Day 52: Rock The Cat Ba

We started our morning at 7am, we got out of bed and began packing our bags. For today would see us leaving the waters and stepping foot back on land at Cat Ba Bay. At 7:30am, we sat around the tables once again for breakfast. They didn’t disappoint, with fresh fruit (juicy succulent oranges), fried eggs, toast, some strange noodle concoction, and the choice of tea or coffee, we were spoilt. After I cleared the majority of food nobody else wanted, we took to the roof of the boat to admire the passing islands. It wasn’t long before our ship arrived at a harbour. We said goodbye to the American guys and a French couple, then the rest of us jumped aboard a coach to be driven to our first activity, another bloody trek.

This one wasn’t going to be as bad, as we were promised the day before we would only walk for forty five minutes maximum. The journey didn’t take long, as we made our way along the winding country roads I couldn’t help but enjoy the peace and quiet, the only beeping we heard came from the rare local on a scooter. After a 15 minute minibus ride, we arrived at the start of our trek. We left our bags on the bus, where Popeye said he’d look after them, he then introduced us to our guide. His name was Monkey. Monkey was an easily excitable character to say the least. As we made our way along the pathway he would dance and dart between us all. Occasionally, he’d find different plants from the wild and show us neat little tricks. At one point, Monkey found some sticky leaves and placed them on my shirt, over my nipples, he then encouraged me to shake side to side like a stripper. When I did, he burst out laughing, then ran off again making wild bird noises.

As we scaled the mountain trail hire and hire, we reached a hanging vine, Monkey used his jungle skills to climb it and impress everyone. At certain points the steps were very steep, which made Jamie and I very happy to have eaten the extra noodles for breakfast, as we needed the energy. Eventually we reached the top of the mountain, where there was a large rusty climbing post. Many people were too afraid to climb this, seeing its rusty structure as very ominous and untrusting. I, for some reason, felt as though I had to climb it. However, there were many people already ahead of me clogging up my path. I waited at the bottom for them to come down, then, proceeded up the stairs, taking James and Jamie with me. James chickened out at the top of the first set of steps (for the record, Sarah even made it to the top of the second set). Jamie and I continued like some sort of pioneers exploring unknown territory, he gave up when he noticed the people ahead wouldn’t move and returned to the bottom. I wanted to see the top badly enough to wait, the German couple ahead eventually came down and I climbed the last couple sets to the top. Well, I say the top, I went as far as I could until a sign read “danger, do not climb.” Now, if there is a sign in this country saying something is dangerous, you can usually accept that it is. I took plenty of photos from atop the world, before returning back to my group at the bottom.

When I returned, it was perfect timing, as everyone was ready to leave. The descent was a lot trickier than the ascension, as you really had to watch where you put your feet. One wrong move would see you flying off the mountain. It was five or ten minutes of walking before I smashed my head against a tree. I was too busy watching my feet that I didn’t notice the low hanging spiky tree branch. It must have made a loud thud, as James heard the noise 10 feet away. As I continued walking I noticed bits a bark falling in front of me. Or so I thought. As I attempted to wipe them from my hair it transpired, the bark was actually droplets of blood. It wasn’t pieces of falling bark that I saw, rather than blood spraying from my head.

All of a sudden, when I removed my hand, I noticed they had changed to a rather bright crimson colour. Sarah began to panic and her legs trembled, she was ready to give me her spare top, before James pulled out a piece of gauze. We poured some water on my head to wash it off, then I placed the gauze on the wound. This helped stop the bleeding almost instantly, even if I did leave my DNA all over the jungle floor. With helpful fellow travellers giving me first aid equipment in the form of cleaning wipes and sprays, we made our way back to the bus. During the last leg of the journey, Monkey appeared to lose his sense of humour, and was more concerned with my well being. I soon got him back to his normal self when I convinced him I was fine. I couldn’t help feeling, this whole trekking thing wasn’t for me.

At the bottom we stopped in a little cafe for a refreshing fizzy drink. Sarah was still worried about my head, seeing how she has a masters in neuroscience, she was paranoid I may have done some damage internally. To be honest I don’t think it would have made much of a difference if I had. When it was time to leave, we walked along a concrete pathway, admiring all the greenery around us, until we reached the minibus. We had to wait a few minutes for everyone to arrive, then we took a five minute bus ride to the hotel we’d be staying at for the night.

