Approaching the Mã Pì Lèng Pass

Tree between two karsts. The first part of the road to the pass winds up between karsts, many of these sit up on the high plateau - six or seven thousand feet (2,000 m) above sea level Travelling from Đồng Văn (Quyết Tiến) to Mèo Vạc is one of Vietnam's highlights, although it is not a common trip for foreigners as it needs at least a three day excursion from Hà Nội. This page is about the approach to the pass, the coming weeks will continue the journey. Approaching the main gorge. First glimpses of the main valley, and the far hills which the road must negotiate Terraces on approach road. Terracing near the road on approach to the gorge The title of this page takes 'approach' to mean coming from the Đồng Văn and Hà Giang City side of the pass. It is to that end of the pass that foreigners normally come as they need to obtain documents for the area, from the Provincial capital, in order to travel in this part of the country. Vietnam remains rightly sensitive to the border up here since the last Chinese invasion in the 1970s entered the country through Hà Giang Province. Village on the rocks. A village finds a foothold amongst the rocks; more on this village next week The first part of the name of the gorge - Mã (horse) - comes from the Chinese, also the letter 'P' does not occur in native Vietnamese words. The result is that, as with so many names in Vietnam, there are a number of versions which include: Mã Pí Lèng, Mã Pì Lèng, Mã Pỉ Lèng, Mả Pì Lèng; fortunately for us these all come out as Ma Pi Leng in English! Hillside road. The road soon starts to show its ability to cling to the hillsides The river coming into view. Cultivation terracing continues as the rising road nears the cloud base Karst formations by the river. The karsts and clouds part showing the river below The Nho Que river. A longer lens shows the terracing 2,000 feet below; often our first reaction is surprise - people make a living here? Knoted road and karst. Here amongst the karsts the roads and rivers lie like ropes on the landscape... The traveller soon starts to see the Nho Quế River far below on its way from China to join the Red River near Hà Nội. Road winding between karsts. ...and in this case like a lasso that just missed its target karst Karsts and clouds. Karsts and Clouds Karsts on the high plateau. And here the karsts can be seen on the high plateau Peripatetic bees keepers. Bee keepers camping beside a suitable field of flowers beside the entrance to Đồng Văn District Bee keepers in northern Vietnam are peripatetic, taking their colonies of bees to wherever there are suitable flowers and camping beside them. A field of flowers for the bees. A field of flowers in the rather harsh landscape Boys gathering to inspect westerners. Boys living near the pass at first wary of the foreigners... Boys posing for the camera. ...but soon happy to pose and finally (below) fascinated by seeing pictures of themselves Westerner showing pictures to children. A westerner showing the children their photographs in 2007, probably the first time they have had the experience, and they (and the adults) are delighted
Saturday 27th August 2016 Murphy on duty

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