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HANG LUON

The day got off to a good start! Our interpreter went off with one of the other groups, so Miss Thuy told Mr Zip (the local Vietnamese helper) exactly what we wanted. We were going to the next district, where we had permission to go to the caves with water in them. But not dry caves. So three of us (Snablet, Martin C and I ) set off to Lac Thuy in search of chasms measureless to man.

The expedition got off to a good start as we ended up at Nguom Nuoc, which we had done the day before. The jeep driver had words with Zip and we set off in what was the right direction. An hour later we arrived at District HQ and Zip went and asked if it was ok for us to visit the local caves. We were asked to come into the HQ for tea, whilst they checked our permissions. We were also informed that they were out to lunch and did we want to join them. No we said, we just want to go caving! An elderly gentleman turned up and indicated that he had a boat that we could hire to get to the cave. So our driver intervened and got it sorted for us to go caving. We went down to the local river, got changed and hopped into the boats for the trip across the river into a large entrance that we could see. Once across the river, we stayed in the boats for the 1.3 km ride through the cave. Odd, never been caving on a boat before!

When we landed at the far side on a mud bank, Snablet put on his wetsuit and went into daylight, and we started surveying. Snablet did the instruments from the water, I took the tape on one boat whilst Martin C lounged on the other boat. After two legs, I got in the water, as I figured it would be easier and more accurate.

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The cave is 10 m wide and 10m high. The trip back involved a lot of swimming and some wading. It is also popular with the locals, who seem to take pleasure trips through the cave, and they thought it was highly amusing when they saw us in the water. There are quite a few nice formations, which the locals haven’t been able to vandalise. Once out on dry land, we paid for the boats – 40,000 Dong, not quite 2 quid. We went back to the district HQ to say thanks. Problems! The president wasn’t sure about our permission. We were shown to a different room and given more tea. People were sent to make phone calls, and bits of paper were examined very carefully. Then all of a sudden, the President came round and joined us for a cup of tea. He even told us where there were some other caves.

Unfortunately, the next day we were moving on. So we left and went back to base. It turned out that we had been technically arrested twice in one day. We didn’t know, but it only goes to add to the experience and adventure.

Woody

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