Labor Day long weekend represents the end of Summer in America, but here is Hanoi temperatures are still warm and the humidity is unrelenting – although endless rain is dampening any summery feel. Zack and I were happy to take advantage of the holiday and retreat to the more temperate weather of Vietnam’s north-eastern mountains. Just a “quick” eight hour night train later and we were our of Hanoi’s noise and pollution and into the clean mountain air, relaxing in silence on a mountain top; 45 minutes from the small town of Sapa.
Tourists flock to Sapa to take in the breathtaking views, hike amongst rice paddies, and interact with the many minority tribes that live in the region.
But as enjoyable as these activities were, we were on a mission… to conquer Mt. Fansipan. Towering over the surrounding hills at over 3000 meters, the mountain is the highest in Indochina and a challenge we couldn’t pass up.
What I could pass up, however, was a night in a camp surrounded by mud, trash, and rats. So, in defiance of local advice, we attempted, and only just succeeded, in climbing the mountain in one day. A feat, according to our guide, only attempted by Australians and a few Europeans… Never by Vietnamese. We were warned that it would be an eleven hour slog up a seemingly endless slippery slope, decorated with mossy boulders, creeks, and tricky tree roots. The constant mud was just part of the fun. Feeling pretty confident in our hiking abilities we really didn’t give this much thought, perhaps we should have. After eleven and a half hours we limped out of the forest, muddy, bloody and bruised, from a trek that could have been spectacular if it wasn’t for the impenetrable cloud.
Despite the turmoil of the hike we did in enjoy the challenge… in retrospect. We slept well that night, in a our beautiful eco-lodge, happy in the knowledge that we had made it. The next day we barely moved.