The weather didn't look any brighter but we thought we may as well go for the trek-when in Rome. We met our charming guide Pang and after a shoe change for Gail we were on our way.
Little did we know what lie ahead of us. I think we all presumed it would be a stroll to a few tribal villages and learn a bit about the culture of the Hmong (pronounced Mong) people as we went. Oh how naïve we were!
By the end of the day we were all covered in mud from numerous, and at times death defying falls! Not only did we learn a lot about Pang and the Hmong people but we got very personal and handsy with our friendly helpers, who we thanked profusely for our safety when we reached more familiar, flat terrain. For the first two hours it was exactly how I had imagined trekking in Sapa to be. We walked along a paved road and gravel paths that slowly meandered through the villages. We had the time and energy to quiz Pang on village life and generally we were all feeling good and relaxed. At the two hour mark things began to change and drastically. I thought Pang was joking as we slipped across a muddy patch and she said 'this is what it will be like for the next 3 hours.' I laughed it off and we carried on. As it turned out Pang wasn't exaggerating in the slightest. We didn't see cement for another 3 hours!
We slipped, slid, crawled, fell, climbed, balanced and laughed our way across the hills and over paddy fields. At the start we gathered a few local women, and one young girl who were going sell us things if they followed us the whole way. At the beginning we all tried to dismiss their help but this didn't last long. They soon attached themselves to us and became our lifelines. I am sure my lady could read my mind and was always there with a hand out whenever I needed it. Chris had one woman and the strongest eight year old I have ever seen. She was brilliant and Chris strongly believes he wouldn't have made it without her help. Gail had James (who fell a lot) and her new BBF to help her. These three provided the funniest fall of the day. James slipped down the side of one of the paddy fields and Gail thought she was going to lose him to the treacherous mountains so she refused to let go and fell over herself. It turned out that James was standing and was perfectly safe! I managed to capture the fall in a great photo and noticed Chris in the foreground looking very concerned, oh no sorry laughing his head off!
The Hmong women must have thought we were crazy as all we did was laugh and perhaps a little retarded as we all struggled to stand, let alone walk on the slippery mud. It was so much fun and the weather even cleared in parts so when we weren't on our arses we could pause to take in the view. We took a team photo at the end of the muddy stretch and spent far too much money on bags etc. but they are great momentos of a fun filled trek. We ate a well-deserved picnic by the river and congratulated each other on a day well done. I don't think any of us will forget this experience in a hurry.
We showered and said goodbye to our lovely hotel owners and with a packed dinner (bless them) we caught the overnight train to Hanoi.