After crossing the river into Laos, customs, immigration, 1 night in a 1 street town, and a long bus ride we finally land in our first stop off, the known as Luang Nam Tha.
We sign up for a 2 day trek, (a month in Nepal just wasn't enough) to walk into the green hills of Northern Laos. We met our group in the morning which include, Steve from Nottingham who has been teaching in China for the past four months. Stephanie from Australia who is traveling to the UK to find nursing work for a few years. Our guide introduces himself as Mynoi and his little helper, bed and we set off into the rice fields.
We had been warned it was leach season and we inevitably get bitten and sucked. They move along the floor like the toy, slinky, the coiled rings that walk down the stairs. Kat was the first victim, the leach worked its way up her trainer and tried its luck though her sock. Kat stopped and goes uurrrgh
something un-naturally cold was on her ankle and she looked down to see a leach attached. The guide rushes over and we all stand around watching as he pulls it off with his fingers and crushes it on a rock.
All of us are now stopping every few minutes to check our shoes and remove the leaches with sticks. Stephanie and Steve both had bites that bleed but I was either lucky or the huge amount of 100% pure deet I had sprayed liberally over my legs and socks meant I didn't get bitten during the walk.
We stooped after an hour or so and Mynoi turns to Steve and asks him how do porcupines make love? Steve replies what? Very carefully says Mynoi and he points to a steep muddy path that we have to go down. Make like the porcupine he yells back to us and he slides down the path in his flip-flops.
We walk for about seven hours up and down small hillsides covered in green forests. Other travelers spoke highly of trekking in this area, but when you have walked in the Himalayas it was difficult to tell people later that "it was amazing". It was good fun but there wasn't the wildlife we got to see in the Amazon rain forest or the breathtaking views of Everest.
The afternoon and evening was interesting, entertaining and quite surreal. We arrived at a village called Akar for the night. This is a tribe of people who have remained pretty much un-affected by the outside world. They have their own language, customs and traditions and continue to lead their lives in pretty much the same way as they have been for the past however long. They were a nomadic tribe moving around the dense rainforest's and recently the government has granted then a piece of land which we needed a permit to enter.
Mynoi took us on a walk around the mud and straw huts and it felt very voyeuristic. The five of us in western clothes and shoes stood out amongst a group of muddy, shoe-less, mostly topless villagers that were sitting around. The women were weaving baskets and pounding rice while the men sat around smoking big opium pipes.
In the evening we sat down for dinner and one of the men from the village brought over a litre of home brew whiskey, distilled from rice which is a very popular drink here. You never know the percentage, because its home brew so you just hope its not up there with paint stripper and after-shave.
The following day we trekked on through the forest and collected all the edible plants Mynoi could find for our lunch that day. We ended up with very impressive sort of soup, containing mainly leaves, branches and mushrooms, that wasn't tasty but would sustain you. We got back to Luang Nam Tha that evening feeling tired and had dinner all together before disappearing for a good night sleep.
Love Dan & Kat