I hadn’t really trekked properly until the start of this trip, in Sri Lanka. Climbing Ella Rock in Sri Lanka’s hill country is probably not difficult by trekking standards, but I certainly didn’t find it easy. I was however, so pleased with myself for making it, especially wearing a pair of Flossy’s (Spanish daps/slippers), which I have since worn proudly with a huge hole in the toe.
In Vietnam, without giving it too much thought I decided a two day trek in Sapa should be no problem for a now ‘experienced’ trekker like me. Sapa is in the mountains of northern Vietnam about 300km from Hanoi. It is known for its terraced rice field landscape and being occupied by Vietnam’s indigenous tribes, in particular the Hmong. As usual, I read about other people’s experiences online but at the risk of being put off all together, I decided to just go for it.
My hostel in Hanoi offered 2 day packages for the trip but it’s a good idea to visit a few tour companies around the old quarter for a better deal. I went for a mid-range tour that included a kind of fancy sleeper train on the way and a ‘limousine’ minibus on the way back. Both journeys were pretty good. With cheaper packages, you can travel by coach which, from what I heard, are not bad either. The cheapest way of course, is to make your own way to Sapa and arrange a tour when you get there. As it turns out, the treks are all pretty similar, if not the same and everyone ends up in the same kind of homestay at the end of day one.
As part of my package, I was picked up from the station and dropped at a hotel to have breakfast and take a shower before being picked up by the tour guide. I prepared myself with a tiny bit of yoga before we set off, particularly as I knew my weak little legs were probably going to suffer for days afterwards.
The tour guide and I joined up with a few other trekkers in Sapa town before hitting the trail together. Now part of a 6 strong group and about 7 local ‘tagalongs,’ I felt I couldn’t contest much when we were asked if we wanted to take the easy route or the ‘slippery route.’ I reluctantly agreed to the slippery route. Why?! More fun everyone said. A few minutes later I hated myself and everyone in the group and wanted to give up. It was sooo slippery from the rain the night before, every downward and rocky step was a potential fall and soon enough I was on my arse splattered from the waist down in mud. The tagalongs (I’ll explain this later) helped me up whilst I laughed awkwardly (crying inside.) The guide asked again if I was okay with the slippery route. Feeling like I needed to redeem myself from embarrassment, I of course pretended to be fine but braced myself for another fall.
A few near misses later, plus falls from others which made me feel better (hahahaha), we made it through the muddy part of the trek and could finally enjoy the scenery around us.
We stopped for lunch and realised the tagalongs hadn’t just followed us and actually helped me quite a lot with the trek, just to get to know us. They were selling bits of jewellery and their own handicraft which no one really wanted but we now felt kind of obliged to buy. Very young girls also arrive with sad and desperate faces. They really are working the tourists but fair enough. I bought a couple of bracelets I will never wear but it was all very cheap and worth it to stop these little girls basically play crying in your face.
In the afternoon, the rest of the group went back to Sapa town as they were only one-day trekkers. Lightweights. I was taken to a homestay where a few other trekkers had also ended up. It’s fair to say it’s not the kind of homestay I have stayed at before. It’s more ‘indoor camping’ than ‘cosy family sleepover.’ The hosts were lovely however and cooked us some amazing food. Showers were hot and everything was clean, HOWEVER, we were in the middle of the mountains and the biggest bugs I’ve ever seen were all around us and a couple of rats were running around freely. I slyly coped myself one of the private rooms but cheeky karma came and bit me in bum when I noticed a spider as big as my fist sitting on the wall next to my bed. I stood there literally stunned for about 5 minutes wondering what to do. I felt like I couldn’t be a wimp and ask someone to get rid of it. I considered asking the hosts if it was dangerous but they had already gone to bed. I was left with no option but to drop down the mosquito net, pull the thick duvet over my head and hope for the best. Of course, nothing happened apart from me waking up in the middle of the night dripping in sweat. Unfortunately no conquering of fears happened that night and my Dad can rest assured that he will still be asked to get the spider out in future.
Day 2 started off with pancakes! Whooo! I then carried on the trek alone with tour guide Lin and her 8 month old baby.
Lin was in the true sense of the word, amazing. She told me she continued to guide the trek until she was nine months pregnant and started again when the baby was just 15 days old. At 26, she now has three children. Her husband works on a rice field and her five year old daughter stays at home with the two year old… her nine year old nephew also helps out when not at school but Lin says her five year old knows how to look after them both no problem. Wait, what!? I was totally astonished but no doubt it’s typical in their culture. These women and people are utterly incredible and if ever you needed any inspiration, just visit Sapa and meet them for yourself.
We headed out and I opted for the easy route this time. I think Lin was quite happy with that as she seemed a bit tired. Day two however was just as, if not more beautiful.
And five days later my legs still ache but it was well worth it.
I’m now finishing up my trip in Hanoi but will be visiting Halong Bay first which I am VERY excited about, then I’m off to Hoi An to hopefully get something nice tailor made. Definitely another Vietnam update or two to come, I love this place.
Peace out ✌🏼️💄