10.26.2007 - 10.27.2007 91 °F
After some down time lounging around VanVieng, we decided to get some activity in and do a 2-day, 1 night activity. Included was a full day of trekking with some caving in the mix, then a full day of kayaking... with seeing more caves.
So off we went Friday morning with our sturdy shoes on foot and bottles of water in our little backpack. This was real trekking and only about 5 minutes into the climbing, we were already sweating. Yes, I admit, we may be a little out of shape, but it was probably 85 degrees with about 80% humidity. Up and down, traversing, climbing, finding our footing, grabbing onto bamboo trees, rocks, branches we went. We finally made it to a little hut on stilts to have a BBQ lunch... very rustic, but very peaceful. The guide made a fire by rubbing little bits of coal together and we had little meat and veggie kebabs with rice. After the brief rest, we were off again. So here we all were with our $100+ dollar Nike and New Balance shoes and our guides were in flip-flops. Flip-flops! And we were barely keeping up with them!
The scenery was breathtaking though, very serene, and very beautiful being in the mountains and climbing to see the rice patties and more interesting, the local Hmong (Chinese exiles that live in Laos and have their own language and traditions separate from the Lao people) going about their daily business. Here are some Hmong children:
During the hike, we crossed 2 caves. On that day, "caving" meant just walking into some caves, looking around, and taking some pictures. We learned about the stalacites (limestone formations going top-down from the ceiling) and the stalagmites (bottom-up from the ground), and just being in caves is also mystical. The Tham Hok Cave had this neat Elephant formation, which was cool. It was nice to get a break from the trekking!
We finally made it to Nam Song village, this very pretty bamboo hut village by the river. It was a LOT nicer than what I expected. I did a similar trek in Chang Mai, Thailand a few years ago (CMS, you remember this!), and we stayed in very unstable huts on stilts with pigs and chickens underneath us. Not so much fun. But this was like some of the nice (and cheap!) guesthouses we had been staying in. After a delicious meal and some BeerLao, we were off to get a good, and well-deserved, nights rest. Yes, I know I have mentioned BeerLao a few times, and don't think I'm an alcoholic. Its just such a part of their culture, and its soooo good! How can you turn down beer for $1USD that is really good?!?!?
The next day we did the kayaking along the Nam Song river, and that was definitely a lot more peaceful and easy than the trekking from the day before.
(In the background in the picture above you can kinda see people tubing, which is SUPER popular here. Basically, for like 6 hours you coast down the river on a tube (duh!) and just hang out. We actually didn't end up doing it. 1. no time and 2. too boring! I could maybe do an hour or so, but 6?!?! It still looked fun though!). With the kayaks though we were little rapids too. How I still managed to get caught in some trees and get turned upside-down and flip-over, I still don't know. It was funny though! We stopped to see the last cave, the Sleeping Cave, and we 'docked' our kayaks and were getting ready to take off our lifevests, as we had done earlier. But noooo... our guide said to leave it on because we had to swim in the cave. What? Not knowing to believe him or not (he was kinda a joker), we left it on. We then came to do this super trecherous and dangerous journey through the cave. I never would have imagined that not only did we have to literally wade through this murky chest-deep water, but then we had to sludge through all this mud to then walk on the side of the cave barely holding on with sharp rocks underneath. It was veerrrrry slippery and FYI, we were in flip-flops as we were not forewarned about this activity. It was sooo crazy! It was pitch-black and I managed to snag a flashlight, but Char and this other traveller had these miniscule candles that you could hardly see .2 feet in front of you. We barely made it inside to a point where we could actually walk without watching every step. What did we get ourselves into? We looked around, and the limestone formations were pretty cool, but the path to get there was definitely NOT so cool. As we were muddy and soaking wet, we decided to not climb the side of cave wall again for the danger factor and just waded ourselves through the murky, muddy waters to get to freedom. I see the light! We had to have a laugh about it because it got to the point where it was just funny, and of course, then felt we deserved a BeerLao. Whoa, was that an experience!!! Here is a pict of the water we had to trudge through to get inside the cave. I know, I know, it doesn't look as crazy I just described it, but this is just to get into the cave. Inside where it was dark and scary was much worse!
So that was the Trekking, caving, kayaking experience. If you ever are to come here, make sure you know what your getting yourself into if you do caving! Ha ha! What was weird was that something happened to my foot during that cave. Yes, it was super dangerous and even when we first started, I thought, "this would NEVER happen in the States. TOO dangergous and too much liability). But loooong story short, by the time we got home, the arch and top of my foot was unbearably sore and in pain (seriously, like 9/10 for you PT's). I really could hardly walk on it and thought I really did something bad. Where's a crutch when you need it? Luckily, (I hope!) I know what to do, so I drugged up on Ibuprofen, elevated, ace-wrapped, and iced my foot. And of course had some BeerLao (haha!). That seemed to do the trick and I felt better, until that night when I woke up with the sharp, burning pain on the outside of my foot. What the? It moved from the arch to the outside? So I didn't sleep at all that night because of the pain and then I got all paranoid about all the things that could be wrong with me. Did I step on something? Did I get bit by something? I can't be a gimp - I'm back-packing! And really, why does it feel like its hot and burning?! But then, even more strangely, by mid-day the next day, it just kind of disappeared. Hmm.... is BeerLao a miracle worker?
Its a mystery, but I'm all good now!