledge down, then trudged back up and back down to our waiting jeep.

The following morning Sarah and I decided to go for a morning SUP before the wind picked up. Unfortunately it was an extra windy morning and the sea looked a little choppy so we abandoned our balancing plans and after our sand buggy success we decided to rent a jet ski. So I learned a few things about jet skis.
#1 They are much harder to operate than they seem
#2 They roll with incredible ease
#3 They would make an appalling first date ('have I got snot running down my face?)
#4 They hurt.
#5 They cause joy and terror in equal measure.
#6 You can lose your sunnies very easily

Sarah requested I drive, then asked me to be safe having seen my buggy driving. After no distance at all it was clear that we had made a mistake so we flagged one of the hire guys to drive us in...but he actually took us on one of the most terrifying, endless 15 minutes of my life. I was still at the front, Sarah clinging to my life jacket straps, me clinging to her legs (there was nothing to hold) and our death master at the back leaning over to drive the thing. It was too choppy for SUPing and definitely too choppy for jet skis. It was like being on a bucking bronco made of rock and I am nursing the bruises to prove it. He must have thought my screams of 'let's go in' we're actually 'let's not go in' as he teased us with the shore. Going back to the beach ended up being the worst part of it as he hit the throttle and went full pelt towards the beach. I didn't lose my teeth as feared but I did need a sit down afterwards.

After experiencing the open sea I decided it was also too windy for windsurfing, so we did what we did best - lay on the beach and watched the professionals. Aaaaand relax.

One last thing, Gary Sinise is living in Mui Ne disguised as lieutenant Dan in the boat bit of Forrest Gump.

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