After a bus journey from near hell we arrived with sore arses to the village in Phong Nha-ke Bang National Park. It was love at first sight. The soaring limestone cliffs, the lush green carpets of jungle and the non stop chatter of the birds. We stayed at a hostel with a pool so for the first afternoon we soaked up the scenery lounging pool side. There was a local wedding going on that afternoon too which meant that all the local shops and cafes were closed as everyone had gone to the wedding. That evening we had pizza cooked from a stone pizza oven which was delicious if a tad pricey (was so worth it) and took advantage of the happy hour at the hostel after…
The next day we wanted to explore the surrounding area and famous cave systems. We hired mopeds and a driver/guide to head towards The dark cave. It was fantastic driving. The weather was a perfect sky blue and sunshine, the scenery was a deep leaf green with occasional brown smudges of towering cliffs and the roads were a curving endless wonder of surprises. We reached the dark cave in one piece excited for this adventure.
The dark cave involves an initial zip line to the other side of the river, a swim down to the cave, a hike through the cave, a mud bath, kayaking out of the cave and finishes with another zip line. And I just thought we were going for a gentle stroll inside a cave.
The zip line was terrifying just to stand on the platform but once I’d jumped off it turned out to be quite pleasant and not at all fast. Walking through the cave was not as scary as I thought it was going to be considering I hate enclosed spaces. We each had our own torch and helmet which helped to guide us through the tunnels and avoid fallen rocks. The mud pool was the most bizarre and best experience of all. When you step into the hip high ooze, it’s as if you’re walking through well really thick mud! The best thing though is that you can sit in the mud as if you had a chair or just lie down. It’s impossible to swim in it though. When we were all in the pool the guide told us to turn off our head lamps. It was so unbelievably pitch black. You couldn’t see a thing. I had my two friends either side of me gripping my hands and shaking like leaves too to add to the drama of the situation! Our friends who went the next day told us they had a mud fight whilst in the caves! Getting out was a lot harder than getting in, as by this point we are covered head to toe in brown slippery mud. We scramble out and head back to the entrance of the cave where we can rinse the mud off finally. Although our bikinis were never the same colour again. Our last challenge after kayaking down river was to zip line without a harness and just hold onto a bar. You’d wizz across the river until you hit the stopper and plunge into the icy waters below. Oh and we had to do it backwards. With shaking legs I managed it and I managed to seat drop in as well. Good one Amy, my legs were stinging like there’s no tomorrow after. Ouch. Dark cave complete we headed out into the national park again to finish the loop of the park.
We stopped at a bridge which provides really cool view points and bumped into another group of friends there too. They left before us and carried on up over the bridge. When we started to leave we assumed we’d be going that way too but nope the loop was the opposite direction. So we’re not sure what time they managed to get back at. As we headed home the sun was setting behind the hills casting beautiful shadows and colours everywhere. The roads here also got really intense. I got such an adrenaline rush speeding down a 10% gradient road that’s curving around the mountain with no idea when the roads going to level out. Awesome! We arrived back at the hostel just as darkness fell which was brilliant timing by John our Vietnamese driver/guide.
The next day rained all day unfortunately. And we did nothing all day. Well I caught up on blog posts and editing photos and Zorro updated her I pod. Productive day. That evening we got a night bus all the way to Catba Island in Halong Bay. So. Long.