Nam Ha jungle trek

Trip Start Nov 06, 2006
Trip End Jun 15, 2007

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Thursday, December 7, 2006

We trekked for two days through the steamy jungle of the Nam Ha Protected Area outside Luang Namtha. For lunches our two guides, Ket and Suk, hacked down several banana leaves to use as a table, then dumped rice and tasty dishes onto the leaves and we ate in the traditional way - by hand! Later in the day, we passed some flowers that had fallen from the trees, which they collected to add to our soup for dinner, as well as two foot-long banana flowers which they gathered from banana trees that they felled with a machete. As the second tree came crashing down, Todd cracked a joke about how "now that we'd finished gathering, we could go make dinner."
We stayed overnight in a Khmu village. When we first descended into the village, the scene was beyond belief. Woven bamboo-strip houses with roofs of overlapping palm leaves sat 8 feet up on wooden stilts above the ground. The smell of wood smoke filled the air. Children, some half or completely naked, played or helped with chores. Multi-colored roosters crowed, hens with little chirping baby chicks skittered about, and black haired pigs snorted and squealed as they jockeyed for whatever food scraps they could scavenge around the houses.
After the hike, we cleaned up a bit in the river, ate a delicious dinner of rice, pumpkin, "seaweed" soup (similar in taste to spinach), and a tasty banana flower stew. Later, some of the villagers arrived with a large pot filled with fermented rice. They poured a bucket of water into the rice, stuck in a couple of straws, our guide taught us a Lao drinking game, and everyone got blitzed on lao lao! By the end of the night, there was a sizable crowd of Khmu adults and children partying with us, singing, and laughing.
In the morning, we walked through the village. A woman was husking rice with a log that she pushed on a pivot with her foot. She does this three times a week for 1-1/2 hours to feed her family. A group of women and children sat on the ground and knitted plastic bags that are used by porters to carry goods to town. Strips of sticky bark, exported to the Chinese to make glue, were lying out in the sun to dry. And a man was cutting strips of bamboo to weave into a table.
The trek was fantastic, and our group had a good time together - Tom, Gil, Jenny, and Kippy from Israel, Claire from England, and the two of us.
We've spent more time in Luang Namtha than we intended, but it was nice to relax into this town and see how things unfolded.
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