Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Laos - The Gibbon Experience.

Crossed the border into Laos on some rickety old wooden boat and arrived at the 'immigration office'. There was a huge queue to get through that apparently took about an hour to get through, but as I'd already got my visa in advance back in Chaing Mai (from good old Jam) I walked straight into the country! No-one even looked at my passport. Went straight to the gibbon experience booking office slightly worried about the fact that I had just been told that there was a 3 week waiting list only to be told that I could go the next day! The only thing was that it had to be the 2 day express version and not the 3 day that Hayley had gone on a couple of years ago and raved about. Turned out that 2 days was plenty and I saved myself a lot of money by doing that instead. So I had a day to kill in a silly little town which had nothing to offer. I was kind of looking forward to just spending the day chilling in my room and maybe updating my blog but this keeno german girl managed to convince me to grab a taxi to the local village to get some 'culture'. I really wasn't looking forward to it but it turned out to be a cracking experience. We arrived in the village and watched an old woman weaving some cotton together then headed deeper into the village and found a school. In the class room there was a couple of volenteers from Korea show where teaching the kids English, the letters A-Z. There was (I counted) over 200 kids in the class room and probably about 400 kids in total at the school. I chatted to one of the volenteers for a while who told me about the organisation and I took his contact details so that I can maybe do something similar in the future. I took some cracking photos of the kids then played football with them for a while and showed off some mad tekkers.I knackered myself out in like 5 fooking minutes as it was a billion degrees and I was running around like a loon. We stayed there for a while longer then got the taxi man to drive us back to the town. That night I went up to the roof of the hotel I was staying at to watch the sunset overt the Mekong river and got chatting to a canadian guy for a while and we decided to go out to a nearby bar for a couple of jars. The two of us met up with a couple of dutch guys and the four of us drank snake whisky (basically a bottle of whisky laos with a dead snake in it) and exchanged war stories. The dutch guys where telling me about the cock fighting that they'd seen in the Philippians and showed me some pics. From what the explained it didn't sound like something I'd want to see, but I did go to a cock fight the other day in Bali and it was a good laugh!

The next morning I woke up in a bad way. I looked in the mirror at my back and I had about a million bites on my back, arms and legs. At the time I figured that it was from mosquitoes, but I'm pretty sure it was actually bed bugs:

So everyone from the experience got chatting and I was pretty chuffed with the crowd of people I was to spend the next couple of days with. There was about 10 of us, a mixed bag of nationalities but all about the same age and all backpackers. A couple of the Aussie girls had a wee bit of food poisoning so I dosed them up with Gaviscon from my handy first aid kit that I'd brought along. This was not to be the last time that the first aid kit was required.... The day started with about 2 hours of trekking up a fairly steep hill to the first zip line. They had made the track very well and had rest areas every half hour or so which was well appreciated with the humidity and unfit westerners. At the first zip line the guide pretty much just left us to it, we where all being uber cautious at first triple checking each others equipment and talking through signals for when the line was clear. I went first and made a big hash of the zip line by using the breaks far too much so I had to pull myself to the landing point for about 5 minutes. After that I was pretty confident with judging the power of the breaks and left it till the last minute before breaking so as to land bang on the platforms. There was about 7 zip lines before lunch all ranging from 300 to 500 meters and over different ravines and tree lines. On one of them I was coming in real quick and one of the guys was filming me on the landing platform. I knew I was coming in too hot and shouted at him "I'M HAULING TOO MUCH ASS!" and as I came him he literally dived off the platform into the bush to avoid getting KO'd by me! We all had a good laugh about that one! Eventually we arrived at the tree house about 5 and zipped in. Then we stopped for some coffee (me and a couple of New Zealand guys drank some whiskey and vodka!) then did a circuit of 4 lines that took about an hour to do. We wanted to get tour moneys worth and all the guides where at the back of the group so instead of zipping back into the tree house we decided to do a sneaky extra circuit. we thought we where being rebellious but when the guide caught up with us he didn't mind at all and just said to make sure we where back before dark! We where all pretty knackered so only did one extra circuit before heading back for dinner and some more alcohol (only to tipsy level, none of us where being twats and getting smashed). Then we watched the sun set, chatted for a while, listened to some music and played some cards. I fancied a hot chocolate but we where all out of hot water so I decided to do a night time mission to the gas stove just outside of the tree house. With pot full of water in hand I zipped to the other side and walked over to the gas cooker. Then I sat there in the pitch back with bugs everywhere waiting by myself for the water to boil. I was mildly entertained when a moth flew clean into the gas flame and ignited into oblivion then freaked out when a massive spider stared crawling nearby. Then with a pot of boiling water I managed to zip back into the hut to a heroes welcome! we sat around for a while longer and discussed whether or not it was a good idea to go for a night zip. I wasn't really worried about the safety element as the zip lines are setup in such a way that you have to be a bit silly to injure yourself, I was just apprehensive that it wouldn't be much fun as we wouldn't be able to see anything. However, as it was a full moon, clear sky and we all had head torches 4 of us 'elite ninjas' (we called ourselves) decided to go out and do the circuit. And it was well worth it, zipping through the canyons at night was such an adrenaline rush especially when it came to judging the breaking point for the landing platforms. We didn't want to alert the guides, who where sleeping somewhere nearby, that we where out breaking the rules so we had a signal of making a noise like a gibbon when the line was clear for the next person to go. One of the best things about going out at night was seeing and hearing the swarms of woodlice in their masses. They where really impressive. So glowing from our triumphant and death free adventure we bedded down for the night in one of the most comfortable beds I've been in while travelling!

