Amazing journey to Son Doong (Part 3)

After Hang Én (Swallow Cave) we continue our hiking to the most fascinating place on earth – Hang Sơn Đoòng, considered as the largest cave in the world and according to Sweeney – one of our British cave experts, who accompanied our team, it’s surely the most beautiful, the most mysterious cave system that he has ever explored. The experts still continue their exploration of the new caves in this area. Few days ago I read in the newspapers that another 30 caves has been discovered by the research team.


     On the way to the first campsite, located next to the entrance covered with mist.

Talking about the photography in the cave, being an amateur, before the trip, I tried to equip myself with only what I really need, to get good photos. And I also checked all warnings, advises from the professionals how to make a good photos in the cave. The flash I bought didn’t help – the incredible enormous space in the cave made my flash look like a thin fragile match.

Facing the reality, when I’m so exhausted, my mind is not working, my gloved hands are so dirty, my arms, my legs muscles are so tense…I forgot everything, I just tried my best to take photo only where we have few minutes of rest or where with better lighting conditions, before entering into another darkness, another gigantic misty passages.


   Left Swallow cave at 9:00 am, arrived to this pit stop at noon before Son Doong


                     From our pit stop we can see the entrance to Son Doong cave 


                                  Safety first – Sweeney – our caving expert checking all equipments 


                      After a quick lunch, we start our first climb down to the entrance…


     Sharika (in pink) and I always last ones to go, so we got time to enjoy photography


                    A moment of hesitation…


   Uý, my life-saver helped me to carry bag, to climd up, to slide down…throughout the journey 


   Moment when we need the courage to overcome our fear, first obstacle in Son Doong 

I gave up to carry by myself the heavy tripod, it’s not that heavy in normal conditions but in this circumstances, when I hike, I climb, I try to keep the balance in every step, to thread my way through very narrow passage in the cave, to cross underground river, I feel not in mood of taking any photo, but better taking care of myself not to fall down, not to step on the wrong rock, not to slip in the dark water.


              Only Asa carried tripod by himself, I left mine with porters 


  One of the lessons for caving photography – always with human in the background.


       crossing the underground river in Son Doong (Oxalis’s photo) 


       Hand of Dog – before we reached our campsite for the 2nd night (Oxalis’s photo) 

70b4b-sondoong_34     From this pit stop we can see our first campsite next to the entrance covered with mist



                  Our porters arrived much earlier already set up tents, kitchen for us  

Our first night camping site in Son Doong cave, close to first collapsed doline, after we passed the Hand of Dog. In our team me and Sharika, a very nice Australian, originally from South Africa, always left far behind in hiking, that’s why Úy, one of the team leaders has been assigned to “escort” us, to carry my camera bag, bottle of water.

One time, while sitting on the rocks, taking a “long rest”, looking around the enormous cave with our headlamp, we jokingly say – what would happen if we get lost or stuck here. We could be the first stalagmite in human shape after another million of years. Not to obsess by this very bad idea, we quickly stand up and in hurry to catch up with the rest.


         The view to our first campsite in Son Doong from another side (Oxalis’s photo) 


              Another view of the campsite in Son Doong cave (photo by Chris Miller (*) 


               Always misty with unusual nice cool air, I feel a bit chilly early morning…


 Between the campsite and that huge stalactite – the deep way down to the underground river…the blue tent is actually our W.C!


             that I failed to reach for bathing in the 2nd night due to my feet pain 


                        Our kitchen and the BBQ, the big pot for boiling water…


 Kate (in pink) experienced mountain climber in the team, holding a cup of hot tea. I also keep drinking hot lipton tea with a lot of sugar to get back my energy…

Being always left behind, I missed many stories by caving experts, but in return I had a chance to look around, to admire the extremely enormous cave where the ceiling seems never visible as eternally hidden in the mysterious mist. I’m wondering where I’m – I’m in the unreal world that formed hundreds of millions of years ago, I still can’t believe, can’t imagine how I get here.

Actually the more I look around, the more time I have to catch my breath and to do some photos, some time with very dirty gloved hands, I feel sorry for my camera, but thinking that I may never come back here, I have no care anymore…


                           After dinner time to relax…Indian dancing lesson with Sharika…


                       or gambling lesson…my tripod became the lamp stand ! 

Our second night in Son Doong tour but the first night in Son Doong cave, after dinner and hours of dancing, gambling lessons in very dark, misty cave, I just wish to have a very good sleep to save my energy for the next morning trek to the next campsite in Son Doong where it has been considered one of the most beautiful campsites in the world. That will be my next post!


(*) Chris Miller, a professional photographer also went to Son Doong cave right after our group. He took amazing photos in Hang En, Son Doong, you can enjoy his entire album of his adventure here. Thanks Chris for sharing with us your beautiful photos. 

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