.: temporaryplaceholder

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The River Mild

After several nervous hours of continuous subtle glances over my shoulder to the back of the bus, where our machine gun wielding conductor sat, followed by renewed checking of the validity of my ticket, it was with a sigh of relief that the dusty disused airstrip that heralded Vang Viang rolled into view. Back up on top of the bus to retrieve our bags from amongst the chickens and pigs strapped to the roof and off into the heart of the village to find some accommodation.

Dust devils and possibly a couple of Tazs too abound throughout the village as they've recently decided to pave the country! In fact, Vientiane, the capital, has only had fully paved roads in the central district for the last 5 years. It makes for some interesting late night strolls through the village though; avoiding open sewers, cauldron holes, trenches and the occasional specially prepared tourist hole (usually with a complimentary tourist at the bottom!).

The village itself may well be the set of an Asian version of 'Shaun of the Dead'; tourists lying semi-conscious in a zombified state in front of massive televisions watching repeat episodes of Friends non-stop. All that can be heard above the rumble of the television is a 'waaaww...' - there's definitely a Sumatran Rat Monkey to be found somewhere in the Village.

Deciding that the village wasn't safe for prolonged exposure, one nibble by the zombies and you're nobbled (doomed to Friends-itise for the rest of your days), we packed our daybags (more of a plastic sac really!) and headed for the hills.

Two days of trekking, caving and rafting ensued. Along the way we were thwarted by some rather huge oxen (Dr. Evilox and mini-Evilox) and were forced to do a wee funky traverse around a rock face to continue to the summit.

The region around Vang Viang is full of really special rock formations; spinning around you'd think that a foul mooded Zeus had hurtled hundreds of limestone chunks at the land. And where you have limestone you usually have caves!

Climbing aboard an inflatable tractor tyre we bobbed our way into the opening of a kilometre deep cave tunnel. Splashing along using our flip-flops as paddles we explored the underground maze for an hour; occasionally stopping for a quick game of soak the other cavers!

We also visited three or four other caves on our journey; some having separate entrances and exits, others having 30+ metre high stalagmites and stalagtites! Vang Viang is a potholers paradise and I'm sure that in years to come the whole area will be a mecca for cavers and climbers the world over.

The final day of the expedition saw Myra become Meryl Streep and me a kind hearted Kevin Bacon as we hit the River Wild! When I say wild, I of course mean relatively tame, but still lots of fun none the less! After working out how to stop ourselves continuously paddling in circles we faced all the dangers the river had to offer: rapids, tubers, swimming tourists, sky-diving swing jumpers and offers of Beer Chang!

A few swishing, swoshing hours in the kayak later and we were pulling into the shore beside the local bus driver, who was busy hosing down and scrubbing the bus in the very same river!


Post a Comment

<< Home