Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sick and sixty? Don't go trekking!





Anyway I survived!

One went south to Vang Vieng and now Vientiane, to try to get a visa and flight to Vietnam: the other, preferring to explore Laos more fully, went north, to Luang Nam Tha. The bus from Luang Prabang was eventful in terms of disintegrating tyres - one shedding tread, another throwing a puncture shortly before the end of our journey, leaving us arriving well after dark, in a bus station 12 km out of town. (When I asked why, it was a convoluted tale of vested interest - the tuk-tuk drivers and the landowner - and grand ambitions for the expansion of the town, now only one main drag and a few side streets).

Perhaps too keen to make the best use of my time I booked a trek for the next day when I could instead have just hung out and seen the last day of a Black Thai festival. It wasn't clear then that I was ill and really the only negatives as the trek began were a slightly gripy stomach. By lunch, I didn't feel like eating anything and was beginning to feel a bit weak. I'll spare you all (!) the details of the symptoms: suffice to say that the guides plied me with oral rehydration salts and kept me going. By the end of the second day I could hardly drag myself along, any uphill section being more and more impossible.

Anyway, for a fit person, the trek would have been good - plenty of varied scenery and terrain, enough info on the forest and the people living in it, vivid examples as we passed of the threats to the forest from the hill-tribes cutting and burning (they can be fined say $500 but they have no money with which to pay, living as they do at subsistence level) and an interesting overnight stay in an Akha village. Iron Age meets I-pod age: the kids were fascinated by South Park on antiny screen but then they were also amazed by the marine iguanas pictured on my T-shirt!

Up here in the far top-left of Laos, the Chinese influence is tangible and maybe ominous. Such a large and populous neighbour to such an underpopulated and weak little state! It won't be a re-run of Tibet, I suppose, but a slow case of economic infiltration and who's to stop it?

My next move depends largely on J's luck with Vietnamese plans. If she is sucessful, I will have time to explore more of northern Laos before heading south to the 4000 islands region. If not, it could be a quick dash south via Thailand to the southern tip of Laos and then Cambodia.

LATER, Next day ...

A day of rest and careful eating has put me back in the right direction. Last night I missed out some details that bear repeating:

The trekking party of eight (maximum) was made up of two couth Australians from Melbourne (a great contrast to some Aussie Yahoos we have encountered) who rather disapproved of the gang of five - three US girls (around 20 y-o, volunteers in China) who specialised in singing in the forest but also entertaining hill tribes kids, and their attachments, a Swedish photographer and a Frenchman, who finally decided on the trek which of the remaining two US girls he was interested in! And our guide, a Black Thai (tribal definition not dress code) was barely 4 foot tall and the girls couldn't resist trying to list Snow White's diminuitive companions and discussing which one he might be. (If there had been a Chirpy among Snow White's Seven, it would have been him.) I am going to attach a photo of him bending over the fire, which doesn't really show his size but indicates the English football team he (possibly) favours - that or the part of the anatomy where the garment belongs: take your pick. (As you see, I am getting better.)

[The picture of the forest above shows the patchwork of primary forest and cleared or secondary forest typical of the trek zone - despite it being in a National Protected Area.]

1 Comments:

Blogger E said...

Thanks for another interesting episode and great pics added! Sorry to hear about your health troubles - hope all is well again by now! Do any of the indigenous people wear beads or ornaments of some kind and are beads for sale on markets?

Still enjoying gorgeous weather here, quite amazing for this time of year. Oh, TG completed last Saturday.

Save travels!

E

Tue Feb 12, 10:09:00 am GMT  

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