Dong Vong Phu, Hang Lucky and Hang Tam Tam
The south-western boundary of the Phong Nha Ke Bang Massif is the border with Lao. At the southernmost point there is a sandstone area which provides the catchment for initial sinks in the Vom and Phong Nha systems. We wanted to check the area along the border to the west of Ruc Caroon and the Vom system.
Initial reports told of 3 big caves, some with rivers. After closer consultation, it turned out that 2 of these were actually on the wrong side of the border, so off limits to us. We decided to continue with the one remaining lead, as this was mainly a recce to get an idea of the area, and we hoped to pick up more leads on the way.
We set off up road 20 as usual in the big truck. As the road has improved this is not quite the chore it once was, but still a hot bouncy ride. We went past our usual stopping point at K44 to a junction on the right at K46. This led to the minority village of Con Roang, where there is a boundary station, where we had to check in. Of course it was lunchtime, so the team cooked up some rice while we waited.
Initially all seemed good, but we gradually met higher and higher ranks, until eventually it was decided we could continue, but one soldier would accompany us. So we proceeded to the edge of the village, and made camp next to a small stream bed. We had a team of Hydrologists from Hanoi with us, and they decided to spend the night at the village, where there was a roof over their heads and beer! We went for the jungle option, with BBQ crabs, rice wine and a thunderstorm! Most of us were okay, but Steve got a drenching due to defects in Mick Nunwick’s hammock.
The next morning we set off in the bright sunshine via the camp to pick up our escort. The way was fairly steadily uphill onto a ridge, passing another minority village of Con Coc, which consisted of scattered stilt houses along the ridge. After 3 hours we descended and dropped into a small stream. We followed this upstream for about a kilometre, until we had to branch off. Here we had a bit of confusion, but eventually it transpired that the porters would re-arrange their loads to accommodate two 50L bags of water. As is so often the case, water would be hard to find for the next two days. So we all filled all our bottles and set off. About another hour or so took us to the night’s camp spot. With the help of our team we soon had hammocks, tarps and plastic sheets up, but this was luckily to be a dry night.
We continued the next day on a SW heading following the border about 1k away. The sting was in the tail, as the last hour was a steep rocky col with some clambering and the occasional ‘ladder’ to assist. The reward was a spectacular view of the massif from the top. A quick steep descent dropped us into our camp, and still no water. A thunderstorm in the early morning allowed us to fill our water bottles whilst lazing in our hammocks, holding them under the rivulets running off the tarps. Steve was unlucky again. Is Mick’s hammock jinxed or is it Steve?
The next day was quite tough with no real path, very rocky with lots of climbing and sharp limestone. Ropes were considered, and helmets used, not the place for an accident. Finally around 2pm we arrived at our destination. A rocky climb down led us to the cave entrance perched above a long valley. After a brew we set off exploring. Initially about 20m wide and 15m high, the cave was dry and quite well decorated. It soon opened up to 50m wide and 25m high, and Dave realised he was no longer in Yorkshire! After about 350m we traversed around a choked hole in the floor to where another entrance came in.
The cave continued nice and large (70m wide and 50m high) and well decorated for another 300m dropping steeply. A large stal looking like a figure helped our Vietnamese guides to choose the name Dong Vong Phu, which means waiting for a wife! Below a high aven (95m) we reached the end, a total blockage. A total of 840m and 146m deep had been explored. Nice but disappointing after 3 days walk! We returned to the entrance to set up camp and enjoy another nice dinner. Luckily some small pools enabled us to top up our water.
The next morning we dropped some pitches which did nothing, and attempted some photography.
Dave managed a nice free hanging rig, useful as the pitch head was a circular hole in the middle of a false floor over a 20m drop! The other entrance was investigated, but there was no sign of a continuation
The retreat was made over the next two days, investigating Hang Lucky and Hang Tam Tam on the way. Hang Lucky was a 15m entrance pitch to a boulder slope and gravel floor which gradually got lower and almost choked after 30m. There was a noticeable draught, and a small enlargement could be seen, a top dig for the Dales, obviously a sink in the rainy season. We were debating who the unlucky person on the trip was causing us not to find much. So to test the theory this was to be Lucky Deb cave, unfortunately I didn’t have the necessary!
Hang Tam Tam was a short cave as well. A 20m steep descent dropped to a flat floor.
Through a rift to a local wooden ladder of 5m into a small mud floored chamber. A Steep rift up the opposite side was followed by a 10m free climb to a small sump pool. Oh well at least some water tonight!!
An interesting trip, but at the moment no obvious caves except over the border. Maybe we’ll try and get a permit??
Ho Khanh told us he’d heard of a new cave close to K16 on road 20. When we had a spare day, we set off with him and Mr Linh on the backs of their motorbikes. We parked at Tam Co car park and walked a short way back down the road. Descended to the river and crossed over. Continuing due east we picked up a bigger footpath, which heads towards Ma Da resurgence. After about half an hour we headed steeply upwards on spiky limestone on the side of the hill on the right (south). Mr Linh recced ahead and we soon reached the entrance.
Quite a small entrance, 25m wide and 4m high. Dry with some fine stal, and no evidence of previous visits. Following the wide entrance past a large gour lake the passage lowered to a crawl over flowstone and looked to be closing down. However just through the low section, it opened up, overlooking a T junction intersection with a very large passage. This passage is up to 40m wide and 25m high in places.
Right, at the junction leads firstly down to a muddy passage with lakes present in the month of April. In the wet season much of the passage would be underwater. This leads unexpectedly to a 15m high sparkling flowstone cascade. This can easily be climbed and keeping to the ridge top is the easiest way to follow next section of passage. The passage has huge amounts of rounded chert present. The continuing passage dips steeply in a borehole and finally becomes impassable.
To the left led down over boulders to a lake with what looks to be an underwater continuation under the left wall.
The area around the lake is covered with soft mud. A continuation could be seen on the right at the top of a flowstone slope. Due to the mud and steepness of the slope, it wasn’t possible to get up to the passage. It seemed to echo quite well, although there was no significant draught. A total of 620m was surveyed.
Back at the entrance Mr Linh had created some BBQ pork and chillie dip, a much better option than the packet of biscuits we’d brought!
A team returned in 2014, and managed to scale the mud slope, but with no real continuation.
The left hand passage heads into the hill towards Hung Ton Valley (Hang Thung SD resurgence). It is possible that in the flood season water from here comes to Hang Bang.