Published: March 30th 2012March 27th 2012
Today we set off for Tha Khaek – another joyful Laos style public transport experience! When we arrived we started usual negotiations with a tuk-tuk driver. It didn’t work-at all! Tuk-tuk driver turned out to have a tuk-tuk big boss and he was very much in charge of his platoon of drivers. When we appealed to other tuk tuk drivers we were shunned! We weren’t being funny, he had asked for an extortionate price even by English standards. He won; we caved as we had no choice. If we had to sum up Tha Khaek in one word I would say “dusty.” “Dust anyone??!” Tha Khaek is full of it. After arriving at our guesthouse we got ourselves dusted off (sorry couldn’t resist) and got some yummy food and contemplated our options for the next few days. We both knew we wanted to see some of the surrounding caves and countryside but weren’t sure how to go about this. After reading a book full of people’s accounts of taking on “the loop” by motorbike and after talking to some people returning from the end of the loop we were feeling very swayed towards this option. The loop is
Exit of the first cave
Worth falling over and climbing over the rocks!
a 3-4 day motorbike ride taking you from Tha Khaek to numerous caves, through villages, through jungle past mountains and to a huge cave called Konglor cave which is 7 km long. Only problem…Katie had never driven a manual motorbike and only an automatic twice in Cambodia. I had no experience at all. After a beer we headed to see the man who sorted Falang (white people) out with motorbikes. His name was Mr Ku and he showed us one of the worn out old Chinese motorbikes he had on offer and told us “no problem, everybody first time!” From the accounts in the book and from speaking to others this did sound true. So then Mr Ku took us on a lesson! By lesson he meant he would show us how to start it up and change gears and then told us to have a go ourselves around the grounds of the guesthouse and down the street. We didn’t fall off and so he said we were good to go! Love his optimism! So we agreed – we were gonna do it – cue a slightly sleepless night!
After a very bad night’s
sleep we got up early and picked up our bikes and our “Hero” and “Fox” helmets. Obviously we decided to name our bikes, mine was Arteta (after the Arsenal player with same number shirt as the bike!) and Katie felt hers looked like a Saskia. Then we were ready to head off!
1st stop = petrol. How to get there= roundabout….a very hectic, no rules roundabout done with ease????
After we filled up we went to the pharmacy to buy “gangster masks” to protect us from the dust. Now with petrol, names, helmets and masks we set off on a flat slightly bendy road which was good practice. We drove past our first “cave” stop as we were concentrating on driving and not pulling on the accelerator before grabbing the brakes, my bad! But fortunately we were flagged down at the second cave by a man who ran into the road shouting and waving his arms like a madman. We entered the cave with our “guide” and it was incredible. It was like something out of Indianan jones. After squeezing through some very tight gaps and jumping over rocks in the water and climbing on a wall with
a steep drop we got to the end and had a magnificent view of sparkling green trees and crystal blue water, it was a little like Avatar (with no giant blue people). To get back we left the cave through water so we took our shoes off, grabbed the torch and rolled our trousers up off we went! Of course the entrance to the water was slippy and poor old Katie managed to stylishly fall again in a bum down legs up position!
After 15 minutes walking through water in pitch black we got back to the main path to our bikes and razzed of to our next stop.
This was a big beautiful blue lake. To get there we had to have our first off road driving, which needed second gear only, high levels of concentration and the awareness to avoid pot holes while also avoiding big stones. It was tough but easier if I managed to remember to break with foot pedal before the handle. On the way in we passed another couple of Dutch Falangs and met a German who was cycling through Asia! Nutter.
After a paddle in the lake and some careful
driving we were back on the main road and went to a less interesting cave but did buy some tasty snacks. We then had to drive 70km to our night stop. Sounds easy and was at the start nice flat roads beautiful scenery which appeared very prehistoric (without the dinosaurs). During this stretch of the drive, we were going along at some speed and it was getting windy and cold, in fact it was so windy that my helmet came off and was only staying on by the strap so therefore it was strangling me. So while being strangled I had to try to brake in a straight-line which was kind of achieved and good news is I didn’t fall off and I’m still alive.
A few miles later we hit a tricky part of our journey lots of tight bends chugging up hill.
Again the scenery was immense. We thought this was hard until the road ran out and became just gravel mud and pot holes. We later again seen the couple from earlier and every one was concentrating and going slow trying to avoid pot holes but there were so many our bums did not appreciate
this. We did stop every half hour for pictures and a rest. We did eventually make the final 20k in 1 1/2 hours and checked in to our guest house by the river.
