I never said I was graceful. In fact, most people know that I’m quite the opposite. I try, I honestly I do, to not be the accident-prone girl, but you know… life just happens.
We’d been trekking for a day and a half (about 22km at this point) through the terraced rice fields and bamboo forests that make up Sapa Valley. I’d survived the climb to our guide’s home which was ON THE TOP OF A MOUNTAIN, the treacherous descent that was like a mudslide, and the often dangerous climb through the forest where I had to hold onto bamboo for dear life.
It was, in fact, when walking down a delightfully easy road that I found myself stumbling to the right, rolling over my ankle and hearing a god awful crunching noise. I felt that I must have looked exactly like my three year old niece when she takes a tumble. The fall. The shock. The slow realization. And then the tears. Well, let’s be honest, my niece is made of tougher stuff than I. She wouldn’t have cried. I definitely did.
The pain seared through my ankle and I couldn’t help but think “Seriously?” Really? I made it through the tough parts and this, this is what takes me down? Luckily we were traveling with an Australian family at the time and the Dad, Ian (thank God for Ian!), was a nurse. We whipped out our now well-used First Aid kit and Ian strapped my ankle up. We then had to do a quick – and painful – clean of my scraped knee. Then came the part I dreaded. Getting back to the main road. It wasn’t technically that far away, but when I could only hop a foot at a time with assistance, it seemed to take forever.
Back on the main road, our guide called ahead to the guesthouse, requesting that someone come with a motorbike to pick me up. When the man arrived, not a word of English in his repertoire, we slowly got me onto the back of his bike. Speeding off, I felt very sorry for myself, leaving my husband and our guide behind, my foot throbbing against the motorbike. To be fair, the views of Sapa Valley were phenomenal as we winded down the road. I wasn’t quite expecting the driver to cut the engine and cruise down the pot-holed road, but I just held on a little tighter and hoped for the best.
Arriving at the guesthouse, I hobbled down to a chair and sat myself down. The owners left me where I was and didn’t come near me (it was like I had the plague), but an hour of solitary confinement later and David and the guide arrived. Yay!!! But they weren’t alone. A group of three or four Red Dao women seemed to accompany them, their baskets of goodies ready for sale. I was not in the mood to make a purchase.
We propped up my foot on a chair and I was just expecting to pop either some more Paracetemol or a jug of rice wine… but no. Pen and the ladies began searching the greenery around us, picking a certain set of leaves. I was told to wait and watched from a distance as they ground the leaves down into a chopped paste and boiled the mixture. Pen brought over a basin of pretty damn hot water with salt, a group of Red Dao women then got majorly involved and began washing my feet. Urgh, no, no, no, I thought. Mainly because I didn’t want to buy anything from them. I hated that I couldn’t tell if they were doing this out of the goodness of their hearts or in order to ensure a sale.
The green, chopped spinach-like mixture was then applied to my foot and secured in place with a stretch on indigo fabric and a ribbon. I may have enhanced this traditional medicine slightly by also popping a couple of strong pain killers.
What can I say? The next morning I woke and while my ankle throbbed, within an hour of taking gentle steps, it felt … not too bad. Perhaps traditional medicine really does work. Thousands of years of knowledge have been passed down from generation to generation. My ankle was appreciative.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the Red Dao women did come back the next morning expecting a sale. I’m a miser, and declined to buy. Luckily Ian and his family were in the market for some handmade pillowcases.