“We’ll take the four hour trek thanks’, we said proudly at the gate of Cat Ba Island’s National Park. We had nothing else to do that morning and wanted to see more of the national park than we felt the two hour trek could offer. So we paid our entry fee and headed off down the four hour trail, blissfully ignorant of what was to come.
As we walked we marvelled at how quickly the jungle had closed in around us. Lush green vegetation was all about, land crabs scuttled across the path and weird looking snails clung to trees. One type of fern seemed to move completely of its own accord, swinging backwards and forward despite no perceptible wind. We watched this with wonder listening to the odd sounds of the jungle and took a moment to think of the Vietnam veterans. Imagine having been living somewhere in Australia or the USA minding your own business until your government decided to give you no choice but to fight their war. Imagine being an 18 year old city boy, who may not have even agreed with his country’s decision, sitting in the jungle of Vietnam, where the trees move all by themselves and your ears played tricks on you. Terrifying.
It was all going quite well and we were loving our walk, then I noticed something odd, a bee was following Leckie, flying directly behind him and landing on his t-shirt if he stopped. That bee became two, then three, then four. We took a nature trail path in an effort to shake them off. As Leckie picked his way through the trees a lizard fell from the canopy and landed on his head. Was the jungle trying to get rid of us?
The slightly odd and amusing turned a bit scary as the bees multiplied again (to about 20) and now were following and landing on both of us, flying into our arms and faces. We ditched our packed lunch in the hope that would deter them but they kept on. We sprayed inspect repellant all over ourselves, but this did nothing. This would have to be the first time I wished I still smoked since I quit 3 years ago. We suspect the smoke would have gotten rid of them. We did have a lighter but were not going to risk starting a fire in the jungle. Eventually, far from finishing the trail, we gave up and started back.
After a while they reduced to three again. We ran across a ranger/tour guide and tried to ask for help but he spoke Vietnamese and French, we spoke English. At a half run we finally exited the national park. Unbelievably, the second we hit the carpark they disappeared.
For a good half hour we just sat on the gutter of the carpark staring at each other in disbelief. We were so disappointed to have not been able to finish the trek and really didn’t understand what had just happened,
Eventually we started to see the funny side of what had just happened, dusted ourselves off and caught a motorbike taxi back to town. Well, we didn’t get to do our trek, but we came away with quite a story to tell!!