Luckily our neighbours were able to use the L shaped sofa for two of them and the other three (including the adults) put up a makeshift bed with cushions on the mezzanine floor overlooking the lounge. While the ten of us didn’t get as much sleep as we might have wanted, or were used to, we were certainly a thousand times luckier than some of the locals in Phong Nha, Tan Hoa and nearby Le Thuy. A lot of Phong Nha residents, we would find out later, did not sleep all night but stayed awake trying to protect themselves, each other, their property, and their animals. The property we were staying in was on high ground with little likelihood of flooding, we even said on Sunday night that if we were flooded tomorrow then a lot of people would be in serious trouble!!!
I woke to the sound of Captain Caveman’s snoring at 4am on Monday 19th October. I went to the bathroom using my emergency light but didn’t look out of the window so wasn’t sure how bad the weather was, only to know it was still raining and we had no electricity. The whole house was up and about before 7am and we were all shocked to see that the flood water was about a quarter of the way up the garden gate, water had come in to the kitchen downstairs and we had to make our first house rule. It was mainly for the safety of the younger children, the elderly and the disabled; permission from Veronika was required to go past the top step of the stairs to the kitchen. All pans, bowls and containers were assembled outside for collecting rain water and once we had the generator on we put a huge load of rice in the rice cooker. Veronika made 2 minute noodles for anyone that wanted them, mainly the kids, while Captain Caveman made me and him bacon on the hot plate – it was such a good job Co and Duyet had insisted on moving our kitchen appliances upstairs. I had my bacon with steamed rice and some focaccia bread – who cared about gluten now, I wasn’t going to go hungry! Veronika made tea for everyone and I had a cup of green then she decided to boil some eggs for if the power went off again. Melissa and Remy were easy going, luckily, so just went along with whatever was suggested food-wise. Amazingly Melissa had a hard drive with all of the Harry Potter films on so we decided to get all of us on the sofas and watch the first one. We were all so glad of the popcorn maker because, with help from Aaliyah, we made a big tub of popcorn for everyone to share. After the film Captain Caveman collected in the full rain water receptacles, this was my first taste of drinking rain water which Captain Caveman seemed surprised by. I’d already cracked open a bottle of red wine during the film and the rainwater did taste a bit chalky and slightly sweeter than filtered water. Later he and Remy braved a walk through the flood water to collect some fresh water so that we had enough to keep us going for how ever long the storm and floods would last. The running water hadn’t been on and so another rule was implemented to not flush for wees but to use rain water for poos. Thankful for modern flushing toilets and running water I looked outside and saw a boat approaching us, across the flooded paddy field and car park. As the boat got nearer it was clear it was Ben, Bich and Chien who had come from Phong Nha Farmstay with provisions, meant to be for their kids! It was good to see them but rather scary when they described how the water levels were at the Farmstay and The Villas. Duyet came out, stood up, on a home-made raft and using a big metal pole as his oar – it was amazing. By the time dinner was being discussed the options were 2 minute noodles, boiled eggs, soup or rice. Most of the kids went for noodles, Veronika, Melissa and Remy had chicken soup and the rest of us had veggie fried rice which I made while tipsy and with an eleven year old sous chef doing all the chopping. I felt it was a bit like camping and we were all getting on fine, when Uno (the card game) was suggested I was excited to join in – I’d not played it since a holiday to the Maldives and Sri Lanka with friends. The electric went off and we finished the game by emergency lights which made it feel later than it was. It went on a bit but in the end I won because a 10 year old didn’t say Uno when he had one card left but apparently he thought he’d still won. We all went to bed early, outside it was still raining and I commented how lucky we were to Captain Caveman.
On Saturday 17th October I still hadn’t heard back from Thuy and so didn’t go to physio. Instead I ate some of the veggie rice I had in the fridge but the asparagus had made it soggy and I had to throw the rest away. The rain and wind was pretty hard and it blew the outdoor balcony furniture in opposite directions. The temperature had dropped considerably, for the first time in ages I had to put another layer of clothing on. Elsewhere in Vietnam photos showed terrible flood scenes and some sad ones emerged of lots of livestock getting stuck in the mud. Captain Caveman decided to make a Spanish omelette which we would be able to eat if the power went off. We stayed in that evening and I cooked fried rice with veg and salami. We shared 2 bottles of fizz and mentally prepared ourselves for the 6 days of ‘bad’ rain that had been predicted – tomorrow was going to be a bit of a shock to me!
