Scooter Riding, Waterfalls and Zip Lining

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Vilaysing Guest House
What I did
Bolaven Plateau
Zip line with Green Discovery
Wat Pho

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Monday, June 11, 2012

If I hadn't yet mentioned it, I am happy to say that I am making my way around SEA without a guidebook. I have succumbed to the freedom of going where the wind blows. Today the wind blew me towards Pakse in central Laos. My intention for this pit stop was mostly to break up the journey down to the 4,000 islands but I was also hopeful that I would find a group to join for zip lining. Initially the zip lining wasn’t looking promising, since without a minimum of four people the cost would be prohibitive. Prepared to forego that adventure I was now on the hunt for finding others eager to explore the surrounding Bolaven Plateau. This is when I met Beatriz and Laurent from Chile. Although they had already made the infamous loop, today they were game for taking the bikes out to Champasak, home of Wat Phu the Angkor temples dating back to the 11-13th century.

We shared a great day walking the grounds, taking photos and chatting with the visiting monks. But the most memorable part of the day had to be getting my bike fixed in the village after a minor crash. I was literally dismounting the parked vehicle when it fell on its side. The result was a broken brake and mirror. Luckily someone pointed us in the direction of a local mechanic/barber who for a mere $3USD was able to replace the brake and repair the mirror, making the bike run better than when I first drove it off the lot.

The next day I hoped back on the bike going east towards Paksong. I must have covered 150 km round trip while visiting six different waterfalls: Tad Fane, Tad Etu, Tat Champee, Tad Yuang, Tad Nguing and ultimately Tad Lo. Each one had its unique characteristics and was interesting enough, but I found maneuvering the muddy pothole roads to and from each destination to be more exciting. Although my driving isn’t anywhere near as proficient as some of the 10 year olds I see navigating the diverse terrain. Do you think I can add this new skill to my resume?

I rolled back into Pakse at around 8:00PM drenched and ready for a hot shower. Still dreaming of a chance to zip line I made a quick detour at the Green Discovery office. As luck would have it they had four people signed up for the two day, one night trek departing the following day. Without any hesitation I paid my registration and informed them of which hotel to pick me up at the next morning.

I was even more thrilled about the adventure when I saw that the two other couples ranged in age from 28 to 69. After a two and half hour drive by minivan we arrived at to a coffee plantation near Paksong. Here is where our guide gave us a preview of the trek and demonstrated how to wear the harnesses. We spent the next three hours hiking up steep terrain, which due to the rain was also very slippery. A bit tired after being immersed in the jungle, it was a pleasant treat to find an open field covered in dainty, lilac flowers. Deemed the perfect picnic spot, our guides prepared a spread of premade, local Lao cuisine on a bed of banana leaves. We all feasted until comfortably full.

Armed in rain gear and holding our wooden brake, we trekked further through the mud until finally reaching our first obstacle. Along the route we would sometimes have to belay down from one platform to another before hooking on to the line for the trip across to the other side.

The first short cable was a good start for understanding how to dismount and brake. I never needed to use the brake because more often than not I would automatically stop some 20 meters or so shy of the platform. That’s when one of the sweet guides would come out on the line and pull me in.

The mist slightly clouded the 360 degree view of the surrounding luscious jungle; however I can only imagine how breathtaking it really is on a clear day.  On both days we zipped across the creek run off from the monstrous waterfall best seen from the lodge. At least it was easier to stay focused on it when stationery versus flying by it at 40mph while dangling from a hook.

We arrived back at the lodge and our treetop accommodations exhausted and ready for a shower. We all hovered around the fire pit, as the staff poured us coffee and tea. Once the rooms were prepared and we had eaten, the guides escorted us one by one to our individual treehouses. What I didn’t realize was that we had to put on our harness and zip line to get there. It felt a little odd sleeping alone with no way to escape other than to zip line back across in the dark. Unlike Andrew and Sara, I was luckily not visited by any snakes that night.

Day two proved to be doubly adventurous. Not only did we have continued slippery, steep, downhill trekking to conquer, plus the much anticipated 350 and 450 meter zip lines to play on, but unbeknownst to us we were required to cross one 60 meter cable by side stepping across. Still the most challenging bit was the Via Feratta, Italian for iron road. Basically iron handles are secured into the steep face of the rock which we are meant to navigate one hand and foot at a time. Mind you, the rain added a little extra caution to the mix. After seeing the course I was counting my blessings that I had recently practiced rock climbing in Vang Vieng. 
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