Saturday, 12 January 2013

Day 1: 3 day jungle adventure

Everyone was happy to reach the village at the end of Day 1. Five hours paddling inflatable kayaks 20km down a shallow river was exhausting!
Our long day started with a stop at the local markets for supplies.

Then a half hour drive and we put in at a grubby dusty village, just outside of the Nam Ha National Protected Area. The kids were having a lot of fun playing in the dust.

Our group comprised Peter and Arian (Swiss), Nikki (Dutch), ourselves, our primary guide Ponh and a trainee guide.

The approach to safety was very Lao - life jackets missing many buckles and straps, Ponh paddling so far in front he was often out of sight (the trainee guide right behind him), no questioning of our kayaking ability. Three of the four baffles under Helen's kayak had blown together to make one very large baffle, tending their craft to the right. Oh, and Ponh's scent betrayed a big night drinking Lao Lao...
Within 20 minutes Rosie and Helen capsized in a small rapid - their boat got stuck behind a big rock, and then folded and tipped. Rosie was very upset but they held onto the boat until the guide eventually came back to help.
After this less than auspicious start, our trip improved immeasurably after an impressive lunch around a warm fire, where we dried our clothes and admired bruises.

After lunch, everyone got into the zone, we improved our skills and relaxed about the safety.

Shane and Tom narrowly missed a capsize from the top of a rock in the afternoon! Helen turned around to see Shane holding tightly onto Tom's arm - and the camera in the dry bag - hoping for a positive outcome!
It was a long long day of gentle rapids, village visits and much, much paddling.
Tom had a smile on his face all day, as did Rosie (after the capsize episode was behind us).

The dinner, like lunch, was beyond our expectations and we really enjoyed walking around the village and learning about village life. Weaving, spinning, cooking. Babes in arms, kids playing, adults working. Dogs, pigs, chickens, goats, ducks.

Other than the TVs and satellite dishes (power came a year ago) it was easy to imagine the buildings and life generally unchanged for many decades.

We stayed in a village-made bamboo hut rather than in a family's home - the group's consensus - as the money then went to the village for communal spending rather than to the family wealthy enough to have room in their house for the falangs to bed down for the night.

The Lao eco-tourism might not have got it right with management of garbage and human waste but the investment of funds into the host village was pleasingly evident.
The bucolic experience was somewhat compromised by the unexpected dff dff music - thankfully somewhat distant- into the night.
Shane, Helen, Rosie and Tom

Location:Nam Ha National Protected Area, Laos

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