We were awoken early enough for a bite of white rice and other ‘stuff’ and whilst eating the guide had his backpack filled up with food by a couple of the young village ladies who it turns out were to be our local guides for the first part of the march back towards civilisation. One was a nice looking girl of 12 in split wellies who was wielding a huge machete that was almost as big as she was and the other a young lady of 24 who had a bit of a speech impediment and her own equally huge machete as well. You would not want to get on the wrong side of these two! We knew that today would once again be a grueller as I had already managed to fall over twice just going to and from the toilet this morning and that was a flat run, I could only guess at what the hills and mountains would be like on the trail today!
As we started the walk our guide, Kabaye, told us a bit more about the young lady who had actually lost one of her sons when her ex-husband actually sold their boy in order that he could get enough money for his drug habit. It was such a deeply saddening tale and one which reminded us just how embroiled the particular countries of Laos, Myanmar and Northern Thailand are in drugs and the like and stories like this are just the fallout from such a troubled existence.
I had no need to wonder too long about how treacherous the track back would be as straight out from the village and we were going straight up the uphill track. This was particularly hard as there had been some rain in the night and it was still drizzling even as we travelled. As we walked up the inclined track we were slipping backwards and all the time I was trying my level headed best to stay upright. We tried it all, I even took a leaf from our young guides and tried to be nonchalant and simply hot foot it along – I fell – I tried to be bothered – I fell – I tried using a stick – I fell, as a matter of fact I spent an awful lot of the time either in the process of falling over or in the process of picking myself up. We were stopping every other minute to consume water to try and counteract the amount that we were sweating out from the humidity but also sweating from all of the falling about as well as the worrying about falling over. Our sweat glands had been switched up to ‘max’.
Up and up we went until after a final stroll through a green jungle passageway and there we were at the top. This is where the ladies left us and went back home, we gave them some money and away they almost ‘skipped’, making us look and feel even more like the lumbering dinosaurs we were. In their very strange trekking footwear they were off into the distance, again hardly breaking into a sweat!
This downhill side of the ‘mountain’ was far easier going and we actually began to enjoy both the walk and the scenery. When we stopped for our lunch the view was breathtaking, so green and so alive and although we ached and last night’s lack of sleep was beginning to take it’s toll – it just all seemed so very worth it! We were both as ravenous as anything and the final bits of chicken from last night’s leftovers were being well stripped to the bone and we even had extras of the sticky rice – yes please! It was good to look back at the distance we had covered although not quite as enjoyable looking forward at the way still to go.
Even so, this second part of the trip was just a joy to the soul, far greener and a lot less inclined than the first part of the trek. This was more like it, we positively sauntered along until we came across our final hurdle, a fast flowing river. The only way we could get to our transport was to cross the river. Well we started off imagining a canoe or kayak would come to our rescue, when our guide started doing the strangest thing, he removed his shoes, socks and trousers – not the way I would dress for a boat trip and then he dropped the bombshell on us and told us we were walking across and that he would go first and take some of the ‘extras’ with him! We just stood there aghast still mulling over the request and what it actually all meant. Over he walked and even our nimble footed guide wavered once or twice – surely we would be swept away! Anyhow, off we went and the river was just as bad as we thought it would be and, even worse the riverbed was all rocks and pebbles so really difficult to keep your feet on even if the stream had been simply trickling. So it was that with a lot of nervousness and the odd stumble we slowly forded the river, very slowly indeed. So slowly in fact that the guide started back over to help Liz. Well we made it over eventually quite bedraggled and still somewhat shell shocked before climbing up the riverbank just a little victorious in spirit to our awaiting carriage.
When we got back to our abode, needless to say the very first thing we did was have a shower, a beer and then a good hour or so in bed to recover before coming back out on the night. We were in no fit state to travel too far for a bite to eat so upon coming across a Pizzeria which smelt delicious we came to a halt. This was mare than good enough for me, so we had a pizza that lived up to the earlier smell and followed that with a couple of pain relieving beers. Eating and drinking whilst we sat back on a rather comfy settee – I could have fallen asleep where I was but that was not to be (or allowed) so it was off back to the hotel and off to meet the Sandman via our comfy bed!
PS – At some point along on the way back Kabaye gave us the news that we were not Laos millionaires! I am not sure how rich that would have made us anywhere else on the planet anyhow but it was nice taking part!!