Really, we are lucky it didn’t happen sooner, or that the damage wasn’t greater.
Even so, the despair hit hard.
“No no no no no! Stop stop stop!” wailed Mark as our images of Sapa flashed into oblivion, wiped from the screen of the iPad forever.
During the few awful moments between accidentally hitting “delete all” and desperately ripping the memory card attachment out of its socket, we lost most of the snapshots we took during the two day trek in Sapa, Northwest Vietnam.
So I can’t share the carefully composed shots of the water buffalo trundling along with a village boy astride its head; the sweep of rice paddies cutting into the hillsides in perfect rows; close ups of the vibrant, verdant plants; the simple and hearty feast we shared with our host family at a homestay in the middle of nowhere and the adorable local children.
Here are the few images we still have.
Our guide was Sang, a petite 19 year old member of “Sapa Sisters”, a group of savvy local women who organise treks in the area.
Sang is part of the Black H’mong hill tribe who still proudly wear their traditional costumes. She was great, taking us far into the countryside to escape the bigger crowds of tourists on more mainstream treks. She warned us that this option was longer and more difficult but it was worth it – from Sang’s remote and empty route we could gaze at the stunning scenery and listen to her tales of hilltribe customs in peace.
Also, we felt we should try to burn off the excesses of our Hanoi street food binge, even if we ended up as muddy as water buffalo from the number of times we slipped on the narrow balance beams between rice paddies.
We didn’t mourn the iPad incident for long at all. Losing photographs happens at some point to every traveller, via bad luck, accident or theft. It could have been much worse and even if it was, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Photographs are a wonderful way to create keepsakes out of the sights you encounter while travelling. But they are not the same as memory.
In his book The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton ponders whether the modern way of living life through a lens means we have forgotten to really see the things we are trying to capture. Do we rely so much on cameras to remember for us that we fail to pay proper attention to our surroundings?
Perhaps the loss of the photographs was a blessing in disguise; it has made us more determined to hang on to the wonderful memories we created in beautiful Sapa.