The hotel from the outside looked pretty average, and sadly the building was powered by a loud generator out the back. It made the place very noisy. We were told dinner would be served at half twelve, which gave us enough time to go to our rooms, drop off the bags, and have a quick shower. Inside, the rooms were lovely… But, the showers were freezing. I think this had something to do with us being on the third level, as James told us his shower was perfect. He was only on the first floor. When we were dressed we made our way to the restaurant area to be dined with more nice food. Even though the beef tasted a bit like liquorice and the meatballs like cake, it was still filling. The pumpkin soup was particularly special. For dessert, they brought out a plate of dragon fruit, it’s a bizarre looking thing. From the outside it doesn’t look edible, and on the inside it doesn’t taste edible. It’s texture resembles that of a kiwi fruit yet has no flavour, we still ate it nonetheless.

The staff soon cleared the tables when everyone was done, Popeye then told us we had an hour to decide if we wanted to go to a place called Monkey Island, situated in Lang Ha Bay, or remain on Cat Ba Island and explore it’s Coves and surrounding area. Unsure of what we wanted to do, James, Jamie, Sarah and I used that time to explore, to see if it was worth leaving. We mainly wanted to find one of the beaches on offer, we walked quite far, but after a half mile we gave up. James decided to stay on Cat Ba, joining a group of guys also on the hunt for the beaches. This left the three of us to return to the hotel in time for the bus. On the way back we bared witness to what looked like a cock fight. It wasn’t a nice sight to see, as I like wildlife and I am always sickened to hear or read stories involving cruelty to animals. We swiftly passed the sick sight and arrived back in good time.

We ran back to our room, emptied a backpack of it’s contents, then stuffed it with items we needed for the trip. We padlocked the bag shut because Popeye informed us of the monkeys sneaky abilities to open them and take what they wanted. When we got in the bus we were driven all of five minutes around a few streets before arriving at a different port. Here, we boarded a boat which took us on a twenty minute trip past various fishing villages until we arrived at Monkey Island. We were disappointed at first, as there were no monkeys insight, which I guess was a good thing because this meant we were able to snap pictures on my iPhone without being harassed by the furry creatures. As we walked along the beach we took in all the stunning views around us. The stray boats anchored at sea, the stunning mountains, and the suns reflection which was skating across the surface of the rich blue waters. The beach contained the whitest sands, and upon its shores, had pieces of dead dried out coral.

Occasionally Jamie and I would pass some really flat pebbles and thought it rude not to have a skimming session. I had lost the knack at the beginning, but soon got it back, earning myself a double figure score of ten bounces (I don’t want to brag, but it was mighty impressive to watch it hop away, even Sarah shouted “WOW”). While wandering along the sands we decided to climb to a viewpoint atop a steep rocky pathway. Sarah and I only went so far, as we were both wearing flip flops and the track became too dangerous to go any farther. Jamie, however, was wearing trainers so he continued all the way to the top. We had a good view nonetheless and could see enough of Lang Ha Bay to decide we could return to the bottom having achieved our goal.

When we were walking along the beach, it wasn’t long before the monkeys began to show, with groups of people gathering around to take pictures. The monkeys began acting up to the cameras, one by one they’d pick up drinking cans and take sips from them. They weren’t the friendliest of animals, so people were wise to keep their distance, with the rare monkey doing a false lunge at someone to make them move back, in a “yeah, come on then!” Fashion. We were on the island for about an hour and a half before doing the return journey to the hotel.

When we got in, we returned to the room for an hour before tea, during which time, the pair of us watched HBO on television. Six o’clock soon showed and we walked to the dinning area to be fed more delicious food, including that of fresh juicy oranges. Five minutes before we finished dinner, James went back to the beach he had been at all day, taking Jamie with him. As when he left he forgot to grab their room key, which he buried for safety earlier on. When we finished eating, we went to the hotel lobby to use their pcs in the vain hope of finding somewhere to stay for Christmas. We eventually gave up after reading too many mixed reviews on where was good, deciding the best bet was to ask Sarah’s brother, as he’d done it all before. After we had finished, the boys walked back in with their key in tow, the reason they were so quick, they hopped on the back of a couple local’s bikes.

Being nosey we went upstairs to their room to see what it looked like, they might have had the luxury of a hot shower, but we had a much more comfortable bed. While James was busy showering I locked him in the bathroom. When the fun and games were over, we took to the streets for a few drinks.

When we got outside, all the boys that James had hung out with earlier that day showed up. We walked down the hill to the water front where we bought ten beers (for three pounds fifty eight) from a lady who had a stall there. We pulled two tables together and took it in turns to buy rounds. We did it by country, Sweden went first, then Holland, followed by the Brits. By the end the table was full with thirty empty beer bottles. The grand total costing £10.74. Knowing we had to be up early the next day, Sarah and I called it a night, not only that, Sarah wanted to find a certain cake shop, after hearing one of the guys from our trip speaking of such a place earlier that day. Unfortunately the shop was closed, so instead, we headed back to the hotel to drift off to sleep, safe in the knowledge the putrid alarm clock would wake us from this dream life we had grown accustomed to.

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