Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cuc Phuong National Park

Just south of Hanoi is Vietnam's very first National Park. Established in 1962 and christened by Ho Chi Minh himself, Cuc Phuong National park was mostly a tropical jungle teeming with wildlife once upon a time. Now it's filled with with the bloodsucking critters such as mosquitoes and leeches.

My fellow victims to these vampires this go around are Daria, Kim, Kristi and Vianney. With four motorbikes we braved the outskirts of Hanoi to find beautiful roads through a picturesque landscape of limestone hills and river ways,as you can see on the video.

The weather had just begun to cool in the north making for perfect motorbike touring temps. So, when it came time to rent out bikes there were none to be had. Kim and I searched for the entire week prior to leaving, and it wasn't until the night before that I was able to secure one.
Anyway, it was a great bike ride. We listened to the advice of Hanoian friends and took some detours around the larger cities. Most of the roads were smooth and comfortable but just before the park there were about 20 kilometers of rough riding. Then once inside the park we were rewarded with another 20k, but this time it was 20k of concrete perfection. It twisted, banked, climbed and descended through a paved path that cut through the thicket of jungle that at time encased the road in a canopy of green. I wished we had more video footage of this. Somehow most of filming was done with the camera off. Oh well. I hope you enjoy it anyway.
As you can see, we went on a little jungle trek with two Muong guides. Both were born within the park boundaries and naturally knew the terrain very well. All together we hiked for 8 kilometers, more or less. It was humid, a little buggy and full of leeches. The pictures of our pant legs tucked inside our socks was our protection from the blooksuckers, while the guides had their own special gaiters.
Up until we set camp, it never dawned on any of us that we might face inclement weather. Yet it began to rain. So, out of the two tents that the guides brought, they slept in one-the leaky one, and all five of us cramped into the other. What ensued was a night of tongue-twisting games to tease the lone Frenchman, Vianney and not too much rolling around in the small space.
For most of the night and into the next morning the rain came down in increasing intensity. The climax happened as we drove out the 20k to the park entrance. All of us agreed that it was the heaviest downpour that we had ever driven in. Good thing the park road was virtually empty.
For obvious reason, we don't have footage of the heavy rains. What you will see at the end of the movie though is the return of the good weather with the dramatic landscape.

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