The view from the hotel I am writing this as Rishi snores away like a beast, with Kate sleeping like a baby beside him in a really weird position, her legs propped up against the wall. We are in the Mountain View Hotel in
Sapa, which undeniably lives up to its name. As you sit on the restaurant terrace to eat or drink you are surrounded by the most amazingly beautiful mountains and paddy fields, a sight which really did just take everyone's breath away. As I sat eating my pancake and drinking my pineapple juice, I looked down from the terrace to see a girl and a boy talking. As they parted, someone calling for the boy and the girl running inside, I made up stories about their situation in my head. I lifted my head up from the scene and was captivated by the scene infront of me. Silent and bathing in the sun (a reasonable temperature for once), I was filled with a sense of appreciation for simply being alive. I know that sounds corny and fake, but I really just have been sucked in by the scenery here and the valleys, luscious and graceful. I wish Britain could offer such views!
Everyone just seems so today, just from being here, and so appreciative of it all, despite our terminal tiredness. I really do think we needed today to lift our spirits and it's been the perfect way to unwind before we start our trek.
Today started at the ridiculousy early hour of 5am, as we forgot about the unfortunate hour of stoppage the night before and thought the train would dock at 5:30, when we could have actually slept for another hour. This accounts for why we are all slumped down here half asleep, attempting to read and write in friendly silence. But if you're going to slump somewhere it might as well be the comfy leather seats in the hotel lobby here!
We began our day here, too, arriving at around 8 this morning after getting a bus from
Lao Cai train station to Sapa (which apparently was quite a nice journey, despite being cramped- we're getting used to that, but I slept for most of it anyway), and on arriving we had to wait around for 1 ½ hours or so to get into our rooms, once again all slumped on the sofas, some continuing with the banana milkshake obsession (pineapple's so much better, one I had a few nights ago was like an orgasm in a glass). This was after being accosted by some tribe girls, who attatched themselves to one of us each, learning our names and ages (and faces!) and for the rest of the day they would follow us around, claiming us with embroidered bracelets, which was sweet until they told us we should buy from them later, And we just thought they were sweet- the naivety! They did call Mr. Pearson "Monkey Boy" though, which makes up for that!
So after sorting out bags, etc, we effectively had most of the day to ourselves, to gawp at the view, eat chocolate and banana pancakes and to have some brief meetings to confirm details of the trek with the guide and organiser. Whilst I'm still a little apprehensive about the difficulty of it all, the prospect of a waterfall complete with plunge pool on one of the nights is motivation enough, plus I get the impression that there aren't too many steep ascents, but this could certainly be proved wrong.
So after that briefing (where the guide appeared to have a strange obsession with tigers, but he seems quite good fun) we told the team what was happening, and then Vicki, Kate and I went off to 'explore' Sapa (all two streets of it). I don't know what it is about this place, but it's weirdly calming and relaxing. It's a lot less frantic than Hanoi, which could- and probably is- a big part of that. You can wander without being worried about being run over, and walking around at a calm, relaxing pace doesn't seem out of place like it does in the city. I feel a lot less hassled here and much more relaxed, and everyone seems to be quite relieved to be out of the city for a while.
So my first day as leader too. I'm actually pretty proud of myself- everything got done and sorted without any arguments, and we're all ready to go for tomorrow. My slightly more laid-back attitude certainly works in my favour here, too. I didn't really get annoyed at anybody I don't think, but I think I was firm and assertive enough when need be. The only thing which really frustrated me was that after John told Tom Webb that (as my deputy) he was to back me up and be there for me to lean on, he kind of took over at points, and I still need to develop the nerve to ask him to step down a little, but hopefully next time I'm leader I can ensure that I don't let someone do that. I'm still a little confused though, as John told Tom that, and then told me thought I'd taken on this leadership-type role before and fitted the position naturally (ha, no, just a control freak!), something I don't think (and hope) he wouldn't have said if he hadn't meant it. Still, it's helped today be one of those really excellent days when I just feel really good about myself and everything