Da Lat, Vietnam
03.02.2012 - 05.03.2012
The bus to Da Lat was small, hot and cramped. We launched over bumps, spending most of the journey on the wrong side of the road as we swerved around pot holes and dodged mopeds. An German man sat across from me looked over and jokingly draws a cross with his finger across his chest. We both chuckle quietly, but it definitely nervous laughter. A couple hours of the journey we have a flat tyre. A Russian girl shows me a plant on the side of the road. When you touch it the leaves curl up, as if to trap a small creature. This keeps us amused for a while.
Back on the road the bus crawls up the hills as it struggles to get us there. When we reach Da Lat the bus driver drops us off outside a hotel where a couple of guys ambush the bus trying to sell us rooms at the hotel and tours around Da Lat. Knowing where I want to stay I meander through the group of people, and grab my backpack from the back of the bus. In such a hurry, I manage to leave both my jumper and gortex jacket on the bus. I don't realise this until the bus has driven away!
Walking around Da Lat I soon realise it is not quite what I imagined. The traffic is equally as bad as any other busy Vietnamese city and the centre isn't as picturesque as I hoped. I quickly dive into an adventure tour company shop, and sign up for a canyoning trip for the next day. This wasn't my first choice, I was keen to trek or horseride. But being the only person booked on to either of those options I would have to pay a lot extra. Therefore they suggested the canyoning which 3 people had already booked on to. I quickly paid the money before I chickened out and changed my mind.
SATURDAY: I get picked up at 9am, and meet the three other people I will spend the day with (who conveniently stay at the hotel next to mine). We are transported to Datalana Waterfalls, which at first glance is full of tourists. We ride the roller coaster deeper into the jungle.
The first abseil acts as a reminder for me about how to do it. Having only done it once when I was about 12 years old, somehow it stuck in my mind. And I definitely found it less scary than the first time round.
The abseils get slightly more difficult after this to get us warmed up for the 'big one' after lunch. We had the chance to jump off heights into the water, which ranged between 5-10 metres- which I didn't do. And we also got the chance to ride the rapids like water slides- which I did do and ended up with a huge bruise on my left hip. It was great fun though.
Lunch was at a quiet spot, away from all the tourists, by a relaxing part of the river. The water was clear, and the tropical canopy shaded us from the sun.
After lunch we trekked on, wading through rivers, balancing on fallen-tree bridges and climbing slopes using vines to pull ourselves up. We eventually reached our biggest challenge. Bamboo (our guide) set up the ropes at the top of a fairly big and very powerful waterfall. This was certainly a step up from the abseils we had done during the morning. The two boys went first to show us girls how it was done. Will sailed down with ease. Ryan fell once at the top. We watched as the water pounded his face, whilst he struggled back on to his feet and wearily abseiled down to the bottom. Fran wasn't keen on the idea of doing it. So it was my go next. I was pretty nervous, but knew if I didn't give it a go I would definitely regret it! I edged my way up to Bamboo on the top of the waterfall and clung to him as he attached the ropes to my harness. As I slid my feet slowly backwards to the edge of the waterfall I knew this was the last chance to turn back. Feeling brave and full of adrenaline I edged my way over the first edge. Almost immediately I lost my footing, and fell into the water. I tried to look up but the gushing water blocked my view. I tried to call up to Bamboo to pull me back up, but either he couldn't hear me or he chose not to. Struggling to push myself back up again, it seemed like forever until I eventually got back up onto my feet. I could hear cheering from the boys below. Feeling a second burst of energy I carried on knowing there was only one way off the waterfall.
The further down I got the stronger the pressure of the water was on my legs. I fell again right in the midst of the waterfall, at the most forceful part. I had to keep looking behind me, as there was no way I could face the falling water. I watched the water spray off of my helmet, and felt the force on the back of my head. It took even longer to push myself back up onto my feet, as the water made it seem impossible. Eventually I got up again, which was accompanied by another cheer. I made my way down the last part, and lowered myself into the water. Exhausted but full of exhilaration I swam to the rocks back on to dry land. Was one of the most thrilling things I've experienced.
By the final abseil I was so tired, and ended up pulling out of it. It was called the 'washing machine' as at the bottom was a rapid of water that sucked you under and spat you out on the other side. I started the climb down but didn't like the look of all the dangerous rocks jutting up, so clambered back up again. As far as I was concerned I had already acheived a great deal that day. The 20 minute trek up hill to meet the van was hard, even for our guides. When I got back to the hotel I slipped into sleep with a smile on my face. What an amazing day!
SUNDAY: I'm still exhausted from canyoning, so just amble around the town. I take lunch in a small travellers cafe, and meet another Enbglish girl, Rebecca. We get chatting and decide to visit the 'Crazy House' that afternoon. It's a house/hotel designed by a Vietnamese architect with the mind of a Surrealist, who clearly had no very little grip on health & saftey, and a firm grip on insanity.