21N – 105E Vietnam
A Remote Confluence Point in the Hill Country
After the short but eventful visit to the confluence point (21N 106E) near Hanoi, the idea of hunting for anther point during our last day in Vietnam came up. A quick check of the DCP web site found this particular point located about 85 km west of Hanoi in the hill area has not been visited. This presented an opportunity to see a bit of the rural part of Vietnam. The fact that this is one of the closer point from the capital that remained unvisited raise the suspicion that maybe local line hunters knew something that we don’t, or it was tired before but not successful.
It so happened that the bookstore near our hotel had a good collection of maps and the most detailed topo map shown there is only one highway cut across this hilly region and would reach within 2-3 km from this point. In short, the feasibility of reaching the point seemed reasonable based on a fairly recent map. Our local host, Mitch was most generous in providing his family car and driver for our line hunting adventure.
We left the hotel around 8.30 am taking the main national highway (No. 6) heading straight west. The dense traffic of Hanoi lasted more than 30 km. It took over an hour to reach the only major town – Hoa Binh, located by the Da river (Song Da). We crossed over the river and followed the only road (No. 433) headed toward the confluence point.
As soon as we crossed the river we were in the hilly area with hardly any traffic but the rather winding road made it still very slow going. The slow drive offered us the chance to appreciate the wonderful scenery and villages of the hill tribes. It took us nearly 2 hours to get within striking distance from the confluence point – 60 km by road and 30 km as measured by GPS.
When we reached within 5 km GPS distance from the confluence point, the usual tension of finding a road or a path became high. This mountainous road had very few side road since we started, and it did not look promising of finding a side road which can bring us closer to our objective. We reached a location about 2.6 km from the confluence point before the road led us further away. But, in a few minutes the road brought us even closer to the CP – about 1.8 km. Again, the road led us further away. After 2 km of driving, we started to head toward the confluence point again. Except this time, the GPS reading kept on getting smaller – 1.6 km, 1.2 km, 1.0 km, 800 metes, ….and beyond our expectation, we reached the closest location on the road with a reading of 388 meters! At that location, we could tell that there is a village slightly ahead and that would be the right spot to embark the hunt by foot.
We parked the car in the village with 450 meters of GPS distance to go. The first part was through the main part of this rather basic village along a gentle hill side. We reached the valley floor with a creek where the confluence point was 150 meters further up the hill facing the village. We followed an established trail and found the confluence point after a few minutes of “zero-in” process in dense bush –Michael no longer pointless!
The village where this confluence point located is called Ngam Bang. It has about 30 households with very basic living condition. We visited with some of the children for a while and started on the journey back to Hanoi. Clearly this was a hunt that can be classified as too good to be true – we were able to get so close in a rather remote and hilly area with the only road in this entire area. In such terrain with very dense vegetation even an one km approach could be very difficult.
We had a rather late lunch (~3 pm) of noodle (Pho) and beer when we reached Hoa Binh. The total round trip was 250 km for a point located 85 km by GPS distance. The best part of this line hunting trip was the glimpse of a whole spectrum of rural northern Vietnam. Without this trip, our exposure would be downtown Hanoi.
Thanks, Mitch, for making the hunt possible.
Rating of this hunt:
Degree of Challenge:2 – Easy to reach by road and trail in an area usually would be difficult to hunt(1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
Scenery: 3– Hill area studded with hill tribe villages (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take your breath away)
Culture-social factors: 4– well preserved minority cultures (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)