At the height of more than 3,000 metres above sea level, Pu Si Lung in Lai Chau Province is known as the third highest mountain peak in Vietnam, after Fanxipan in Lao Cai Province and Putaleng in Lai Chau Province.
Though it ranks third, it is known to have the toughest route for trekkers. The death-defying trails, exhausting trekking and the authenticity of local ethnic people made it a road trip unlike any other.
The peak is located in Muong Te of Lai Chau near the border with China. One needs to apply for permission from the Lai Châu Military Staff Committee to go to the mountain peak. They then assign someone to assist trekkers during their trip.
Our goal is not only to make it to the top of the mountain, but also to see and experience the hardships that have become a part of the daily lives of local residents, soldiers and teachers. We woke up early in the morning. With the companionship of the local border soldiers, we drove our motorbike from the guard station to Sin A Chai, a death-defying route. This was our first challenge.
Some parts of the road were tough. It was just a few metres wide, filled with mud and rocks. On one side was the seemingly vertical mountain, while the other side had a dizzyingly high cliff.
Driving on this route was like running a marathon while lifting weights. Most of the time, we had to push the heavy motorbike through rocks that had covered the road in a landslide. In some bad sections, we even had to carry the motorbike.
The route from the guard station to Sin Chai – A tribal village is only about 7km, but it took us the whole morning. We arrived at the village at noon when the sun was high in the sky. We were welcomed by the curious eyes of local children. We could also feel their authenticity, charm and hospitality. We then prepared a modest lunch with vegetables found in the forest, cooked with pans and tools borrowed from the local people. People here live almost isolated from the modern world, with poor infrastructure, no internet and no electricity. The only hi-tech devices are the mobile phones of soldiers and teachers who come from other regions to volunteer to teach local students. But as there was no cell phone coverage, they were only used to check the time and show the children some movies.
On the first day, we had to cross over Yen Ngua Slope. This was the easiest slope but we still spent several hours to get to the top.
At the beginning, our group excitedly chatted. But after half of the slope, the exciting atmosphere was replaced by heavy breathing. Our hair and back were all covered with sweat, but what was so rewarding was that we could smell the trees and the earth, see the red banana flowers, listen to the chirping of birds and contemplate the charming orchids.
For the first night, we set up a tent near the Nam Si Luong Stream. The crystal clear water was used for irrigation and as a source for Nam Si Luong hydro-electric plant. The food we carried included rice and some sweet cakes. For vegetables, we counted on the generosity of nature. The first night in forest, we were welcomed by both rain and flooding. Though our tent was near the stream, we were fortunate enough to avoid the flooding.
Our first challenge on the second day was the Doc Ba Tieng (Three Hour Slope) – It’s because it takes at least three hours to get to the top. It was truly a tough challenge even for experienced trekkers. It was so high and steep. The rain from the night before made it even harder for us because the road was muddy and slippery. We had the chance to meet an old couple who generously gave us lots of corn.
During the 4 days of the trip, we climbed up and down various slopes like Co Kho, Nui Co Chay, Doc Con Dui and Doi My Nhan. We slept near a stream and in a cave. We passed through the ancient jungle with giant trees, rhododendrons, orchid flowers and various herbal medicines. We also encountered creatures like snakes, deer and other wild animals.
At a height of more than 3,000 metres, I felt like the sky was just above my head and the clouds were flying around us. After more than 40 kilometres of trekking, it was hard to describe our feeling. We lived in the moment, enjoying just standing there, contemplating nature and appreciating the hard work of the soldiers and local people in this remote area
Source: Phú Sơn – VNS0