We all arrived at the airport by 5.45am on Saturday 21st April, the weekend after all the year 10s had completed their exams ready to fly to Dalat for the assessed expedition for our International Award. We were soon boarding the small propeller plane for the surprisingly smooth, fifty minute flight to Lien Khuong airport, Dalat.
Once we had claimed our rucksacks, containing our tents and camping gear, from the luggage carousel, we were met by our guides for the weekend from Phat Tire Ventures. We reorganised our bags so that we had all we needed for trekking in our smaller bags and our camping and cooking equipment in our bigger bags which were going to be taken straight to the campsite by the Phat Tire guys. The bus then took us to the trail head at Sam Son hill where we were to start our 10K trek to Tuyen Lam Lake.
We started off climbing slowly up a dirt road and from there began a steep 200m ascent through ferns to our high point for the day. It was worth the steep climb for the great views looking back over Dalat and to Langbian Mountain in the distance, with the lake below. From the ridgeline the trail undulated through broadleaf evergreen forest until eventually we emerged at the lake, fringed by pine forest. We had our lunch here and then we were set the challenge of transporting all our party across the lake by kayak. There were three two-man kayaks and one three-man, meaning nine people could be ferried across at once. There were twenty three in our party including the teachers and so some of us had to take it in turns to act as ferrymen (and women!) and make several trips. It was hard work but good fun.
We finally arrived at the campsite at Nam Qua, tired after a really full day, and put up our tents next to the lake. We spent our free time until dinner swimming in the lake, which was brilliant fun, playing cards and taking photographs. It started to cloud over around six o’ clock so we decided to cook our dinner under the shelters at the campsite. As on the practice expedition in Cao Minh, this was a real bonding experience and the food tasted great having made it ourselves. After we’d washed up our dinner things the Phat Tire crew lit a bonfire and we toasted marshmallows and told ghost stories. We went to bed tired and looking forward to a good rest to prepare for the next day’s hike.
On Sunday we got up early to find the lake shrouded in mist which was a beautiful site. As the sun came up and the colours came to life we took down our tents and had breakfast. We were ready to go by 8.30am and, after taking a group photograph, set off on our 13 kilometre trek. This time the climb was more gradual at first and the scenery changed dramatically from pine to dense jungle. One of our guides sprayed our boots to deter leeches as we entered the jungle, but later on several of us had multiple leech bites! We didn’t mind as it doesn’t hurt and the leeches just drop off when full – but it does look rather gruesome as it bleeds profusely due to the leech’s anticoagulant! The climb through the jungle got steeper and in the clearer sections the breeze was very welcome.
Eventually we reached the top where we had lunch, admiring the views. When we finally left the jungle, we emerged near Elephant Mountain and made out way down to the valley floor. On the way we saw a huge giant centipede on the path and enjoyed seeing the small farms that dotted the valley floor, with workers in the fields and children playing. There were ominous rumbles from the sky and we made it to the end point of our trek, ‘Chicken Village’ just in time as the heavens opened!
We left Chicken Village in the bus which transferred us to the airport where we washed, had some food and waited for our flight back to HCMC. We were all dirty and tired but elated after a brilliant expedition.