NGUOM BAN SAN
First explored in a flash 1½- hour trip in 2001 for 1.6km, the way on was wide open, and a prime grab for this expedition. A team of 5 set off into the cave with 2 to pick up inlets and the other lucky 3 to push on downstream. The villagers of Ban San were amazed to see a group of hairy cavers donning rubber suits in the pouring rain and laughing when we flashed our tackle. Vietnamese people especially in remote areas do not mind checking out cavers and no matter how you try to change discretely there are always lots of faces peeking at you. A visit by us, the first westerners to journey into these parts created quite a stir and were without doubt the highlight of the week. All the villagers tried to force local rice wine down your necks whenever we appeared and it was only by saying we would have a drink when we returned could we escape the first offerings from these incredibly friendly people. Drinking rice wine at 9am or earlier in the morning just before a caving trip is not recommended however hospitable the Vietnamese people are. As one member quoted during the expedition ‘what I do for British caving!’
A 15-minute walk through paddy fields led to the base of a huge limestone cliff several hundred metres high. The cliff had two sizable streams entering at its base. However the entrance to the cave was a dry entrance higher up from its base involving a couple of climbs down to the streams we saw on the surface. On the way to the end of the 2001 survey we passed a number of inlets and the 2 other members set off to explore/survey as much as possible. We soon passed the 2001 limit, which stopped in a wide bedding passage and commenced surveying. An excellent draught was present and along with a good 200m echo we fancied our chances. The first 300m involved mainly stooping passage with fine stal decorations.
The cave followed a familiar trend to the N/E. The passage then started to change in size again to more classic Vietnamese stature. Excellent formations are seen throughout this section of streamway. A few small inlets were checked, some superbly decorated with crystal gours and cracked mud floors. After 1km of surveying this fine streamway, a large junction was met with a large inlet stream entering from the right. In true grabbing style this was left for later and after quick power bar stop the survey continued. Now the passage went big and the explorers started to bag the first of many 50m legs. With average dimensions of 30m wide and 25m high the passage was a joy to explore and the reason we keep on coming back to Vietnam. Vietnam really has some top quality limestone and this cave was not the exception and much of the passage was in solid white/grey limestone.
In the distance we could see a lots of stal appearing and wondered if the cave would stop but the excellent draught convinced us that this would continue. The main way did lead to a constriction, which involved a swim so the 2 non-swimmers persuaded the 1 swimmer to climb up a boulder slope to a small rift, which had a powerful draught. This led to a balcony overlooking the main passage continuation. A 15m drop stopped progress, but a short climb down another rift and a short crawl over gours led to an easy way down to the main passage. The main passage now is a superb tube and after surveying some more quality passage we came upon another entrance.