A dream des­ti­na­tion for the most dar­ing trekkers

Viet Nam News - - FRONT PAGE -

At the height of more than 3,000 me­tres above sea level, Pu Si Lung in Lai Chaâu Prov­ince is known as the third high­est moun­tain peak in Vieät Nam, after Fanx­i­pan in Laøo Cai and Pu­tal­eng in Lai Chaâu. Though it ranks third, it is known to have the tough­est route for trekkers.

The death-de­fy­ing trails, ex­haust­ing trekking and the au­then­tic­ity of lo­cal eth­nic peo­ple made it a road trip un­like any other.

The peak is lo­cated in Möôøng Teø of Lai Chaâu Prov­ince near the bor­der with China. One needs to ap­ply for per­mis­sion from the Lai Chaâu Mil­i­tary Staff Com­mit­tee to go to the moun­tain peak. They then as­sign some­one to as­sist trekkers dur­ing their trip.

“The road lead­ing to the peak is not easy at all,” said Quaùch Vaên Thao, a worker at the guard sta­tion. “It is steep. Many groups come to our of­fice. At the be­gin­ning they were all very ex­cited, but after see­ing the con­di­tions with their own eyes they gave up.”

Our goal is not only to make it to the top of the moun­tain, but also to see and ex­pe­ri­ence the hard­ships that have be­come a part of the daily lives of lo­cal res­i­dents, sol­diers and teach­ers.

We woke up early in the morn­ing. With the com­pan­ion­ship of the lo­cal bor­der sol­diers, we drove our mo­tor­bike from the guard sta­tion to Sín A Chaûi, a death-de­fy­ing route. This was our first chal­lenge.

Some parts of the road were tough. It was just a few me­tres wide, filled with mud and rocks. On one side was the seem­ingly ver­ti­cal moun­tain, while the other side had a dizzy­ingly high cliff.

Driv­ing on this route was like run­ning a marathon while lift­ing weights. Most of the time, we had to push the heavy mo­tor­bike through rocks that had cov­ered the road in a land­slide. In some bad sec­tions, we even had to carry the mo­tor­bike.

Our com­pan­ion from Pa Veä Söû guard sta­tion, Hoaøng Vaên Lòch, said he and his col­leagues have to go back and forth on this route a few times ev­ery week.

And so do the lo­cal peo­ple. It made us feel a bit shamed of the con­ve­nient con­di­tions in ur­ban life that we take for granted.

The route from the guard sta­tion to Sín Chaûi A tribal vil­lage is only about 7km, but it took us the whole morn­ing. We ar­rived at the vil­lage at noon when the sun was high in the sky. We were wel­comed by the cu­ri­ous eyes of lo­cal chil­dren. We could also feel their au­then­tic­ity, charm and hos­pi­tal­ity.

We then pre­pared a mod­est lunch with veg­eta­bles found in the for­est, cooked with pans and tools bor­rowed from the lo­cal peo­ple.

Peo­ple here live al­most iso­lated from the mod­ern world, with poor in­fra­struc­ture, no in­ter­net and no elec­tric­ity. The only hitech de­vices are the mo­bile phones of sol­diers and teach­ers who come from other re­gions to vol­un­teer to teach lo­cal stu­dents. But as there was no cell phone cov­er­age, they were only used to check the time and show the chil­dren some movies.

On the first day, we had to cross over Yeân Ngöïa Slope. This was the eas­i­est slope but we still spent sev­eral hours to get to the top.

At the be­gin­ning, our group ex­cit­edly chat­ted. But after half of the slope, the ex­cit­ing at­mos­phere was re­placed by heavy breath­ing.

Though I have worked as a jour­nal­ist in moun­tain­ous ar­eas for years and am fa­mil­iar with trekking, I could not help but feel ex­hausted.

Our hair and back were all cov­ered with sweat, but what was so re­ward­ing was that we could smell the trees and the earth, see the red ba­nana flow­ers, lis­ten to the chirp­ing of birds and con­tem­plate the charm­ing or­chids.

For the first night, we set up a tent near the Naäm Sì Löôøng Stream. The crys­tal clear wa­ter was used for ir­ri­gation and as a source for Naäm Sì Löôøng hy­dro-elec­tric plant.

The food we car­ried in­cluded rice and some sweet cakes. For veg­eta­bles, we counted on the gen­eros­ity of na­ture.

The first night in for­est, we were wel­comed by both rain and flood­ing. Though our tent was near the stream, we were for­tu­nate enough to avoid the flood­ing.

Our first chal­lenge on the sec­ond day was the Doác Ba Tieáng (Three Hour Slope). Ex­plain­ing the name, guide Hoaøng Vaên Lòch, said: “It’s be­cause it takes at least three hours to get to the top.”

Lòch said many groups made it to the foot of the slope. When they looked up to the top, the route was so in­tim­i­dat­ing that they gave up and re­turned home.

It was truly a tough chal­lenge even for ex­pe­ri­enced trekkers. It was so high and steep. The rain from the night be­fore made it even harder for us be­cause the road was muddy and slip­pery. We had the chance to meet an old cou­ple who gen­er­ously gave us lots of corn.

Dur­ing the four days of the trip, we climbed up and down var­i­ous slopes like Coû Khoâ, Nuùi Coû Chaùy, Doác Con Duùi and Ñoài Myõ Nhaân. We slept near a stream and in a cave. We passed through the an­cient jun­gle with gi­ant trees, rhodo­den­drons, orchid flow­ers and var­i­ous herbal medicines. We also en­coun­tered crea­tures like snakes, deer and other wild an­i­mals.

At a height of more than 3,000 me­tres, I felt like the sky was just above my head and the clouds were fly­ing around us. After more than 40 kilo­me­tres of trekking, it was hard to de­scribe our feel­ing. We lived in the mo­ment, en­joy­ing just stand­ing there, con­tem­plat­ing na­ture and ap­pre­ci­at­ing the hard work of the sol­diers and lo­cal peo­ple in this re­mote area. — VNS

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