We wake up early. The security light is beaming into our room. The room is comfortable and we have slept under mosquito nets appropriately hitched to poles from the corners of our beds. Breakfast is different – back to very basics. Would you believe French bread sticks, omelet, butter and jam? Oh! We have tea or coffee provided – but just the one cup each, is included in the menu. We pay for the extra one – 1,000 dong (50c).
Cuc Phuong National Park is an area shared by three provinces
We set off on a 20km ride to an ‘easy’ walk of 6 km. The drive is on a concrete road that meanders through the tall, tight undergrowth. We arrive at the starting point and get packs and water sorted out. Our destination is to a 1,000 year old tree.
Generally, the track is good, wet but places slippery in places. After 500 meters, we are convinced our guide is not quite spot on – this is a category 3-4 walk, not a category 2 as has been explained to us. The steps get steeper, the undergrowth denser. An interesting little lizard is steadfast to, and the colour of a rock. Ants are nipping a worm to kill it for future eating. Long legged spiders give Lyn a fright and so the rest of the trek is taken up ensuring they don’t get near her again – her fear of leeches is still prevalent.
We make it to the top of many hills. It starts raining and on goes the ponchos again. It is just a passing shower and hardly penetrates the high overhead tree foliage. Steps, and more steps. Val slips over 3 times, that I notice, without injury. We arrive back at the van for transport back to the visitor’s center.
We are too late to visit the Primate Rescue Centre, and so have lunch before setting off on our return to Hanoi City.
The Hanoi Hilton is kind to us in letting us use the Fitness Center to shower and prepare for our train travel tonight. We sit around in the foyer and enjoy a ‘western’ snack before being collected for the train station.
Arriving at the station, we are met by crowds of people jostling for a space between the maze of motorbikes and buses doing the same as us. A guy sees us not sure where we should be going and grabs our train tickets, takes a look, and says “follow me.” We are off – on a journey not to be forgotten. He finds the person who allocates our berth on the train. Then off to where the train is parked in the marshaling yards. We reach the train 5 minutes before the engine hooks on to the train. Our ‘helper’ asks for his tip for service. It has to be $2. Oh well, what the heck and we pay. When we struggle up into the carriage we eventually understand the numbering system. Ah, the number is our ‘berth’ for the night. A small room with four beds, four people, four people’s luggage is not much spare space. We giggle – heaps.
The train leaves 10 minutes after scheduled departure time at 9:10pm. It seems the position to be in for comfort, is the sleeping position. So we take up our positions for the next 8 or 9 hours; sudoku books and pens at the ready, or iPhone/iPad for games to be endured. By 10:30pm we have all fallen asleep.