Neil radioed ahead that there was a view point and we have to stop. Little did we know what would come next. Urals, a gaggle of them, with New Zealand flags waving behind each bike. To me I thought cylinder heads out the side of the engine equals BMW but Neil quickly corrected me. It was a group of males and females travelling through Vietnam and Laos on hired bikes. We were invited to ride down the road 40kms to stay and eat with them. It was mentioned that there was going to be a pig on the spit. Hell yes! Also apple sauce brought from New Zealand. Done and done. So we went back down the mountain to follow the gaggle to their night stop. This is where I experienced my first official water crossing. Most of you are probably thinking “so what?" Well let me tell you, big deal. I was second in line and did not have trusty Neil to back he up as he usually does. I radioed after I had done it ...eep. Scary, but if in doubt gas it out. I basically just gassed it the whole way. World travel, BMWs, other motorcycles etc was the topic for the rest of the day and night.
The following day the group had planned to visit the Konglor Cave via boat. There was no more room so we decided to ride three kilometres down the road to the entrance of the cave. We needed to move on and get to Vientiane which was some 300 kilometres or so away. We couldn't do the full one and half hours cave tour. Neil managed to find someone who spoke enough English to tell the ticket man we only wanted to go part way into the cave. So with that sorted, we descended to the boat and our two guides. The cave runs 7 kilometres in length. It connects through to the Natane village at the other end and is the only way to access it. The river has formed a natural tunnel 30 metres wide and between 20-100 metres high. Within the main chamber is a large collection of stalagmites and stalactites. Just a little more information on the geology. The Karst of Khammouane area, is a belt of Karst limestone 270 km long and 40 km wide. It was laid down in seas over 300 million years ago and then forced to the surface by tectonic plate movements. It lies between the Mekong River in Laos and the Vietnamese border. Over all it was a truly breath taking sight. I only wish now we had more time to explore the rest of the cave, but there was the rest of Laos to explore.
Toot Toot, next stop Vientiane. A very tiring 300 km later we hit the capital. Here we needed to obtain our Thai visa and some much deserved R & R from riding. Neil managed to find us a wonderful Vietnamese Guesthouse to stay in. I think we were to only “phalang” (foreigner) to stay there. The first night, the humble and generous owner, Tuan, asked his daughter, Tuey to prepare us a traditional Vietnamese dinner. Which was different from other flavours we have encountered in SE Asia. We descended on the very busy Thai Consulate the next morning after a long earned rest. One day and 1000 baht each poorer and we are laughing.
Neil had managed to find some very large markets and took me for a look... Holy Moly. You name it they had it, but was available at 10 other shops as well. Which meant for serious bargain shopping. Being sincere to the budget I resisted purchasing. Zeus help me if I ever return! Considering we only have limited time in Laos, we had to get moving. Vang Vieng next stop. Neil had visited with a best mate four years ago and had a ball. Unfortunately the Vang Vieng he knew had been torn down August this year. Just our luck. I kept hearing these fantastic stories but this is the way things are. There is still tubing though.
So we navigate through Vang Vieng and end up at the same guest house where he had stayed years before, unpacked, and went off to explore. Food was great and fresh I ended up living on a bacon, chicken and cheese baguettes for like 3 days straight. I believe I could have kept going, heheh. The people were lovely too. Explaining where they could what had happened in the community since the government had removed the river bars and dangerous flying foxes and trapezes. Apparently tax evasion was a major cause to the grand end, let alone the regular deaths on the river.
Neil decided to take me tubing so I can say at least I did that. Good fun and nice and relaxing. Although Neil and I kept getting free back massages from rocks under the surface. Tomorrow we move onto Luang Prabang.
Better run through the Jungle
Riding took up the next day and we arrived late at Luang Prabang some 270 kilometres. Big rides considering prior in Laos we had only done about 130 kilometres in a day and were completely exhausted. But these rides included dirt and hair pin corners, an off road riders dream. I have never seen so many twisties in my life!!! By the end I was saying no more, but the experience meter sky rocketed I think. Pretty good trade off. Two German blokes on Honda Baja motorbikes had passed us on the road up the mountain and we stopped for a quick yarn at the look out. Amazing!!
Accommodation was found and we went to explore the night market of Luang Prabang. Again I had to fight the urges to buy and if only I just came here, I would need at least one extra bag to bring home all the goodies. Only one night here then in the morning north to the Chinese border. I am not sure why exactly but apparently there is an abandoned casino or town.
My friend Mr Dirt came for a visit again, along with those twisties. Although there was beautiful scenery and a chance for a quick glimpse into the life of rural Laos people. Most smiled and waved but some looked too consumed by their back breaking labour. That is something I noticed, they are all really hard workers! We stopped for a break and began winning the local children with a packet of chips with bonus Angry Birds cards. A bicycle rider passed by, we found out that he was from China riding to Australia!!! Broken English, but top bloke. Then one big new BMW pulled up. Then around 3 more joined, always a welcomed sight. The air filled with laughter, ooooos and arghhhhs. I just had to stand there and laugh. We found out through broken English they were from China riding back home. They invited us to join them to the border. Well where we could. With the exchange of details, one man said 'call me' when you get to China. We tried to explain we weren’t going into China, only the border, but thought we would leave it at that.
It was decided to stay overnight at Udomxai or Muang Xai. Where we explored the local markets again and Neil invested in some fireworks. This then filled our night, to awake the next morning with chickens trying to eat the spent firework packets. I had the best baguette of my life here.
Admiring the magnificent Laos country side
Heading to the Chinese border, the roads were flat and beautiful. Minus the occasional crazy bus, mini van or truck. We then started for our last port of call, Huay Sai. The twisties came to Neil’s joy while I plodded along, but wow, some of those hills were freaking steep!! We did however manage to see the recent remains of an overturned truck full of grapes. Maybe we should have picked some too as the whole village was out in force scavenging.
At the Chinese border
We are now resting up awaiting for the 1st of November so we can head across the Mekong for the last time on the trip. While I sit writing weeks of blog, Neil is be-friending a local to modify the bikes even more. I am so excited as soon I will have to opportunity to meet up with my bestie in Chiang Mai! Till our next adventure.......