Monday, 17 January 2011

The Loop

I've been told, already in Vietnam that I have to make The Loop in Tha Khaek. So from Pakse I've taken direction to Tha Khaek. You might think that 350 km which is the distance between Pakse and Tha Khaek should not take more than 6 hours, even if you drive slow and bear in mind bad condition of Laos roads. But no. It took like 9 hours before I got to Tha Khaek. At first it was not bad. After 5 hours on half full bus we got to Savannakhet. But than it took ages. Unloading some boxes from the roof, waiting on the bus station, picking some people on the way. And the last people that we've picked was a bunch of young Laotian guys who had to sit in the "corridor" on small stools and who tried to chat with me, even though they did not know any english and I did not know any Lao, but still it was fun. They all seemed a little bit guyish to me, leaning on each other and hugging and having that fancy hair style. One of them started to play to me and send me some Lao music via bluetooth. What he played to me was either covers of some western hits performed by Lao singers or Lao lyrics sang to the western hits melody. Still it was very funny and nice.
In Tha Khaek I went to Tha Khaek Travel Lodge which is the place to meet other travelers who want to do the loop. The first thing that I've asked when I got there was: who is doing the loop tomorrow?
So I've managed to find 3 guys with whom I could do that. Chris - Aussie guy and Kacper and Aspian from Denmark. We've rented motorbikes from Mr Ku, he gave us a map of where to go and so we did.
On Thursday morning we head off to see some caves and take a swim in the river. After we've spent half an hour trying to find Tham Pha Fa (Buddha Cave) and saw it and got so disappointed we've gave up and decided to take a swim only. We were also running slowly out of time as Chris's bike got broken and could not be repaired quickly, so Mr Ku had to come and give him a new one. We went to search for Tha Fa Lang, which took us probably another half an hour, but in the end we've made it too. We were very good at directions, but bad at finding things.
Spot was really cool, clean and almost still water. Some rocks to sit on. We've taken some pictures, jumped into the water, did some swimming and warmed ourselves in the sun. And that was probably when Chris got robbed. We've left our bags on the rock, and we were sitting behind the bush, so we did not see them at all. But no one had it in mind that in that place, some distance from the main road someone will come to steal. And what was surprising, my camera was lying on the top of my bag and they did not take it (thanks God!), but they took his camera, wallet and iPod that were in pockets of his jeans. Weird isn't it?
That was the end of his loop. He had to go back to the city to block credit cards, make police statement and so one. I also asked him to change motorbikes, as mine was old and slow and I wanted to have some fun driving fast. He was so nice and did that, which I've found out after we've come back was very good move as on the way back it got broken and I'd have a problem with it...
We were heading to Tha Lang, where we were supposed to spend the night. We almost did not have any issues, except that Aspian's acceleration line got broken and he had to have it repaired. It cost like nothing - 20000 kip, which is 2 euro.
Last 30 km was on a dirt road, very bumpy and uneven, but so much fun too. It was only appetizer for tomorrow, where we had another 60 km of such a road. And that was insane. We were faster than locals, which means a lot. I got completely covers in red/orange dust. Still my clothes have orange hue. But that also explains why all the kids in villages always have their clothes in similar orangish colour (I've realised that already in Bolaven Plateau), and even their clothes are white or green or red, in the end they are orangish. Everything is covered in dust.
In the evening in guest house we've met another 3 people doing loop so we were playing dices and having fun.
Next day we had to get up early to make everything in time, especially those 60 km on the dirt road, which in fact was the best part of the whole trip. Beautiful view over the trees with halves of their trunks in the blue lake water and orange road. Jumping on the uneven surface was very cool.
At the end of the road, at the city of Lak Sao we lost our 3 friends cause one of them got a puncture, twice in a row and we went to see hot spring, which was the biggest disappointment ever. Thre was no spring at all, only place where you can take shower with hot water from a spring, which we've found out later was not even hot. Failure.
Last 80 km were on the good road, a little boring sometimes, the only entertainment was that my motorbike did no0t want to start sometimes and once one of the pipes has disconnected so it's stopped and whole key socket was turning around and I could not stop/start it sometimes. After a while I've been able to handle it, only if I remembered not to pull key to strong when I was removing it from the socket.
In Konglor we've spend a night in a cosy guest house, where I've even met polish guy, who told me: but your accent is not polish at all. I've told him the same. But no wonder, after five years in Dublin you probably lose your polish accent.
Last day in the morning we've visited Kong Lo cave. And now imagine river 7.5 km long running in tunnel beneath limestone mountain. Here and there sandy or pebble beaches, stalagmites and stalactites all over. Rocks reflecting in water that look like those patterns which we used to make as kids: throwing some ink on the sheet of paper and folding it in two. Just amazing. Nothing like I've ever seen before. I'm pretty surprised though that this place is not yet widely known by tourists. I give it 5 years maybe and it'll be fully packed.
After sightseeing we had almost 200 km of good and boring road. I was afraid that I'll fall asleep. But cold was keeping me awake. I did not have too much warm clothing with me. My jacket was in Bangkok and I only had shirt, long sleeve and pullover. So to keep myself warm I've dresses plastic raincoat poncho underneath pullover to block the wind and that was cool idea. But I started to feel tired again until I almost got killed cause some freak decided to drive out from his garden just in front of me. And there was even no way of overtaking him as there was big truck coming from opposite direction. I could only brake and hope that brakes are good enough. Luckily they were otherwise I'd probably be covered in bruises and scratches right now.
In the end we've made it. We got to the Traveler Lodge about 3.30 p.m. Pretty quick.
For tomorrow I've planned quite day in Tha Khaek, but what you plan never is what happens, but this will be next long story to tell.

Kacper, Chris and Aspian tracing caves

Finally I've seen green rice paddies

On the road
Q: How many Lao women is needed to repair one motorbike?
A: It does not matter. Mr Ku has to come and replace it with a new one.

Are you sure that we are right?

Look at the dog. It's got necklace from a brake line

This is what we've found under the table in GH


Sunrise. I guess this is the first sunrise that I've seen on this trip. Usually I don't get up that early.

My red dragon


In the orange mist

Rice paddies

Bunny boy

On the road again

Boats in the Kong Lo cave
Kong Lo cave

Kong Lo cave - this is the reflection that I've mentioned

1 comment:

  1. Another adventure to add to your collection. Looks like your stories keep getting better :-) How does the orange dust taste??