In the morning we set out through the mountains to rural villages to distribute clothes. The people were generally thankful for the clothing we were giving to them. But many of them looked-on with more shock than thanks.
About half way through the mountain trip Marley dropped his bike again. For some reason his head was out of the game and his riding skill was regressing. We covered some super rough ground with limited traction including a few areas where they were in the midst of building the road. The road-to-be consisted of numerous pointy football-sized rocks loosely packed together across the path. This was all on the side of a mountain and, at times, without any sort of guard rail or berm for protection.
After navigating football road, the riding surface was solid pavement and the tight switchbacks opened up into sweeping turns. Marley's confidence in the bike was continuing to suffer without clear reason. Ryan, Scott and I broke away from the pack for a spirited ride at a faster pace. Dan, the guide, stayed with Marley. We went on for a bit (maybe 20 mins) and stopped at the next town. Scott turned around and headed back to find Dan and Marley. Ryan and I were enjoying tea from the local shop when the chase car driver came by and pantomimed that a rider had gone off the road. With a pit in our stomachs, Ryan and I backtracked until we came to the scene. Marley had apparently lost control and took a gravitational excursion about 10 ft down into a rice patty.
By the time we arrived, they had pulled him out and he was laying flat on the ground by the side of the road. He was complaining of back pain, but was alert and able to move all of his extremities. Despite multiple local people trying to get him to sit up we were able to keep him laying flat while we waited for what seemed like an eternity for the ambulance to arrive. The ambulance was minimally equipped and didn't have a back board. So we lifted him on a sleeping bag and transferred him to the stretcher without bending him in half. Overall, given the steep mountain passes that we have been riding down, he was quite lucky to only fall a short distance to a muddy water landing.
With heavy hearts we got back on the bikes to ride to a late lunch (3:30pm). Feeling sick and coming down from the adrenaline rush, we barely ate. A bit later we got a phone call from Scott saying that Marley was feeling better, but that the ambulance ride was frightening. They skipped the district hospital and took him directly to an international French/Vietnamese hospital in Hanoi. We haven't heard much more, but plan on stopping to see him in the hospital if he's still there when we return to Hanoi.
After lunch we rode into the evening (again, grrr) to arrive at our first home stay. The home stay ended up being pretty disappointing, bordering on bogus. It was in a "tourist" village where the houses were super close together on the outskirts of a larger town. In addition to our hosts, there were several Vietnamese guys gathered for a guys-only no-vegetable meat-only Tet meal. For the meal we were the spectacles rather than guests. It was clear from the start of the meal that one goal was to get us rip roaring drunk. The only beverage available was rice liquor, no water or coke.
The other sport of the evening was to watch for looks of horror as they served us pig heart and liver, which was rather tasty. We made it through dinner without getting too drunk mainly because it was late and a few of the visitors bailed.
We also managed to turn the spectacle back on them by teaching them a new american saying. They were already familiar with saying "bottoms-up" so we added "pinkies-up". They thought it was ohh soo cool with no idea that the joke was on them. After dinner the remaining guys challenged Ryan to arm/knuckle wrestling and challenged me to leg wrestling. After they were soundly beaten, we had earned a little more respect...but not much.
We went to sleep while our hosts and our guide continued to drink, basically in the same room where we were trying to sleep, until around 3 am. Luckily, we were so tired from the flood of emotion during the day that we fell asleep quickly.
Unfortunately, our sleep was interrupted at 4 am by the slaughtering of a pig. I won't go into detail here. But I will mention that it didn't sound too humane and was pretty tough to hear anything else.
We were definitely happy to roll out of there in the morning, headed for our next home stay.