The expedition lasted 6 days and 5 nights but it felt like a much longer amount of time being away from my home in Phong Nha Farmstay. It was an unbelievable experience and a privilege to enjoy this adventure with people like Limberts, Ho Khanh and his merry men (the porters), in such an awe-inspiring cave and jungle environment. They are all true and dedicated professionals.
It also gave me the chance to get a deeper understanding of how the Son Doong cave was first discovered. Khanh informed us that he had originally found the cave entrance by accident. He was on his own, deep in Truong Son mountain range, on a hunting expedition. In those days – which at times can seem like centuries instead of decades in the fast-developing nation – people of Binh Tri Thien (the old name for the province of Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Hue) were very poor and going to the forest was a means to an end, as there were animals, plants and timber that could help alleviate their poverty.
Ho Khanh was in the mountains hunting and seeking timber when one afternoon a thunderstorm forced him to seek shelter at the base of the cliff. This was located at the enclosed end of the valley on the Rao Thuong River. As he sheltered in an overhang from the cliff he noticed clouds coming out of the cliff about 30 meters to his left. When the storm had passed and upon closer inspection, he discovered a cave entrance with a tremendous wind roaring inside of it.
Having no access to portable lights in those days and being detached from the rest of the kinfolk in his hunting party, Khanh only ventured in a few meters before he had to rejoin the rest of his party when it started to grow dark and the tigers would come out to hunt.
Years later, when Khanh realized how passionate the British were about the caves of Quang Binh, he remembered the cave with the noisy clouded entrance and went back looking for it. He spent most of 2008 and half of 2009 looking for the entrance before he finally found it. The Limberts and fellow cavers went there with him in late 2009 but only made it as far as the immense wall close to the exit.