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Hang Nuoc Lanh
On arrival at Son Trach 2005 myself Howard and Martin were met at the peoples committee rooms. Since our last visit in 2003 much work had been done in the national park, in respect to conservation and research in the forest. As a result of which one wall was covered in various different pictures of caves karst and animals within the national park.Howard led me over to the wall and reeled off the names of each cave one by one demonstrating his amazing knowledge of the area until we reached one picture which resulted in hesitation. After much speculation and pondering the whereabouts of the picture were declared unknown. The picture was of a very sizeable dry cave entrance strewn with large boulders an excellent prospect! Mr Ha was summoned to reveal the whereabouts of the monster and after much deliberation with his colleagues told us that the picture was taken by a scientist studying in the jungle, and finding a porter to take us there would not be a problem.
Two weeks later we returned to Son Trach after spending time in Quang Ninh. After settling in objectives were set one objective was to find the man to take us to Hang Nuoc Lanh.Many phone calls were made to track the mystery photographer and his porter, they remained very illusive. After a week we were informed that the porter had been found.
Enter Mr Phong; Mr Phong is a local Phong Nha tourist boat owner, he is also a very knowledgeable man of his surrounding area and was to lead us and a team of porters to the entrance of Hang Nuoc Lanh.
We left for Hang Nuoc Lanh, the team to visit this cave consisted of myself Adam and the mighty Watto three porters Bo .Tang, and Nhuon. These three men proved to be invaluable throughout our whole trip. We set of after a bowl of noodles and drove up the familiar Ho Chi Minh trail. The jeep halted and the ever familiar ‘everyone talks at once’ conversation started. From what we could muster the conversation seemed to be generally about the start of the trail we needed. Phong started hacking at the verge next to a drainage ditch and vanished, several minutes later he returned with a smile on his face. Packs were loaded on our backs and the journey began. A varied walk over a high coll through every type of vegetation added to a stupendously good walk through the jungle to our camp. A patch of ground that would make for many hours of entertainment! After dumping our bags a mad rush down a dry river bed was made by me and Adam to a jaw dropping finale´.
We emerged into a clearing to be greeted by a crag double in proportions to Malham Cove with a motor way tunnel sized passage at its base. Phong had brought us to a truly magical place even if the cave hadn’t gone, the sight of the entrance was etched into your brain for ever. After much excitement we returned to camp to meet watto and speculate about the potential of this monster entrance.
A good night’s sleep was not had on the forest floor and we arose to go surveying passage measureless! We arrived at the entrance once more the obligatory yelp was made down the entrance and a strong echo of over 500m was predicted. The surveying began.
We made very rapid progress down a huge boulder pile consisting of small bungalow size boulders, into a flat section of cave 60 by 50 metres. We followed the cave down hill for
another 700 m in this spectacular style until the roof lowered to 30 m and the walls drew in. The passage drew in even smaller to 10m by 10 m, however a fantastic draught could be felt. We were either about to surface or we were on to a winner. We continued in a rather disappointing 10m by 20 m passage for a further 300m. The passage now was crawling size, a cardinal sin in Vietnam. Yet we were spurred on by a fantastic draught and a very low rumble. A small climb up led over a blind pit with a fantastic sounding stream at the bottom. Many rocks were thrown down and we decided that the pitch was about 10m and was an access point to the ‘River Zambezi’. We turned around and exited the cave disappointed that we did not have the SRT kit required to descend the pitch. Another trip would be required; we all prayed the monster cave would continue in the same vain as the entrance series. A cave of that magnitude could not end like that surely?
We returned to camp to find that the porters had erected a village for themselves. We were very jealous and decided we would put our bush craft to the test and do the same. That evening we spent many hours making primitive huts, traps and food with our new friends. Yet again were made to look very stupid compared to our Vietnamese colleagues.
The new commune was to be named the hotel Zambezi and we were to return to Son Trach for rope and tackle. Awe struck once more by an amazing trek, an awesome cave, and excellent fun with our porters
Sadly on return to the cave by the new six strong team the cave ended after the blind pit in a very squalid rift and the mighty ‘Zambezi’ turned out to be a trickle with excellent acoustics from the surrounding cave. Oh well only another x amount of caves to push in this amazing country.
Robbie slightly deaf Burke.