So, my trail run began right here at the Eco Lodge, you can take a trail immediately off the back of the property, and follow it down to a road, then it's about 4km to the main gate of the National Park. I bought a ticket and told her I wanted to run the longest trail (the Viet Hai trail - 9km) and she said I had to sign my name down and come back and sign off again before 5pm. She seemed dubious that I could do it. She said it would take about 5+ hours to get there and that, no, I couldn't come back and retrace my steps (as I had been planning on doing) as I wouldn't make it back before 5pm and would have to get a bus back. In my head, I 'm thinking: of course I can! (It was only 8:30am at this point). I tried to tell her I would be running lots of it and not walking and she laughed. Ohwell, on with the run. I continued on, onto the trekking route, which had a total of zero other people and was located just beyond the gates and main entrance of the park, in fact you'd never know it was there. The run started off well, running through beautiful woodland trails (yes! I have missed trail running SO much!), and then started to head up into thicker vegetation and up various steps.
Not too much further though, the trail got wildly overgrown. I had brief fleeting thoughts re: is this a good idea? But I had started and wanted to at least get to the 'end' and then get this bus back that the ticket chick was adamant that I had to get. So I pushed on, wildly running with both arms up so that any spiders wouldn't go on my hair or in my eyes, and screaming occasionally at the giant, bright red crabs that would appear and scuttle across my path to get away. I had to keep running - anytime I stopped, the mosquitoes would swarm around me and big red ants would try to invade my shoes and munch on my ankles. The area got so dense and so dark, and so overgrown, I tried not to think about how this was potentially quite a dangerous position to be in. I literally couldn't see where I was putting my feet and at many a point I was wading through plants that were taller than me, just trusting that this was the right path and that all would be ok. (No photos were taken during this time - just wanted to get through there safely!) I didn't want to even think about the spider webs I was no doubt crashing through. It was the kind of scene that has been seen in many a sci-fi or horror movie and I was day-dreaming about how if it were I would be heading right for the nest of some giant arachnid or that huge, strong vines would soon entwine themselves around my legs and I'd be trapped there.
When I was nearing the 'end' (or so I thought) I finally saw other people! Hurrah! A couple of tourists with what looked like a local guide were coming up the other way, and told me that they had only just started so I assumed I was pretty much there at my destination. As I made my way out into the sunny open clearing, I ran along various paths (again, slightly overgrown) and realised that maybe I had gotten too cocky and that actually I didn't know which one to take, and that I was still very much in overgrown jungly vegetation, despite the sun streaming through patches of it. I panicked a little bit and ran this way and that, having visions of how people get lost in the bush back in Australia all the time, and that I only had limited water and supplies in my trusty camelback. I heard voices coming from one of the paths that I hadn't tried yet - it must be that way! Human life there for sure.
I followed this path and came across a group of Vietnamese women, a family out walking and collecting snails/crabs from the river just there. I explained my predicament and joy at having found them and tried to ask them the way to Viet Hai Village. They indicated they were going back that way and I joined them. Crisis averted. Obviously didn't run this next part, and slowed down to walk with them. Such a lovely family! Thank you Trang, and Lin, and to the rest of your family!!
When checking the tourist map I had bought later, I read this about the trail I had been on:
"Foreign tourist can (and indeed must) hire a guide to lead a 6-10 hour trek through this limestone labyrinth leads by Ao Ech (Frog Lake), in the middle of a freshwater swamp forest, with primary forest on the surrounding karst towers, and then trhough to Viet Hai village. The path can become dangerous and slippery when it rains."
Hmmm, labyrinth is right! And maybe I wouldn't have gone on a solo trail run here had I read that about the need for having a local guide. Did the trail in 3 hours ish and not the 6-10 that they suggested though, woot woot for trail running!!
Off to do more exploring today, but a lot more cruisily and am going to hire a bicycle and leisurely explore parts of the island that I didn't see yesterday, or maybe even Cat Ba town itself, as I seem to have bypassed that so far...
Here are a few more shots of Cat Ba, just because it is so damn beautiful!!!
And, my Jump Into June 30 Day Challenge is soon to be officially released - you'll be able to sign up soon! Check my website in a few days' time: www.lousweight.com.au.
Ok, before this wifi drops out again: have a wonderful week one and all!