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Published: January 2nd 2010
I wake with a stiff neck from the massive brick of a pillow beneath my head, a common occurrence in guesthouses round these parts.
Heading off on my kayak and cave tube trip I discover that my small group of 5 has magically morphed into a group of 30 overnight. We pile in the back of tuk-tuks, kayaks strapped on top and drive down a bumpy road for about 15 minutes.
We walk through a small village to what looks like a pond at the base of a cliff. It is now I realise that the little gap between the water and some rock is the hole I have to go through to get into the cave.
“Tham Nam” is a cave about 500m long and a tributary to the Nam Song river. It is deep beneath a massive limestone mountain. Inside you float upon tractor inner-tubes down the dark, wet cavern. Around my neck is a battery from a scooter connected to a dull lamp on my head. I am rather claustrophobic so this a huge buzz for me. Teeny spiders glisten in the light and big giants ones freak some people out. The water we float in is freezing
cold.....so they tell me, but I'm not cold at all, it must be the adrenaline.
Barbeque skewers and friend rice is eaten beside a little stream. Big dusty ducks jump each other's bones and little chickens roam free, a common sight. It' not only the animals either, there are babies everywhere here! Maybe it's something in the water, I'm glad I'm drinking bottled!
We visit the Elephant Cave, which is a temple. Inside our guide tells us a great Buddhist story about a flamingo and a frog, and shows us the statue. He tells us that unfortunately the statue-makers made an eagle instead of a flamingo. I don't think it looks like either bird.
We hop back in our tuk-tuks and head to a wider part of the river, we don our life jackets and get quick “How to Kayak” talk in broken English. Considering the multitude of nationalities present, charades seem to convey the message best.
Being dry season, The Nam Song is quite low and due to this we can only kayak 10kms. In the wet the water moves quickly, in the dry the rocks are exposed and it can be a little nasty if
you fall out.
We cruise on downstream for what seems like forever. Massive limestone escarpments block the sun. Grown men stand together in the shallows wearing nothing but a a pair of jocks, an old glass dive mask and a shopping basket. They search beneath the waters for fish. Water buffalo swim to cool themselves from the hot sun, their heads poking out from the river.
We pass over small rapids that make me giggle and I laugh out loud at the kayaks that flip and crash, crowding each other on a rather large river. I see them hold their paddles back to front and paddle the wrong side as they continue to veer into banks, bridges and rocks.
After about 4km of a blissfully quiet river, the sound of music breaks the silence. Not “The hills are alive” type of sound of music, but big fat bass beats that are distorted beyond recognition. I figure we must be close to the bars, I'm surprised to hear they are still 2km away.
One of the favorite pastimes for backpackers here is to tube down a section of the river and stop at bars along the way. Sounds good right? Each
Once the rope stopped we hooked our feet into each other's tubes and paddled with our shoes on our hands.
to their own, but to be honest it's not my thing. Think schoolies week, in the day, on a river, flying fox, giant bathroom-tiled cement slide, buckets of whiskey and red-bull, beer, mushrooms and general carnage.
We stop at the giant slide bar, grab a cold beerlaos and watch the circus. I must say, it is very amusing but an hour is enough fun for me.
We paddle a further 4km downstream past tube after tube of intoxicated tourist. The river does not flow quickly here and I see bored faces anticipating the end. Some use their shoes as hand paddles and one man yanks on a bamboo tree attempting to make an oar.
As the red sun descends, I see what looks like a thin black line dancing upon the air far off into the distance. It's bats leaving their cave, thousands of them follow each other like a waft of smoke in the pink dusk.
Tot: 2.74s; Tpl: 0.08s; cc: 14; qc: 62; dbt: 0.0705s; 2; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb