Quảng Uyên to Ba Be Lake 165km, left at 8am arrived at 3:30pm
Total travel time: 7.5 hours
The local rooster decided I should wake up around 5:30 am! From my window I could see the homestay where we had dinner and where all the jeeps were parked. I saw a scooter arrive at 6am with the ice to refill the ice boxes in all the cars.
Breakfast was another round of bacon and egg rolls and fruit. It was a much cooler morning than we have had so far.
The streets were full of life for a Sunday morning; corn being laid out to dry, street markets, families out strolling feeding babies and the like.
We loaded up and hit the road at 8am and refuelled just out of town and very soon afterwards we stopped at a long string of knife makers. They have been making knives here for hundreds of years.
One shop had a mechanised hammer while across the road two men hammered in excellent synchronicity. I bought one for 160,000 Vietnamese dong, about $10 AUD.
We passed one small town where all the stalls lining the road were selling bound up bundles of noodles made from arrowroot - they almost looked like bundles of wool. Arrowroot plants with their red leaves line the streets here.
We drove through Cao Bằng, a very large town with wide double lanes through the centre. This is the capital of the Cao Bằng Provence.
Much of the driving here is winding through the hills. Everywhere grows rice, but then the occasional specialty crop crops up. We saw a lot of dragon fruit crops before lunch. We also passed where quite recently there had been landslides of varying degrees.
At our coffee stop, around 15 km from Nguyên Bình, Cuong had ridden ahead and ordered for coffee and tea to be waiting. We are making good time and had come around 85 km by 11am. The pet lovers of the group not only had dogs but a tiny kitten to pat. Paulette played games with the young son of the cafe with a bouncy ball she had given him.
There were some large roadworks underway, and a crew were smashing rocks with sledgehammers and using a human chain to stack them into wire barriers. Very hard yakka. The rocks did not look like they wanted to break.
After coffee & tea we climbed to about 1,330 metres above sea level. It was significantly cooler at the top of the pass and the jeeps enjoyed the downhill ride until we had a call from Marg & Bob’s Jeep that they had a flat. As usual the mechanics were not far behind and they had us on our way in a about 10 minutes.
We continued down the narrow road dodging buffalo, puppies, chickens, ducks, potholes and rocks.
Since we turned off the main road from Hanoi, I had only seen two tourists.
Cuong found us a picnic lunch spot in the shade and the team prepared another fabulous lunch. Russ and Bob had a seat making competition using some wood that was lying around.
There were “sensitive” plants everywhere; when you touch their leaves, they close up. Apparently, there is a plant similar in Queensland, Australia.
Only 25 km to go to Ba Be Lake. We were making good time. On the way we saw an albino buffalo!
Another single lane, one at a time crossing of a suspension bridge and we arrived at our homestay on Ba Be Lake. Ba means three - there are three lakes here that link together, and it is a national park. The largest of the natural freshwater lakes stretches about eight kilometres in the north-south direction. Here, there are limestone mountains peaking at 1554m above sea level that plunge all the way down into valleys wrapped in dense evergreen forests.
We dropped our bags and got into our swimmers and onto two long boats to explore the lake and have a swim. We then witnessed the sunset whilst sipping on ice cold beers - Ahhhh!
In the home stay Huyen was serving G&Ts as we overlooked the river. In this home stay we all have our own rooms, some even with ensuites, which was a nice surprise. The food, again, was fantastic and plentiful. Everyone was off to bed early, 6am start tomorrow...