On our third and final day on Cat Ba island, Pete and I decided to do a three-hour jungle trek with Asia Outdoors. We weren’t sure if this was a great decision, given the relentless heat. However, we had such a good experience kayaking with their company the previous day, and part of the reason we came to Cat Ba was to explore the lush scenery in the heart of the island, so we pulled the trigger. Our Cat Ba jungle trek was an incredible, insane experience – I couldn’t wait to write about it!
Here’s the summary: an adorable Vietnamese man took us on a 3-hour trek through the jungles where he grew up. He pointed out cool stuff (edible berries that he showed us how to eat, crazy looking bugs, historic landmarks, etc.). Afterwards, his family cooked us a fabulous dinner. Pete and I were the only ones on this tour, so it was just us 3.
The Good, Bad & Ugly
Let’s start with the good. It was truly an “off-the-beaten-path” experience that we will never forget. Trekking through the dark, wet jungle for 3 hours showed us a different side of Vietnam. Being guided by a man through jungles he’s known since a child was awe-inspiring. He knew exactly what to show us to give us a fantastic experience. I (naively) smiled for the first 30 minutes of our trek as our guide hacked away brush to create a path, knowing we were going places others hadn’t in a while.
What about the bad & the ugly? The following statements are truths and not exaggerations:
- We spent 2.5 hours sweating more than we’ve ever sweat in our lives.
- We worried for our lives on more than one occasion.
- Besides the first and last small strips of deliciously flat land, the entire trek entailed scrambling up sharp limestone rocks and scrambling back down them.
- Stopping meant getting eaten alive by mosquitos.
- The spiders we had to pass through were the size of Pete’s hand.
- We also saw stick-bugs almost as large as my forearm, red crabs, and massive snails.
- Pete may or may not have experienced his first panic attack (you’ll have to ask him to confirm).
- Falling was not an “if,” but a “when.” When we weren’t crawling up sharp rocks, we were stepping on muddy leaves that caked up our shoes and took away all hope of traction.
- Both Pete and I left the jungle soaking wet, muddy and bloody. Besides bleeding from the frequent tumble onto sharp Limestone, Pete’s ear was bleeding from getting pricked by a thorny plant.
We made it!
When we broke through the trees and stepped onto flat pasture, I whooped and cheered much to our guide’s delight (but honestly, he wasn’t surprised at all – we had been driving the struggle bus for a while).
The scenery felt like a hallucination after being under the dark, wet jungle canopy for so long.
While we were chowing down, the family’s puppies were enjoying their own tasty treat: the sweat pile Pete produced.
Another highlight of this trekking tour was the motorbike ride back to our hotel. Pete and I each got on the back of a motorbike and smiled ear-to-ear the entire way back to Cat Ba town. We had so much fun that we decided to rent a motorbike in Phong Nha (post to come!).
Would we do it again? Yes. Would we recommend it to anyone? Maybe. Only if they’re fully aware of what they’re getting into. It was one of the coolest, craziest, most intense things we’ve ever done, and it only lasted a few hours!
Have you trekked through some crazy areas before? We’d love to hear your stories!