The Butterfly Effect

Trip Start Mar 18, 2009
Trip End Jan 12, 2010

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, April 24, 2009

Today we were going to visit the first ever national park in Vietnam, Cuc Phoung, established in 1963 by the legendary Uncle Ho. The park is situated around 45 kilometres west from Ninh Binh. Since I was becoming a pro with the motorbike, there wasnt really any other option. Plus it would be a great adventure without the stringent lobbying of a tour.

To make sure we would arrive with good time, an early breakfast was in order. As was the case in Vietnam, breakfast revolved around a baguette and eggs. Emma spiced her's up by adding some dairylea cheese, oh the variety is frightening!

We set off around 9am and drove straight to the HaproMart for supplies. Our next destination would be Highway 1A, the backbone of Vietnam. Armed with a full tank, we should easily make it their and back with plenty to spare. Motoring along at 40 km/h our first challenge would be to try and exit the 1A towards Nho Quan. A gap appeared briefly between the traffic from both directions and a sudden burst of speed was rewarded with success. All that excitement and we have only just driven for about 15 minutes.

The road to Nho Quan was beautifully paved and flat, which made the drive very comfortable and I even pushed the bike to 60 km/h, good job Emma didn't notice. The scenery did a great job in distracting her. Nearly an hour passed before we reached the town of Nho Quan, and found the turn off to Cuc Phoung. Another 10 kilometres and we would be there.

Lots of local's would shout "Hello" as we passed, but we were going too fast and I was concentrating far too much to answer back. About 8 km along the road, we approached a massive hill, the bike whined under the weight of us both as we tried to climb it. With the accelerator locked at full we would eventually reach it's peak, and the view was stunning. Up until this point the scenery could be best described as "Halong Bay in the rice paddies". The horizon revealed a great landscape of mountains covered in dense forest, an eco-system ready to be explored.

The gate to the national park reminded me instantly of Jurrasic Park. A couple of motorbikes were parked close by, so we decided to park and found out what there was to see. Emma had to hop off the bike at this point, as my manouvering at slow speed is not quite perfected yet. A man came and greeted us and showed us a map of the park. Deep in the heart of the park, were a few trails worth exploring. Back down the road we came was the Primate Rescue Centre, which shut at 16:15, giving us around 3 hours to explore. Two tickets cost 40,000 VND, which was a complete bargain.

To reach the trails we would only have to drive a further 10 kilometres along the road through the main gate, and what a 10 kilometres they were!! Unbroken streams of butterflies lead the way, like salmon trying to swim upstream, battling against the current, all for a unknown prize at the end. We tried to be arty and Emma photographed and filmed the butterflies from the back of the bike, while I slowly followed in their slipstream. We spent a good 30 minutes admiring the view, but then realised that we may not have enough time to complete a trail and see the Primate Centre. A sharp twist on the throttle and we were away. Sliding down the visor to protect our faces from the constant bombardment of butterfiles, our clothes would act like butterfly nets and trap them unintentionally.

A good 35 minutes passed until we made it to the car park and the head of the butterfly stream. We were consumed by what looked like a whirlwind of petals, landing on the dirt and painting it white. The reasoning behind this supposed migration was unknown. We did however find the start of our first trail to the "Ancient 1000 year old tree". Setting off into the dense forest, I immediately regretted my choice of clothing. The humidity was intense, and we sweated so much that the fun was seaping away with it. A good 30 minutes had passed and the constant invasion from bees and hairy catterpillars dangling from the trees, that we beat a hasty retreat and decided to have some lunch before heading back to the Primate Centre.

The journey back to HQ was a much speedier affair. The same guy greeted us and Emma bought two tickets to the Primate Centre for 20,000 VND, which included a guide. That very man came over straight away and introduced himself. He told us to follow him on his bike, but by the time I had managed to reverse, he was already gone and out of sight. At our own pace, we made the short journey to the centre and found another couple standing outside. They were from Canada and were staying in the same hotel. They later became our dinner companions for the night, sharing their adventures with us through Thailand and Cambodia.

The Primate Rescue Centre was established in 1995 and looks after the species of Gibbon and Langur monkeys found in Vietnam, most are endangered. They run a successful breeding and rehabilitation program, rescuing monkeys from captivity for the pet and medicine trade. It was pleasing to know of their progress and the monkeys were beautiful. The difference between the two speces are that Langur's have a tail longer than their actual body, while Gibbons have incredibly long arms. The female gibbon we saw was blonde in colour, and looked very much like a cuddly teddy bear, hence their appeal as pets. We also saw their monkey school - stage one of getting them back into the wild.

What a worthwhile experience. Hopefully our contribution will help the centre to continue their great work, as the extinction of such great animals would be a tradegy. Our time in Cuc Phoung was up, and the 45km journey back to the hotel was waiting. Our timing was perfect as we would make it back before dark, thankfully, as the lights on our bike didn't actually work.

One and half hours was required to make it back. I am now truly baptised in the style of driving required for Vietnam, hopefully this doesn't repeat itself in the UK :). The sign of relief on the owners face was priceless as we pulled up. Didn't he trust us? A nice dinner in the hotel and a beer topped off a great experience as we reflected back on the day.
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rfbevis on

moto club Vietnamese style!
Loved the butterflies - what sort were they?
Loved the monkeys too - but I wouldn't want one as a pet!

Once, on a Greek island , I had to get off of our scooter and walk so that Rick could continue up to the top off the hill! They are a bit of fun but not like a real bike!!

Love Ma

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