Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sapa and Fansipan Gateway to Heaven

After riding on the overnight train we arrived to Lao Cai at about 5 AM and rode a private van to the town of Sapa to shower, have some Pho, meet our guide Tien, the porters and head out on our big hike.  We decided we would do the hike in two days rather than three under the recommendation of our guide.  There wasn’t a whole lot about this hike online, but we were told it was 18 km roundtrip which was definitely less than we’ve done in the past so we said we’d go for it.  Man were we in for a big surprise……the hike was the hardest hike we have ever done.  Even harder than Mailbox Peak according to Bob and Nick.  We started at an elevation of 1900 meters (5700 feet) and hiked to the first camp to have lunch at about 2200 meters (6600 feet) and then to the second camp at 2800 meters (8400 feet).  The hike was extremely lush with tropical plants and trees, rivers, bamboo trees, and plenty of mud.  We also got to see cows, water buffalos and even goats.   There was definitely some bouldering and four ladder climbs and steep sections that made your thighs burn.  Our porters and guide cooked us up a feast for dinner and we went to bed exhausted and fully satisfied.
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We camped overnight at the second camp and that was truly an adventure. There was a torrential downpour of rain all night long.  It was loud and scary sounding.  Along the hike we met up with two girls from Canada and could hear some rats squeaking on their side of the shelter.  Apparently some rats had chewed through her backpack and at her ankles.  Scary!  We were well protected on our side though.  Because of the difficulty of the hike and our nervousness of the terrain to get to the summit after all the rain, Erin and I decided to head down the mountain.  Bob, Nick and one of our porters went up to the summit of Fansipan the “Gateway to Heaven”.  They said the hike was grueling.  They would rise quickly in elevation and then drop quickly in elevation.  They were also going at an extremely fast speed.  They made it to the summit which is at 3143 meters (9500 feet) enjoyed the views.  They could see China, possibly a part of Laos and Vietnam.  There was a lot of mist and cloud cover when they were up there.  They took some photos and then headed down quickly and met us at the first camp.  Bob and Nick looked haggard and in pain.   We are so proud of them.

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(Noted….there are a ton of photos on my little G9 camera that I haven’t offloaded yet, will post eventually)

The hike down wasn’t as slippery as we thought it’d be because of all the mud buildup from the rain and it went pretty fast.  It only took us about 4 hours to get down when it took us 6 hours to get up.  Our guides and porters were awesome!  We got in the van, grabbed some clothes, and headed to possibly one of the most beautiful places on earth.  We are in a small town south of Sapa.  We are staying at a couple’s home where it is in the heart of the rice paddy fields which stunning views of the Sapa valley.  All the little villages of the Hmong people, the hundreds of rice fields, the river and valley of Sapa are beautiful.  It looks just like what you would see in a movie.  They set us up a table and chairs and we enjoyed the views before our dinner feast.  The people here are so kind and welcoming.  We couldn’t have ended our day any more perfectly among the company of friends, the best garlic french fries we’ve ever had in the entire world   and beautiful countryside.

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