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Published: February 17th 2018
Saturday, we are mixing up the days, we thought yesterday was Thursday, but in fact Friday. Definitely Saturday today though. Up early, breakfasted and determined to get amongst the hills and mountains for our Jungle trek (without guide).
Cooler day so far, and with an early start hope to do a 3 hour round trip to some spectacular caves in these limestone Karsts. With the aid of hobomaps, we roughly plan our intended route. Although humidity low, the Sun soon starts to bite. Luckily, we reach the jungle after only 30 minutes. We had passed a lookout point enroute but declined the near vertical bamboo ladders rising probably 700 ft , moving on the same track, the Jungle is dense and well shaded but the path is well trodden and here that is important, because you definitely cant go off the beaten track because of the threat of land mines.
We reach a second cave with advertised stunning cliff views, but once again we wimped out having taken a look at the ricketty ladders and steep ascents, never mind the descents, we both agree to skip it! The path onwards from here was closed due to land mines, the
Skull and cross bones, 'danger bombs' sign enough to turn us around and retrace our steps.
Yesterday we heard one explosion and today two more, which we presume is the ongoing mine clearance scheme. Hope to God its not more accidents. The air is full of beautiful butterflies, birdsong and the occasional ape/monkey call, very jungle-like. No snakes or spiders to speak of, so not too scary. The scenery around us is lush, cool, shaded and beautiful, it is an easy flat hike. Negotiating dodgy bamboo bridges, we return to town around noon, find a riverside watering hole and replace lost fluids.
We have just this afternoon and evening before our next destination in Laos, and we have to get some kayak experience in. We totally misread this event, firstly thinking that the Kayaks left and returned to the jetty close to our hotel and had previously criticized the fact that the tour operators kept taking them away by Tuk Tuk from the jetty, all day long only to return them for the next bookings, rather than just stack and store them in situ. Secondly, we thought Kayaking the easy option, gentle oaring as opposed to tubing through
rapids and god knows what conditions. Wrong!
Leo negotiates a great price of under £6 each, which includes pick up from hotel (remember 50yards away from jetty), we are picked up at the hotel and sped at breakneck speed about 10 km out of town, hanging on for dear life. Along with a similarly mature French couple and Four young Chinese, we have no idea where we are headed, but its a heck of a long way from our Hotel, help!
Finally we arrive at the riverside where many kayaks are ready and waiting. We are then told that the Kayaks are on a oneway basis and back to town the distance is 8 km. But! If we get tired, there is a break point at 5 km where we can stop and Tuk Tuk back.
Because of obstacles and shallow rapids we have a guide who we must follow, best we do,and if we ground or flounder, he will assist us!
Well, there are about 20 people but only 4 europeans. Fortunately, we get a guide for the four of us, leaving the Chinese 16 with the other poor guy. Needless to say, despite our
inexperience, we are NEVER going to chicken out at 5kms, we are British, after all.
In spite of our age, although we ground twice, where one of us jumps out and refloats us, and once where we oar into a floating tree trunk, we overtake almost everyone else along the river, rapids, obstacles, drunken tubers, stupid clueless Chinese, who mostly hire a local oarsman to do the real work, we emerge at our end destination, next to our hotel a mere hour and a half later. Sometimes nerve wracking, but exhilarating experience. Climbing out of our Kayak, with the sun setting to the West, we find our legs are like jelly, knees are buckling, but we make it back to our hotel, shower off and realise we are ready to eat!
According to Trip Advisor, the best restaurant here is said to be the River Side Lodge, and recommends pre-booking, so we head there. Arriving at 7.30pm, we are the only diners but the food is ok and not so noisy as our Hotel, but think it's rating needs revising. Back to our hotel to blog before bed after a great day. There is a big vibe here
in Vang Vieng about 'Tubing' along the river. Our experience today is that it consists of young people floating very slowly, going nowhere fast, reple ishing their Lao Beer tinnies at every bar, getting wasted and feeling they've achieved something, give us a kayak any time!
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