As I write my weekly blog I just finished reading my colleague Chad Morgan’s blog outlining the fascinating weekend we had in Sapa a small farming community on the China/Vietnam boarder. Chad has a way with words so I will not attempt to describe our experience and welcome you to read Chad’s blog at: https://gskpulsevolunteers.com/2016/07/20/those-are-not-the-right-shoes/
I would like to add to Chad’s story and focus on the tile of my blog “Comrade” and the bond that transformed between 3 colleagues over the weekend. It starts with Mohamed our colleague who arrived Thursday evening the day before our planned trip to Sapa from Saudi Arabia. We invited Mohamed to join us and he accepted the challenge. Being a real photo nut a weekend in the mountains must have sounded appealing. Although, Moh had no idea what he was getting into and questioned what he need to bring etc. Think about it you just arrive in a foreign country and 2 guys you have never meet ask you to go trekking in the Mountains on the China boarder. That’s something to contemplate. But Mohamed went for it and trusted us that it would be a great experience. So we scrabbled to get another bunk on the train. We meet and introduced ourselves at the train station and off we went to Sapa.
As we started our journey we walk down a paved road to the view you see above. Mohamed was in heaven and was taking multiple photos of the beautiful Sapa Valley. That only lasted for a few minutes until we hit the real trail. Up the mountain, through rice and corn field the trip started to get interesting with the mud and creeks we crossed.
At that point Mohamed joy of the environment shifted to “What did I get myself into I think I am going to die” But as you can see above the trail guides walked him through the challenge. The reality is that all 3 of us had no idea what to expect and only later did we learn that our guide Su took us on the more difficult trails. We all where thinking “This is not what we signed up for” most of the first few hours where not spent taking in the fabulous views but looking at the ground at each step you take to prevent yourself from falling. But in the end we trusted each other and our guides. Later that day we learned that this was the first time that Mohamed had ever been hiking. Midway through day 1 Mohamed just wanted to take a shower, go to camp and let the nightmare be over. As the day moved on through our discussion and sharing of our reaction to the experience we as a group grew closer. We had a very relaxing experience at our homestay and in bed early. By the way here is proof that in the mountains you hand wash your muddy clothes.
In the morning Mohamed woke up with a new prospective on trekking in the mountains he put his fears aside and said I like this….and off we went, straight up the mountain. Moh took charge and lead the pack we had a hard time keeping up with him. We requested a less strenuous trek for Sunday but Su our guide with out telling us took us back on the difficult trail so we could get the best views. She must have seen potential in us that we did not think we had for day two. She was right, yes we complained about the climb to the top and our warn out legs but it was all worth in in the end. Below is Chad, Moh and Su on top of the world.
What an amazing weekend we learned a lot about each other, our fears, challenges and how much these old legs can handle. After 2 days 3 colleagues who just meet at a train station in a foreign country became bonded as comrades in a very special way.
Sapa was a beautiful place from the views, people and attitude. I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story……take care