We began our third day of trekking following the same path we took into the village of Sin Chai. The morning weather greeted us with the persistent dense fog. The trail was wet and muddy from the evening rains. We were thankful to once again trek out of the dense fog as we descended down and across the valley. We trekked for over 2 hours, almost all downhill, before arriving to our starting point the day before.
The more challenging portion of the trek began with crossing a bridge that spanned across a river. This portion of the trek involved ascending and traversing the valley that would lead us to our final destination in the village of Ban Ho. The trail was single track with unstable footing as result of the mud. A portion of the trail was really no trail at all, rather the brim of one of the rice terraces. Slipping off the edge of the rice terrace would be to unvoluntarily bathe in a water filled rice field, placed on either side of us. The edge of the rice terrace was no wider than 10 inches. We were simulating a walk across a balance beam. Then add to the conditions mud, fatigue and a backpack.
Prior to this portion of the trek, Ma and Pa were trailing the group on their way down toward the bridge.
Our guide directed them to take a short cut that would allow them to catch up with the group. The trail, of which the guide took himself, was very muddy and steep. Martyn and I stood watching them come down the trail head. Ma went first and as she made her way forward, we saw her disappear as if she intentially jumped down from the upper portion of the trail. She was no longer in our sight as the vegetation in front of us blocked our view. I knew she had fallen. As I made my way toward her and up the trail, I observed the very unstable trail conditions. My first concern was her safety. After seeing her back on her feet, I knew it was not serious. I immediately became upset at our guide for his poor judgement. Ma informed us she fell onto her bottom, bracing herself with her hands. One side of her pants had been covered with mud, including her backpack. Her bottom was sore and the top portion of her right wrist soon developed a bruise.
As we continued onward along the unstable trail of which I have already described, we came to a point in the trail where we had to become creative for further ascent due to the steep and muddy conditions. One portion of the group went up one way, the other half went up a different way. We were first entertained by watching Martyn slide down the main trail, throwing out all fours in desperation to prevent himself from completely falling into the mud. I could see the mud coarsing
through his fingers and over both hands. I then directed Mom to a different location that involved directing placement of her foot onto a rock about waist height. One slip from this footing would result in her front leg being cut and bruised by the rock. I decided to lift her upward to prevent such an injury. I used both of my hands for lifting upward her lower half. The Vietnamese cook and his assistant lifted her upper half. The overall result was Mom being ejected upward, falling right back down and lying face down over bush and trail. Both feet sticking out over the rock from which she was ascending. She simultaneously screamed "Jeff. . . Jeff. . . Jeff" as she fell.
At this point, Mom was exhausted, feeling light headed and contributed by being shaken up from her fall earlier on the trail. She rested. We all rested. The humidity had already crept into the environment an hour earlier only to further some of the exhaustion. She soon recovered, stood up and trekked on.
After a little over 5 hours, our trek commenced over a nice Vietnamese lunch in Ban Ho village. After lunch, while others sat and rested, I stood up and challenged our guide to a push-up match. Throughout our time of interacting with our guide, Khan and I had been competing in other forms of strength duels. Man stuff. Vietnamese style and, of course arm wrestling. He could not win the push-up match. A Vietnamese man, 50 years of age, dressed in US army fatigues, stood up from where he was sitting and approached me. In Vietnamese and through interpretation from our guide, he challenged me in a match of arm wrestling. This provided entertainment for everyone in our group and other villagers whom were nearby to watch. And no. . . he did not win.
We had our van waiting for us in Ban Ho village. Off to Sapa we went for a 45 min. drive into the mountainous town along the rocky dirt road. Our drive revealed to us another part of this region - full of ethnic minority Black H'mong and their poor living conditions along the steep terrain. The children are unaware of their poor conditions. They just continue on playing, as children do, even if that is playing in the road along side and between passing vehicles.
Another overnight train back into Hanoi . . .