Luang Prabang cycling and home stay

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January 22nd 2010
Published: February 6th 2010
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We waited until the morning to pack for our three days cycling, trekking and kayaking including two nights home stay in a village. We quickly packed and squeezed in everything we need for the trip. We had to sacrifice allot of things just because we could fit them in the bags, we also checked out of our hotel and headed for the tour operator shop. We left our packs their reluctantly and hopped into the van and as we drove away I notice my knee was quiet sore and I realised that the scratch that I had on my knee from mud volley ball was infected and very red. We arrived 2km up the road and made a last attempt to find some bandaids. There was nothing around and with Jacinta’s brother in-law recently bumping his elbow on a door in his house he now has to have surgery for an infected elbow, so to say I wasn’t concerned was an understatement. We were introduced to our guide and saddled up and riding down the street before we knew it. We were left to work out the bikes gearing by ourselves and quickly got used to it. The heavens weren’t very kind to us and it drizzled for 3 hours of our biking tour. After 1.5 hours we turned off the now quiet main road onto a dirt track and had to take it easy down the hills because you would end up with a massive mud track up your back that was flicked off by the bike tyre. After what seemed like half a day we arrived for lunch 2 hours from starting. We rode to the top of the ridge and parked our bikes beside some elephants and a beautiful view of the Mekong River. Lunch was an hour and we meet an American and a South American named Chilli who was also travelling around Asia. Chilli worked as an embassy relation advisor or something like that, he ended up giving some great advice on places to go throughout the whole lunch break. I haven’t met anyone so well travelled as him and I think that we ended up sticking another two months onto our travels from all the places he said to go. We had fried rice for lunch which was great for the carbs as we needed all the energy we could muster to tackle the hills. Our guide ended up packing it in and so we had a new guide named Too Soon. Chilli made the comment that his girl friend named him that and I pissed myself laughing. We said our goodbyes to the elephants and started to ride down the muddy road again. It was quiet clear to us just how sore our bums were from the bike seats. But at least the rain stopped as we carried on riding beside the Mekong River an hour later. The view was unbelievable and with the low cloud lifting it made it an even more spectacular of the mountains. We rode passed our first small village and all the children came out to meet us, it was so funny to see them waving as fast as they could and yelling “Subba-Dee” which means hello in Lao. It felt like we were riding deep into the village until we finally popped out onto the main road again. We were a little disappointed as we thought we were getting close to our village and by now our arses were very much bruised from the bike seat. Jacinta was also having trouble with her knee’s, an old sporting injury from playing netball when she was young and this made it extremely hard for her to keep up. I could tell she was in pain by the way her face looked and only hoped we would be there soon. We stopped at a very high bridge crossing across the Nam Ou River, we would latter kayak down this same river on our last day. We were gutted when our guide said we still had another 1 hour to go and there would be lots of hills before we got to the village, at least we were on the road and it helped a little bit. The bike’s were surprising quiet good bikes and it helped having the smooth gears to change up and down with. From the bridge the road would follow the Nam Ou River the whole way and it was a great sight to see all the kids swimming and fishing below. The hills were excruciatingly hard and I started to get tired also, the sun came out and the humidity kicked in and I felt bad for Jacinta as she really had a hard time with her knees and took every opportunity to rest going down the hills instead on using the hill to her advantage and pedalling as fast as she could to get up the next hill. With words of encouragement I finally convinced her to ride a different style and before long we were resting at the top of the hills waiting for our struggling guide Too-soon. The hills got that step that we had to get off the bikes and walk them up and as I had my head down trying to forget about how tired and sore I was I almost past the truck that would take our bikes back to town so we could stay at our first village.
I was so happy we made it and yelled out to Jacinta some 50m away saying we were here, I could tell from the glowing white teeth in the distance she was happy to have made it and was even too tired to give a verbal response. Our guide turned up a minute later looking just as tired as us. The bikes went back on the truck and by this time we had a growing crowd of children watching our every move. We had to walk back to our village just 50m past were we had just ridden and I was so relived we had made it. Too-soon said that we rode 50-60km and Jacinta was proud and I was proud of her for going such a distance with her knees the way they were and by this time her knees had swelled up bad and she was unable to bend her knees without them giving way on her. I hoped that she would be able to trek 5hours the next day. We met the head house owner named Poo-ma, he was a very smiling man and sooo happy we could stay at his house. It also helped that he knew English very well and it allowed us to communicate. We were a mess from cycling the muddy roads so they took us down to the river so we could have a bath and cool our tired muscles. It felt great to be clean again and it gave us a small refreshing burst of energy to sit and talk with the villages as all we really wanted to do was to go to bed. We changed into clean cloths and hung our washed ones up to dry. We sat around talking with a Beer Lao and reflected on how sore our arses were and how it hurt so much to sit down. We bought Poo-ma a beer and he was very grateful for shouting him. Too-soon started to help with dinner and I was starving. While they were cooking we sat down on little chairs to watch four Lao kids playing a game of Botchy. It started to get really interesting as we had more to drink and the game had got quiet competitive and vocal between the two teams. It even drew in a crowd of younger kids that all sat around to watch as well. With all of lunch burnt up within the first hour of riding the beer went straight to our heads and before long we were commentating like Richie Benaud and Greg Richie (Aussie Cricket commentators) at a cricket game. We knew we were watching a good game when the two opposing teams were arguing who was closest to the centre ball, this was settled by using a length off grass to measure between each players botchy balls to resolve the dispute. We still thought that they should have given the third umpire a chance. With the excitement really heating up it was time to work the crowd and in a flash Jacinta showed them how to do the wave. It was getting dark and with the funding for the stadium lights not through just yet the game was left to adjourn another day.
Dinner was served and it consisted of cabbage, meat and green veggies both cooked in a chicken broth, this was accompanied by sticky rice. The meal was beautiful and really hit the spot, Poo-ma thought it was a great idea to finish the meal with some Lao Lao which is locally brewed spirit made from fermented rice. I wasn’t so sure but gave it a go, with one gulp I felt a part of by oesophagus that I had never felt before and as it washed down it seemed to have stripped any protective saliva layering that was meant to protect my throat. The Lao Lao was also poured from a used water bottle and I thought that it was more appropriate to have some sort of danger sign or skull and cross bones on the bottle, or maybe just keep it in a petrol tin. It was time to go to bed and even though we were dead tired it was hard to sleep on a very thin mattress and with a road only 15m away massive trucks hit the nearby bridge with a thud and I was sure they were just about to drive right into the house.

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