When we got up on Sunday 18th October I realised that the flood situation in our wider area was going to get bad. We could see that it looked like it may even turn out to be worse than 2010. Where we were staying was amazing and we were certainly very lucky, maybe of the luckiest people in Phong Nha. The banana trees in the garden outside had seen some movement, some were blown over, a local man was moving his cow to higher land and the paddy field opposite was becoming a lake. People were posting more and more photos of their circumstances on Facebook – these were now becoming people we know and friends. Captain Caveman made me bacon and beans for breakfast and then I had some grapes because I was still hungry. The rain didn’t stop and there was talk of moving our kitchen stuff on the ground floor up to the first floor. The neighbours didn’t have a first floor and they were also worried in case they became flooded so we offered space at our’s if they needed it. We had a picnic lunch and had made short work of the Spanish omelette when the power went off. Luckily we have the use of a generator and so it wasn’t long before it was back on. The new lake opposite us now had ducks visiting and by 4.30pm the rain was getting heavier. Captain Caveman got the emergency lights at the ready, the fridge got moved higher and we even decided to move the wine and empty all the bottom kitchen cupboards, just in case. I had a snack of cashew nuts and we opened the red wine earlier than usual before I cooked us some egg fried rice with salami. On Facebook emergency phone numbers were posted for those in Phong Nha who needed evacuating and all residents were warned the flood was here and would continue for a couple of days at least. Cars and motorbikes were moved to higher ground and even animals were being moved indoors. We were in bed when I got a message at 10.15pm from our neighbour because they were being evacuated – we had left them the door open!
Phuong picked me up at 7:30am on Friday 16th October and we headed to Dong Hoi airport to pick up Captain Caveman, I’d also requested a physio appointment from Thuy but had not yet heard back from her. When we arrived at the airport Captain Caveman was already waiting and got straight in to the vehicle, this time without the bicycle which would have to be posted back. We went straight to Tree Hugger for breakfast where I gulped down a Gastropulgite so that I could have the amazing cheese and ham toasties with my herbal tea. Captain Caveman had coffee and egg sandwiches which he absolutely loves. I’m not sure he was too pleased to see me as he happened to drop a book from the bookshelf on to my back, which hurt (it was the Lonely Planet guide to Southeast Asia)!
Back home Captain Caveman had managed to cheer me up with lots of goodies from Hanoi, including a beautiful gift from Phil and Hoa in Sapa and some seamless knickers from Uniqlo. The rain was getting quite heavy and this would be what we now know to be the first day of the rains which would flood Phong Nha. Captain Caveman had some bad news that he had spent all his wages and we were now on a tight budget until payday so he wasn’t too happy that I had bought the new dress when I don’t go out much anyway. I had been pretty frugal this last week and only spent 2,455,000 vnd which is around £80 – I only went out once to eat and I didn’t pay for any alcohol all week! Captain Caveman reassured me that we would be ok we just needed to tighten our belts and maybe not spend almost £12 on grapes and walnuts (they were so nice though).
By 4.30pm it was very wet out but word came from Ben that The Villas were going to have another ‘all you can eat’ pizza buffet tonight. Captain Caveman of course can’t turn down pizza and so off we went. When we arrived Momma D and the 3 cavers were already seated at a table for 4 and were munching away on pizza. I joked that Captain Caveman had come all the way back from Hanoi just for pizza night and then I went to sit at the big table. I chose a seat between a polite Polish lady and Veronika, Captain Caveman saw there was 20% off wine and got us a lovely bottle of red to share. We each got served a slice of whichever deliciously topped pizza came out and they just kept on coming for just over an hour. My medication worked and they were going down so well, even the ones I wouldn’t normally try were just so tasty. Ben and Bich were there to make sure everyone got well fed, the kids were all seated together and were mainly getting on and behaving. The food and service was outstanding and we were very pleased we had been able to eat so much pizza – the wine wasn’t bad either!
Here’s an insight in to my simplistic life in September through the things I googled, listed alphabetically:
1. Alpha pristine 2. BBC news 3. Dragon fruit vitamin C 4. Drinkable 5. English to Turkish 6. English to Vietnamese 7. Elodie Alice 8. Frederich Engels 9. FTSE 100 10. Funniest UK stand up clips 11. Gerard Butler 12. James Caster 13. Katie Price ankles 14. Kevin Bridges – Bus Stop joke 15. Lentil recipes UK 16. Maoris in New Zealand 17. Marcus Rashford 18. Natalie Jenkins missing 19. Nasi Goreng 20. Oxalis Adventure 21. Prince Charles speaking Welsh 22. Postcode finder UK 23. Queen Accommodation Services Dalyan 24. Tran Manh Dan 25. Using herbs 26. World Life Expectancy 27. Weather