Bolaven Plateau

Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Thursday, April 25, 2013

I left Don Det on one of the long boats and enjoyed my two hour journey back up to Don Khong the scenery was full of many of the Islands, the fishermen, Buffalo's, ferries, kayakers, all sorts really, plus me sitting there with a big stupid grin on my face as I take it all in. There are a few other tourists on the boat who are good company, and seem to enjoy the trip just as much as I do which is nice. 

On arrival I get checked into the hotel near the boat where I left my bike, and went down to collect my luggage from the original hotel I was in.  The owner of the first hotel was lovely and chatted away, but once I was loaded up and ready to go the sky looked ominous, I hadn't been paying attention and unfortunately for me halfway back I got caught in a really strong thunder storm.  It started so quick and I ended up hiding out in someone’s house for nearly two hours which was really kind of them while I waited on it to pass.  I gave up waiting after the thunder and lightning passed as the rain looked like it was on for the night and cycled the rest of the way, once I got back I had to strip everything off and lay it out to dry before packing it up again for the road.

Don Khong is a beautiful island, there are temples and a museum nearby plus you can go round the island which has remote communities using traditional farming methods which is interesting and way off the tourist trail.  I enjoy the boats, in particular the ones which take the motorbikes back and forth to the mainland, they strap what looks like two boats together to make space for several at the one time.  Instead of going east off the island and along the main route to Pakse, I’ve decided to go west off the island and find a route north up to Pakse. 

Firstly I cycle to the top of the island as I’m told there is a boat for motorbikes that I can cross with however there is no boat for cars!  On arrival at the end of the road, I can see nothing that resembles a ferry for bikes, mmm.  I start left at the road end and try to ask signaling crossing the river but nothing, I then cycle back and go right which turns into a dead end.  Next minute I see a couple in a small hut who signal to me to come down the track over the grass, I do as instructed and next minute the guy has jumped down out of sign as the woman shows me my route which takes me up and round and onto a wider track which takes me down the hill and straight onto his boat… ha ha fantastic, I would never have found this and I am no sooner on then he spins the boat around and starts across the Mekong… result!

The journey across took no time and before I know it, skipper has given me a hand up the embankment and pointed me how to get onto the road as I seem to be at the back of a farm.  It didn’t take too long and I’m back on a red ash road but in places the road narrows down to cover water and the bridges are made up of planks of wood which are slippy and unfortunately came off on one with the wheel catching in a gap, bruising all my leg which was painful enough.  But onwards, it’s very remote this side of the river and people’s expressions are funny, I stop and talk to a few people that have stopped dead on the road to welcome me to their area.  It is full of farms and loads and loads of temples, I can’t get over the amount of them, there are small villages dotted along the way so I can grab a cool drink and chill out for a bit just enjoying the journey and it’s nicer just going at any old pace I feel like as I’m in no rush.  I need to ask for directions a couple of times on route and I’m a bit disconcerted that I’m told to cross the river again to get to Pakse, despite this I keep going the direction I think I should be going and eventually find a hotel although I’ve no idea of the name of the village, but I did pass a board just before I came in confirming I’m on the right route for Pakse.

The town has a bustling market in the evening which I have a wander around and buy a much needed hat, the top of my head has been burning in the heat, looking on line the market seems to be Dontalath Market but I can’t see a name of the village.  I buy a load of fruit and go a walk for some dinner, and despite the first few places I try were just closing up, I manage to find a local place which was really good, and freshly made.  The village main square has motorbike shops on each corner, plus tractor shops, big warehouse places for cement to flour it seems pretty busy the whole time I am there.

On leaving the next day the road widens out, I think I’ve around 80km up to Pakse, and thankfully I manage to stay on track today and end up following the river again up to the city which was nice.  The scenery is similar to the previous day but is getting busier the closer I get, I come across some great temples in particular but my camera has stopped working so can’t get any photos which I’m disappointed about.  At lunch time I stop at a Buddha which is on the banks of the river, but is set into a tree which has ribbons tied all around it, a tiny wee boy came up while I was there while his dad waited on his motorbike for him, was really sweet.

I get into Pakse and meet a fellow cyclist who is just leaving, I guess it’s just after lunch time and he gives me a few tips and advises where to go to stay for the night which is always a help.  There is a lot of road works going on but I manage on the right route and find a reasonably priced hotel which I was grateful for, I’d heard it was on the expensive side here but was all good.  So I’ve a few things to do here if I want but the main thing seems to be the Bolaven Plateau with most staying a couple of days up the mountain, it’s not really on my plan but I might hire a motorbike for the day to go and see some of it!

