Departure from Pilgrimage Village Resort and Spa, we were driving on national highway 49 from Hue city to A Luoi town. The road from Hue to A Luoi is very winding with many steep slopes. We had to pass through 3 mountain passes named Kim Quy, Ta Luong and A Co before emerging out at Bot Do right at the T-junction with Ho Chi Minh trail and A Shau valley. On the way to A Luoi, there are several US firebases like Burmingham Firebase, Firebase Bastogne, Firebase Checkmate. Firebase Veghel, ...
Turn right at Bot Do, we continued to A Luoi town which is center of A Luoi district of Thua Thien Hue province mostly inhabited by the ethnic minority groups of Ta Oi, Co Tu and Bru - Van Kieu. Turn left from Ho Chi Minh highway, we continued towards Dong Ap Bia where the famous battle of Hamburger Hill took place in May 1969 that marked the beginning of the Vietnamization policy of President Richard Nixon. From afar, we could see the Hamburger Hill peak and the surrounding vegetation with banana trees and tapioca farm at the ravine. Going on a little bit more appears the whole A Shau valley in the distant.
We were driving on a very humid day in May 2017. This month of 48 years ago, May 1969, witnessed the battle of Hamburger Hill and also the death of Ho Chi Minh - what a coincidence. The road going to Hamburger Hill was quite empty. At times we saw a herd of water buffalos blocking our way followed by herdswoman and of course we had to wait until they went away. Animals are King of the road in Vietnam. The water buffalos were big enough to be used as labour force. We also sighted a logger man were transporting a log from jungle passing our car on a scooter.
Stopped at Nam Son tunnel, we got out of the 4-seater Toyota sedan and walked to tunnel about 100m away from the road. The jungle here is full of wildlife animals such as squirrels, snakes, butterflies, monkeys, ... Caterpillar - the young form of butterfly was the first one we saw. After having arrived the NVA tunnel of Nam Son, we turned back to the car almost immediately because of the leeches everywhere. They are very active during the wet days. Some jumps from ground. Some jumps from tree leaves. Some hops up from water. After 10 minutes walk to the jungle, I ended up with 2 leeches sticking to my pants and shoes. Fortunately, none of them had enough time to bite me. Last time I was bitten by one leech and it has been itchy for 6 months more or less. I've heard from one man that the leech should be pregnant that made it so itchy. That was a bad experience for me.