Friday, 19 June 2009

Trekking in Luang Nam Tha

Easy to moderate? No. Moderate to hard? Yes.

Up high slopes, across rickety log bridges, slipping up and down mud slicked hills, navigating down a cascading waterfall, all in a torrential downpour beneath a thunderstorm... and all this before lunch. It was more wet than standing in a shower with your clothes on, and also a hell of a lot more fun. It was all about footholds and not slipping - the impossible. Lunch was a series of small piles (comparable to various types of vomit) spread out across banana leaves but it looked worse than it tasted. Thumbs up for sticky rice too.

Then came the leeches. I've never seen them like this, only the odd one before (probably due to the changing of the season), but these were everywhere. Somehow they just appear on you, finding the lace holes of your trainers and disappearing. No blood through socks but still. The worst though was experienced by a guy from Holland called Jaap who found 2 in his boxers, only noticing after they'd fallen off, swollen with his crotch blood. After that you couldn't help but have balls on the mind, the slightest itch or pain provoking an expection. Leeches are pretty harmless but everyone got a little freaked out by them but nobody got it like Jaap did, I just got 'em on the feet :)

The final descent down to the village was a mud slide but by that point nobody cared so we just went down on our arses (great fun) whilst the villagers looked on. At the bottom we crossed a river to many watching eyes, dumped our stuff on the bank and took a bath amongst the flowing current. After the heat of the afternoon and the struggles up and down mountains, it was an amazing reward. The village was very small in a bit of a valley and consisted of about 12 (?) wooden houses with lots of children, chickens, pigs and growling dogs scattered about. Everyone was very helpful & generous and whilst they prepared dinner, they made a camp fire for us and we sat around drying our clothes, wallets and cameras - my camera got another drowning in the rain (waterproof my bag is not) so I actually dont have any pictures pre-thunderstorm. Dinner was a little buffet with an amazing tomato soup, rice and buffalo meat, all eaten in the company of the village chief in his house. Sleeping arrangements were 2 to a house (there was 8 of us) where we slept under the roof with the locals.

Day 2 was nothing compared to the first, a few hills out of the village (hello humidity) and then it was pretty much path walking for 4 hours back to the road to be picked up by a tuk tuk. Along the way a lot of things explained about wildlife and plants, but I think everyone was so tired from day 1 that the easiness was welcomed.

Overall a great trek, almost on par with Bokor in Cambodia, weather and terrain definitely more varied. We had a good group of people (no annoying, hair braided, bracelet wearing, guitar playing, "woah maaan" speaking dickheads - left them at the guesthouse) and everyone had a good laugh. Kudos to the guides aswell because they were enjoying themselves just as much as we were.

Now I am in Luang Prabang after a 10 hour (which felt more like 6) bus ride yesterday. My camera has also been resurrected (again - possibly Holy) and the pictures I missed on the trek have been promised to me by the other guys. Im in Luang Prabang for 3 days before heading further South (by 5 hours or so) to Vang Viang. I will write you (probably). X

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