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On the morning of the last day in Trung Khanh, Colin, Pete and Paul headed out to check out a cave recommended to us by the President. Only a few kilometres outside the town, our jeep pulled over and fingers were pointed in the direction of a nearby hill. A nice steady walk, or so we thought.


Picking up a local guide, we set off up and around the hillside. As we climbed higher and higher, it became apparent that the prospects for major horizontal development were diminishing rapidly as we neared the top of the ridge. Imagine our surprise when we eventually reached a slope down into the sort of large entrance chamber that has no right to be this high up on a hilltop.

A rift to one side led on into a 20m diameter trunk passage which bored off into the distance. The locals followed with their glow-worm torches as we surveyed in. A calcite blockage provided the only obstacle – a climb up and over – before the tunnel closed down. A climb up and through boulders gave access to a second entrance and a view back over the lower part of the valley.

With 220m of survey under our belts and most of the day remaining, we headed back to meet the jeep and continue to the Na Nguom area.

Back near the site of the previous day’s explorations, we set about investigating an obvious entrance on the hillside to the west of Na Nguom I + III. This was easily gained after a quick scramble up the slope and a climb down into a chamber.

The way on started small, but following a couple of switchbacks emerged in another pleasant tunnel. The metres were quickly clocked up as we headed south east under the hill. This was clearly trending in a similar direction to Na Nguom I and offered the potential of a link between the various entrances.

Around 250m in, the passage closed down to a choke, but the draught had disappeared into the roof. Pete set about finding where it had gone. Some bold and circuitous climbing later, he reported a way on. We followed the exposed climb and soon found ourselves way above the blockage. A climb down led into an area of low, muddy tubes which looked none too promising, but Pete was quickly off again in search of the elusive draught.

Climbing high into the roof, he once more declared that the way on had been found. We had a brief consultation and with time pressing decided that if we were to make Cao Bang before nightfall, we had better call it a day. When the survey was drawn up, it became clear that the fourth entrance was indeed heading towards the other parts of the system and a little more time would probably have seen them connected. In addition to this, it is still a fair way to the presumed sink for the Na Nguom I streamway. As with many areas in Cao Bang, there is still the prospect of plenty more cave to be explored.

Paul Ibberson

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