After a fairly boring couple of days we were pumped for the Gibbon experience! A rarely advertised three day trek aimed at preserving the jungle but allowing high paying tourists to visit it without destroying it. We'd been lucky enough to hear about it through Mark and Chrissie whom we meet in China (thanks guys!).
We set off with four packed into the cabin and another four in the back. A very bumpy but scenic 2 hours we arrived at a small village laden pigs, chicks, kids and with two finished groups desperate for beers and raving about their last three days. We set off with high expectations and moderate confusion over where we were going and where the other group was destined. After only 15 minutes of walking we stopped for lunch curry chicken bagettes. ( Little did we realise how too soon it was to stop). We recommenced walking, through a creek, up and round this mountain for about 2hours dripping with sweat and gasping for air , making our previous trek look like a stoll in the park. Buggered and keen for a rest we were instructed on how to where the harnesses for the zip
lines and our 15 minute rest turned in to an hour and 15 because of guides thought it was too hot!! Back on the track again and we encountered our first zip line. As no-one was volunteering to go first Jez jumped in and flew off before my eyes across to a tree house (approximently 150m from the ground), he made it so I went next. It was absoutely amazing, heart pumping with anticipation... ok fear, knuckles white holding on to the lead only to realise if the lead doesn't remain on the roller I can hold onto the lead all I like but I'd still be cactus! Another short zip (100m) and we were back walking again, with a little extra spring in our steps waiting for the next zip line. We did another 3 or so zips a couple where you pull up a little short of the landing meaning you had to pull youself up... extremely hard work. Luckily neither of us had to drap ourselves far. Jez now extremely confident with the whole process took some fantastic movies (see attached!!) I however was still white knuckled, not quite willing to let my grip go to hold
a camera thats for sure. We then arrived at "our" tree house, fully furnished with 4 double beds, kitchen and a bathroom with views!!!! (see picture). " Dinner will be delivered later..." said our guide as he zipped from our tree house in the meantime we were free to zip around as we pleased. Sure enough a couple hours later the tree houses leaf roof began ratterling and in flew a little Laos man with one pot comprising of 5 canisters of different dishes and a basket of rice! We saw in the evening by candlelight playing cards with a new mates from Alisha from America, Carl and Martha from Ireland, Tony from England and Ella from Germany
Awake bright and early with the best views we are ever likely to wake up to. We were on the road again to tree house number 6! After a couple hours of less strenous walking then the previous day only hindered by a couple thirsty leeches we arrived at the waterfall! Given we are currently at the end of dry season here the waterfall wasn't overflowing but a spilled into a beautiful cool large pool. After lunch at
the kitchen we headed to some more zip lines. One proving to be extremely troublesome for some. Firstly, Carl (not Carly, Carl our Irish friend) developed a little more speed then anticipated and went crashing into a tree fortunately feet first however because of the impact he went hurterly backwards unable to break and back in the middle of the line. After dragging himself 3/4 of the way our little guide decided to zip down and help him and we was soon back safe and unhurt. Only hours later whilst zipping on the same line ourselves Tony highly amused with the fact he didn't make the distance forgot to brake and he too ziped backwards to the middle of the line, unable to drag himself back our rescue mission began! Following failed attempts of inspirational banter, bribery with food, too of short tree branches, curled up hosing and an increasing distressed Pom Tony. Alisha and I head off to find the guides to rescue him. In our hast and beckoning darkness we get slightly side tracked for a bit ( opps wrong track!), we convinced our not so motivated guides to come help Tony, only to be met 3/4 of
the way there by Jez who tells us that himself and Carl have saved him! But we have no water! Jez sets off to the kitchen for water and we return to the tree house to see a bruised and battered but very thankful Tony.
After a cold dinner and some more cards, our game is soon interupted by spider, caterpillar and a more than friendly mouse. The next mission begins with Jez leading the attack... after a very amusing 15 minutes we assume mouse has been successfully tipped off the tree house and we head to bed.
Tired from our adventures yesterday we mozzied down to the kitchen for breakfast relishing our last chances at being Peter Pan. After a very comfortable couple hour walk we arrived back in the village, much like our former group filthy, smelly (for sure) and hanging for a beer!
