A Vietnamese man is hoping his impressive reputation for exploring his country's caves will pave the way for other compatriots to lead the discovery of Vietnam’s uncharted natural landmarks.
Ta Nam Long, a Hanoi native, has explored upwards of 30 of Vietnam’s caves, including limestone grottos in the northern region, partially submerged caves in the central region, and lava caves in the south.
The 37-year-old and like-minded friends first formed their group of cavers in 2014 in preparation for spelunking through a cave in the north-central Vietnamese province of Thanh Hoa still unmapped by local residents out of fear that large fish sheltering in the cave’s submerged chambers might attack.
“It only took seven hours to explore every nook and cranny,” Long recalled.
Two years later, he and three companions decided to trek into the 600-meter-deep Cong Nuoc Cave in northwestern Vietnam, completely disregarding warnings from locals that a successful adventure would be impossible.
The group made their way into the cave, but returned worse for wear.
Long wound up with a broken femur, sprained heels, a spinal cord injury, and several lacerations on his hands after falling into a 40-meter chasm in Cong Nuoc.
After his rescue, the adventurer spent six months under rehabilitation.
|Ta Nam Long after a fall in a cave. Photo courtesy of Ta Nam Long|
Long’s family disapproves of his adventures and eagerly awaits his return after each exploration, according to the seasoned caver.
“We’re into adventures, but we don’t bet our lives on the passion. We have to train and gear up very carefully for each journey,” Long said.
Long added his inspiration to continue exploring Vietnam’s caves stems from the hope that Vietnamese people, despite not having developed a passion for spelunking, will begin independently charting the country’s natural landmarks – a task typically carried out by foreigners.
|The entrance of a cave. Photo courtesy of Ta Nam Long|
|The 37-year-old caver and equipment for his journey across Vietnam and Laos in March 2018. Photo courtesy of Ta Nam Long|
“I’m of the belief that well-trained Vietnamese can explore Vietnamese caves themselves, without the presence of foreign cavers,” he said.
The experience that Long has after an adventure constitutes his second motivation.
“Conquering a cave gives me a feeling that I can overcome my own fears, as well as escaping daily life,” he said.
Long currently organizes monthly explorations with other members of his caving group.