Cat Ba Island
19.04.2012 - 20.04.2012 38 °C
We woke up today and had a big breakfast at Mr Zooms, who as the name attains to was very quick at serving our food. After breakfast we went back to our room, only to find we had left our key inside. Entirely my mistake as the room key usually gets attached to my key ring, hence the error, key ring but no key. So we went to reception with half an hour to spare before our trip, where she found out what room was ours and told us to wait outside our room. A good 10minutes later another woman appeared with a huge bag of keys and said they did not have a spare key and so we would have to wait until the afternoon. With all our water and equipment for the days trek etc inside it wasn’t an option so we said no. thankfully the couple in the room next to us came out and the lady asked if she could access our shared balcony. We told her the door was closed and locked but a minute or so later she appeared from our room having jimmied open the very secure window. At this point once again we were very grateful for our bag locks.
Following the drama we arrived downstairs just in time for the 9.30am start and went straight outside to meet our transport. Much to Sarah’s fear instead of a taxi there were 4 motorbike taxis waiting for us. What is more the other couple happen to be those sharing the room next door who had helped us retrieve our key. The French couple jumped on their bikes and sarah chose the remainder of the two. My driver was last to leave and clearly the leader of the ‘gang’. Me being worried about being left behind was resolved with a hefty twist of throttle, the musky smell of petrol and the feeling of taking off. We flew down the road, and round the corner and within 2 minutes had over taken the French couple and then sarah with ease. Its prudent to point out that sarah’s driver was clearly a good second, like damon hill to micheal Schumacher had overtaken the French couple. It was only shear fright and the lock tight grip I had on the passenger handle bars which prevented me taking a picture of sarahs terrified face as we passed. I tried to say some words of encouragement but it was lost in drum of 4-stroke petrol engines, struggling to maintain hefty pace up the hills. We flew round bends and corners, risked life and limb overtaking lorries and bus’s, but thankfully slowed down for some hazards, like mud of the road and dust. I later found out sarahs rider had stopped for olives and had a nice chat with the olive seller, whilst the French couple yet again over took, only for Damon Hill to come back into the game with some electric moves, meaning sarah came in second, a good 10minutes of worry for me sat at the ‘café’ waiting for her safe finish.
Shaking and tearful, whether it the wind in her eyes or pure fear I will never know, sarah got off her bike and sat down alongside me, when the French couple finally arrived they seemed a little fearful, but it could have been nothing compared to Michael and Damon.
We started the trek and had been told it was a tough trek, but then we had been told things were tough in the past and found them easy. We gently walked for 5 minutes until we hit woodland. Then we proceeded to climb up and old stream, at a very steep incline, the whole climb was ten minutes and it was as tough as they had described. It was wonderfully challenging, having to watch each step and this did not let up throughout the whole trek. We climbs over and up rocks, we shimmied up a fallen tree, we jumped from rock to branch, and climbed and dropped and climbed some more. The terrain was amazingly diverse and we had to focus throughout the 4 hour trek. Thankfully our guide was helpful to point out dangers, like the plant which makes you itch, and certainly we would never have gone anywhere like that without a guide, as some of the paths were not really paths, just routes. Under the jungle canopy it was very hot and I was drenched in sweat, at one point during the four 10minutes break we enjoyed, I had to ring out my shirt it was like a towel dipped in the bathwater, much to Sarah’s disgust.
The challenge made it more fun and we had to really focus, it was quite concentration that was much enjoyable and other than our party we didn’t see a single soul allowing us to really chill out and relax after a difficult few days on the move. On route we also saw soe amazing widelife: sarah was a foot away from treading on a small brown snake (we have no idea if it was poisonous or not as it slither off quickly before our guide could see it), we saw a beautifully bright lime green praying mantis, a couple of giant millipedes whose sting is very painful apparently, a interestingly intense black and red caterpillar and huge great spider. The spider was yellow and black and whose legspan was the size as my hand. It had created a web just above the path and we had to duck under. Unlucky sarah caught one of the lower web strands as she crawled through, causing the whole web to shake, I thought the nasty looking spider was going to drop on her head, instead it stayed in place. We asked our guide if it was poisonous and he confirmed it was, but could not communicate the level of poison and whether or not it could have been a bee sting or a life threatening toxin. It certainly looked nasty enough and was a relief to say goodbye after a photo or two.
We returned from the trek, very tired and starving hungry, but also happy as it was lovely and serene to be finding some peace and tranquillity amongst nature, the whole trek was one of our trip highlights for sure. Brilliantly our lunch was ready for when we retuned, a bacon egg omelette, with crispy pork spring rolls and vegetables and pork stir-fry with a lot of rice, which we enjoyed swapping stories with the French. It was delicious and just what we need to recover ourselves and steady the nerves for the ride home. We both agreed the return journey was not as bad, either we had got used to our drivers or they weren’t in such a hurry.
On returned, we booked our tickets for the return trip from Cat Ba to Hanoi before our flight to Bangkok on Saturday. We were so tired when we returned to our room that we went for a snooze and enjoyed a long siesta waking up 4 hours later, just in time for tea. The evening was spent catching up on the blog and chatting on skype. With all the chores we didn’t make it to bed until 1am.