Villages and Views
Trip Start Nov 30, 2005
63Trip End May 13, 2006
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We headed off early Wednesday morning...our bikes were loaded on top, our group of 8 plus 2 guides all introduced, and we took off in the back of the truck. The group was composed of a British couple- 23 years old on a around the world trip. They were really great fun and Eliza and I have been hanging out with them even after the trek. There was a Swiss man in his late 30s who was really the mountain goat always in front. Add on a 29 year old dutch adventurer, Anelisse...2 younger aussie boys who were always finding ways to make things more fun. Sprinkle in two really fun Laos guides...plus Eliza and me and we had a great, great bunch. Everybody was really athletic and their were no complainers- two components that made for a really smooth trip.
So we hopped on our bikes in a tiny Hmong village and started climbing mountains. I found the biking very challenging. My bike was a bit too big, plus after two and a half months of travelling I'm not in the best shape, plus it was a hell of a hard ride. There were really steep up hills and downhills. It was all dirt roads too. But they had a truck along side us so we had plenty of water and we took breaks. We stopped in several villages along the way and our guides would tour us around and tell us a little bit about the different tribes. The two main groups in the area are the Hmong and Khamu- both speak different languages- and both are different from Laos (which we've all been trying to pick up for the last few weeks). We were able to meet people of both groups and see all the differences in cultures. Their houses look different, the people look different, and one group is highland and the other lowland. We wandered around the village-- so many curious eyes on us! Little kids followed us around, people shyly allowed us to take pictures. We were able to go see a school- and even got to check out a class in session and they sang a song for us. It was lots of fun. While biking-- we pass a small village- sometimes just several homes and when the first person is passing or is spotted-- the whole village of children dashes out to the side of the road waving their arms ferociously and screaming something that kind of resembles the word bye..
After sweating about 30 gallons and climbing and going down way too many hills we arrived to the village. We went about 50 or 60 km that day. First stop was straight to the river where we had a long refreshing swim and got swept up in the swift current for a nice float down. Our clothes were so soaked with sweat that we just brought them all in to try to clean them a bit.
We ate a big meal cooked by somebody in the village and begun really getting acquainted with each other. After dinner we sat around and just chatted and hung out. We were staying in some sort of house that didn't seem to belong to anybody but that I guess our tour group uses. As usual...the beds are about like sleeping on the floor and the roosters are very loud in the morning! It was up early and a breakfast of sticky rice and eggs.
We quickly hit the road and drove about 15 minutes to the trailhead
The rest of the day wasn't as challenging for me-- we walked through beautiful bamboo forests and without focusing so much physically, it was easier to take in the sights around me.
Last year I read a book about the Hmong people (not knowing my near future would include me encountering them in Laos)
We arrived to the village that we were staying in which was really a Hmong village and Kamu village right next to each other. We stayed in the house of the chief on the kamu village. We arrived and as usual the crowd gathered around us to stare and we usually ask if we can take pictures at that point because it seems to break the ice to be able to take pictures and then show all the people on the camera-- it is at least interaction on some level. But it is all very overwhelming
We still had some daylight left so our guide took us on a hike out to a cave. We passed through the Hmong village along the way. We passed the soccer field where there were tons of kids and as we passed all the kids began following...people started coming out of their houses and following us. When we turned around there was literally at least 100 people behind us. They tapered off as we got further and further away until we just had 7 young boys with us to the cave. This village was the one where only 5 groups of westerners have come before so we are really really new to these ones. The other village we stayed has lots of groups come through but the trekking portion is totally new and only included on this one tour...so that explains some of the staring!
The cave was pretty far and we were all sort of separated on the way coming home. Just when we were starting to enter the village- the downpour began. We started running for awhile at first but then just accepted the rain...accepted being soaked and slipping around on the mud. We got back to our house for the night and dried off
The next day was more trekking. We had to do some more uphill and over the pass and then a big downhill to the river. It was the least physically challenging day I thought but it wasn't a piece of cake. The views were amazing on that day... and the group was closer. the downhill was very very long and again no switchbacks didn't help matters. I was very thankful to have good shoes. We finally got to the river- crossed it and our truck was waiting for us. We got in- went down the road 20 minutes and got some lunch in a village
We arrived back in Luang Prabang about 6 oclock and after a long search for a guesthouse Eliza and I finally found one with a room. The whole group met up for dinner at 8 and took out our guides. We then said our goodbyes and went to bed!
Yesterday Eliza and I managed to do pretty much nothing. We wandered around a little. Sat in cafes and had long slow meals and wrote in our journals. We met up with Russ and Caroline and saw the sunset and went to dinner.
Today Eliza and I rented mountain bikes and did another big ride. We road about 30-35 km out to this waterfall. The ride wasn't nearly as hard as the one on our trip. The waterfall was absolutely amazing- we can't believe we almost missed it and didn't go. Beautiful blue pools spilling onto the next one. They were awesome waterfalls and you could swim and jump off the top of some of them. The area around was very tropical and jungly. Eliza and I really liked it. Then it was all the way home-- we were pretty over it by the end of the day. We are tired now but glad we went.
We head out of town tomorrow and back toward Vientiane. We are trying to squeeze one more day of kayaking in and maybe another trek.
This is a novel-- my wrists are sore....hope you got through it alright.