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GO-60 Expedition Sun 13th July - Lao Cai

Awoke to horns blaring (the usual) in the street outside and found it was about 11am.  Sleep had been ok.  Steve knocked the door and told us a large party are coming in today and we have to get out ‘sharpish’.  Yet another quick move, stuff everything into the bags and head downstairs.  I can’t wait to get our vehicles, so the bulk of our kit can remain loaded and we have slightly better security.

We met in the foyer and met the driver (still looking disinterested) and an interpreter than Chien had organised.  The value of a good interpreter can’t be underestimated and confidence levels increased, albeit slightly.  Whether this interpreter is any good still waits to be seen.  The prospect of being kicked out of our hotel, back-packing our kit, with no local knowledge and no interpreter had been giving us quite a bit of concern and at least he was able to organise a new hotel (a whole 70 metres away).

Lao Cai sits on the border with China and our hotel is only about 200m from the border itself, marked by a bridge over the river.  There’s not a lot in the town other than people, mopeds and trucks, so I hope we’re not here too long.

A slight boost to morale came from a chat with Leg 3, to find they’re making reasonable progress, but still with about 200km to go.  It’s going to be tight.  They have to be across the Chinese border by 5pm, even if it’s without vehicles, to then get the minibus back to Hanoi overnight (‘stagging on’ to keep driver awake), then flying out.  This could be very tight!

We then found out that the border might be open til 10pm.  That takes some of the pressure off Leg 3 who are making valiant efforts to successfully complete their trip.

Having got up late in the day, it was dusk before we knew it.  Around 8pm, Leg 3 pulled into the Chinese border town on the other side of the river.  While they tried to establish whether they could come across or not, we waited in anticipation at the Vietnamese border.  Assisted by Steve’s binos, we were able to make out the Leg 3 vehicles and the individuals around them, about 300m away.  We waited and waited but it became clear that they weren’t going to get across tonight.  They’ll now miss their flights which will have to be re-booked, though I think that’s the least worry at the moment.

After all this time, they are so tantalisingly close, but still a world away.  Amazing really, what a line in the dirt means.

Somewhat despondent, we went off to get something to eat in a local hotel.  We ended up at the most expensive place around here (still no more than a few dollars each).  Though not the best food we’ve had, it served its purpose and, with dinner out of the way, we headed off to bed.

Dr Malcolm Russell