Pakse is a nice place, surrounded by the river and is my first big place in Laos, full of temples, shops, stadium, normal city life and tourist area all part of it, it’s got a friendly atmosphere which is great, the tourists and local seem to mix no problem.  I have a day out having a look around but I decide the next day I will go up to the plateau which seems to be the main pull.  I hire a motorbike from a nearby place and head off first thing the next morning.

At the petrol station there were another few tourists buying petrol so I asked if anyone was heading up to the plateau and ended up hooking up with a young German guy who was good fun.  We got onto the main road up the mountain and found the first waterfall of many to be visited which was stunning, I’m so annoyed that I don’t have any camera working but I can do nothing about it, hopefully Younis will send me a couple of pictures via email, and if he does I’ll post them.  I think we stopped at 4-5 waterfalls, one in particular was great which had a mini raft out to under the actual fall which I had to go out to play on he he, what a big wean!

The road was great and we enjoyed lunch up at Paksong before cutting across the plateau as there’s road works ahead we’re told by tourist coming down so we cut across to Ban Beng which is a lovely place and we end up sitting up at another waterfall taking everything before we part ways, I’m heading back down to Pakse and leading off in the morning and Younis is staying here for the night.  It’s another nice village which is bustling, the locals really are lovely and friendly and the scenery is something else, I’m probably on the road for an hour, enjoying the amazing scenery and thoroughly enjoying before disaster struck.

I could see a load of activity on the road ahead which turned out to be a herd of cows, so I slowed my speed right down to give them time to move before passing, only it didn’t quite go to plan.  All the animals were moving off the road and my path was clear however, an older man on the side of the road started shouting and swinging a big stick at them and gave one cow such a fright he spun and headed straight for me.  There was nothing I could do about it, he was on me before i knew it.  Unfortunately I don’t remember the accident, instead I woke up in the back of someone’s car being taken to hospital, really out of the game and not having a clue what had happened.

It took me hours to find out that I had actually been in a motorbike accident involving a cow, one of the ladies that helped get me to hospital stayed and waited to make sure I was OK and I m so grateful for her help although I don’t even know her name!  The Police brought the bike by and I took all my things out of it, I presumed they would get it back to the hire place, the front basket was bashed but I could see nothing else wrong with the bike but it was dark by now and the police didn’t seem to have any other interest in me other than I was OK. 

The hospital hooked me up on some sort of drip and I was put in a room coming in and out of sleep, I knew something was wrong but didn’t know what.  After a while I was told it looked like I had broken my collar bone which I was concerned about, but as they had no x-ray equipment I would need to get to the hospital in Pakse the next day.  I wasn’t happy waiting and I knew there was more wrong so wanted to get down to Pakse asap, thankfully the police ended up coming back to the hospital and took me down with one officer holding my drip bag the whole way!  On arrival I was taken to x-ray and confirmed broken collar however they left me lying in a bed hooked up the whole night saying another doctor would look at me in the morning and I was that out of it I just crashed out.

The doctor in the morning was no help and hardly even looked at me, the extent of his care was a couple of hours later when he unhooked me from the drip and sent me to the pharmacy across the road to buy a sling as they didn’t have any.  It turns out the pharmacy didn't have any either so one of the nurses wrapped a piece of bandage round my neck to wrist to give me some support ,and I went back to my guest house a bit dazed.  

I told the guy from the guest house what had happened and he ended up taking me on his motorbike to find a sling which we managed, although after a few attempts.  It's a basic sling more for an arm injury rather than my collar but it did give me some relief but I'm feeling terrible, I'm just not right,  It was so kind of him to help me and once it was on and I returned to the hotel I curled up in my bed and stayed there for a couple of days just sleeping and hardly able to move, it was all a bit of a blur really.

After talking to a few ex-pat locals and trying to look on line, I decided to leave Laos and head into Thailand for treatment which seems to be far more western or advanced than here.  I arranged with the hotel to leave my bike and luggage here which I will come back for asap and explained my plan to be away probably for one month. 

So here’s to getting some proper treatment to help me recover however, I think it's going to take a while, which means I'll need to rethink my route for cycling!
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Malcolm Surgenor on

So lucky Clare

Hope you're soon on the mend and on your way again. Really enjoy reading these and hope we can make a trip there at some point in the future

new_lands on

Thanks Malcolm, I hope for a speedy recovery too - I hate being unwell or kept at bay!

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