Mountain Momma

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July 16th 2015
Published: July 16th 2015
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A very early arrival in Lao Cai which is very close to the border with China. I think it was about 0430. After hauling our luggage once gain down the very steep stairs of the train, we negotiated our luggage literally over the railway tracks and blue metal as the concept of train platforms have yet to catch on here. This is where suitcases with wheels are rendered useless and backpacks very handy. We have a mixture of both. We were met at the station by a Sapa O'Chau representative who then took us to a minibus along with other tourists. Of course, the bus wasn' t full, so not to miss a money making opportunity, the driver waited for some more random passengers. Once we were crammed in like sardines along with some last minute cargo, we were on our to Sa Pa which is about 40km away. The hour long drive was very scenic, rising above the clouds and passing water buffallo and some incredibly steep rice terraces. It was drizzling and the weather akin to a cooler raining summer's day back home. A respite from the Ha Noi heat is welcomed. The road was very steep and winding with several breaks in the barrier where people have gone over with not much chance of survival. It's very common here to be on your motorbike or driving a car whilst being on your mobile phone. Our driver took every opportunity to pass other tourist minibuses on all the bends with no way of knowing if there was any oncoming traffic while he was on his mobile! One must learn to take it all in one's stride. Once in SaPa, one of the local passengers hurled her guts up from motion sickness. Our driver was busy dropping everyone off so I took the opportunity to tell the driver to take us to our hotel, but he insisted on taking us to the tour office. It was too hard to explain to him in his very limited English that our tour doesn't start till tommorrow. So at the office we unloaded our luggage, hauled it up the steep stairs, told the lady we are staying at the SaPa Unique Hotel. She apologised and got our driver back before her had the chance to drive off again, so we hauled all of our luggage back into the bus and we were delivered to said hotel. Checkin time is 1330, but the guy said he'd try to get it ready by 1030. It was 0830. I asked the guy if there somewhere close he could recommend as I was in no mood to negotiate the narrow streets where pedestrians, bikes and cars all had the share, as well as being mobbed by local tribes women flogging stuff. Apparently, they serve breakfast upstairs for 3USD/person. The kids feasted on banana pancakes and I had the Pho and a pancake. I worked some more on my blog while waiting for our room. Wifi exists everywhere in Vietnam except on train and boat journeys. It is now raining cats and dogs outside. Apparently, it hasn't rained for the past two days. I am hoping it will ease for the trekking tomorrow, but have come prepared it if doesn't. So far we have been lucky missing the rain. Our room is ready at about 1030 so we relax a bit and regroup. The hotel is deceptive as the frontage is small and on a busy street, but our room is on the opposite side of the building and looks down the valley with an amazing view. It's very peaceful bar the odd rooster crowing (that'll be annoying on the only morning we have for a sleep in), and belies what goes on back on the street. The boys have a twin room next door and we share a private balcony.

At about 1330 we walked down into he valley to Cat Cat village. There was just a light drizzle. The scenery is like a postcard and I go crazy taking pictures which I can't load on my blog. Meandering stone stairs are lined with bamboo and wooden homes until we get to the rushing river down below. We overlook steep rice terraces from a suspension bridge with mist enveloping the surrounding mountains. Photo opportunities abound with the local Black Hmong tribes people going about their daily lives. As I am managing not to slip in a big pile of water buffallo dung, I am thinking this holiday can't get much better, but it just keeps on coming. It was a tough climb back into Sa Pa, but good training for tommorrow. Brendan bought a pair of hiking shoes and I bought a Gortex North Face jacket for about $35 each!!! We are knacked when we get back to the hotel as it gets steamy under the rain jackets. Once we rested a bit, at 1830 we walked a little way to get dinner. Once we are back at our hotel, we picked up our laundry and were presented with a fried banana and chocolate sauce each as an unexpected surprise. Early night tonight for a big couple of days trekking.


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