The next morning we woke up early and had breakfast prepared by the guides. We weren't quite sure if they where oblivious to our night zipping or just didn't give a shit but nothing was mentioned. Then we set off for some more zipping and trekking. we where all excited about the big zip at the end of the day that was 700 meters long. The trek to get there though was pretty hard work as it was down a steep hill and a bit dodgy to walk down. A couple of the girls had upset stomachs too so we where all a bit worn out by the time we got to the massive zip line. me and 2 other guys went first and even though we where pretty heavy (compared to the girls) and had good technique of raising our legs to go faster we all pulled up short of the landing sight. So when we saw Nora come in we didn't think that she would make it to the end either. However, she'd put the runner on backwards so that the break was on the opposite side to the wheels and had somehow clocked up a shit load of speed on the run in. I was standing pretty close to the landing zone when she came in and we realized she was coming in too hot quite late and started shouting "BRAKE". At first she had a really pleased look on her face as she had made it to the end without having to pull herself in. Then, within a moment, the look on her face changed from joy to fear when she went to break and couldn't. I won't forget that look she had when she realized she couldn't stop and as the runner smashed into the stopper at the end her body hurtled into the cable with a massive clatter and as she rolled back blood immediately started flowing from her forehead. She was in shock and blood was dripping down her face as she hung there on the cable. She was still conscious and not panicking so I told her to turn around and pull herself to the landing zone. We helped her unclip, sat her down and I grabbed the first aid kit from my bag. fortunately one of the guys there was a bit handy with first aid so strapped her up with a bandage and the guide landed moments later to see what had happened. He was pretty useless to be honest, he was young, didn't have a first aid kit with him and didn't really know what to do. So really it was lucky that I'd come prepared and one of the guys was clued up to help her. I have her some sweets to help with the shock and she was really shaken up. She went through all the emotions, first anger at the guides, then anger at herself, then tried laughing it off, the cried. Having said that I thought she handled it really well considering, the gash on her forehead was really deep and it was a pretty traumatic ordeal. The worst part was that we still had one more zip to do. We walked to the starting point and a couple of people went first. Then she started freaking out and saying that she couldn't do it. To her credit she plucked up the courage and did it and not only that, she was one of the few people that made it to the end without having to pull themselves in! We went back to the town via truck and the guys from the gibbon experience office took Norah to the hospital and paid for the 9 stitches she needed. we arranged to meet up later that night and exchanged contact details. Then the next morning I was booked into the slow boat down to Luang Prebang.....

1 comment:

  1. I'm hauling too much ass... gold, pure gold!

    Just reading through your old stuff as trying to fin the Vietnam bit on the bike for a mate of mine.

    Bed bug bites look nasty. I got the same in Romania... farking itched for a whole week. I stopped counting at 80 bites. The guyat the hostel didn't even give a shit. They looked exactly like yours in the picture. No way could that be mosquitos.