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Page 43
The Rockaway Times
OnThe RoadWithRover AndRosa
By Wild Rover
In Part 1 I mentioned some of
the great day trips you can take
in Laos, so let me tell you about
the adventure that I got us into.
We wanted to do something au-
thentic and maybe challenging
after spending the first 4 days in
the mellow Luang Prabang bub-
ble, so I signed us up for a 2-day
tour that included an overnight
homestay in a local village. We
signed up for a trek at one of the
storefront agencies that dot the
main strip walking home from
dinner, and just like that we had
plans to set off the next morning.
The itinerary included an inter-
mediate 5 hour trek to the village
on day 1, homestay in the village,
90 minute trek down the moun-
tain to the Mekong and beginner
kayak down the Mekong home.
Easy enough, right?
After about a bumpy hour drive
on a tuk tuk that was like aminia-
ture semi-enclosed pick-up truck
we began the trek into themoun-
tains. We realized two things
almost right away. First, wow is
this going to be a beautiful hike.
We passed through rolling green
hills of rice paddies, streams,
and pasture, dotted with the oc-
casional bamboo enclosure to
protect the local farmers from
the sun, all without seeing barely
another soul beyond a few farm-
ers. The second thing we realized
was goodGod this trek is going to
be a helluva lot harder than in-
termediate. The trek lasted for 6
miles, finishing on top of a mini
mountain, which is where the
village sat. Although a gradual
incline for most of the trek, it still
ended on the top of a mountain
andwould have been plenty hard
in the best of conditions. Then,
throwin the fact that itwas literal-
ly 100 degrees and we hiked from
11-4, with 7 liters of water in our
packs along with our other sup-
plies, and it became the Bataan
Death March. I think Lao peo-
ple are so nice they don’t want to
brag so they say things are easier
than they are, but it wasn’t just
the Western sissies, our guides
were toast as well. After 3-4
MUCH needed breaks, includ-
ing eating lunch under one of the
open bamboo enclosures next to
a Hmong farmer, we made it to
the village. Arriving at dusk to the
mountaintop village shared by
Hmong and Khmu peoples (we
stayed on the Khmu side) was
quite the experience despite our
exhaustion. And of course the
night was only beginning.
The village consisted of about
30 families/bamboo huts. No
plumbing, no electricity. This guy
really knows how to pick a honey-
moon spot, huh? First things first
is our “shower”, which involved
going down to the spring with the
other villagers while Irish Rosa
dumped a bucket of ice cold wa-
ter onmy headwithme in a bath-
ing suit. Very Shantaram-esque.
IR used some woman tricks and
somehow got cleaner than I did
using only baby wipes. We have
our own hut on one of the high-
er hills in the village, so we have
dinner as we overlook the village
winding down for the day before
settling in for the night at 7 pm
when it gets pitch black. Only the
village was settling in for the night
like a block party settles down in
the South Bronx. We are huddled
in our mosquito net in the pitch
black of our hut (thank God for
iPads) while music blasts, dogs
bark/wrestle, hogs roam around
the elevated hut, and roosters call
out to each other. All. Night. Long.
Not to mention we are already
jumpy sleeping in the jungle next
to all kinds of critters and crea-
tures. Nothing but the best for my
wife on our honeymoon. Thank-
fully we carved out 4-5 hours of
sleep out of sheer exhaustion.
Sunrise over the village during
breakfast was a nice way to cele-
bratemaking it through the night.
It definitely gave us a strong in-
sight into village life and an even
greater appreciation for city life.
No rest for the weary though,
so we trek down the mountain
on a shorter but steeper route
that takes an hour and a half to
the kayaks. The kayaks were in-
credible and much welcomed
after the scorching trek. In true
Lao fashion though the beginner
kayaks include 3 decent size rap-
ids with some serious rocks. Our
guides are in one kayak and af-
ter they make it through the first
rapid, they look back to see how
we are doing and immediately
capsize. “Beginner”. Luckily my
Rockaway kayakdays are stored in
mymusclememory andwemake
it through all rapids no problem.
That is until our guides try to dou-
ble back over the tail end of the
last rapidonto a spot on the banks
for lunch, which puts us perpen-
dicular to the current, so of course
Irish Rosa and I flip. Up the Me-
able to flip the boat right side up
and get us backupon the kayak in
calmer water.This is IR’s 2nd time
in a kayak. Wife MVP. We actual-
ly couldn’t stop laughing despite
our peril and it was a welcomed
cool down, sowewere glad it hap-
penedoncebackon theboat. Also
in true Lao fashion the kayak trip
is 4 hours long! More than half of
which is through still water re-
quiring serious shoulder power.
Luckily it was through some of the
most beautiful scenery, if not the
most beautiful, wehave ever seen.
At one of the slow points we pass
through a section of dark green
jade water, framed by limestone
cliffs covered in jungle rising right
from the riverbanks, with no one
on the river for as far as the eye
could see other than a few solitary
wooden canoes and fisherman in
conical hats standing in the shal-
lows. It could have been the film-
ing location for a Jurassic Park
movie. Out of this world and if it
was in Costa Rica, let alone the
US, it would have been packed
with other tourists.
Like all great travel adventures,
it had the perfect mix of beauty,
mishaps, and laughs, and most
importantly made for a richer
understanding of the great peo-
ple who had allowed us to be
guests in their country and in
their homes.