The group, Tung and the family at Tu Pan village So today was the first day of the main trek and it actually wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it could have been, and apparently, although tomorrow is longer, it's not supposed to be any harder. However I do appear to be blocking the dodgy, very very narrow ledges between paddy fields next to a 4-foot drop, the going downhill which has blistered under my big toenail and bruised the other, my continued clear lack of balance and my burning despite wearing and reapplying factor 40 from my mind. Instead my clearer memories are of the incredible scenery, of sitting on rocks by a river and watching people skim stones, of the sense of achievement on reaching the homestay where we promptly all collapsed. That said, 15km didn't feel nearly as long as I thought it would, probably helped by the beautiful scenery and the fact that my bag is much lighter without half the kit I left in the hotel
in Sapa, and the bulky role mat!
After reaching the homestay we sat outside to cool off for a while (sounds odd considering we're in Vietnam, but Sapa's cooler than a lot of places) before discovering our amazing beds (proper mattresses and thick rugs and silk pillows- we're really not roughing it at all! Not that I'm complaining and we are without home comforts like showers, but it's a lot better than I had been expected). We then changed and went swimming! Finally somewhere I can feel graceful and natural and slightly strong- I'm totally more comfortable in water than on land for some reason- I guess I'm just more used to it (as opposed to proper trekking) having swam constantly for the first ten years of my life. I just love the feeling of being submerged in water, of floating, of pushing myself along with ease, without wobbling and without having a walking stick. I always forget how much I love swimming until I go again.
Some people didn't seem quite so keen on there being a current, though, especially after we made use of the throw line immediately as Nikki got in and was swept away, to be saved by a random Canadian women who's son was talking to us and apparently lives in Calgary! (Hadn't heard of Katherine's road though). Out here is actually quite touristy- there were at least 5 or 6 other groups on the first half of the trek (presumably doing day treks to
village, considering the woman who wouldn't cross a 'river' (read: a fast-flowing trickle) because she didn't want to get her new trainers wet. Well she did eventually, but after more hesitation than me!
The rest of the day was spent talking to Lucy, Rishi, Laura, Ruth, Kate and Ollie until dinner, just being lazy, although I spent a while just sat in my mosquito net on my bed, just thinking and being (and eavesdropping on conversations) which I kind of needed and definitely wanted. A time to reflect and think about nothing really. I've really grown to appreciate those times, and times like these when I'm free to write this without anyone really interrupting me (except when we were on the train and people got annoyed with the much diary writingness from Gemma, Vicki and I as they were bored and wanted to play cards) as pretty much everyone wants the same for themselves at some point. I'm glad I'm up to date though, as some people are about 2 or 3 days behind, which I'd never be able to catch up from!
The only problem is, I can't really convey exactly how I'm feeling as it's such a unique feeling as you look out over the hills, or sit in silence with crickets and the sounds of flowing water, surrounded by paddy fields and hills and rolling green. I know how content and happy it's made me, but I can't express it in words, so I'm going to end up going home and just saying 'yeah, it was really good' when it's been so much more than