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Concerning the departure for Hanoi and the motorcycling required

to reach Hanoi via the other side of the Da River Valley

50km south of border with China, Lai Chau Province

שׂ

It has been mentioned so far in this narrative that our man from Normandy suffers from what is known as Asperger's Syndrome, and as such he expends his attention on one thing at the sufferance of others. Having found the map and having reached Dien Bien Phu, on the intrepid traveler's agenda now is the enjoyment of the ride back to Hanoi. His intensity is now focused on the art of motorcycling along the well-engineered roads of northern Vietnam. D'Aqs, who is now content that the business has been now taken care of, follows Hellmantle a few car-lengths behind somehow changed by the events of the last few days. But for Hellmantle, encountering the hummingbird against all odds of rationality or explanation, it is an event that is a turning point in his life.

After his visit to the field of battle where his grandfather had died long ago, the philosophy-trained Hellmantle became philosophical as he wheeled back to the main highway that ran alongside the Da River Valley. The long, lazy branches of the trees looked like weeping willows hanging sloppily over the river and the road. Always alone in his thoughts, Hellmantle hadn't expected Vietnam to have so much charm. The road was paved and the mountains dominated the landscape with no rice fields to be seen. It is the other Vietnam, the country in the mountains in the north far from cities and civilization that so few had ever seen. The wind elbowed Hellmantle to the north when he reached the swift current of the blue water that whipped past in the deep valley.

Finding an old French-built hotel in the town of Lai Chau, Hellmantle and D'Aqs stopped and passed the flask around, pondering the next two days of the journey back. Following his rule that he never took the same route back to where he began, only if the roads were smooth on the other side of the Da River running due southeast they had a chance of making it back in time for their flight home on Sunday. They were faced with three days' worth of riding to do in only two days. It was already Friday. He didn't discuss it with D'Aqs since he trusted his judgment when it came to all things riding.

D'Aqs handed back the flask of Jamieson's to Hellmantle.

"Not sure how the booze is working when riding. I think I prefer my non-liquid treats. You?"

"No, not such a goodie I'm afraid." D'Aqs replied.

"Really don't mix, do they? I wanted to know if I could do some swigging and ride my motorcycle at the same time and ride well, but I see now that it's not such a good combo." He took the last of the whiskey from the flask.

"The Jamieson's is making me a bit sloppy with my steering."

"Yes, I know what you mean." There was a short man walking towards them on the road by the bridge where they had stopped. The sort man didn't have a bag or anything in his hands. Like most Vietnamese men he was wearing communist-issue blue trousers and blue shirt with a communist cap. As he approached them, Hellmantle stepped towards him.

"Excuse me sir," he said to the man in the communist cap. He held up his hand and gave the man an easy smile, knowing that the man didn't speak English. "Would you like a bottle of Irish Whiskey?" The words didn't register but his eyes took a liking to the tall foreigner with turquoise eyes before him.

"We give you this," Hellmantle motioning with his hands and smiling. He handed him the large bottle of half-full Jamieson's. The Vietnamese man, with very ruddy cheeks, looked at Hellmantle and D'Aqs suspiciously for a moment, so Hellmantle removed the cork and took a drink, groaning at the kick it gave him.

"Firewater," he said, smiling at the man and making a face. Then he gave it to D'Aqs who also took a last drink. Then D'Aqs handed the bottle to the man. The young man grinned, knowing it was being offered to him as a gift. Accepting the bottle, he sniffed it and then hugged the bottle as if it were a long lost friend. He took a drink and squishes up his face like he had just tasted strong medicine. That was the cue for Hellmantle to start his engine. They both waved at the man as he sipped again from the bottle, and then walked away with the bottle under his arm.

"As the code of chivalry states: Thou shalt be generous and give largess to everyone."

When Hellmantle puts on his gloves he realized he still had the cork in his hand. They both watched the man in blue stop after twenty yards and take another drink from the bottle, but he was too far away now.

"With no cork the poor bugger will need to drink the whole bottle in one go!" said Hellmantle. He found this quite funny. With the severe sun, the height above sea level and the booze, Hellmantle, feeling the effects of the betel nuts, was tipsy. His enthusiasm was palpable when he gunned it forward. They would risk it and take the long way back.

Ω

Going almost due north towards the border of China, they rode along a very good stretch of old French-built roadway that allowed maximum utility of riding time with minimal maintenance, carved through the terrain like butter. Without hardly any cars or trucks, the roads were well cut through the mountains and along the higher parts of the river valley. They reached the tip of the Da River Valley, close to the border with China, and then turned due east back to Hanoi. For D'Aqs, the roads were easy compared the roads like the Halseema Mountain Trail so he enjoyed the ride back to home base. But he couldn't help but watch his cousin before him, noticing the zeal he employed on his Russian-made motorbike riding east towards the Gulf of Tonkin.

