Sunday, July 8, 2012

Trekking in Laos

We traveled from Thailand into Laos, to the city of Luang Nam Tha.  We chose this as the destination because it is close to the National Park which is a large area of protected jungle.  The town was cute with several agencies to book treks from.  We chose one that we liked and booked a three day trek with the third day being a day of kayaking instead of hiking.  The trips that you can book get cheaper as more people book, even so we were hoping for a bit of a smaller group in order to see some wildlife.  We ended up with a group of 9 which I think is the biggest it can be - oh well at least it got cheaper.  Our companions actually ended up being really cool - even when the trekking was a bit torturous they had very high spirits.  I had prepared a blog post just giving you the play by play but I decided it got too long and just to give you the highlights.  Day 1: we did about 7 hours of trekking (with breaks).  Basically we went up a big hill and then down.  To be honest the views weren't amazing because the foliage was so thick but the jungle was really cool.  I ended up getting two leeches on my foot that day.  I was wearing chacos because they are the only shoes I brought to Asia with me, they were great for hiking, since we weren't carrying much weight but made me pretty vulnerable to leeches.  I sweated through my clothes probably within the first half hour of walking.  I don't think I have ever sweated through a pair of pants before.  Night 1: we stayed at Jungle Camp, where all nine of us, plus 3 guides, slept in one room with mosquito nets.  In the middle of the night it started to rain really hard and didn't let up all night and into the next morning.  There was a debacle with the water drop off and we only got about a 1/2 liter after the sweaty trek.  Finally more was delivered the next day.  Day 2 we did about 5 hours of trekking with less breaks than the first day.  Two of our party took the short route due to blisters.  The rest of us took the long way.  The jungle got even more lush and the guides told us about the local fruits, edible plants, and plants used for medicinal purposes.  I got three leeches on me that day, Caitlin even got one and she was wearing shoes, I managed to get one on my back - it was trying to latch on through my shirt.  We arrived another camp where three rivers joined together and we did some swimming which felt great after hiking for a couple of days.  Then we were picked up by a van and taken to a village where we were having dinner and spending the night.  After a walk we went into where we were staying and there were some kids and a mom hanging out.  As soon as we sat down the mom pulls down her sons pants to show us his hugely swollen testicle.  I have never been greeted this way.  We didn't really know what to do, the kid didn't seem to be in pain.  The other members of our party said it was a hernia.  We went on with our evening.  We also had dinner with the chief of the village and it was really fun to learn the history of his tribe, learn about their customs and meet his family.  Night 2:  We stayed with a family.  It rained all night on a metal roof and the whole family (including roosters) were up around 4:30.  Day 3:  In the morning we walked around - I took a lot of pictures of baby animals because I feel awkward taking pictures of the people.  We also saw a lot of people doing handicrafts - it is like breathing to them.  The women are usually always doing some sort of sewing or weaving and the men more carpentry work or fishing nets.  We loaded into inflatable kayaks and went down a river - we were supposed to go about 17 km but I am not sure if we went that far.  The river was nice - I really liked it.  It was calm about class two rapids.  Caitlin and I were the most skilled at kayaking in our group so we would try to go down the roughest part of the rapids.  We also stopped at a couple of villages that day which was really cool.  During the day most of the adults go work in the rice fields leaving the children and the older people.  We met a 66 year old woman who had never seen a foreigner before.  Our guide also told us about the political and romantic customs of his village.  I learned that in some villages there is a hut where men and women can go to 'hook up'.  If a woman gets pregnant, she can choose from the men she has slept with to marry.  But the men really want to be chosen - they don't care if it is really theirs because having children is so valuable for their culture.  They need them to work in the fields and support them when they get old.  I never asked how people chose to marry without impending baby though.  The kids were very cute and all the people are so tiny compared to the size of us.  When it was time to go our van picked us up and told us the road conditions were pretty bad because of all the rain.  We drove a bit and soon came upon a truck of locals that had driven into the ditch - we all got out and pushed it out.  Next we came to a big truck that had gotten stuck in the mud.  We had to wait about and hour for a bit bulldozer type machine came to pull it up the hill and fix the road for us.  Shortly after the road had gotten fixed our van got stuck and we had to push it out.  After a long ride back on a slippery road where one side was a very long drop off we got back into town around 9:30 when we were supposed to be back around 5.  Despite the leeches, the rain, and the mud I had a really good time.  We are still in Laos - Caitlin just left this morning for Laos - right now my plan is to go south in Laos, then loop through Cambodia back to Bangkok where my flight leaves on July 31st.  Cheers!!
Lunch on the first day - the little packets are sticky rice which accompanies every meal.
Me sweating my balls off.
Bamboo forest with one of our guides
Caitlin posing with spirit tree.
Spirit tree
Lovely view of the lush forest.
A view of one of the villages
I liked the roof - they use a lot of natural building materials
Adorable tiny puppy that I could not get enough of.  It would wiggle it's tail when you rubbed its back!
Machine that had to rescue us and fix the road.

1 comment:

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