We all had the day off since the typhoon, the day earlier, had scared our potential customers away. After exploring the market and grabbing a 5000 Dong breakfast, four of us decided we’d adventure that day. I would be introduced to rock climbing in Butterfly Valley otherwise known as the Hive. Grant and I saddled up on the company scooter and followed Marcus and Lauren for 20 minutes to location. The roads started out in decent condition and then disappeared into rubble then reappeared as a sidewalk sized jungle path that lead up and down hills through the village of Lien Minh.
The farm house at the entrance was surrounded by jungle and hundreds years old Bonsai trees. They were massive and gnarly things, at least 12, that made me feel like I had gone back in time. Chickens ran around everywhere and the yard was strewn with comfy looking hammocks made from old fishing nets where we would later take a post lunch siesta. After a ten minute walk through lush jungle, we arrived at a massive crag that overlooked the local farmer’s field which was flooded this time of year. Grant taught me everything I needed to know for my first climb out here. Up and up I went from under-story to above the canopy, where I enjoyed my million dollar vista. Once at the top, I had a chance to look out and down at what I had just climbed. I was seeing the top of the trees, the farm and the mountains in the distance. I took it all in and then called out to my belayer to lower me. Colorful birds and butterflies were amongst me and on my way down, I could see where this place got its name. Every butterfly I saw was different and more exquisite than the last. There were white lacey ones with translucent wings, some that were similar to monarchs back home but with deeper oranges & reds and, my favorites, the black ones as big as my hand with incandescent blue markings on its fringes.
At the bottom, I started to notice the variety in frog and insect life which was abundant and obvious. This place I had found was a true paradise. I drank the last few relieving drops of my water when I got down but I got no sympathy from my new friends when I stated I was still thirsty. I didn’t want to be that Canadian guy who is unprepared and runs out of water. We stayed until nightfall, clambering around until we couldn’t see our feet without the help of a headlamp. When we did finally call it, I was exhausted and had a hard time thinking straight, after all I was still jetlagged and very dehydrated at this point.
I followed the lead of the guides back to the motor bikes and saddled up once more. We stopped on a dark road to observe the milky way for a while then Grant and I took off to give Marcus some romantic time with Lauren. It wasn’t long after that we had gotten flagged down by a small posse of drunken Vietnamese men. They looked unintimidating with their ear to ear grins so we parked our bike with the 50 or so others that lined the road and heard what they had to say. Using a combination of grabs, charades and enthusiastic howling, we took it that they wanted us to come to their party about 100 ft. up a small walkway. Marcus and Lauren caught up and we updated them on our newly made plans. The traditional music drew us in and we were shown seats immediately replete with good company and rice wine. One man even said to me as I sat down, “You be here for long time.” It was hardly a minute later when Lauren pointed out the stern looking man behind us. “You have to go” he said. We scoped the place again but this time realized the candle covered shrine with a picture of an old Vietnamese man on top. There was incense burning and the people were in traditional dress. This was a funeral and we weren’t welcome. We had inadvertently crashed a traditional, sacred Vietnamese ritual. With our bright red cheeks, we got up and quickly walked out where we came from without looking back at the mourning party. The men from the street must have had a laugh.
We did finally get back to the dorm and got to shower up… one at a time. I didn’t even mind that it wasn’t a hot shower. The cold water was actually wanted at this point.
Later on, Chris, our GM, brought us booze and we all gathered in the hotel lobby for a talk from the researcher leading the local Cat Ba Langur conservation project. Some of us fell asleep on the floor and some of us stayed awake long enough to make it to our cardboard beds.
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