Images flashed at him like they had come from the recesses of an unidentifiable jungle on a map. Palm leaves the size of human beings mingled with the foliage of recent images of the trench and the artillery that surrounded the battlefield. Hellmantle felt the pride of having motorcycled to the scene of the most famous Legionnaire battle site in Indochina history, and it enriched the riding experience on the return to Hanoi. Knowing he had found the prison where the Great Dane had hidden the map filled Hellmantle with a special spark because it was from his grandfather's own hand that had buried the map at the foot of the oak tree. Now, traversing east across the Da - Red River canyon so far north and so close to the border with China, the return route was a gift from God; a present saying thank you and well done for retrieving this hidden piece of the Christian puzzle. The way Hellmantle saw it; it was only now that the hidden treasure had finally been put in play and destiny brought closer to mankind.

"We have found what we came for in this far-off land, and now it is a question of conquering the remaining way back to Hanoi returning servants of God." It was both an expression of his mirth and a prayer to God these words spoken by the man from Normandy.

As far as Hellmantle was concerned, the beautiful riding he was doing was God's reward to him for the effort he had given to the prophecies he had read. He rode today in celebration for following his own beliefs and a celebration of his own motorcycling prowess. At times, when the dialogue in his mind was quiet, he savored the view along the eastern flank along the river valley and the green blur of foliage beside the water and eddies. At a constant speed of eighty, he straightened his arms and enjoyed every second of the ride. He caught a smell of dried leaves in the breeze that blew from beside the road. During these moments he knew that he was using his gift. Unable to share his thoughts, he thoought to himself that perhaps this - right at this moment - was the embodiment of the grace of God.

"Movement done with confidence," he said. "Is it not true that what brings us to this part of the world is a holy quest to verify an inheritance that shares a history with the grace of God? Finding Dien Bien Phu has called forth those talents that for the most part go unused during normal existence. Therefore this feeling right now must have significance."

Always the philosopher, Hellmantle pondered this question and talked to himself while riding. "The warrior poet is he who seeks the joy in moments of the poetic divine. On my motorbike I seek the beauty of the moment riding. It is only while riding my motorcycle on a quest that my soul stirs with such deep reverence for the divine in man. It is only in this way can a man find his true calling; his true worth; the originality within his own person and his his own way of living life! After all, what is the use of studying philosophy if you don't find that thing that feeds the vitality of life?"

It was true that since his graduation Hellmantle had sought to learn his own philosophy of life by adopting philosophies of the greatest minds in history and applying their philosophies to his own life. So great was his study of applying philosophies of great minds to his own life that he had devised criteria for those wishing to do the same. Mulling this notion, he verbalized his thoughts:

"To become a philosophy tester like me, one must have the following requirements:

Philosophy Testers:
q Adventurous
q Daring
q Abstract thinker
q Motorcyclist
q Cartography skills
q Thirst for learning
q Knowledge of history, philosophy, religion and geography
q Willing to travel
q Mountain biking skills
q Pubbing abilities
q Willing to meet new people from around the world
q Good health
q Ability to write
q Freedom to commit full time
Applicants are encouraged to submit an argument, in any form or shape, outlining how they are worthy of the position. All applicants must possess the raw material of person to conduct a sincere study in its application to living their life. Applicants are required to record all new heights of philosophical insights."

The warmth welled up in his person as the winds cooled the sweat on his skin. He wanted to scream at the top of his lungs, declaring his happiness. He didn't scream, but it was followed by the following words: "I know what it is to become part of the flow up here in these mountains in Vietnam!" When on a motorcycle, the flow took precedence over punctualities, because the flow was more important to the health of his spirit than the hassles of gravity. Again there was an outburst from Hellmantle's lips out to the ethers:

"It is while I am in the flow that I am surrounded by the ancient quiet of nature. I become one with my environment and the world, regardless of where I'm riding. This bite of freedom sustains me and gives me stamina, and helps me overcome the obstacles in my path. But it is for God whom I serve. He alone sees it. He alone is my love, my savior and my partner in this quest."

Hellmantle, unafraid of what he knew, experienced that which could not be quantified, which warmed his soul between sounds of the hourglass in the orange hue of a setting sky. "When one is riding like this, there is no arrival. The now is the only splash of time man can own! Biking is more akin to an inner harmony of the soul manifested in the physical realm. Mine is a biking beef!"

There hadn't been any traffic for hours so he was startled when D'Aqs passed him on the outside. D'Aqs could see a grin at the corners of Hellmantle's mouth. After studying the map that morning D'Aqs thought it would be a good job if they could get from Lai Chai to Sapa in a day, but they had just passed both Sapa and Lao Chai already. The roads could not be better. Never before had D'Aqs imagined riding a motorcycle to produce such a divine emotion within his heart.

The sheer scope of the terrain at hand, and the number of kilometers they had traveled from Lai Chai to Yen Bai amazed even Hellmantle. He sped up to overtake D'Aqs.

Finally, when the sun was setting over the mountains behind them, Hellmantle stopped when he found an open guesthouse in Yen Bai. It was only then that he felt his backache and a painful clutch-hand claw after nearly fourteen hours of riding. Soon D'Aqs approached and parked his motorcycle beside Hellmantle's.

"How many men have ever done that before - ridden from Lai Chou all the way to Yen Bai?" Hellmantle asked.

"Not many I'll bet," he replied. Even to Hellmantle's own non-modest perceptions of his motorcycling mettle, they had ridden about 300km.

"It's a worthy question that only God knows the answer to."


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