… And take those pesky clouds with you. They’re ruining all my photos!
So we made it to Sapa. High in the hills in North West Vietnam it is a majestic scenery (… When you can see it), similar in many ways to Ha Giang. However, with rain clouds an almost constant presence and torrents of rain their loyal companion, it felt a world away.
This wasn’t all bad, it made the weather nice and cool – no need for AC or even a fan for the first time in almost 6 months!
The constant change in clouds and mists made for an incredible scene from our balcony… When we had a view. The mists moving through the valley so quickly they seemed alive, organic; weaving in amongst one another, creeping through trees and spiralling into the heavens. Add sunset and it really was quite spectacular.
And Sapa town itself was incredibly pleasant. We had heard bad things about it being over touristy and busy but we arrived mid-week in low season and all-in-all it was pretty peaceful.
But our greatest achievement in Sapa… Climbing up to 3,143 metres (from just under 2,000 metres) – the highest point in Vietnam – conquering Mount Fansipan. Now, I can’t quite say it was a highlight. At times on the 2 day trek it was bloody miserable. But we dug deep, shrugged our shoulders at the rain, shook off the aches in our backs and the weariness in our legs and made it to the top.
Now, a clarification for all the tour operators and unexpecting tourists heading to Sapa. The Mount Fansipan tour is described as a ‘trek’. To me, and others on the ‘trek’, this did not seem true. I have hiked and trekked a lot, especially in the Lake District, UK and Mount Fansipan did not fit into the same category. It was mountaineering. It was scrambling up and down rock faces, through boulder fields, it was wading through deep mud and rivers… And every now and again, occasionally, there might be a path!
My pictures, unfortunately, do not corroborate my story… When there was a path it was serene enough to take a photo. Click. When we were fighting to stay on the mountainside, clinging onto the next slippery-stone, for some reason, I was not inclined to reach for the point-and-shoot!
We did also make it harder on ourselves, deciding to summit on day 1, adding 3 hours to an already long day (8 hours very hard hiking/trekking/mountaineering… Whatever). This resulted in us racing against the coming darkness to get back to our beds for the night, back down at 2,800 metres.
But of course we were rewarded with a cosy campsite after the hard slog right? No!
The campsite was in complete disarray – it was more mudsite than campsite. Our ‘tent’ was a metal shack, which luckily didn’t let in the rain. Unfortunately everything else found its way in. There was no floor, so rivers of mud careened through the middle of the shed (thankfully our beds were raised). Plastic bottles and other detritus formed mini-rubbish-mountains the length of our abode. Huge gaps allowed bitingly cold wind to howl through all night long. Rats came and went. Running around us. Over us. And I kid not. One nibbled on my ear… I have the scab to prove it!
And so after a restless night – desperately needing to pee for most of it but not moving an inch – we reluctantly awoke from our hard, cold beds – kicked aside the rubbish – and readied ourselves for the descend.
When we finally arrived back at Sapa we were glad to be off the mountain and ready for the hot shower that awaited us.