Dalat, a home away from home for many French during Vietnam's colonial era. High elevation, a large lake, mountains, pine forests and cool weather. The French would holiday here when the tropical weather of the rest of the country became to much to bare. It was also a popular destination for hunting. Deer, boar, rhinos, elephants and tigers could all be found in nearby forests. However, the hunters were all to successful and now there is hardly a squirrel to be seen in the forests and mountains surrounding Dalat. Still, Daphne and I decided to go there to enjoy the nature and remember what it feels like to not sweat every waking moment.
Renting a motor bike, we drove out to one of the many waterfalls not too far from the city. Tiger Falls is so named because of a legendary tiger that lived in a nearby cave at the top of the falls. Now, the only tigers visible are concrete statues near the parking lot. The waterfall had a gentle stream of slow moving water banked by dry boulders on either side. Daphne and I climbed up the rocks to the top of the water fall where a dilapidated cable bridge stretched overhead with many planks missing [Indian Jones style]. I cautiously posed for a few pictures on the bridge and climbed around the nearby Tiger Cave. Daphne and I then found a dry rock at the top of the water fall to lay down and enjoy the fresh air and tranquility of our surroundings.
After a few short moments lying on the rock I felt the water on my left side start to rise and my leg was getting wet. At first I thought that the water level was gently rising and I needed to adjust my position, but suddenly the water was quickly on us and getting higher. Daphne's camera and one of my sandals were scooped up by the water and vanished over the next ledge. Initially I was going to give pursuit, but then the rate at which the water rose was startling and behind us a raging wall of muddy water was coming fast. It was all we could do to grab what stuff we hadn't already lost and make it up the side to safety. My sandal and Daphne's camera were gone.
I approached the bridge and looked down at where we had been climbing just a few minutes earlier. If we had been only halfway up when the flooding came, I'm not sure we would have made it to safety in time.
Here is an image[not my own, due to lack of camera] of what the waterfall looked like from below when we started to climb it:
We had climbed up the waterfall from the right side.
Now, here is a video I took with my ipod from the top of the bridge after the flood waters came:
From what we've been told, this isn't a common occurrence but it has happened before. Upriver there is an irrigation damn and sometimes it breaks. This would also explain the heavy logs we saw floating down river at the start of the flood. At Tiger Falls, there are no signs posted to warn visitors of this potential danger and we were told that people have died from this before. We weren't the only tourists visiting and climbing the fall that day, but fortunately no one was on it at the time that this happened.
Although we were shaken and had lost some of our property, we were not upset. There is something genuinely fun about surviving. When we returned to town we had to do a little shopping. A new pair of sandals for me as well as a jacket. My sweater was soaked and I needed something warm by nightfall. As for Daphne's camera, well at least now I have one idea for Christmas...