We got the overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai which was an experience to say the least. Through the frequent stops during the night to seeing our carriage conductor passed out in a cupboard as a bed. I only dread to think what the food would’ve been like. In all fairness, the cabins were pretty luxurious in comparison to our previous accommodation and the train we could’ve got with no windows but bars instead and wooden benches instead of beds; air conditioning, curtains even a wee vase of flowers to give the cabin a bit of atmosphere. The journey took 8hrs 30mins which flew by cause the vast majority of us slept the whole thing and when we arrived in Lao Cai at 6:00am we were greeted with weather similar to that of Donegal: drizzle, mist and a slight shiver in the air.
We began the start of our 3 days of trekking at 10:00am the next day which was about 13km going through different villages in the Sa Pa area. Our guide, Quong, told us all about the different minorities living in the Sa Pa area and in the village of Cat Cat we visited a traditional K’Mong House, which was a real eye opener. Over the trip we have come to miss different things like cold water and cold air but these people live in the bare minimum with animals, people and food all being in the same room 24/7. Along the trek we met local villagers who trekked for a whole 6hrs with us just to sell us their goods for a few dollars. Apart from a few near death experiences like me nearly falling down a 200ft steep slope into a river the trek consisted of breath taking scenery (Ed. Adam is a bit of an exaggerator) . The hills have been terraced to farm mainly rice forming their staple diet. Other crops include marijuana which is harvested for its hemp and not for smoking to make the clothing and bag products the women are trying to sell to us. The terraces go on for miles and miles and miles. The area is so vast and the way the cloud roles in off the hills makes the Valley look like the set of Jurassic Park.
Our first day of trekking mainly consisted of contouring round the hills to our overnight accommodation, a local Homestay. It was tough mainly due to the lack of sleep the previous night, but nevertheless it was still very enjoyable apart from the lack of communication between the front and the back with the leaders having to wait 20mins (Ed. Like I said he is a bit of an exaggerator) before lunch before the slow coaches at the back eventually caught up. Our lunch was yet again the usual rice, chicken, morning glory and the awful tofu which is just so awful, it’s like a failed attempt of food (Ed. He is also becoming a bit of a whinger lol) . It was another 5km to our overnight home-stay where we yet again looked at the mounting bowls of tofu in front of us. At this point Aaron’s whining hit a new level (Ed. Perhaps our Adam is a little unaware of his whining J ), so we’ve decided to start a wee thing called “Devine’s Whines” which is pretty much an accumulation of all the little things that have annoyed him throughout the day so for Day 1 of trekking there were 3 things: the state of the trails (they were a little too muddy for his liking), a rash on his leg and the number of mosquitos in the home stay (which he took over my bed to protect himself). If he can’t hack a simple 15km trek in the open air, I can’t wait to see him on the 9hrs bus journey to Laos. Stay tuned for more info on our trip and another article of “Devine’s Whines”.
Adam ‘The Monster’ Eakin