As soon as we arrived we immediately went for a walk around the village so we can stretch our legs and were greeted by lots of locals shouting “sabaidee”. After observing Loas village life we had some food and sat round the campfire with the couple from earlier and another couple who arrived later.
The owner and their family also sat with us as it is cold and windy. After a chat and a beer we headed off to bed.
So after a day of waving at locals dodging pigs, cows, kids, buffalos, dogs and pot holes we needlessly slept well all night.
Ouch ouch ouch!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5 hours to do 60km over rocks gravel, potholes and windy roads. This is not going to be fun!
What a painful, painful day but it did have the best scenery of the trip.
To start the day we headed to what appeared to be into a jungle,
driving slowly around the bumpy windy roads at 10mph as that was the fastest and the safest speed to go. We continued around the bends going along nicely/painfully until we were nearly hit by a speeding F*****g idiotic w******r of a driver coming around the corner at around 60mph nearly flying off the cliff and taking us with him. After I cooled down (Hold me back miller, grr) we continued to drive through some small local villages to a town call loksac where we had a horrible tasting lunch with the lovely older Dutch couple. We were very glad of the rest and it was all flat but windy roads from here on.
We set off on our own after lunch and the first thing we saw was a dog truck (Basically it’s 5 dogs on top of each other in one cage and around 200 cages on the truck, Katie also noticed that they were howling and so were the dogs on the street). That sight still on our minds we couldn’t really appreciate the scenery.
A few km’s later and a fair few beeping at cows to move we drove past and spoke to the young
Dutch couple from the hostel and stayed a while staring at the view (dog truck forgotten??)
They headed off and we followed soon after. Until disaster struck!
Going up a steep hill I heard a clunck on arteta and rolled backyards….
When I looked down the chain had come off. Arrh beep!!!!!!!. After managing to stop by burning the soles of my shoes off we had to turn around and find a mechanic. We then carefully rolled the bike down the hill and acted out mechanic to locals who pointed us in the right direction. After numerous negotiations on the phone with Mr K who we rented the bike off, we got a new chain for 10 dollars and off we went for a 30 min drive before arriving at a guesthouse to rest. We decided to hit the town but soon realised there wasn’t one so we headed back to meet the family we were staying with who made us feel at home and cooked an awesome curry for us. Off to bed for another early night.
My bum still hurts. Katie’s bum still hurts, I’m tired, and
Katie’s tired. Off to the cave (this is what we came for)
Wow what an easy drive expect for animals, animals with attitude! We could go fast today until cows, chickens, goats and pigs stand/walk into the road. On one occasion I beeped at a cow to move, I beeped loud and gave it enough warning and time to move, I beeped a lot from a distance, but instead of moving, the ‘evil’ cow looked at me then continued facing forward with his bum pointing at me and instead of moving he wagged his tail and stood there, now I think this was rude, not only did he diss me but won the game of ‘chicken’ as I had to slam on the brakes and then go round him. As soon as I look behind me Katie was laughing as the cow had moved for her. This not only happened with the cow but also a pig. These animals are out to kill me. Katie thinks I’m paranoid but I’m not there everywhere and all plotting to get me.
We arrived at the cave after avoiding the animals and got onto our boat, as I had forgot my
flip-flops and we had to walk in water the boatman decided/insisted I wore his which were ½ the size of my shoe size. We helped push the boat into the cave before getting in.
The cave was massive and very dark, the only light we had was a small torch so our life was in the hands of the captain. O dear. Occasionally we had to get out of the boat as it was too shallow and had to push the boat over gravel before we reached the centre which was lit up. We the got off the boat and could see the real beauty of the cave. We explored in the lighted section for 15mins before re-joining our boat at the other side. We continued through the darkness occasionally getting in and out to push, until we came out the other end of the cave where there were people selling food and drink. After a coke the captain told us it’s time to go and we went back through the cave. The cave was impressive in its size and the captain was amazing at steering as there were so many turns but on the whole the first cave
was a lot better.
We headed to a hostel near the cave for lunch and a rest before deciding to head back to the hostel we stayed in the night before.
Time to head back… we got up early as we had a km to get through, but luckily for us it was a straight dual carriage way and we got our bikes up to 90mph. We got back safely and 2 hours ahead of schedule. We decided to drive around town a while as we wanted to use our petrol, but there wasn’t much to see. We got back to the hostel handed back our bikes and got money for the chain of Mr Ku before having a beer and dinner before falling asleep.
There are more photos below