Mountainous regrets

We’re currently on a trip to the far north of Vietnam with Ethnic Travel. We have a van, a driver and a guide and there are 2 other tourists in our party – more about them later.

It started out well with a long drive from Hanoi to Hà Giang followed by a 2 hour walk through tiny villages and rice paddies. It was raining so the temperature was kept down a bit – high 20s.

This morning our guide Dom announced that we would start the day with a 3 hour walk. She neglected to add “up a steep rocky mountain”. The rain had cleared so it was much hotter, very humid and quite muddy from the previous day’s downpour.

Our 2 travel companions (20 years younger than us) seemed to cope ok and Dom nimbly traversed the challenging terrain, wearing black leggings, a long sleeved top, t-shirt and simple sneakers, holding an umbrella to shield herself from the sun. I gazed at her in awe – Bernd and I were struggling.

My face was so sweaty my sunglasses kept slipping off. I felt the beginnings of a headache. Then the sticky mud sucked one hiking shoe right off my foot. As I grimly retied my laces I prayed for it to end.

The scenery was breathtaking but it’s hard to appreciate when you’re simultaneously clambering up rocks, sweating buckets, swatting away clouds of gnats and trying not to slip into a mud puddle.

At one point I found myself fantasising about work. Right now I could be at my desk, in my cool office, instead of on this godforsaken hill. Such thoughts are not the sign of an enjoyable holiday.

After 2 hours we were thankfully into the descent. Because I’d demanded numerous stops we were running late so the driver picked us up at the first available road. Thank god. It still totalled 3+ hours of hell.

There was a walk in the afternoon as well which Bernd and I declined. I asked Dom whether tomorrow morning’s walk is as steep as today’s – “even steeper!”

The beauty of having a car and driver is that all walks are essentially optional. Tonight I’ll tell Dom that I’m only going for flat strolls less than 2 hours in duration from now on. The 3 day trek we were planning in Burma in October is now OFF.

I really can’t handle much exertion in this weather. Why oh why didn’t I give proper consideration to the fact that I got heatstroke in Vietnam 20 years ago? What made me believe I’d be better equipped to handle the conditions now?

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