Trekking a muddy road, treading carefully past precipitous cliffs and sleeping in the middle of the tranquil jungle are among the best memories from our trip to Trạm Tấu District in the northern mountainous province of Yên Bái.
Some of the trees have been covered by moss for hundreds of years.
Trạm Tấu is well known among daring travellers for its vast aged forest, spectacular mountain peaks, deep gorges and limestone crags.
Our group of five had a memorable three days visiting serene hot springs, three peaks of the Tà Xùa mountain range and Sống Lưng Khủng Long cliff.
We drove 240 km from Hà Nội to a town in Trạm Tấu, 1,000 metres above sea level.
To prepare for our trek, we decided to spend some time in the hot spring. From the town, we drove the snake-like road that curls past terraced rice fields. After two kilometres, we arrived at a serene hot spring surrounded by forest.
The water is 35-40 degrees Celsius during the winter and a bit cooler in summer.
The next morning, we rose early to enjoy the fresh air and prepare for our trek to Tà Xùa Village in Bản Công Commune.
Located five km from the town, the village is in the shadow of the Tà Xùa mountains. The ethnic Mông people in the village have long relied on their rice fields, water buffaloes and cows to make a living. But as more tourists come to the area, locals have branched out into new professions.
“The village now has about 30 Mông men between 18 and 35 years old working as porters and guides,” said 22-year-old porter Giàng A Chua.
We hired Chua and one other local man to carry our things for VNĐ2.4 million (US$102) for three days.
After four hours of exhausting trekking, we reached Mỏm Rùa cliff, 2,100 metres above sea level. The vast landscape opened before us, with dazzling sunshine and clouds overhead.
We rested, ate lunch and continued our journey, following in the footsteps of our two young guides. We reached our campsite just as the sun set over the mountain. We stopped at a wooden structure made by local people as an overnight shelter.
After dropping off our things, a few of us made a long trip to a clear stream to collect water for cooking. Chua taught us to fish and catch forest frogs using simple tools.
We slept at 2,400 metres above sea level. When night fell, rain and strong winds moved into the area and the temperature dropped.
Although the rain cleared by the morning, we feared the road would be slippery and hard to pass. But all our worries disappeared as we headed into an area known as Sống Lưng Khủng Long (Dinosaur Spine).
It draws this unique name from the series of forested peaks that look just like the spine of a dinosaur. Our path was rugged and bumpy, taking us past steep cliffs and gorges.
This place is not for the faint of heart. Standing at the top of the steep cliffs was a psychological challenge matched only by the physical challenge of climbing the Tà Xùa Mountains.
We soon reached the second camp, 2,600 metres above sea level, at noon. We were in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by bird calls and rustling leaves, slicing some vegetables and cooking instant noodles for lunch. Our meal was light at the suggestion of our porters, who said we should the save heavy dishes to replenish our strength at the end of the day.
At 2,700 - 2,800 metres, this area is called Moss Forest. It looked like the moss had been clinging to the tree trunks for hundreds of years. The air here was cool, and our steps were cushioned by the natural carpet.
We found a mossy tree trunk that bent in the shape of a hammock. Lying on it gave us a sublime sense of softness.
After Moss Forest, we made our way to Peak Three, the highest point in the Tà Xùa Mountains. A sign reads “2,865 metres,” indicating the 14th highest peak in Việt Nam.
Our group wandered for a while, enjoying the serenity of the scene before returning to camp for the night.
After two days of strenuous trekking, we spent most of the third day just enjoying the spectacular scenery.
The walking was easier – it took just one short hour for us to conquer Peak One and Peak Two. We got back to Dinosaur Spine and took a new route back, passing Mỏm Rùa to enjoy a new landscape.
Since we started early and spent most of the day descending, we went from 2,600 metres all the way down to 1,000 metres by 3:00 in the afternoon. After getting back to Tà Xùa Village, we rested and changed for the trip back to Hà Nội. — VNS
The area has become a destination for travelers seeking beautiful scenery and a sense of adventure. — Photos laodong.vn
Some locals have stopped farming in favour of working as trekking guides.
A hot spring in the middle of the jungle in Trạm Tấu District.
A trip to Trạm Tấu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
By Văn Hải & Nguyễn Duy