20-Dec-2008 -- Despite the economic turmoil in the end of 2008, we left all the worries behind and headed for conquering a new challenge. This confluence is located within a restricted access belt along the Vietnam-Laos border. Equipped with entry permits from the authorities, foods and water bottles, we boarded a minibus heading for Thanh Hoa province from Ha Noi in a beautiful afternoon. The Hochiminh trail was upgraded with new tarmac and bridges took us to the nearest town in Thuong Xuan (meaning Evergreen) district just after sunset. We landed at a small hotel to spent a night.
Next morning, when we were generously praising ourselves for the accuracy of our chosen route, the bumpy road disappears into a large reservoir. On the other side, trucks and excavators were busy building a dam for a hydro power plan. We had to make a U turn and looked for the diversion. Our minibus was badly tortured by the temporary road. By noon, we reached a border guard post, approximately 5 km from the confluence. The road was dug up and we had to rely on our legs for the last miles. Our dream of riding to the confluence collapsed.
After 5 km into the mountains, the distance to our target did not reduce, we were trekking on an arc with the confluence being at the center. We got down to a flat valley with a few cottages and paddy fields. A few pot-bellied pigs waved their tails at the strangers. The locals told us that we were on the right track and it's about 7 km to Ban Vin.
On the way, a border guard caught up with us and he was attached to our team. Upon arrival at Ban Vin, we briefly reported to the village patriarch and got his nod to move forward. We followed a trail that locals use to drag logs of wood with their buffaloes. We were getting closer and closer, when the distance got down to 130 meters, our GPS pointing a right angle into the thick rain forest. We found a small stream, the water washed away any soil so there is no vegetation, but it's so steep and slippery. One of our team member got as close as 23 meters to the confluence where he got his pelvis joint strained so he stopped further efforts. The rest of us started climbing like gecko from the stream bed to its left bank. Meter by meter, we dragged ourselves in the zero dance. Finally, we got it. The next challenge was how to get down to the stream bed without dislocating our fatigued joints.