HANG GIO / WIND CAVE
We had been caving in the small sections of limestone in Hoa Binh province for some days now but at last in Yen Thuy district we were promised caves in the main massif. We duly arrived to see the president who quickly set off as guide on his motorbike. However something was lost in the translation and we drove away from the massif. We finally stopped and refused to go in the large beautiful cave he promised in a small block of limestone. He was desperate for a show cave!!
We decided to go for it ourselves and returned to the massif in search of the elusive cave. We came across a scout camp in a grassy clearing near the limestone hills. Here we were greeted by hundreds of young boys and girls all of whom knew a cave in the main limestone block. They wanted us to stay and sing songs or whatever scouts do in Vietnam but we managed to escape armed with 2 lads who would act as guides. Again they led us away from the main massif!!!! We were getting a bit frustrated by now, but just then the president appeared from nowhere and pointed to the main massif again.
After much stopping to ask the way to this mysterious cave we finally stopped by a large lake. Two bamboo rafts appeared and we were put onto these decidedly dodgy vessels. Armed with our life jackets we set off having no real idea what was happening or where we were going. My boat promptly turned turtle and GPS’s and various items of caving gear floated/sank in the deep lake. This was great fun for everyone concerned but me. However I managed to save most things and the titanic set off again with the raft underwater by 1ft making it look like JC crossing the lake. What with the previous day’s aquatic episode, with our jeep going underwater in a river crossing this expedition was having its fairshare of water problems.
At the other side of the lake the team of 3 finally got together to visit wind cave. We clambered from the lakeshore to a 5m x 3m entrance with a slight draught. Our boatman quickly became our cave guide and stripped down to his underwear for the trip. We surveyed in a reasonable dry series, not bad, but not quite the Vietnamese standards we were accustomed to. The limestone looked poor quality, thinly bedded and interspersed with shale. We then came across a pool, which looked to be the end, and we were about to pack it in when our guide jumped in and did a short duck. Because he had no light we were forced to follow this crazy person. The continuation became worse. A tight squeeze unheard of in Vietnam and in a dodgy boulder slope was passed and we all wondered what we were doing here. However in front we could hear the sound of a large amount of water so we cursed our way forward only in shorts and T-shirts.
We entered a large stream passage and with thoughts of kilometres of river passage we entered a big breakdown chamber. Upstream, the way we wanted to go was a complete choke, which dashed our hopes quickly, however downstream continued in a streamway in a 3m x 3m passage. The floor of the streamway was deadly and incredibly slippery, however our guide was having no trouble in his minimalist caving equipment-no light and no shoes. We reached a sump downstream but a larger passage intersected near this point so off we surveyed. Then Paul doing a 3m climb up took a nasty fall luckily landing on the only flat rock in town. His foothold which looked as good/bad as anything in the cave collapsed. We decided enough was enough and slowly and carefully exited the cave having surveyed 530m. The boat return went without another disaster and the president was on shore patiently waiting for our report on his future show cave. Again we had to disappoint him.