Mount Fan Si Pan: when light­ning strikes

An Aus­tralian ex­pat’s week­end trip to Sa Pa turned into an elec­tri­fy­ing ad­ven­ture when she was struck by light­ning while scal­ing the coun­try’s high­est moun­tain.

Outlook - - HISTORY - By Mel Phadtare*

As the Pump­kin Ex­press Train pulled into Laøo Cai Sta­tion on a misty April morn­ing at 5.30am, fol­low­ing a so-so amount of shut eye on the 8-hour jour­ney from Haø Noäi, I was sur­pris­ingly rar­ing to go. Af­ter all, scal­ing Mt Fan Si Pan, the Ever­est' of In­dochina at 3,143m, was not some­thing ev­ery­body man­aged to do. Lit­tle did I re­alise that 27 hours later, far from con­quer­ing the peak, I would in­stead un­dergo a lifechang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. An ex­pe­ri­ence that went way be­yond a fun week­end with pals or a chal­leng­ing hike in stormy con­di­tions. This was an ex­pe­ri­ence that nearly took my life.

One-hour later we were de­posited in the heart of Sa Pa at our pre-ar­ranged travel agency, Topas Travel. Sa Pa opened its doors to in­ter­na­tional tourism in the 1990s and hasn't stopped grow­ing since. It's a maze of busy and hilly streets lined with ho­tels and shops aimed at the usual. The key is find­ing a quiet cor­ner rather than an ex­posed street where with­out doubt, you'll be set upon by the mul­ti­tude of ven­dors sell­ing ev­ery­thing from eth­nic mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, to herbs, jewellery, tex­tiles, bags etc.

At Topas we met our other travel com­pan­ions who would be our fam­ily unit for the next two days. Mar­ried and su­per fit fel­low Aus­tralians Tim and Denise, Topas Ecolodge guide Tuaán and seven young Dao porters with grass wo­ven back-bas­kets at the ready.

Tuaán ex­plained we'd start at the National Park’s en­trance, be­fore trekking our way up to the 2,200m point. We'd en­joy a lovely walk up the forested hill

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