Like A Rat Up A Drainpipe

The thought of mingling with the masses on a shoddily run and overpriced ‘cruise’, clambering for a glimpse of an overcast Ha Long Bay was just too much for Rich and I. Instead, we opted for a day of traversing the majestic limestone karsts of nearby Lan Ha Bay just off the beautiful, Cat Ba Island. After revealing the disappointing news that the tides were far too low for Rich to have a go at deep water soloing and wouldn’t be back up until after we’d left Vietnam, the superbly helpful staff at ‘Asia Outdoors’ (Slo Pony) suggested that we might like to do a half day of top-rope climbing followed by a half-day of kayaking… and they were SO right.

Bright and early the next morning, we braved the drizzle, met the group and hopped on the boat that would deliver us to one of the most interesting climbing sites I have ever seen.

The sun had yet to make it’s self known but assured it would show up eventually, we got to it. Our lovely guides set up the climbs while we watched in amazement at the sheer speed at which they could scale the rocks… in bare feet none the less!

The rest of us opted for shoes, harnesses and a little instruction before taking on the challenge.

Rich smashed the first climb (a level 6B) like a rat up a drainpipe and had reached the top in a matter of minutes.

I was slightly more hesitant but reach the top, I definitely did. Coming from somebody who is usually terrified of heights, my instructor, Chris, put me completely at ease. Knowing that I was in safe hands in addition to the constant encouragement from below was all I needed to climb higher than ever before. On the flip side, Rich didn’t seem to need too much encouragement at all.

Looking like a combination of Bob The Builder and something out of The Village People, he climbed those crags like an out-of-practice pro and even attempted the gravity-defying overhang! (with limited success).

P1070636After an exhausting morning and a delicious, sociable lunch on the boat, it was time for kayaks. I was very glad to see that the bay was calm and no rolling waves like last time I went sea Kayaking because that didn’t end too well… Read about it here: Rainbow Beach.

In fact, the water was perfectly calm but it still lashed agains the rocks making it a bit of a challenge to navigate our way under this archway!

We never did find the elusive cave temple we were looking for, nor did we see any langurs but knowing that they are critically endangered, I’ll forgive them for not showing up… this time. We did, however, beach ourselves on this tiny island with fantasies of catching a (well, anything really) in it’s natural habitat but to no avail. In fact, all we found was a polystyrene box and half a flip flop. P1070699 2Our return to the boat was a tiring one. Rich tried to fly home but ended up swimming with the fishies. All in all, a great day that ended with a very well deserved nap. If you are thinking of doing something similar yourself on Cat Ba, make sure you book with Asia Outdoors. Their service was second to none and well worth the little extra cash.

Has anybody ever climbed outdoors before? I’d love to hear your experiences!


9 responses to “Like A Rat Up A Drainpipe

  1. Nice post. I live in Beijing, and last year a friend and I hiked a wild section of the Great Wall. To get to the wall, we had to hike up the side of a mountain. There were paths along the way, but in some areas I was basically scaling up the side of a rock. I’m not much a climber, but it very rewarding once we made it to the top.


    • Thanks for the comment! : ) That sounds wicked! I went to the Mutianyu part and even that was pretty steep at times but nothing like you’ve described. Where abouts were you on the wall? What do you do in Beijing?


      • I don’t remember the name of the section, but it’s a few kilometers away from Mutianyu. The trail that we hiked up was not well marked. I work for an English-language newspaper. I’m a copyeditor.


      • Hmm, I’ll have to go hunting for that one. Sounds like a new excuse for an adventure! : ) What an awesome job! Glad you’re liking the blog. : )


      • A long time ago at university- now I get my fun on motorbikes and bicycles! But I love the way you live your dream. Have I been to South East Asia? No, South African, but have been to Europe a few times, last trip 2 years ago to do the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Enjoy your journey- or Buen Camino!


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