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.
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