Rod McLaughlin


Phong Nha (30 oct 15...05 nov 15)

It turns out you don't go over the Ngang pass any more, like I'd read at crazyguyonabike.com. You go through a tunnel. I kept expecting to go uphill, but it was flat as a pancake south after Ky Lien. A motorcyclist stopped and told me where I was. He said to turn right just after the big bridge over the Song Gianh river. After another 10 Km I saw a sign for a Nha Nghi. I looked in there, and they said it's 250,000 dong FOR TWELVE HOURS. They put me through to a daft woman on a phone who spoke English, and she said they want 400,000 dong for the normal twenty-four hour period. I handed the phone back to the guys in the hotel, she still talking, and rode off.

Not long after, I passed Phong Nha Farmstay. It sounds like a great place, but I'd already established that they had no single rooms, and even if they did, it's pricey - for good reasons, I'm sure. So I continued, and turned right on the Ho Chi Minh highway. Not long after, the owner of Phong Nha Farmstay, Ben, and the owner of the Easy Tiger hostel, Mike, passed me in an SUV.

I continued, and turned left into Phong Nha. It's a typical backpacker town. I checked into the Mountain View hotel (200,000 dong per night, paying five nights in advance), and then found the Easy Tiger on the other side of the road. Mike and Ben were there, involved in construction work. Ben explained to me the mystery of the hotel I checked out just before I passed Phong Nha Farmstay. It's a "knock shop". This is not the same as a "knocking shop". It's young Vietnamese people who live at home with their parents. They might want a twelve-hour hotel room.

Anyway, behind the Easy Tiger hostel is a crag. It looks like it could be set up for toproping. I'm going to explore it the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow is for exploring caves and watching the Rugby World Cup final.

Had a great Halloween. Everyone was dressed as either a Wallaby or a Kiwi. Actually, we totally forgot about Halloween. The Rugby World Cup final was more important.

I got back to the hotel, and had to wake up the owners, as it was one a.m.. Just as I got inside, it started pouring with rain. This is OK for caving, not so good for exploring crags. I left my rope attached to a tree. Now it's soaked. It's going to be a hassle to dry it out again.

The caves are awesome. They go on for kilometres and the roof is sometimes twenty metres above you. One of them is even bigger, with 200m high ceilings, but it's not open to the public yet.

It carried on raining for days. Eventually, I went back up to the cliff behind the Easy Tiger hostel to retrieve my climbing rope, and found that someone had cut 30m off it, making it a 40m rope. Fortunately, many climbs are 20m or less high.



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