Quite a brief little entry today as we have had a good opportunity to rest and relax in the same place for a few days.
We left Mui Ne three days ago and were picked up by mini-bus to take us to Dalat. Over the course of everyone's travels people always recall one 'nightmare' bus journey. For the first hour i thought this was ours. The driver drove like a madman around the thin and scary mountain roads. Bumps were taken for granted as the driver viciously attacked every mound in the road. This caused everyone on the mini-bus to leap in the air and come crashing back down with a thud on the hard seats. However, it seemed the driver was in a rush because after an hour we stopped outside what must have been his house and a new driver took over! The rest of the journey was good with stunning views of the Central Highlands.
When we reached Dalat it was noticeably cooler. We are at 1750m which means the altitude issues are back such as non-growing beards and incredibly weak bladders! However, it is very nice to be out of flip flops and into trainers again. It also gives us the chance to dust off the fleeces that have been sitting in our bags for a couple of months. Dalat is a pleasant little city. It is certainly not as mad as HCMC but still has a vibrant Vietnamese feel to it. There are a few attractions to see but the main thing here is to do some outdoor activities in the surrounding countryside. We booked 2 activities - canyoning (more about this later) and mountain biking to Nha Trang. Nha Trang is our next destination and we thought it would be a nice change from getting a 6-hour bus. The distance is about 140km on a relatively new road and we checked out the quality of the bikes when we signed up. They also re-assured me when they told me there would be a 'support vehicle' available to use if (when) necessary during the ride. We shall wait and see how this goes!
We went canyoning on the second day. Basically this is abseiling down the sides of cliff faces and canyons through and over the top of waterfalls. We started by practising down a 5 metre cliff face. It was harder than you imagined and being mal-coordinated didn't help. We got the hang of it fairly quickly and had a go at jumping down the cliff rather than walking down the cliff. Next, we went down two amazing natural waterslides that were waterfalls going over rocks into the water.
Then came the real challenge. A 25 metre descent directly through a waterfall! It was madness and very scary. I had foolishly decided to wear my sandals that day as opposed to the other people who were wearing special grip North Face shoes! This resulted in a comedy of errors as i attempted to abseil through a waterfall over a slippery cliff face with about as much grip as a banana on an ice rink. I persevered and made it down it one piece as did Hannah who made it look annoyingly easy. At the bottom of the descent, with about 4m to go, you had to let go of all ropes and launch yourselves backwards into the water!
Our next challenge was a freefall jump from 7 metres into the river. Usually they do this jump from 10 metres but they needed to change the distance due to low water levels. This didn't reassure us as we looked down over the cliff edge. Nevertheless we summoned up the courage and jumped into the water. It was a good, if a little unorthodox test to see if my nose had sufficiently healed. Although it hurt on impact, mercifully no more damage occured. Our last challenge entitled 'The Washing Machine' involved abseiling into a waterfall, being tossed around by the gushing water and then dropping into the water below. It was a fantastic and memorable experience with many rewarding challenges along the way.
We go to Nha Trang tomorrow on an epic bike journey through the Central Highlands of Vietnam. We are anticipating sore limbs on our arrival in Nha Trang so have already eyed up a Spa place!