BAO LAC OVERVIEW
The district of Bao Lac is in the Northwest of Cao Bang Province. We were interested in a high limestone plateau around the village of Dong Mu. A French/Italian team had carried out a brief recce in 1995. Our Vietnamese friends warned us, that the area was poor and difficult to get to and around due to the lack of good roads. However we decided to finish the 2003 expedition with a look at the area. The drive from Cao Bang proved better than expected as work is progressing on the roads. We managed to obtain accommodation in the district town of Bao Lac, and sort out the necessary permits to explore the area.
Our main objectives were several sinks marked on the maps. Local people informed us that there was now vehicle access to Dong Mu, especially with the jeeps we were using. This made it easier for one team to set off and explore this high level area. The second team was to be based at Bao Lac and would investigate the sink at Ban Giem village.
The sink at Ban Giem proved to be a dry watercourse, with no obvious entrance. The locals were happy to take us to several short dry caves. One was 250m above the valley floor, in a limestone cliff, and was quite well decorated, but only 170m long.
An entrance at the side of the valley dropped down a 15m pitch into a dry canyon. Round a couple of bends, another 10m pitch dropped into a round chamber, with an unexpected inlet stream. Downstream sumped, and upstream a sharp rift bypassed a boulder choke to an active section of passage and finally a sump. The cave is below the valley floor. In the past the locals had thrown a couple of criminals down the entrance shaft, and various remains were seen.
The Dong Mu plateau was similarly disappointing, although a longer cave was found. The main sink marked on the map was choked.
In spite of the lack of long cave systems, the area was well worth the visit. Populated largely by different minority groups, we were constantly surprised by the colour and variety of the costumes.