08-Jan-2006 -- The search for confluence points has become increasingly popular among those who love to travel in Vietnam. From the South, the team has made more and more attempts to find confluence points in the North. From the core group of experienced and well-equipped members of TTVNOL - the largest online forum in Vietnam, the team has attracted less professional but no less enthusiastic members of other forums, this time being Saigon Automobiles. Though young, though old, though man or woman, everyone came together for the thirst to discover, to try and to succeed.
Our group of 13 people (8 men, 5 women) left Hanoi at 6pm on January 7th, 2006, heading for Northwest Vietnam. Everyone was extremely excited and absolutely ready with hiking gears and such. If everything went smoothly, we’d be the first group to officially stampt the 16th of 35 confluence points in Vietnam. For some members, this would be their second or third entry in their confluence record, but for most others, the trip was their first exposure to this new type of adventures.
We didn’t arrive at the Guest Hotel of the Province of Bac Kan until 11pm that night, after a more than 200km drive. Conveniently located on the side of a slanting hill not too far from the center of the local town, this hotel is an ideal place for both guided and non-guided travelers to the surrounding areas. We set off pretty early (around 6am) the next morning in an amazingly warm weather (10~15oC), which is uncommon to find in the mountainous area of Northern Vietnam during this time of the year. The long and winding road took the three 4x4’s (including two Vitara’s and one Land Cruiser) from National Highway No.3, over Thac Gieng Bridge, to the territory of Dong Xa. We drove another 15~20km on a roughly-built bumpy road. The road seemed to circle around and around, leading us straight to Heaven! Had it not been for this newly-opened narrow path, we would have had to walk for days before being able to use our GPS’s to locate the magic point!
The most thrilling part of every trip always starts when everyone has to walk and find his/her own way to the unknown location. Packing enough food and drink for a predicted late lunch, we parked our cars at the end of the winding road and walked towards the direction pointed by Mr Nam’s Etrex. Our technic this time included my Loox720, maps in 1:50K with BT338, Dell 50V, maps in 1:250K with another BT338, and Etrex. Due to some technical inconsistencies, we were sometimes confused by the path shown on the screen of the three devices. The further we walked, the further it seemed to be away from the confluence point. But everyone was determined enough to climb over two hills, to wade across a few springs, to walk through infertile fields and to pass by houses on stilts. For more than half of the way, we were lucky enough move in narrow ruts, which served as daily blood vessel that connect local people with nearby valleys and towns. For the rest, no one was hesitant to chop off tree branches, opening a tiny path, leading the group to advance forward.
At 12:40pm, after more than 3 hours of sweats and encouraging laughters, we finally could shout out loud, hugging each other in tears and joy! Here came 22N 106E, modestly located by a muddy stream, which is at the foot of another hill. The trip would have again been incomplete like the one in O Kha Valley in the Central Highland had the confluence point been some tens of meters away from where it is, as the surround hill didn’t seem easy to be conquered at all! We took turn to touch "the point," holding the GPS and staring at the neat coordinate on the screen and smiling with satisfaction. In the end, the indescribable feeling of achievement always well makes up for the thick and thin we have to go through.
Thanks for the help of an 11-year old local boy, we found a much easier and faster way to the parking lot. By the time we put our backpacks down in the car trunks (around 4pm), we finally could breathe with relief. Well remembering each and every path we’d been walking on, all of us were so convinced that we each could return to the confluence point even without the help of the GPS device. To some extent, the trip has far exceeded our initial expectations.
In comparison with other confluence points, 22N 106E can be considered a less challenging or breath-taking one, but the joy it brings and the power it helps unite people of the same goal and interests are just as comparible.
Exact geographical position of the confluence point 22N 106E belongs to: Thon Na Thac, xa Dong Xa, huyen Na Ri, tinh Bac Kan.