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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Vietnam (Day 17) Trekking Day 2: Kissed By Clouds

Jaw drop. Full stop. This view! It stormed HARD the whole night, thunder echoing off the valley. We woke to find ourselves wrapped in kissable clouds. 


We let our senses wake to our surroundings with homemade pancakes and some delicious coffee prepared by our host family. We discussed the plan for this day's trek with Toan. Rob then let us know that he had ripped one of his hiking sandals apart the previous day when trying to free the car from the mud.  His only shoes, he asked Toan if there was a village shop where he could purchase any sort of shoe, even a flip-flop. This is when we found ourselves learning something about the vietnamese mindset for resilience.  Toan and his driver immediately set about determined to repair the sandal.  They tried various engineering methods of putting it back together.  Finally, they created thread from nature and a big fat sewing needle from bent metal.  Now, this hiking sandal was of heavy-duty materials not easily penetrated.  Do you think they succeeded? Yes, of course they did!  


So, fueled by breakfast (and sandal repaired), we readied ourselves for day 2 of our 3-day trek. Gathering our bags, Toan went with the driver to make sure he could get the car past the "sticky" point before returning to gather us.

Toan handed each of us bamboo walking sticks before we began trekking. This was my first indication of the terrain we would encounter this day. 



We said our goodbyes to our home stay and left the rice terraces climbing upwards into the mountain. 



Soon, we were full-on IN THE THICK OF JUNGLE! We felt like A+ explorers of the nth degree. To ourselves, we wondered when Toan had last been out here - hahahaha.  Who needs a path? We shall forge our own. 





We emerged periodically to open space to find ourselves kissed on all sides by the clouds. Wow. So freaking awesome. 





Funny thing, we didn't notice any bugs or wild critters. We were probably scaring them off. We came back down the muddy (boy, did we need those walking sticks) mountain to the splendor of stunning rice paddy terraces.











As long as I did not let my imagination wander (snakes), it was all good. In the below pic, I was convinced that Toan was checking his GPS to figure out directions and made all sorts of jokes at his expense (all in good fun). Well, joke was on me. 

Are we lost? Checking GPS :)

He had paused to show us a video he had taken on a previous trek of him finding a gargantuan 6ft snake in this field and swinging it. Yeah, I didn't need proof of snakes. Anyways, it started to rain while we were trekking, but we were fine. More slipping and sliding, but all good fun.


Vietnamese umbrella


Well, guess what happened a couple hours into our trek? The skies opened letting loose a torrential downpour. Suddenly, Molly was no longer having fun (read complete meltdown). It was becoming a little dangerous in the mud, so we took shelter to wait out the storm. Lo and behold, our car was here with the bags. Hahahaha - Nope. Car was not an option. It was here that our bags would continue via motorbike. Sooo, with Miss RefuseToGoAnyFurther, it was decided that we would ALL take motorbikes instead of walking the final hour long trek in mud. Wait. That really doesn't sit well with all the slippery mud and going uphill CLIFF SIDE. Somehow, Rob and I were talked into it. Molly and I went first with Toan. OHMYGAWD I'M STILL RECOVERING. A section of "road" was washed out, leaving us a rickety sketchiest-bridge-on-earth as our only option. We went over what was thrashing water during the storm three on motorbike in rain 🙈 That plus the curvy muddy mountain took years off my life. I kid you not, I kissed the ground when we arrived at our homestay. Molly, on the other hand, proclaimed it her best ride ever and was jumping around squeaking in delight. I was then a bundle of nerves as I waited for Caitlin and Rob to make their way. Suffice to say, we all (including our bags) made it safely and the storm had cleared up by this time. 


Though it was a little touch 'n go for that bit, we had made it to our 2nd home stay. It was just as delightful as the first one! Our hosts are a lovely family of husband and wife with two young boys ages 7 and 1. Caitlin and Molly enjoyed meeting and playing with the little kids during our stay.

We were directed to our thatched roof bungalow and giggled in delight upon entering.





We sure did work up an appetite for lunch! By the way, we had access to plenty of beer :)




Toan had told us ahead of time that our 2nd home stay is near a famous waterfall. A welcomed treat and located just uphill from the village, we headed over following the easy path and had a blast having the falls all to ourselves.









Afterwards, we changed into dry clothes and each of us just kind of did our own thing of settling into our surroundings. It was such a relaxing setting. 




While waiting for dinner, Rob and I were exploring our surroundings when we heard the 7 year old in distress.  He was carrying not his own baby brother, but somebody else's naked baby and had gotten stuck precariously dangling the baby on a muddy hill.  I told Rob to help him by taking the baby, so the boy (who at this point had started crying) could get down the hill. The boy looked so relieved that he didn't want the baby back. Hahahaha. I told Rob that he better make that boy take the baby back or later when questioned, the little boy is going to say the American man took the baby from him - and something will be lost in translation. Whew - he managed to offload the baby. We still laugh about that one.  


So anyways, Toan informed us that he had to leave, but his friend would be taking over and would accompany us the next day for our final day trekking and the drive back to Ninh Binh. Whatever, it was fine. We said our goodbyes to Toan, which might have been a little awkward since we were still on our "tour". Everything should be fine, right? It's not like he left us completely on our own.  Moving on...

We were very humbled and thankful to be welcomed into our host family's home and OHMYGAWD at the most delicious traditional sit-down dinner with them.  We sat on floor mats (us, our host family, our driver and Toan's friend) at a low communal table for the feast (and lots of home-brewed rice wine for the adults). FULL bellies and LOTS of laughs (aided by several shots of the rice wine) later, we retreated to our stilted bungalow for restful sleep as we reflected on our good luck of finding these life-cherishing experiences.


Can you see yourself here? I'll bring you next time.

Up Next: Trekking Day 3: Emerging From The Wild

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