In the middle of the night, I wake up to start my adventure for climbing Island Peak. My body is shivering and my head is hurting, but I knew that it will get better as soon as I start moving. I force myself to drink some tea and eat some porridge before I go off into the darkness, following the poorly lit spot of my head torch. After some hours of strenuous hiking and easy climbing, I reach the crampon point. It is time for a short break and to rope up. I am feeling strong and am motivated. As we continue our way up, the sun is rising and colours all surrounding peaks in bright red. I come to believe that I can climb the final 200 metres of steep snow and ice within less than half an hour to see the sun crossing the horizon. Soon, I start to realise that it is far fetched. Every step up the mountain takes a huge effort. Cold air is painfully filling my lungs with every breath. Two hours later, I find myself on top of Island Peak (6,189 m). Sunrise is long gone. The view is amazing though. Right in front of me, the north face of Lhotse (8,516 m) is breaking through the clouds. All pain and suffering is forgotten. A truly impressive mountainscape.
After a few days in Phong Nha, I continue my journey through the rest of Vietnam. Time is running short if I want to follow up on my plan to loop the Tonkinese Alps in the northwestern part of the country. Early in the morning, I am tying my backpack down on the motorbike rack and drive as far as I possibly can; 450 kilometres of dirt roads in 11 hours of heat. Definitely the longest stretch I have been driving in one single day on my journey so far. Occasionally, I stop for a quick Vietnamese coffee and a delicious Vietnamese Bánh Mì. About 100 kilometres before Cam Thuy, I cannot resists to stop and watch the sun setting between towering limestone karsts surrounded by green fields.
I am about to start my motorbike adventure in Ho Chi Minh City right after sunrise. A free breakfast at the hostel causes a changes of plans though. I end up in the middle of the morning rush hour. Constantly, I need to stop to check the map. One thing is for sure, Ho Chi Minh City is huge and definitely not the right place to learn how to drive a motorbike! Finally, I leave Ho Chi Minh City and am hitting the highway to Bà Rịa. The locals are really interested in my trip and keep approaching me while driving for a small chat. Several times, I am stopping because those conversations get too intense to keep driving. One local Vietnamese is even so kind and invites me for lunch.