The rain continued thru the night becoming seriously heavy and noisy. It was still torrential at 6am.By 7 it had eased off and by the time I was up at 7:30 the sun was out. I looked through the bathroom window to see a river where one was not visible before. Out on the balcony I could see my bungalow room was an island with steps leading to a bottomless black watery abyss. It looks like I'm going to have to swim for my breakfast this morning!
Well the flood was only knee deep; the whole complex looked very wet from the nights inundation. I went to breakfast and met grumpy Joe; who had been cursing his kids earlier for not going to school.
Hey Dave look at this; I have something to show you".; For the first time Joe showed some resemblance of enthusiasm as he led me to the river bank. "Look at this: What do you see?". "A pile od sticks was my honest if bleary eyed reply" . "Look" Jo pointed to the wood and I saw a beautiful emerald green snake. "My daughter saw it this morning. Don't touch it' it's poisonous" he advised. "Ok" I replied; "I'll just get my camera"
I returned hurriedly to see the reptile still coiled and waking up. I waded up to the stick pile; camera in hand with Joe pointing out that he didn't want me to be the first snake bite victim. The snake was not too agile so I snapped away getting as close as I considered safe.
Back for breakfast I had pineapple pancake orange juice ad coffee. J arrived as I was about to see how flooded the area was. The road disappeared into the river. It looked deep but was just a big puddle for 10 metres or so round the bend. I collected J and walked to the VLT Natural Tours office where I had arranged a day walking tour. The staff kindly arranged for a moto to take J to the bank.
A truck turned up a little late; but we soon were on our way to collect the others on the mountain trek. 2 Thai girls boarded; followed by a man with a yellow wet sack.
He was the guide; though he didn't introduce himself until I introduced myself and J to the Girls.
The girls names were long and unmemorable; I couldn't say them anyway. I asked the man who ws with them he was and where he came from he was Koung "where you from" I asked "I am the guide" Oh well good start; at least I knew who was who now.
Koung and the Thai Girls continuance to chat A half hour drive on decent roads took us to a smart suspension bridge where we alighted. There was a second guie who was in the front of the truck. He could only speak a few words of English; but was able to speak Thai fluently.
It was a stunning spot to staer the walk, crossing the wide river Koung hadn't done any real guiding up to this point being more interested in chatting up the Thai Girls and share Thai jokes than doing any worthwhile job. I think they had been on tour with him on previous days. The Thai Girls could speak English quite well; better then the Koung; who was hard to understand at first.
We were soon at a small Homong village of a few shacks along the river. It was very spread out and not obvious that it was a village at all. We stopped at a village house where a lady with enormous oversized spectacles demonstrated her craft of sewing a flower motif over a paper pattern. We waked to a junction at a concrete canal and took a level walk for a km or so; several girls dived fully dressed into the stream; repeating it a few times. once they could see our cameras.
We took a right turn in to scrubland and a winding path which became slippery. there were two or three bamboo bridges which were easy to cross. From here the narrow path ascended a little and then once out if the bush, gave wonderful views of the Karst peaks and emerald rice fields..
We walked a long a water course for a while and the guide flagged down a passing tractor; one of those 2 wheeled Chinese made contraptions that a seen all over Asia. The guide announced without apology that he was lost so we lurched along a waterlogged track for several kilometres.
We turned off past river crossed by an improvised ladder bridge. 10 mins later we arrived at a narrow but deep stream which involved wading waste deep in cool water. The depth was surprising; but given the huge amount of rain the previous night I shouldn't have been unexpected. We had to wade very deep. I made sure my money etc was in the top of my pack and my camera well out of the water.
The scenery was beguiling; more so than the sodden terrain which was a muddy morass in places. Some parts of the route were spectacularly steep; walking on a narrow ledge below undercut cliffs. We dropped down to some lovely rice meadows and a cluster of wood houses; where the guides prepared lunch on an open fire. We had kebabs; fried rice in plastic containers bread and fruit.
We walked through dense bush; climbing steeply at times. The path was saturatd and muddy after the nights rain. Walking on a steep muddy path with mud caked soles was tricky. Going up was bad but going down was not a lot of fun. There was nothing solid to hold onto, as the sodden stumps of cut bamboo were oozing with water like overcooked cabbage. Anyway I managed to keep upright for most of the time and eventually dropped down to a spectacular thundering waterfall.
The cool water was refreshing; however the rocks were slippy and the current could easily take you off your feet. The guides were very helpful helping us through the waist deep and fast flowing water. J and the Thai Girls were at the falls first and having a lot of fun in the chest deep water. I suicide diver climbed up to a rock above the falls diving spectacularly into the torrent.
This was as far as we were going; so retrac our muddy steps over the pass to the valley. We passed our lunch stop where white buffalo were wallowing and continued through dense scrub. Up again along the vertical rock wall and an hour later joined a wide track.
Instead of going along it; Khoum pointed to a set of steps going up a tree. "oh a tree hide? Its a bit late for that I thought! Well it wasn't a tree hide; It was one of the narrowest and longest rope bridges I had seen. Now as a veteran of so many rope bridges that I could never remember. This one looked seriously exiting, yet held no fear from me. The wires were encased in concrete and the bamboo decking looked new.
"Be careful" called the Khoum "Only one at a time" J was following and held back as I took my first steps on the wobbly bridge. Several steps over the torrent of the river, I heard a loud crack and had a sensation of falling; grabbed out at the wire and found myself dangling helplessly about 10 metres above the river on the now wildly swinging bridge.
I managed to get myself into a reasonably vertical position. But as I tried to get up I was immobilised. My leg had fallen through the decking to mid thigh and I appeared to have been impaled on the remaining broken wood.
The guide with the help of J tried to part the bamboo strips which were jamming me in the precarious position. After a short struggle I managed to get free. I looked down at my leg half expecting a bloody mess; but somehow I had got away with a few scratches.
I continued across the bridge; watching every step with the guide following closely behind. The walkway was not exactly level; it was inclined at about 30 degrees in places.
J followed gingerly; he saw the whole incident close up. He told me afterwards that He was amazed that I had the balls to continue after that! I told him that I'd had my moment that day and lightening wasn't going to strike twice.
I was just sorry I broke the Bridge!
The Thai Girls didn't follow. I asked Khoum and he told me that they refused to go across. I wonder why! He told me that a boat was coming in 30 minutes more. As it was now 5:30 the 5pm finish in Vang Vieng had long passed the deadline. We waited 40 minutes before a van driven by Vong the Manager drew up with a 2 person Kayak. I said sarcastically that I hoped I wasn't going to be doing any canoeing at this late hour.
Vong paddled furiously across the fast moving water. To my surprise; one of the girls decided that risking the bridge was less of an evil than drowning in a canoe. She gingerly crossed, keeping her eyes close on the bridge deck. The second girl was ferried across by Vong in the canoe.
The drive back passed without incident; other than my hat blew away. I thought I looked pretty stupid in that hat; so I hoped that some one else would find it and look stupid instead. I stayed with Vong in the Office as he wanted to ask what I thought of the Tour and book bus for the journey to Luang Prabang. Vong Asked Me about the Bridge. I told him that the guide gave good warning; I just think I was not as careful as I should have been.