Into the Jungle

by hopesfrenzy

After a long, eight-hour train journey, we were whisked off to Phong Nha, a rural outdoorsy town that is set at the foot of Phong Nha-Ka Bang National Park. We were here for a trek, through the jungle, to camp in Hang En Cave, the third-largest known cave in the world. Phong Nha is known for its caves, created from the annual floods rushing through the limestone mountains.

But first, we had a day to explore the area. We cycled through more rice fields and tombs, a common site along the entire train journey south. We took a boat into Phong Nha Cave, which had some magnificent features, including the ceiling that was well-lit. The second time we took a boat into a cave so far in Vietnam.

On the day of our trek, we got a briefing from the tour guides, drove out about an hour to where the trail started, and slipped down the muddy mountain side, to what felt like it was deep in the jungle wilderness. Resistant to our first river crossing, within minutes we realized that we just had to give in. We were going to get wet.

We had lunch at Doong Village, where we stopped to take our boots off…and to our collective shock and horror, found our feet covered in leeches! We had been warned about them, but I didn’t think I would actually get any! Oh, but I did – about a dozen. We sprayed them with repellent so they fell off, and they crawled along the ground looking for their next prey.

After Doong Village, we continued the journey, passing a lone water buffalo tied up to a tree. I was so amazed at some of the trees, just towering above the rest of the jungle and banana trees. They reminded me of the Kauri tree of New Zealand. Overall, this feeling of being in the wilderness was just spectacular! Surrounded by clear water rivers, distant mountains and jungle-filled valleys. It was my happy place.

In the late afternoon, we finally reached Hang En. We could see the old entrance from the distance, which had caved in a long time ago. We crossed the last river twice as we approached the smaller side entrance, far below the towering roof of what we would soon discover.

Trekking with Stéphane
Location: Phong Nha, Vietnam

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