Dark Cave, Phong Nha Vietnam

By McKayla

      Dark Cave was one of the best days on our trip, right up there with Thanksgiving. It started with a zip line… actually, that’s not true. It started with a scooter ride. To skip over that would be a sin. 

      Nate and I shared a scooter. We woke up at 7:00 am to get breakfast and our scooter rented in time to meet Lorie and Max at 9:30. Fortunately, we were at the meeting point first. Punctuality is not our strong point but Germans are very precise people and I was happy we didn’t keep them waiting. The ride was incredible. We began on a highway (the Ho Chi Minh Highway), passing through a few small towns. Once we turned off, that’s when the magic started. Dark grey limestone with bright green foliage jutted up in front of us. It was a beautiful day, warm enough to wear short sleeves even in the breeze of the bike. I saw a woman waded out in the rice fields under the shade of her conical hat and long sleeves. Then I saw man tilling a field behind a water buffalo. Nate drove while I tried to snap pictures. Max and Lorie each had their own scooter so they had to pull over for pictures. We got a ways ahead so I decided it was time I tried my hand at driving. There was absolutely no traffic and I felt good about it. I was tooling around, feeling confident once our friends caught us. Yup, I then made Nate get on the back, not wanting to give up the driver’s seat just yet. He wasn’t too thrilled about it at first but I assume he was feeling pretty comfortable by time I pulled over and handed the reins back to him.

     We made it to Dark Cave at about 11:00. We were greeted by the screams of tourists flying down to the opening of the cave clipped to nothing but a wire… and we’d be following suit. Turned out it wasn’t as soon as we thought. We had to wait for a group of 10. So, for the second day in a row, we sat down to wait for more tourists but this time we weren’t alone. We relaxed and chit chatted over coffee. It was another hour long wait before we had enough people then were sat down in front of a cheesy safety video. A bus pulled up and joined our group just as the video ended. They sure missed out. We learned that if we lose or damage any of the equipment, the exact cost (in dong) how much we’d be paying. 

      After our large group each zip lined down to the entrance, we swam, then marched into the mouth of the cave, our long line snaking behind our guide. Excited hoops and hollers echoed off the rocky teeth, while crystal clear water lied untouched in the center – a glassy tongue stretching through a mouth suck in eternal yawn.  

      It wasn’t long before our bare toes were squishing in mud, then wading through a tunnel with the sludge up to our calves and finally ending at the mud pit that was chest deep. The mud was the consistency of chocolate fondue but the real kicker was the buoyancy. I stood, crouched slightly so the mud came up to my chin, then lifted my feet. Unlike water, I didn’t sink nor float. Other than my feet, the rest of my body stayed in the exact position it was in when I was standing. It felt like I was levitating. It’s like a king fu cartoon that’s about to kick its opponents. Pick your feet up even further and it’s like you’re reclining in a lazy boy. That mud was so much fun, I could have spent all day there. We tried to get our whole group to turn their headlamps off, so we could enjoy floating in complete darkness. No such luck. We got everyone but two. Not sure if there was a language barrier or if they were scared but it was worth a shot. When it was time to file out of our muddy playground, Nate discovered that if you pushed off the ground in the mud and shot yourself forward, the momentum carried you faster and further than I would have guessed you could in a mass that thick. It was an easier way to go than trying to walk out of it. So we hung back and let everyone clear out of our paths and let ourselves slingshot out of there. 

     A quick wash off in the clean, glassy cave pool and and a short walk and we were back out in the sunlight with kayaks waiting for us. We paddled our way back to the beginning of the zip line where another zip line and an obstacle course were waiting for us. With another playground and no parental supervision, we let our inner children go crazy before we hopped back on our bikes to continue our way around the loop of stunning views.



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