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where in the world is steph.... Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? -- Mary Oliver

Laos Day Two

LAOS | Sunday, 8 April 2007 | Views [965]

Day off to a rough start. Yesterday I enjoyed not one, but two salads the entire time thinking about how much I missed them. At 2 A.M. I remembered why I currently avoid them, when I was rudely awaken by a gurgling stomach accompanied by sharp abdominal pains. Ah, the joys of being in Southeast Asia, you never know when your stomach is going to have it’s very own revolt.  So slightly dehydrated and exhausted, I went in search of a mild breakfast before heading off to the pick up place for my kayaking tour that day. I was hoping I would survive the two hour truck ride to the put in, trying to use the power of positive thought as much as possible. 

            In the truck a group of three traveling together, a Canadian and two Singaporeans, joined me. Everyone was fairly chatty and the company was nice. We stopped outside Vientiane at a bus station and waited, we realized a good 20 minutes into it for another paying fare. Once an addition had been secured, we were off, well sort of; stops by the side of the road looking for more people and picking up lunch held us back from being too quick about it. The scenery was beautiful, farm lands, grazing cattle and water buffalo, traditional style houses mixed with western style, mostly just people living everyday lives. The rules of the road were loose; the two lane highway often became four or five lanes of traffic, not to mention the cows grazing by the side of the road making driving on the shoulder near impossible. As the truck filled with people and their various parcels; giant coil of hose, bags and baskets filled with fresh fruit and vegetables resting on the bumper, boxes of drinks, bags of fresh bread and fresh herbs filling the back of the truck resting between everyone legs; the weather began to get cooler not hotter and our chatter died down. At one point we stopped to pick u a man and his motor bike, which the two guys that were going kayaking where forced into helping lift the motorbike onto the roof of the truck. Two hours into the “two hour” trip it started to drizzle.  I wasn’t exactly dressed for rain, being more prepared to go kayaking and was carrying very little with me (sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, and a camera). We all fell asleep at various times, sunglasses on despite the lack of sun; they became our protection from the dust. We wondered how much longer the trip would take; the road seemed endless, with more of the same ahead, and no river. 2 hours and 45 minutes, mountains ahead! My heart lifted, something about the mountains I took to be a good sign, I didn’t know why but it was. As we reached the base of the mountain the realization that this too was not my final destination made my hear sink a bit. Dust mixed with rain drops floated in the opening between the canopy and the truck cab. We were behind an empty logging truck whose diesel fumes mixed with the faint smell of mint and dust permeated the back of the truck. We winded up the road, slowly. Once we reached the top of the mountain and started sailing down the other side I had given up on the idea of actually kayaking, and decided that this was merely a sightseeing trip of the countryside. We wound through a small village, and in the distance I saw a truck with kayaks on the roof, could it really be true? The truck braked swiftly and we climbed out of the truck grateful to stretch our legs. We walked through the village to river and where we were to start the next part of our journey 3 and a half hours after we had climbed into the truck.

            As we got ourselves organized and outfitted on the bank of the Nam Lik, we watched cattle graze on the other side of the river. After some brief kayaking instructions from the guides we were ready to get in the water. The feelings brought on by the truck ride melted away as I stepped into the surprisingly warm water. It was overcast and dark, I could feel rain in the air. Optimistically I smeared the dirt around my face with some sunscreen just incase. Once on the river I quickly fell into a paddling rhythm. We watched people fish along the banks of the river, buffalo playing in the shallows, cattle graze, long boats navigate upstream, and the jungle burn. I took lots of pictures but was instantly disappointed because they failed to capture the beauty of everything.

            There was only one set of rapids, and the water level was quite low. Nothing exceptional, but it did get us all wet. We pulled over to the rocky shore to rest and have lunch, beef shish kabobs, fried rice and a baguette. The rest of the trip was flat calm water, occasionally disturbed by a paddle starting a water fight.

            The end came all too soon, and we could see the trucks up ahead. We pulled out at a local watering hole; women, men, and children bathing and washing their motorbikes. By this time the sun had come out, and it was starting to get warm. The guides gave the leftover bread to the kids who very calmly broke it into even pieces to share all around. The group that I had been with was continuing north and got into a different truck. Reluctantly I got back into a truck. This time the ride was shorter only just over two hours, but just as crowded. We took bets on how many more people the truck would hold, I think it got u to 22, plenty of room for a few more.

            Back in Vientiane, I found myself at a French restaurant having lamb and red wine. It was a treat that would be quite hard to accomplish in Chiang Mai and a nice way to celebrate Easter.

Tags: Adventures

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