Our Monday morning on 26th April started with our SE8 train from Danang to Dong Hoi being delayed by 30 minutes. We sat in the crowded train station in our masks and waited, then it was delayed further, meaning we didn’t get going until 01.35am and Captain Caveman certainly had on his grumpy trousers and was being mean. I decided not to bother talking to him any more as he was in an argumentative mood, because he didn’t get his takeaway. I was also not looking forward to the train journey because Captain Caveman had only been able to book top bunks which, even with fully functioning legs, was a struggle for me to get on. As we boarded the train the guard showed me a message asking if we wanted to get our own cabin but Captain Caveman said no, we were fine with top bunks. In our carriage on the 2 bottom bunks were a family of 2 adults and 2 kids so another guard asked if we wanted to take another carriage by ourselves but, again, Captain Caveman said no. My knee ached after climbing up but it wasn’t too bad, I had some painkillers and then tried to go to sleep. The family below us were fast asleep and quiet whereas Captain Caveman was snoring so loud that I got no sleep at all. Early in the morning I needed to pee and I really struggled to get down off the bed (it was harder than getting up) but I had to do it and I managed with difficulty to get back up again. I fell asleep about 5.30am, just as everyone else was starting to get up. The cases of Corona in Vietnam had started to creep up a bit and there were 13 today, meanwhile Turkey had overtaken the UK for total number of cases but were still lower for deaths. Vietnam was still relatively low in comparison but it was likely that the next wave could hit at any time.
Our driver was already waiting when we arrived at Dong Hoi train station but I needed the toilet and to meet Kimmie with my passport who had got me another visa extension done. I was now allowed to stay until the 9th May and the agent had previously quoted me $60, it ended up being $65, but she said next month would be $60. Captain Caveman was still grumpy but I was even mardier and so tired I could hardly function. The driver had been instructed to drop us off at the Glass House in Phong Nha and Captain Caveman was trying to insist that I could wait there until he’d seen off Howard’s Son Doong tour then he would drive me home on a rented motorbike, once he’d got one. I was having none of it and insisted he at least drop me on the highway and I would walk. I wanted a shower and a sleep, where I lived, which we were almost passing anyway. Eventually he agreed and I got home, still in a mood and desperate to go back to bed.

When Captain Caveman returned from Phong Nha just after 10am I had accidentally fallen asleep after my shower. There was no more snoozing to be had, though, because we were off to meet Hanh, a friend who I was meant to meet in Hoi An but she was in Phong Nha for a couple of weeks. We decided we would go to East Hill for an early lunch of BBQ chicken and sticky rice by motorbike, even though it isn’t very far from our place. I managed the steps up pretty well and Hanh was already there, ready for our early lunch. I decided to have a pepsi and this was the first time I noticed the odd sugary fizzy drink was creeping in to my diet – it always seems to happen when the hot weather comes. Captain Caveman did the honours of cutting up the hot chicken and we tucked in, all rather hungrily. As always, the chicken was excellent and the views were stunning, it was lovely to see Hanh, who we hadn’t seen since she left Phong Nha last year, when her Bun Cha restaurant had to close due to lack of customers. Captain Caveman had a shandy so I decided a strongbow would be nice and refreshing on such a hot day. The steps back down were still a bit harder to do but Hanh helped me, then we said our goodbyes, hoping to meet again and headed home before what looked like a storm brewing.

I had another short nap and then there was a huge downpour and a storm. Unfortunately Captain Caveman’s next Son Doong briefing was at 6pm so we shared the falafel salad (the one we brought all the way from Nomad’s Kitchen in Danang and was still really good) and then he had to venture out in the rain. He had been suffering terribly with hayfever too, since returning to Phong Nha, but luckily he had the motorbike rather than having to cycle the 9km there. While he was at work, the rain continued to pour down, it was bad enough for a frog to try to take shelter on Captain Caveman. The two-toed frog had tried to climb up his leg, maybe to take shelter under his shorts, but had to settle with a rest on his shoe! By the time Captain Caveman returned I was already in bed, all the excitement of Danang had worn me out!

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