We were trucked back to Hua Xai, found a new room and showered until clean or close too...
We thenmeet up with our Gibbon Group for dinner and beers at the Riverside Restaurant (minus the German girls who had to catch a bus from Chang Khong)! After a fantastic dinner we
headed home exhausted and dreading our two day boat trip to Luang Prabang.
After sleeping in a real bed again, we were up packed, grabbed breaky and lunch (for the boat trip) with little time to regret the beers from last night. Despite an 8.30am pick up at our tour joint, to meeting point on the dock to check visa's and try and sell us overpriced accomodation for our stopover at Pak Bang, to boarding the boat, which finally departed at 10.30am! Fortunately theSlow boat turned out to be surprisingly spacious and full of 6 our our Gibbon group and a number of other friendly tourists, enough for us to move our bench seats into a circle for eight hours of reading, cards and retelling stories of the gibbon and taking in the Mekong. We arrived at Pak Bang met by many keen guesthouse reps keen to snap up some business. With a group of 7 we were quite a steal and two bartered between themselves landing us with a pretty good deal, given the town doesn't have electicity and runs off generaters between 6 and 10pm. A couple shots of Lao Lao whiskey on the house
we headed off to a restaurant recommended by our guesthouse. Unfortunately it wasn't a good one, the meals less than impressive arrived one at a time over the space of two hours! We were than invited by some very excited and drunk Irish guys adament not to let the slowness of the town get them down or the curfew and get some kareoki pumping. Hampered slightly by the fact the Kareoki CD's were in Lao, Tony stepped in with some fantastic renditions of ..
Not letting the lack of electricity dampen spirits we switched to the ipod, Tony still in full force, until we were kindly ushered to bed as we were keeping the town awake!
After a restless night of rain and ... even less impressed by our recommended restaurant and a miset alarm (opps!) We headed back down to the boat only to find it had shrunk!! Maybe the rain, narrower in width and even the seats were narrower! We spent the day playing yahtzee, cards ( one game of jackarse involving about 18 people!!) and mini monopoly. Fortunately day two on the boat went pretty quick as well and we arrived at Luang Prabang
just after 6. Meet by another group of haggling guesthouse owners we accepted one. After a stroll around the night market, we ran into a few others from the boat who joined us for dinner by the river. Following we set off in search of Martins Bar (our decided meeting point with all the others from the boat) we'd formed quite a possy over the past couple days! Unable to find it we settled at the Lao Lao garden. Apparently Flaming Sambuca was on the menu (Jez's favourite shot) so sambuca it was! Tony coming through with the goods second night running, said it was only flaming sambuca, if lit in your month. After Jez had worn one (Carls) and downed three the night had hit a whole new level. Some how I remembered reading some where that the only place to go once the pubs shut was the bowling alley so thats where we went next!
Whilst the rest of the town is sleeping the bowling alley is alive, after scoring the worst total we've ever bowled (too bad to be published!) and refused further games we headed home to our Guesthouse at 3.30am, 3 and half hours past
curfew apologising prefusely to our guesthouse owner who we woke to let us in!
Awake and unwell... very unwell. We dragged ourselves to get some brekky determined not to waste the day. Fortunately we ran into the a guy from the night before destined for the waterfall. After our previously lack lustre waterfall experiences we were more than apprehensive. But given our state it seemed like a pretty good option. So we woke Carl and Martha (it was 1pm!!) and headed for the Kuang Si waterfall. After a forty-five minute bumpy ride we arrived happy that we hadn't had to force the driver to stop for a spew at the most amazing coloured waterfall ever! Whilst the Lonely Planet had reported turquoise water, it really was! We trekked up to the very top for some amazing views and pictures. Then headed down to the smaller and swimable one. Where we spent the next hour jumping from the tree and waterfall into a refreshing pool of turquoise water only slightly spoilt by the nibbling fish!
After another very uncomfortable hour on the bus headed out for an Alcohol free Western style meal! Jez's gamble on the steak was
well worth it (you never can be sure if it will be beef, dog or water buffalo) and Carly's pizza was a good second. Tucked in for an early night.
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