Zen and the art of Motorcycle ignorance.

Trip Start Oct 27, 2004
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Trip End Aug 17, 2005


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Saturday, April 9, 2005

After a few days lazing on the floating idyll that is Don Det, swimming in the Mekong, staying up till sunrise, sipping Beer Lao, we decided enough was enough and that we had to do something different. With very, very little planning a road trip was born...

The four of us (Greg who we met in Phnom Phen and Beck who we met in Don Det were also with us) arrived in Pakse from Don Det by bus and immeadiatley picked up two barely adequate 110cc motorcycle-cum-scooters, got ourselves a map and headed east with the sun a few hours from setting behind our backs. It was a beautiful drive the first day as we only covered around 85km and so the sun was setting giving a beautiful light all over the already spectacular scenery. It was a fantastic feeling heading out of town and looking out over the Bolaven Plateau in this near-perfect corner of the world. The Tad Lo waterfalls themselves were set in some beautiful scenery, but there were resorts and walkways everywhere and it wasn't really what we came for.

The next day we took a fantastic ride along dirt roads through tribal villages and were constantly chased by groups of children shouting "Sabaidee" (hello), the shout would be heard by kids in the next group of huts and they would come to the side of the road to see what was happening. They usually got overawed with excitement and just stared and the four freaks on the bikes, some ran along waving and shouting and one little girl even ditched her push bike in the road and ran for the bushes! We stayed the night in a town acalled Attepeu. We were absolutley ravenous when we arrived and found the best little noddle shop to get soup. It was only after we had communicated chicken and pork via embarrsing sign language and clucking and grunting noises did we discover the owner not only spoke Lao (which is a really difficult language to get to grips with as it is all tonal) he also spoke French! It would have been a lot easier if we had known that before the miming.

An early start beckoned the next day as we had quite a lot of ground to cover to get back to Pakse so we could return the bikes on time. We set out after a very french breakfast of coffee and baggettes (yes, you've guessed it, at the noodle shop again). We weren't quite sure what the roads would be like on this day as the map we had showed on the key a thin wiggly line for river but also the same wiggly line for road! We presumed the larger towns weren't connected only by river and took our chances that the map's wiggly line indicated road (not a waterway!) We also weren't sure if the road would go over or through the plateau that we had been circling as the map didn't have any contour lines. The bike's capabilites were never in doubt, they had none. We still knew that those rattling noises and irregular firing patterns were all part of a larger message from the bike, she wants to go into the jungle, and fast.

The third day of riding was, I think for all of us, the best. We spent the most part of the day crossing the plateau which, for the last two days, we had been circumnavigating. The winding dirt road took us into the mountains forests, the little bikes screaming under our bottoms, through a rainstorm that brought thunder roaring through the misty valleys. It is as if some god or director just said "Right, we need atmosphere, and lots of it. NOW!". We managed to find a small path that took us to the top of a 120 meter waterfall, there was absolutely no one else there. Just us sat on the edge of a cliff watching the little stream leap off the precipice and down into the green jungle below. All this whilst the thunder was booming behind us up in the mountains. We were all speechless!

We were almost waterfalled-out but we thought we should stop at one last place on our way back as it was meant to be 150M falls. We didn't think anything could top what we had already seen that day but we gave it a shot. WOW. These falls were spectaular. The water first fell around 75M and hit a kind of rock shelf then tumbled over that to the pool at the bottom from where the river meandered off into the dense jungle covered valley. The noise was deafening. Unfortunatley we couldn't get near to them we could only see them from a view point - but what a view that was!

We all rolled back into Pakse looking like we were wearing fake tan because of all the clay dirt and returned two rather shabby looking mopeds to the hire shop. Tired but very happy.
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